A 75-year-old relationship, forged in adversity, has come to an end today with the death at the age of 93 of former Dorset Parachute Regiment veteran Corporal William "Billy" Ball-Bagge. The life of Mr Ball-Bagge who was "still jumping out and off things until the end - though to be fair - falling off would be more accurate", will be celebrated later today at the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Bumpy Landings, Whitchurch Canonicorum before a private cremation in Winterborne Whitechurch. Next week his ashes will be scattered from an aeroplane over his beloved Dorset as he himself had requested. "It will be one last falling to earth for a much-revered man", says Billy's grandson Harry Ball-Bagge whose aunt Tess Tickell will perform the needful. "Like poor old Billy, the family will be in bits", a near neighbour said.
It was in April 1945, after parachuting into Norway, that an 18-year-old "Bill" met Norwegian resistance fighter Knut Saak and the two formed a kinship that would last a lifetime. Corresponding every Christmas and ensuring that they met "at least once a decade", the two kindred spirits were said to be like brothers, even being referred to by some fellow veterans as "the twins". They were "kuttet fra samme klut" ["cut from the same cloth"] Knut's son Mann Saak said today. They were "Som to erter i en pod' ["like two peas from the same pod"] or "tvillinganheng med et felles formål" ["twin pendants with a common purpose"], he added unnecessarily.
According to friends, both men were reluctant to talk about their first encounter or their wartime exploits together and most have assumed that this was because they had been involved in clandestine operations at the time. "They were old school, and talking about the War was anathema", says British Military Historian Reg Immental-Kolars, "though it's perfectly possible they had nothing to talk about. It was nearly the end of the War and they might just have been cooling their heels or going out on the lash". Norwegian Resistance historian Brief Stande completely disagrees, however: "De hadde ekte baller og var alltid på farta, og hang ikke bare rundt" ["They had real balls and were always on the move, never just hanging around"]. "Skjønt akkurat det de hadde tenkt seg på, er det noen som gjetter. Likevel er jeg sikker på at deres innflytelse var banebrytende" ["though exactly what they were up to is anyone's guess. Still, I'm sure their influence was seminal"]. "Ikke som dagens knott-hoder" ["Not like today's knob-heads"], he added wistfully.