Hero Bill made explosive impact


A Hawick war hero regarded as the best “explosives man” in the early SAS is featured in a new book Special Ops Heroes by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft.

Teri Bill Cumper took part in scores of clandestine operations during the Second World War and was, in the words of SAS founder David Stirling, “the best and most ingenious explosives man” serving with ‘L’ Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade. As an early member of ‘L’ Detachment, his bravery was matched by a relentless cheerfulness and he was renowned for eccentric behaviour and his witty, sometimes barbed, comments. Despite being in his forties when he was still carrying out raids, Cumper was always keen to be involved at the sharp end of the SAS’s activities. Yet, on the eve of such operations, he could often be heard saying: “Not for me, mate. I’m too old . . . What time do we start?”

Cumper was born in Hawick in the Scottish Borders and he enlisted in the Army as a boy soldier in January 1924.

Cumper survived the war and was re-employed in the SAS between August 1945 and January 1946, before returning to regular duties with the Royal Engineers. He was released from military service in December 1948, with the honorary rank of major. He retired to Rhodesia, but died suddenly from a stroke in December 1954, leaving a widow and a son whose godfather was none other than David Stirling.

Cumper’s obituary stated: “He was insistent about his Corps, for this ex-boy regular was intensely proud of being a British soldier and, in particular, a sapper. He was intelligent rather than intellectual, simple in taste, almost spartan, shrewd and generous, and intensely fond and proud of his wife and family; no one knew him who didn’t know them. Britain has lost a great patriot, the SAS a great leader, and we, a great friend.”

Free copies of the book is being sent to every secondary school in the UK so that pupils can learn about and appreciate great acts of courage by British and Commonwealth servicemen. The foreword to the book has been written by Andy McNab, the SAS hero turned best-selling writer.

For more information on Lord Ashcroft’s book visit www.specialheroes.com