Picture coincidence proved it’s a small world to war hero

Bill and Kitty Murray
Bill and Kitty Murray

The saying ‘it’s a small world’ is of course pure nonsense. It’s a huge sprawling world.

Sometimes, though, coincidences occur which give truth to the sentiment.

Bill Murray in 1986

Bill Murray in 1986

Take Bill Murray, for example. In 1986, Bill lived in Southgate with his wife, Kitty. He shared a story with the Crawley Observer.

It read:

A chance meeting with a woman from New Zealand while on holiday in Portugal brought back terrifying wartime memories for Bill Murray.

The woman, whom he had never seen before, used to work for a New Zealand shipping company, the same one which owned a merchant troop-carrying ship sunk by Italian bombers during World War Two.

The Awatea

The Awatea

Bombadier Bill Murray was 22 when he manned a machine gun on board the vessel, the Maori-named Awatea, and fought off the four Cant Alcione bombers before having to abandon ship.

Hit by five bombs and two aerial torpedoes, the Awatea sank beneath the Mediterranean waves off the coast of Algiers.

Many had been killed in the fighting, including some of Bill’s friends, but he survived when he was picked up by a destroyer and spending 20 minutes floating in the water.

That was on November 11 1942. Forty-three years later, he bumped into Marilyn Kewene while on holiday in the Algarve.

Bill said: “I started talking to her and told her I was on a New Zealand ship during the war. When I told her the ship’s name, she was amazed.”

It turned out that Marilyn had been sitting under a picture of the Awatea for seven years while she was a clerk for the Union Shipping Group in Auckland between 1964 and 1971.

Bill said: “To her, it was just a picture of a ship from the past but it meant a lot to me. She gave me the company’s address. I wrote to them asking for a photo and they sent one.”

As well as the photo, the company also sent details of Marilyn – who Bill had mistakenly thought was called Marion – and he and his wife planned to meet up with her again in Portugal in 1987.

The report continued:

Bill, who was 66 in 1986, married his wartime sweetheart, Kitty, in his two weeks’ survival leave after the Italian attack, and was promoted to Sergeant for shooting down an Italian plane.

He also took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy and was demobbed after the war in 1946.

In 1982, Bill retired from the Civil Service after 36 years with the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS), and the couple moved to Lanercost Road, Southgate, to be with relatives already living in Crawley.

Does anyone know if Bill or Kitty still live in Crawley?

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