Our friend and fellow Wag Major Bill Bates
Bill was serving with the 3rd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles when, on March 4 1945, an attack was launched to clear the route between Mayogon and an isolated garrison in the Western Irrawaddy bridgehead.
Despite the support of Stewart tanks, the men ran into stiff opposition from the Japanese. At a critical point in the battle, the company commander was hit and fell into long grass. Bill was sent forward from Mayogon with orders to take over. He rallied the company, which was under heavy shelling and machinegun fire, and led an assault on the enemy’s main position on the river bank.
Inspired by his leadership, his men charged and overran the Japanese bunkers. They killed many of the enemy and drove the rest out into the open where they were targeted by mortars and grenades. As a result of his action, a secure corridor was established through which two battalions were brought out from a perilous position.
Bill’s outstanding courage was recognised by the award of an immediate MC.
William Reston Bates was born in London on May 18 1920 and, aged six months, travelled with his parents to Burma, where his father was chief engineer of the Burma Corporation in Namtu, Northern Shan States. Aged 10 he was sent to school at Oundle before going up to University College London to read Engineering.
Bill joined the Army in March 1941 and, after a spell with Royal Armoured Corps training regiments, moved to India. He was commissioned into the Indian Army in May 1942 and posted to the 3rd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles at Trichinopoly. A week after the action in which he was awarded an MC, Bill led his company in an attack across 300 yards of open ground. The Japanese were overwhelmed; 35 were killed for the loss of three Gurkhas killed and 10 wounded.
Bill was among those injured and evacuated to England. He was treated in a number of hospitals until April 1947, when he was declared unfit for further service and awarded a 40 per cent disability pension.
He then worked for the Eagle Star Insurance company until 1967, when he transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority, remaining there until he retired in 1983. Settled in Northwood, Middlesex, he kept himself well-informed on current affairs and the stock market. His war wounds gave him trouble for the rest of his life but he played golf at the Sandy Lodge Golf Club, listened to country and western music, and enjoyed watching boxing, football and cricket. Bill never married.
Bill Bates died on 12 November 2010.
He is still remembered with great affection, a quiet, unassuming and modest man with a ready smile. When he became unable to play golf he devoted himself tirelessly in the service of the Wags as Scribe, producing the draw for playing partners each week, sitting quietly in the corner, as well as organising all Wags competitions, putting notices on the board, producing and publishing the draw, checking score cards etc.
It has been remarked that the Scribe’s job now takes 2 or 3 people to do what Bill quietly got on with, but without the fuss and bother that has gone on round the Scribe’s table since his demise. Perhaps we all sensed he was not a man to be trifled with and allowed him to get on with the job in hand instead of interfering as we do now!