101-year-old Hatfield war hero has savings stolen

PUBLISHED: 14:02 17 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:42 26 October 2009

William Riley with one of his birthday cards   (DSC_0400,101yrs)

William Riley with one of his birthday cards (DSC_0400,101yrs)

A 101-YEAR-OLD war hero had his hard-earned charity savings stolen from his home. William Riley, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday last week, had at least £450 stolen from his wallet pinched just a few days previous. But the Hatfield man, who escaped

A 101-YEAR-OLD war hero had his hard-earned charity savings stolen from his home.

William Riley, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday last week, had at least £450 stolen from his wallet pinched just a few days previous.

But the Hatfield man, who escaped from three different Nazi prisoner-of-war camps during World War Two, said he was not shaken by the theft.

One of the first troops to arrive at Dunkirk, he told the WHT he had "experienced worse" in his life.

"Times were difficult as a prisoner-of-war," he said.

"You had to keep yourself occupied so that you didn't lose your mind, and I guess I have continued with that throughout my life.

"After I escaped from the prisons I was twice sent into what they called the bunker; I was left there alone for eight days and 10 days with just a glass of water and a slice of bread.

"So I would not let something like this burglary affect me."

The Southdown Road pensioner added: "It's a shame that they stole the money, but in a way it was my fault because the door wasn't closed properly and I had a job to do it at times. I've had it fixed now though."

Originally from Kent, the father-of-three, is an extremely popular character around Hatfield and is known as "Soldier" by most of the residents.

The former carpenter married nurse Olive, now deceased, after he was injured on duty, losing part of his foot, damaging his hearing and the back of his head.

He added: "I am very happy where I am now with my two dogs.

"I have lived here for over 50 years and I like to think my fun attitude towards life has really helped.

"I don't let anything get me down."

The money was being raised by him for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

If anyone has information about the theft call police on 0845 33 00 222.

* AN appeal to help raise the funds stolen from Mr Riley has been set up by MP Grant Shapps.

The Welwyn Hatfield politician, who went to give the war hero a 101st birthday cake made by his wife Belinda, found him an inspirational character.

He said: "Despite the theft I found Mr Riley in very high spirits and we chatted about his life, his ongoing involvement supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital and his time in World War Two when he was dropped behind enemy lines during D-Day.

"I can honestly say that meeting him was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life.

"A true gentlemen and infectiously optimistic about life; it was a real honour."

The Royal British Legion member, who has a wide collection of medals and lives in a council house, had saved cash for Great Ormond Street and for his holidays.

Mr Shapps added: "I think we should do as much as we possibly can to help raise the cash that was taken from him.

"The patrons at the Conservative Club in Hatfield have already raised the first £100."

Send donations to the Conservative Club, Maynard House, The Common, Hatfield, AL10 0NF.

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