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War hero Bill dies aged 102
A MUCH decorated Second World War hero who lived in a castle in Ireland but became a familiar figure walking the Malvern Hills in his sandals whatever the weather, has died at the age of 102.
Commander Bill King was one of only two naval officers in command of submarines throughout the entire war and later, at 58, became the oldest participant in the first solo round-the-world yacht race.
In even later life, he regularly visited Malvern to walk the hills, staying at the Nature Cure Centre, College Grove, for several months each summer.
John Redman, who runs St Ann’s Well Cafe on the slopes of the Worcestershire Beacon, said: “The last time I saw Bill was about five years ago, when he was 97 and he was still walking the hills in his sandals. He was a quite amazing man, who didn’t get on too well with posh hotels.
“I walked the full length and back of the hills with him when he was in his mid-90s, which must be a distance of 12-15 miles. “I remember as he swung his leg carefully over a barbed wire fence he joked, ‘Got to be careful. Never know when I might need my wedding tackle again’.”
Back home Bill King lived in Oranmore Castle, Galway, which he bought in 1946 and renovated from a dilapidated Norman keep.
An avid sailor, he tried three times to sail round the world solo.
He was eventually successful in 1974 despite being holed “by a large sea creature” about 400 miles south west of Freemantle, which involved some desperate repairs. His efforts attracted much media attention and he featured in two television documentaries. He was also a keen mountaineer and to stop life calming down in old age, took up hang gliding in his late 1970s.