Arthur George Ward is my Dad. I could easily say ‘was’ my Dad because he passed away on the 18th of November last year and his body, at least, left us all, his eight surviving children behind him, the World is and will be a sadder place for it, bless him……
Our Father (Dad) was born into a very different World on the third of April 1919 just four months after the end of WW! “The war to end all wars”, or so the powers that be said! Both his parents Cedric and Kristina (my Grandparents) came from a long line of farming and country people that had lived and worked the lands of Norfolk for three generations or more. He was born in a hamlet just outside Hunstanton that is, sadly, no longer there. He was the ‘third child’ in a family of four siblings, Thomas (Uncle Tom) Madge (a pet name for Margaret) and his younger brother Richard (Uncle Dick).
The family moved from Hunstanton to Frampton,again a small farming community outside Boston in Lincolnshire in 1925 (I think) when Dad was six years old and to quote my lovely Gran “always a bit of a scrapper”! Nowadays I guess that phrase would mean a bit of a fighter but at that time it meant (again I think) always getting into trouble having little or no regard for school, orders or anything remotely regimental or conventional !…….. .Well Tony doesn’t that ring a few bells for you in your early life also?.. Honestly dear reader that similarity has only just occurred to me as I sit here ‘putting pen to paper’, as it were. I’m finding it hard to resist the urge to talk about me now, believe me. Those of you who know me will totally understand where I’m coming from here.
My Grandparents had some very good friends, the Chapples, I think, that had a small holding in Spalding, a large market Town not so far from Boston and therefore they used to ship my Dad off there, sometimes for months on end apparently. Consequently ‘the boy’ Arthur grew up knowing how to milk cows, tend goats, grow vegetables but above all else he was allowed (to a point) to be a free spirit and attend the village school as and when he felt the urge (de ja vu or what Tony?). Mrs Chapple or Aunty Vi’ was the village school teacher therefore my Dads education didn’t at all suffer, he just received his “three R’s” at different times to the other children. What a fabulous way to bring up a child, no?
Throughout his long and interesting life my Dad was able to converse with the World and its wife, quite literally. He was interested in many things but most of all he was very much a peoples person. Often talking to street cleaners, factory workers, shop keepers, lawyers and on the odd occasion titled Ladies and Gentlemen. “they’re all working for a living in one way or another” he would tell me when we spoke about it much much later in his life. Most of the information I received ‘from the horses mouth’ as it were,was after he had retired from pub life. He was a barman for well over thirty years ! It could be said (and has been often) that he spent most of his working life on one side of the bar or the other. Much to the chagrin of my wonderful Mum, bless her. It is interesting for me to note whilst writing this memoir of my Dad (I never once called him Arthur!) that I only really got close to him during the latter years of his life when we both, it would appear, had more time to finally get around to talking properly about the things in life that really matter. He was truly a remarkable, very loving and greatly loved Man. Not only by his ,by now, huge family but also his friends and collegues. I NEVER heard him say a bad word about anybody, never, and believe me there must have been times with both friends and family he must have been very close to it. He was a very private person with a wealth of knowledge and escapades to regail us with.
In May 1939, just after his twentieth birthday Arthur and his friend Freddy signed up for the Army “to see the World….. and fuck me wouldn’t you know it, four months later we were at War with the Germans and I couldn’t get out of it then even if I wanted to”. I think that so many young Men were actually caught in that dilemma, having gone through the depression in the thirties. With no real goal or opportunities in sight the army must have seemed to be a great opportunity to get out of the mire, as it were? The two of them were sent of to Catterick barracks, in Yorkshire for three months training later to be sent to Scotland “to herd sheep for all I know”. It must have been easy for Dad obviously, with him having all that farming experience as a boy. He always loved whisky, maybe this is where he picked up the taste for it, who knows? (another light bulb moment for me). Freddy and Arthur went their separate ways towards the end of 1939. My Dad was posted overseas to Ceylon( now Sri Lanka) whilst Freddy went to France. They never heard from each other again, this was War after all…………………..