RETIREMENT was far from dedicated Army man William Pullinger’s mind when he lived “over the shop” at the Drill Hall in Hereford’s Friar Street.

Dedicated for his service during the First World War, and again when he was in uniform during the Second World War, Staff-Sergeant Pullinger was a pivotal part of the community back home at Hereford in peacetime. Thus it is fitting that his name will live on at a new development on a site that once echoed with the rousing beat of marching to military bands.

When the first residents move in to a purpose-built retirement complex with its 54 flats this autumn, they may ponder the name of their home. William Grange is named after the long-serving soldier and his family could not be prouder.

An exhibition currently on show at Hereford City Museum gives a detailed view of Staff-Sergeant Pullinger’s long and illustrious life. A piece of shrapnel which laid him low while fighting with the Herefordshire Regiment at the first Battle of the Somme forms part of the display, and as well as his array of medals, badges and well-preserved letters written to him on the Western Front, there are photographs depicting the central part played by the Friar Street Drill Hall as part of Hereford’s military effort.

Though William talked little of his war experiences, he preserved much of his military life: letters, cuttings and of course the sliver of shrapnel carefully packed in a century-old Players’ cigarette box.

In peacetime, William, who went on to serve as a Sergeant-Instructor during the Second World War, was at the heart of his community in Friar Street and was relied upon to organise events and fundraisers. The years he lived at the Drill Hall with his wife, Vera – they were even married in the building – are remembered with great fondness by their daughter, Barbara. Now 86, she initially made contact with the developers after hearing that the old military site was to be transformed into a retirement complex.

In one old photograph, Barbara appears as a baby in her mother’s arms in the doorway into the Drill Hall, and she is also a central figure in a picture of excited children holding aloft a banner celebrating King George VI’s coronation in 1937. Barbara’s daughter, Tracy Dawson has been researching her grandfather ‘s life and the considerable role he played by the Drill Hall.

Born in Plymouth, William was 18 when he enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment and joined the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry 1st Battalion in France. He fought alongside 120 soldiers from the Herefordshire Regiment in what was known as Operation Michael, among the first battles of the Somme.

William was injured, taken as a prisoner of war and made to walk 50 kilometres over a three-day period without food, water or attention to his wounds. After surviving almost nine months as a POW he was repatriated on November 30 1918 .

That period had caused great anguish for his family. A concerned letter from his sister, Bessie seeking news forms part of the museum display, as does the stark envelope which came back stamped ‘return to sender’. Later, William was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his bravery during the war.

Less than three months after his return, he decided to remain in uniform and was posted as a Colour Sergeant with the KSLI 2nd Battalion to India where he was stationed in Poona , a posting that lasted until 1927. Two months after his return home he was sent to Germany to join the British Army of the Rhine, and from there to Aldershot.

In 1929 he arrived at the Friars Street Drill Hall as a Staff-Sergeant. He married Vera in 1931 and Barbara was born in 1932. The busy Drill Hall was home to the family until the start of the Second World War in 1939 when they moved to Web Tree Avenue. His military career continued as an Army Recruitment Officer at Bradbury Lines, a position he retained until retirement in 1964.

For his services he received the Defence Medal and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. His family explain how William was devoted to his country, the Army, and to his adoptive city.

“He really loved Hereford,” says Tracy. “He was always whistling, always happy.”

Tracy has left no stone unturned in her searches. Information has come from the KSLI Museum in Shropshire and the Hereford Regimental Museum. Unsurprisingly, her daughter Kim is studying for a degree in history, and volunteers when she can at the Black and White House Museum in High Town.

Tracy praises Hereford City Museum for mounting the tribute to her grandfather, and she is indebted to developers McCarthy & Stone for their decision to name the new retirement village after him. Barbara is delighted too and thanks the company for allowing her to look round the site before demolition started.

A focal part of the museum display in honour of Staff-Sergeant Pullinger is a handsome chiming clock, one of two presented to him, a demonstration that here was a man who was clearly a hero to his comrades, to his neighbours and of course, to his family.