War hero's funeral moved after floods hit crematorium in Leatherhead

Major Bill Towill in the Burmese jungle aged 23

Major Bill Towill in the Burmese jungle aged 23

First published in News
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This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

The funeral of a pacifist turned war hero has been relocated due to flooding at a crematorium in Leatherhead.

Major Bill Towill, from Tadworth, rescued wounded soldiers at Dunkirk and fought behind enemy lines in the Burmese jungle during World War II.

He died on December 14 at the age of 93. His funeral has been postponed and moved to a crematorium in Morden after flooding at Randalls Park Crematorium in Randalls Road, Leatherhead.

This Is Local London:

Maj Towill survived a glider-landing in the Burmese jungle and a gruelling five-month campaign behind the Japanese front line as part of a special force known as the Chindits.

He was among ten "elite warriors" who spoke about the horrors of war in a book called Tales from the Special Forces Club by journalist Sean Rayment. He also wrote his own book called A Chindit’s Chronicle.

During the war, Maj Towill, who belonged to a Christian movement called the Plymouth Brethren, at first joined a medical unit on conscientious grounds.

Pamela, his wife of 65 years, said: "He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and pulled soldiers, battling dive bombs and blasts, off the beaches of Dunkirk.

"Because of what he saw there, he realised that he could not be a pacifist any longer. He went from being a pacifist to being a Chindit."

Maj Towill went out to fight in India, where he met his future wife at church, before being dropped into the Burmese jungle while serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Gurkha Rifles.

Mrs Towill said: "He landed in the jungle with his Gurkhas and spent months fighting the Japanese. They even had to shoot their own wounded.

"When he came out of that he had nightmares for 70 years because of what happened in the jungle with the Japanese. I was his counsellor."

After the war he became a solicitor while his wife and one of his two daughters run a riding stable at Wildwoods in Motts Hill Lane, Tadworth.

Mrs Towill, who also belongs to the Plymouth Brethren, said: "I first met him in church when I was 13 or 14. It was love at first sight.

"I was sent away to school and I used to pray to God that one day he would help me to find him."

At the age of 17 she returned home to find him at her family's house and they were engaged within a fortnight. She said: "He was always full of compassion and very caring."

This Is Local London:

Randalls Park Crematorium has cancelled funerals after flooding hit just before Christmas.

A spokesperson for Dignity, which runs the crematorium, said they will begin replacing the furniture, carpets and furnishings and start redecorating next week.

He said: "On Monday, when building organisations return to work after the Christmas break, we will investigate the possibility of constructing a temporary chapel.

"We will continue to provide the option of funeral services being held at Surrey and Sussex Crematorium in Crawley.

"We are continuing to work with our contractors and the Environmental Agency to manage the flood and repair any damage.

"The rose garden area of Randalls Park Crematorium flooded again on Thursday, January 2, but the water had receded by Friday morning and visitors can now reach all areas of the grounds."

A private funeral for Maj Towill will take place on Tuesday January 21.

Donations in his memory to The Gurkha Welfare Trust c/o Stoneman's Funeral Service, Shelver's Hill, Tadworth KT20 5PU.

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