Life of German prisoner of war who became Wisbech firefighter celebrated by family, friends and the fire service
- Credit: Archant
A FORMER German prisoner of war who stayed on in England after the last war- and spent 22 years with Wisbech fire service- was given ceremonial honours at his funeral.
He was carried on Vivien, the town’s historic engine, along the A47 from Wisbech to Kings Lynn crematorium.
En route Vivien- proudly bearing the body of 91 year old Willhelm ‘Bill’ Lagoda- briefly slowed outside Wisbech fire station.
Fire engines flashed their lights and fire fighters stood in formation as the coffin of Mr Lagoda passed.
Peter, his son, said: “It was unbelievable. It was the best funeral I have seen and a great way to pay tribute to my father.”
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Family, friends and fire fighters past and present were among those at the funeral to pay tribute to Willhelm.
Peter said: “Bill used to have an antiques shop in the town but as soon as the siren went off he was gone. It did not matter how many customers were waiting.
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“He had a boat in the River Nene and would use it to rescue people stranded in the water.”
Bill was born in Rostock, Germany in July 1921.
He served in the German Africa Corps in the Second World War but was captured by American soldiers in Tunisia in 1943.
Bill was sent to Camp Shelby, a prisoner of war camp in Mississippi.
In the aftermath of the war he was repatriated to England and spent several years at Friday Bridge prisoner of war camp before being released in 1948.
He applied to join the Royal Air Force but they did not look upon his interest too kindly.
“They told him that, since he was not a British subject, he couldn’t be accepted and his application had been destroyed,” Peter said.
He decided against returning to the German factory he worked in before the war since it had been taken over by Russia and he feared he would be killed.
Instead, Bill worked for the Radcliffe family, who owned a farm in Walpole St Peter. It was there he met his first wife Daphne.
In November 1954 he applied and was accepted into the fire service.
During his 22 years at Wisbech Fire Station he worked his way up to sub officer before retiring in 1976.
Upon his retirement he told journalists: “The most rewarding part of the job was saving lives, either from the water or from burning buildings. Retiring was one of the saddest days of my life.”
He was 55 at the time and had hoped to remain working, even part time, until he was 60 but was refused. He later became a pump maintenance engineer with West Norfolk Council.
His love of the fire service remained and he made frequent trips to Marrakech to train their fire corps.
Bill later moved to Kings Lynn, where he stayed until he entered Glenfield House, a Wisbech care home, at the beginning of the year.
Peter said: “My family would like to thank the care home staff for their support in the last few months of his life and the Vivien Fire Engine Trust for the way they have handled everything.”
Bill is survived by four children, Peter, William, Wendy and Sandra.