Thief returns Lyle’s 100th birthday gift

Lyle Hutley with the book the thief returned.
Picture Mark Westley
Lyle Hutley with the book the thief returned. Picture Mark Westley

A Burma Railway veteran’s 100th birthday gift from his old regiment has been returned to him in the place it was stolen three months ago.

In May, Lyle Hutley, also known as Bill, was sent a book on World War One, a copy of his own war record and a letter from the Royal Army Service Corps’ current commanding officer wishing him well on his centenary. But the day before his birthday someone stole it all from his mobility scooter outside Mildenhall Coop as he took it to show his sister-in-law.

Lyle Hutleycelebrating his 100th birthday with friends days after his book was stolen. Picture: Mecha Morton

Lyle Hutleycelebrating his 100th birthday with friends days after his book was stolen. Picture: Mecha Morton

With the determination that saw him through the fall of Dunkirk then of Singapore and years as a prisoner of the Japanese on the Burma Railway, Lyle, would not let the theft spoil his birthday on May 19 and the celebrations his friends and family had laid on.

He did not even mention it in the thank you letter he sent out, but he was disappointed.

“They’ll steal anything nowadays,” he said then of the thief, who also took his prescription medicines.

But last week he got it back.

Lyle Hutley visiting Changi Prison in 1999

Lyle Hutley visiting Changi Prison in 1999

He said: “I went down the shops, into the co-op, and left my scooter outside and when I came back it was in there. I thought, ‘am I going mad?’ but there it was. They’d put it in the scooter basket, so someone must have known me.

“I’m glad I’ve got it back, anyway. I’m as happy as a sandboy now!”

Born Horace George Hutley, in Bermondsey, he was called up to the RASC in 1940, in time to join the retreat to Dunkirk.

In 1941 his ship bound for Africa was diverted to Singapore where he was taken prisoner and at first put in the notorious Changi Jail then moved to the Burma Railway.

He worked on the Bridge on the River Kwai and recalls beatings and burning bodies of comrades who died of cholera. He returned home in 1946 weighing six stone.