There are so many things for which Ken will be remembered, but none of us will forget his unstinting kindness, his ability to always see the best in everybody he met and his quiet, gentle and loving nature.
Ken was born on the 15th October 1922 in York into a family of eight brothers and sisters and he grew up in Yorkshire. Many of his family, worked at the Rowntrees chocolate factory and we often enjoyed the stories on how our favourite chocolate was made.
On the 17th Oct 1941, at the age of 19 he volunteered for the army and joined the Royal Armoured Corps for just over 7 years as a regular soldier. This was to have a deep effect on Ken and he never forgot those years and especially the many comrades lost during the war. He spent much of his retirement years in forming and running the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Old Comrades Southern Branch. His frequent visits to France and Holland to honour and remember his comrades was something that none of us can forget. For those of us that were privileged to travel with him on these visits, will remember them not just as being very poignant and but also as a time of great fun and laughter as Ken got together with comrades from so long ago.
(Major John Semken will now say a few words about Ken’s military service.)
After his training he was posted to the Nottinghamshire Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, an armoured regiment that had just been formed from its previous role as artillery, in North Africa. Ken joined ‘B’ squadron as a gunner in a Sherman tank, taking part in the regiment’s advance across North Africa from Alam-el-Halfa to Enfidaville. After his exploits in Africa, Ken and the regiment returned to the United Kingdom to begin training for the invasion of Europe. Ken’s squadron was chosen for special secret training in Norfolk. These were D-D Sherman swimming tanks which were to lead the attack into Normandy.
Ken, by now also a radio operator, was among the first ashore on 6th June 1944 landing on Gold Beach near Le Hamel. He advanced through North West Europe with the regiment until the end of the war. At the end of the war the regiment was disbanded and Ken returned to Bovington Camp in Dorset.
In1946 Ken joined The Royal Dragoons spending some of his time as a Despatch Rider later transferring to 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. After a short time Ken changed Regiment again, this time to the 17/21st Lancers, where he stayed until 1949. Ken was discharged from the Army in January 1949. In 1950 he was placed as a Reserve for 7th Royal Tank Regiment for Korea.
But more importantly Ken was a family man and whilst posted to Bovington Camp in Dorset, he met Doreen. They married on the 26th July 1947 whilst Ken was still serving, by now working as an Army barber. Having been discharged in Jan 1949, he continued working as a barber. Ken then discovered having been born in York; he would be entitled to priority housing as an ex-serviceman, so he decided to return to York with Doreen and their young daughter. After settling in York he joined the Post Office and worked on the mail trains, sorting the mail overnight us they travelled across the country. However they both missed the life in Poole and so he was able to get a transfer to Bournemouth, still working for the Post Office. He remained with the post office, reaching the position of inspector and where he remained until his retirement some 27 years ago.
Having settled down to civilian life and having started a family, Ken devoted himself to ensuring his children and later his grand children had the happiest childhood possible.
Tragically, their second daughter Jane died when only 6 years old. This was to have a profound effect on Ken and it was his strength and determination that saw the family through this terrible period. Ken was passionate about his children and even after working a long early shift at the post office, he would spend the rest of the day taking them to the beach or playing games with them, often falling asleep standing up! He was a true family man. Later on in life his children would often recount the hilarious stories of some of their growing up and their holiday adventures. He was so proud of them and was always ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed. It comes as no surprise that all of his extended family, including eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren all still live locally and visited him regularly – he was so much a part of all their lives.
He was such an un-assuming man that its difficult to realise how much he packed into his life – at various points he was a union official, he became a local councillor, he helped run the local scout troop, the scout band, he helped run a local brass band and he was actively involved in the local horticultural society and also the allotment society. Always one or several members of the family would be volunteered to help, usually without their knowledge but always joining in with the spirit that Ken engendered.
Having retired in 1983 Ken seemed busier then ever pursuing his passion for gardening by cultivating not one but three allotments and providing fresh fruit and vegetables for the entire family for many years. He also helped organise the Kinson Flower Shows and help run the Gunners Club in Bournemouth.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable examples of Ken’s character was his friendship with Karl Konig, who is here today. Karl enjoyed making highly accurate models of tanks, especially those of World War 2 and having enquired to the regiment for some tank details, he was of course put in touch with Ken. Although once enemies in the desert war in 1943, they struck up a close and enduring friendship that has lasted for more than 20 years.
We will all remember Ken in our own way, to Doreen he was simply the best husband you could have, to Jacqueline, Jane, John and Jeramy he was the most wonderful and caring father, to his grandchildren and great grandchildren he was simply the greatest Grandad ever. We will remember the family parties that he insisted we had twice a year, especially those that were detailed to do all the cooking and baking.
I would like you to all take a moment and think of your memory of Ken, I know it will be a memory that makes you smile because you couldn’t help having fun when in his company.
As a family, we miss him so much, we are blessed to have been loved and cared by him and so proud to have known him.
SSM Tom East DCM
Ken Ewing at the British Legion Field of Remembrance in 2009
Ken Ewing and Karl Koenig at the Tank Museum at Bovington