Sergeant Bill “Boots” Bettridge was born 6 May 1921 to William and
He served during World War II and landed with the Regiment on D-Day.
“Our part of the beach was clear but there were mines buried in the sand. On the dead run you just chose the path that looked best. Bert Shepard, Bill Bettridge and I were running at top speed and firing from the hip. To our left we spotted a small gap in the wall. They had placed a belt-fed machine gun there as part of the defence and only one man was on it. We knew from our training that you cannot be on the move and fire accurately at the same time. If you stop you become a target. In any case, Bill did stop for a split second. He took his aim and that seemed to be the bullet that took the gunner out, although Bert and I were firing too. We got to the wall and over it, then raced across the railway line.”
Charlie Martin Battle Diary
Video from The Memory Project
Bill died in Brampton on November 22, 2012.
Bill “Boots” Bettridge, hunter turned sniper, “was always a pretty good shot”
(Excerpted from The Rifleman Magazine 2013)
Being a Brampton boy, when he joined the army to fight the Germans, D-Day veteran Bill “Boots” Bettridge, went to the recruiters at the local regiment, The Lome Scots. It was with the highland regiment that he swore his oath of allegiance to the King, but when it was designated as one to “provide personnel and reinforcements” to the Canadian Army, Private Bettridge was among those transferred to The Queen’s Own Rifles, which suited him fine.
As a boy, he had spent many a happy day hunting with his father, knew how to handle a rifle and, he recalled much later, “I was always a pretty good shot.” He remembered an incident at the rifle butt during training with The Queen’s Own in England, where the 2/ic of his company, Captain Dick Medland, issued a challenge to his troops. “He taped a hilling to the bullseye of a target and asked if anyone thought they could hit it. A shilling was a coin about the size of a Canadian 25-cent piece,” Bettridge remembered, “but a few of us who thought we were pretty good marksmen said we’d give it a try. Well, guess what? To everyone’s surprise, including mine, I put a bullet right through it. Capt Medland gave it to me as a souvenir. I didn’t think it was worth anything anymore, because it was pretty well smashed up with a hole from a .303 bullet in the middle. Anyway, I took it to the local pub to show the locals and the landlord asked me if I’d swap it for a couple of pints of bitter, which I did. Then he got a hammer and pinned it to the wall with what he called a “tuppeny” (twopenny) nail right through the hole I’d made in it.”
His skills with a rifle got Bettridge appointed to be one of the company’s two snipers and when he got to France on O-Day and reached the Queen’s Own’s first-day object kilometres from the beach, he was told he would be allowed to work alone and find his own target. “So I did that. And all the lessons my dad taught me about stalking animals in the bush came back to me.
I knew how to move quietly through woods and how to stay hidden. I found quite a few targets,” he said quietly.
Following retirement from the family business Boots Bettridge made numerous trips back to France, Belgium, Holland and Germany for DDay and VE-Day celebrations, and has been featured on Canadian television more than once giving accounts of what it was like on Juno Beach that summer day many years before. Some years ago he was honoured by his hometown of Brampton by being used as the model for a wooden carving known as the Veterans’ Memorial in Brampton’s Gage Park.
More than 100 were in attendance in Brampton at his funeral where the service was led by Captain John Niles, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada’s padre.
Following the service Royal Canadian Legion Branch 15 members held a brief ceremony at the city cenotaph, where a volley was fired. During the ceremony, a letter to the Bettridge Family from Prime Minister Stephen Harper was read. Bill had met and chatted with the prime minister at a D-Day celebration in France.