Tributes have been paid to an Aberdeen teacher who fought the Nazis on a French beach during D-Day, and went on to take a job in a Nigerian classroom.
Bill Hilton, who passed away at the age of 98, was born in the Granite City in 1922 and grew up in a small home on Gallowgate with a shared sink and an outside toilet.
He only left the city earlier this year after moving into a care home in Cornwall where his daughter lives.
During the Second World War Bill dodged mines as he drove a tank during D-Day.
Bill, who was married to Billie for 68 years until her death last year, is survived by his three children Pete Hilton, Lesley Mallin and Sally Haywood as well as his five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Pete, 60, said his father was struggling with a variety of health problems and he died on Wednesday, November 25.
Pete, who lives in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, said: “Over the last couple of weeks, he wasn’t eating at all.”
Pete added: “My dad lived an extremely interesting life which was certainly challenging at times but ultimately very fulfilling. He is now at the peace which he deserves.”
Bill’s father was a fisherman and was not home a lot so as a boy, Bill would help heat the house by moving sacks of coal despite being a primary school pupil.
After leaving school he secured an apprenticeship as a joiner and after a few false starts ended up with Alexander Hall and Sons.
In 1942, Bill was called up to join the war effort against Nazi Germany and was placed in the Stafford Yeomanry as a tank driver/radio operator.
His own father become a prisoner of war at the time having been captured at St Valery in France and was held at the Stalag V111 B prison camp for the duration of the war.
Just before D-Day, Bill was transferred to the 22nd Dragoons driving a flail tank.
An armour-piercing shell glanced off the round turret of his Sherman tank on one occasion, and they even ended up, nose first, in an anti-tank ditch full of Germans – only for the Germans to drop their guns and surrender.
Writing in his own words, Bill described the scene as he made his way onto the beaches in northern France.
In a document he put together for his daughter Sally, he wrote: “We landed on Juno Beach, near Berniere sur Mer along with the Canadian division.
“Things were not as hectic on the beach as I expected them to be and we made it to the main road fairly quickly.
“Once we had cleared the area of mines, we were able to rest and the fighting troops took over. This gave us a chance to look out to sea. What a sight it was.
“Battleships of all sizes seemed to fill the sea and their large guns were firing over our heads into enemy territory. It must have really frightened the Germans.”
After the war, Bill completed his apprenticeship and he also met Billie, the girl he would go onto marry in 1951, at the Palais in Aberdeen.
The young couple moved to Nigeria in 1953 so Bill could take a teaching position before moving back three years with their daughter Lesley, who is 66 and now lives in Florida.
They bought a house on Broomhill Road for £2,500 and it would remain their family home for more than 60 years.
Once they returned to Aberdeen, Bill took up a post at Ruthrieston School and later became head of the technical department.
Bill was a popular teacher and a trio of his pupils once visited his home and used the colour scheme of his living to create a painting for him.
He even created an operational hovercraft during his time in the classroom.
Bill retired in 1984 from what is now Harlaw Academy. However, he often encountered former pupils while he was out in Aberdeen with many people asking if he was Mr Hilton who had taught them.
With work out of the way, Bill and Billie had more time together and they went on a number of holidays abroad with Amsterdam and South Africa among the places they visited.
The entire family would enjoy holidays at the Crieff Hydro resort in Perthshire.
Bill was also a regular at Deeside Golf Club and continued playing well into his nineties.
Music was another passion for Bill and he learned to play his favourite songs on the guitar, but he was not just content with playing it. He actually made three of the instruments himself and also played the keyboard.
After Billie’s death, and with his own health failing Bill moved to a care home in Cornwall so he was closer to his daughter Sally.
Pete said: “He moved into the care home March and we sold the house in September. He moved and within four or five weeks it was lockdown.
“He bought into the idea about moving from Aberdeen and he is losing all of his faculties. His eyesight was failing and his hearing had already gone. He couldn’t see the TV or read.
“My dad knew that moving to a home was the right thing to do. All of his friends are already gone.
“I haven’t seen him since he moved to Cornwall but I couldn’t go into the home because of the pandemic.
“My sister got in to see him but that is because he was at the end of life. We didn’t see each other that often because I am down south.”
Bill’s daughter Sally, who lives in Cornwall, had been regularly travelling to Aberdeen to care for her elderly father before he moved south to a care home.
She said the journey south just before the Covid-19 lockdown was treacherous because of the weather.
After Bill moved to the care home she was unable to see him for the first four months, however, she was able to visit him every day more recently and was able to pass on messages from the family.
Speaking about her dad, Sally said: “He seemed to have a real survival instinct and reckons he could have died at least five times during the war.”