World War II veteran Jimmy Elidrissi died in London at the age of 74. Known as Jimmy Bellhop, he was a retired aircraft mechanic, who served in Italy with No 20 Lancers in 1944, mainly in the forefront hospital near Naples.
He never spoke of the battle, and told his partner of over 50 years this past April he had no great ambition. But Elidrissi should be remembered as a “hidden hero”. When he passed away in hospital in King’s Cross, London, he left behind a legacy that left many very aware of what the great war can teach us about civic duty.
His last act of bravery came in July last year when he went on a D-Day walk with his friend Peter May. Injured in earlier storms, May knew this was his last chance to see their friend without walking much further than a mile. Elidrissi decided he could carry just one stone.
As he pitched his canoe, May went to pick him up: “He just cried out… As I was picking him up he said ‘I want my leg!’ Just to show me he knew we were leaving him there.”
A sympathetic passer-by asked if Elidrissi could get a lift. “He said ‘no, I’ve been picked up by a policeman’. So the policeman took him to his ambulance.”
In keeping with the veteran’s modesty, Elidrissi told no one what had happened. However, May was left “believing … he’d got out of the front line with his leg.”