The longest-serving member of the East Surrey Regiment was yanked out of retirement when war broke out in 1914 – but given a double pension to make up for it.
His story is one unearthed buy a new exhibition into the First World War at Kingston Museum.
Bill Beisly, of Dinton Road, Kingston, was 55 when he was called back into service as a sergeant instructor.
Granddaughter Sylvia Bullen, who still lives in the family home, said: “He didn’t go out to the front, he was too old – he trained up the troops that were going. He stayed on until 1919, then he retired again. They let him go that time. He still had a young family at home.”
After his long service, Mr Beisly was invited to the 1924 ceremony of dedication of the gates of All Saints church to the memory of those who died in the Great War.
His three eldest sons all fought on the front, and all three made it home. The youngest, Stan, was just 15 when he joined.
Families were encouraged to paint on their windows the number of members serving in the forces, so Rose Beisly painted a ‘four’.
Bert, 17 when he enlisted, was badly wounded by an explosion and shipped home.
Mrs Bullen, 66, said: “My grandma said she sent out a young man and they sent her back an old man. When he came back his hair had gone completely white.”
She added: “They all made it, amazingly enough. None of them who were in the action spoke about it much. They probably did to each other.”
Bert kept a fragment of the shell which wounded him, which Mrs Bullen still uses as a gate-stop.
Bill Beisly died in 1946, aged 89.
Visit the Kingston Museum to learn about more stories like the Beislys’ in a new exhibition, 1914: Remembering Kingston at War. It runs from today (Friday, May 16), to Saturday, August 16.