An Army Veteran who was attacked by a gang of mocking and cowardly thugs as he walked to a memorial service on Remembrance Sunday has spoken out about his ordeal.
When 70-year-old veteran George Gill set off from his home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on Remembrance Sunday to pay his respects at the town’s cenotaph to the falling heroes and old friends, a gang of around seven Asian teenagers thought it would be amusing to assault the lone pensioner and steal his regimental beret and medals.
The former sergeant with the 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington Regiment was wearing his khaki beret, navy blue blazer, and maroon and grey striped tie which, bore the regimental badge and the motto “Victory Favours the Brave.”
On his chest, Mr. Gill proudly wore a poppy and pinned to his right lapel were his United Nations Cyprus and Northern Ireland medals.
Taking the same route to the town’s cenotaph as he has done for many a year, Mr. Gill was walking through the park when he was attacked by a gang of Asian youths from behind, who the veteran said grabbed his beret “like a pack of dogs would a piece of meat.”
“I was walking to the cenotaph in the centre of town for Remembrance Sunday, the same route I have taken every year for as long as I can recall.
“I’d had stopped in Lund Park to look at the embers of a fire which had been lit near a sign when out of nowhere I was grabbed or hit from behind. My beret was knocked off my head and I stumbled to the ground. I tried to stay on my feet because I didn’t know what would happen if I went to ground.
“I had not seen the gang of about six to eight Asian lads before this and I think they had been hiding in bushes. I had not seen or heard them or done anything to intimidate them. They were laughing and joking and speaking in a foreign language, not in English, so I don’t know what they were saying.
“I was shaken and couldn’t understand what was happening. They had taken my beret as a trophy and they were tearing it at like a pack of dogs with a piece of meat. They thought it was funny.
“They ran off laughing and joking out of the park near the bowling green, and then I realised my medals were also missing, so they must have taken those as well. My poppy had been ragged at but they had not managed to steal that.
“My lip was cut and I was shaken. ‘I can only think I was targeted because of what I was wearing because it was not a mugging or robbery, because I had £200 in cash on me and they didn’t take that or ask for money.”
With true grit and a stony faced stoicism, the former soldier dusted himself off, held his head high, and with a steely resolve born of an adversity the gang of youths could not even begin to comprehend, Mr. Gill refused to let the upsetting assault prevent him from continuing to the cenotaph to pay his respects to his fellow brothers in arms during the 11am act of remembrance.
Mr. Gill, who lives alone and currently takes 13 tablets a day for his heart condition, later reported the assault to the police on the advice of his concerned nephew.
“I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it, but I thought I should report it to prevent anybody else being harmed. After the Remembrance Sunday service I got home at noon and went straight to bed, I was that upset.”
The Daily Mail reports that Mr. Gill, who joined the army in 1966, and rose from the rank of Private to Sergeant, lives about 200 yards from the gates of the park where he was assaulted, and during the previous decades, he has witnessed the area’s gradual decline.
“It really has deteriorated. It used to have tennis courts and people played football there, the duck pond has gone and fires are being lit. The bowling green and pavilion have high security fencing to protect them from vandalism.
“I used to have no fears about walking through the park, but I am now reluctant to use it – but if I don’t continue to go in they have won, haven’t they?”
Although keen to put the attack behind him and get on with his life, the army veteran cannot as easily forgive or forget the theft of his medals and beret.
“I want my medals back, I was proud to earn them and wear them. I also want my beret back, but I think that has probably been torn to bits.”