A 98-year old World War II veteran has been able to leave his home unaided for the first time in four years.
Thanks to support from the City of Edinburgh Council and Armed Forces charities SSAFA and Legion Scotland, a wheelchair ramp has been installed at the Oxgangs home of Edinburgh veteran Bill Walker.
Mr Walker, who fought and was wounded in the Far East with The Royal Scots, was born and brought up in the Cowgate with his mother, brothers and father who served with The Royal Scots in the Great War.
Edinburgh’s Veterans Champion, Lord Provost Frank Ross, joined Colonel Martin Gibson of the Royal Scots to check in on Bill and see the recent addition to his home.
Commenting, the Lord Provost said: “Taking care of our veterans is one of the single most important things we can do. Sometimes simple changes can make all the difference to someone’s life and this new ramp will give Bill the freedom he is owed.
“I’m so pleased the Council - working with SSAFA and Legion Scotland, The Royal Scots and Whiland Disabled Access - has been able to give back to Bill in this way. It’s clear that the new ramp will give him the freedom he needs to be independent and live life to the full.”
Martin Gibson OBE said: “This ramp has given Bill, who put his life on the line serving King and Country, the freedom that he so richly deserves. His family are planning outings including a visit to the Cowgate where he grew up and The Royal Scots Club.”
Bill was a keen clarinet player before joining the 8th Battalion in Lauder for his National Service where he was billeted with the local book maker. He enjoyed his time in the Royal Scots which he joined in 1938 and when war broke out, he joined the 1st Battalion based in Marlborough and Hull before transferring to Glasgow, where he boarded a troop ship taking him to India and then on to Burma to fight against Japan.
Bill witnessed many horrific sights but battled on, in his own words “doing what he had to do”. Bill’s battalion was to storm up a hill to engage gunfire with the enemy when he was shot twice in one leg, just below the knee and to the back of his leg. Bill was dragged back down the hill to safety by his fellow soldiers and transferred to a hospital in Delhi where he was able to recover.
When he was mobile again, Bill undertook hospital administration in India until he was shipped back to Portsmouth with the rest of his battalion. There they were met with hundreds of well-wishers. Bill eventually travelled home to Edinburgh where he was met with further celebration when he stepped off the carriage at Waverley train station. Sadly, Bill’s brother, also a Royal Scot, was killed a few months just before the war ended.
After the war, Bill met his wife in Shotts and went on to have a large and loving family. He went on to work for many years as a Mental Health Charge Hand at Gogarburn Hospital.
His daughter, Fran Walker, said: “My father hasn’t been able to leave his home for the past four years, but due to a massive team effort from everyone involved he is now able to get out. His Occupational Therapist says she has noticed a massive difference since the ramp was installed.”
Whiland Disabled Access is a family business, established for over 50 years and based in Dumbarton. It manufactured and installed Mr Walker’s access ramp. David Mazzucco from Whiland, added: “Mr Walker’s ramp was a difficult installation and our fitting team pulled out all the stops to make sure Bill managed to get out to attend the Veterans’ Day celebrations. It was a true team effort with The City of Edinburgh Council and SSAFA and it was great to see Bill looking so happy with his new-found freedom.”