Wilton "Bill" Sterritt

Bill Sterritt during training for WWIIBill was born in 1923 at Culverden, North Canterbury, New Zealand's South Island and later attended Christchurch Boys' High School. He served on Gambia as Able Seaman (Radar) from her commissioning in Liverpool until his discharge in 1946. His service number was RNZN4585.

Bill joined the Royal New Zealand Navy at the age of 18, having built up a knowledge of Morse code while working at the NZ Post Office as a telegraphist. After a six-month training period in New Zealand, including on the use of rifles, he joined the armed merchant cruiser Monowai in April 1943, and sailed from Devonport, Auckland, to Britain. Specialized training for radar operators took place on the Isle of Man before Bill joined HMS Gambia.

After the war, Bill found a position in Post & Telegraph and worked at the Ministry of Transport, Canterbury (1950 to 1980). Having lived in Clyde,then Christchurch and Blenheim with his wife, Marjorie, and three daughters, Vonnie, Kathleen, and Heather he eventual move to the Charles Upham Retirement Village as the oldest veteran at the village in 2018. The village is siuated in Rangiora, just 50 miles from where Bill was born.

In April 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton), visited New Zealand and Australia. On April 10, they were at Seymour Square, Blenheim for a wreath laying cermony and Bill Sterrit met the Duchess. In 1974, Bill helped organize the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch and had his photo taken with the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip. It was this photo he showed to the Duchess.

Bill Sterritt (front, second from the right) during training Bill Sterritt took this photo of Japanese kamikaze planes while on HMNZS Gambia Bill Sterritt in 2014. Photo: Ilan Wittenberg Bill Sterritt meeting the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt meeting the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt meeting the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt meeting the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt meeting the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt and Prince Philip in 1974. This is the photo that Bill showed the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 Bill Sterritt in 2021. Photo: Chris Skelton / Stuff

Bill has been described as softly-spoken but a straight shooter who wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind, with a dry wit and huge love of all sport, he was a member of the RNZAF Woodbourne Golf Club. Bill was also a freemason who received his 70 year member badge in 1917. He was also not adverse to the odd tot of whisky. Bill died on Thursday, August 5, 2021, at the Charles Upham Retirement Village, aged 98.


This page was created from information I was able to find about Bill, the original HMS Gambia Association website, and the following sites:

"97-year-old Rangiora veteran was in Tokyo Bay for surrender and end of war" from Stuff, April 25, 2021
Aukland Museums Cenotaph Record
"I'm going to tell all the people at school!" from Daily Mail, April 10, 2014
"Meeting the Duchess of Cambridge" from New Zealand Herald, April 10, 2014
Wilton Sterritt Obituary