Les Anthony: Former soldier who became chauffeur to The Beatles

Les Anthony was a former Welsh Guardsman who, after a chance encounter with Brian Epstein in 1964, landed the job of becoming The Beatles’ chauffeur. In reality he became so much more. Amid a shared sense of humour, he was soon a friend and confidant, the group’s go-to Mr Fixit and a member of the Fab Four’s trusted inner circle. In addition, at 6ft 4in and weighing 18 stone, this gentle giant’s imposing presence and military bearing helped provide the pop stars with a much-needed extra layer of security just as Beatlemania was spreading like wildfire throughout the world.

The eldest son of a south Wales coal miner, born in the village of Abertysswg, William Lesley Anthony was educated locally before enrolling as a soldier in the Welsh Guards. Having served in Germany, he was later stationed at the army training centre at Pirbright in Surrey. Enjoying a lifetime’s passion for motoring, on leaving the forces he was taken on as a chauffeur. It was while valeting a Rolls-Royce on the drive of a house in the exclusive St George’s enclave at Weybridge in Surrey that he was noticed by Epstein, the manager of The Beatles. Invited into John Lennon’s neighbouring house to meet the group, he was hired on the spot. His wages were £36 per week.

He initially teamed up with fellow chauffeur Alf Bicknell. While Bicknell was content to adopt an increasingly bohemian approach to life, Anthony kept his eyes on the road and his mouth shut. He remained totally discreet about the many drug-fuelled and sexual excesses he would subsequently witness.

The former soldier was increasingly designated to work for Lennon, who had then only recently moved to Kenwood, the extensive and lavish mock-Tudor Surrey mansion, complete with suits of armour and medieval altar pieces. While always respectful, Anthony was soon growing more accustomed to being considered a friend rather than an employee. Lennon also had a Mini Coupe, which the chauffeur hated because he could barely squeeze himself into the driving seat. One important task was keeping the Rolls on standby, ready to make a quick getaway after a concert or recording session. Just occasionally, when shaking off fans, he found himself in court for speeding.

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