Celebration of life for Leslie Ellingham
St Pauls Church, Hooton Ellesmere Port
04.09.14 @ 11:00am
Les was born in Hochcliff, Bedfordshire on July 4th 1922. The eldest of four siblings, Les attended the village school before helping his father who worked on the land. Between them, they grew large quantity of vegetable crops which became sufficient enough to set up a business and after investing into a van, Les and his dad made door to door deliveries of vegetables.
All his life Les aspired to be in the RAF to fight for his country so at the young age of 17, underage, he entered the registration office with his best suit on, ironed down the front by his mother for his first interview style experience with butterflies in his tummy. After receiving the much anticipated words of 'yes', Les stumbled out of the office as the realisation of the bigger picture hit. Les was excited but anxious of the unknown, never would he have expected the ordeal he was about to commence.
Les was a wireless operator for the Short Stirling Bomber EF366 MGL for the 7th squadron pathfinder force and it was within this squadron that Les obtained his nickname 'Duke' (after Duke Ellington the artist). Duke and his crew, Charles Redwood, Frank Hugo, Robert Meiklejohn, Jack Kilfoyle, Bill Cole and Edgar Brown shared many memories, good and bad together as well as traditions such as their 'good luck song' The last Rose of Summer which will be played in the crematorium . They played this song before every flight although on the day on the 21st June 1943, the record player was broken before they commenced their 18th mission; it was on this mission that their plane was unfortunately shot down over Het Ven at Hamont-Achel (Belgium) in the early hours of 01:35 on the 22nd June.
As he jumped from the aircraft, Les described his fear as 'immense' not for the fall or decent but for what awaited him on the unfamiliar ground below. Duke quickly found cover praying not only that the others had found cover but for his own freedom and life. After an agonising journey on foot with no shoes, Duke found shelter in a barn, never did he think that the young girl who found him would feed and clothe him as opposed to handing him in, but Teresa who he described as 'tremendous' and stayed in touch with up until her unfortunate decease, done just this. Duke moved from village to village on a bike provided but this young lady, aiming to get out of Brussels to get through Paris and across over to Spain.......That was the aim! Every small journey was a risk and putting his trust in others is what made him such a good judge of character! Despite his own fears, this is a person that gave away his papers to a young lady struggling to cross the boarder and Duke instead, risked his own life and swam through the night! Duke was unfortunately captured in Paris train station and kept in a prisoner of war camp for 2 years, mistaken as a spy and a 'Jew' he still continued further sacrifices such as giving away 6 cigarettes in exchange for a jumper for another prisoner who appeared cold. Duke was a prisoner of war from August 1943 to May 1945, declared as 'missing' until being released at the end of the war.
It was in 1946 that Les met the love of his life Doris at the village 'hop'. Les was a slim, dark haired handsome young man with a dark completion who had recently returned from a prisoner of war camp and was trying to adjust to freedom. Together they enjoyed nights of dancing despite Les having two left feet, he followed the direction of Doris who found this typical 'lads lad' to be a true gentleman. He was smitten and in his own words, described Doris to be a 'god-send'. Les and Doris married in All Saints Church Campton on Saturday 27th March 1948.
For some years after the war there was a chronic shortage of housing so Les and Doris 'doubled up' sharing a small cottage with Les's married sister Eva and her family before taking the opportunity of a 'two up, two down' cottage when Les's mum and dad moved.
Despite money being tight, together they made this 'home'. With an outside toilet, water supply, open fire place and a portable zinc tub for a bath, this was just the beginning of their 49 married years of happiness together.
Les's main hobby in the early years of marriage was his football of which he played and also managed the local Clophill team. Les was a keen supporter of Luton town and even till most recently would only ever wear his black and white scarf! This alongside his other hobbies of tiddlywinks, table top games, darts every Tuesday night and being a yo yo champion, this is how Les would spend his time before family life.
Les and Doris decided to try for a family but unfortunately lost their first baby due to miscarriage. Two more disappointments followed and by the fourth time, strict instructions were followed from the doctor who advised complete bed rest. The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months but at long last, their wait was wonderfully rewarded with the birth of Dawn on Doris's birthday 21st July. Everyone was overjoyed when Les became a doting and loving dad. Now their family was complete, Les and Doris were at their happiest.
Determined that Dawn was going to have the best he could give, with a father daughter relationship that was inseparable, together they made memories such as Dawn learning to walk which for the first two weeks, she would only do for her dad! Les wanted to do right by his family and grabbed an opportunity with two hands when his employers, Vauxhall motors, began operations on a new site in Ellesmere Port in 1963. Les and Doris with baby Dawn, relocated and Les was part of the spearhead workforce that was to educate Merseysiders into the arts and crafts of motor car manufacturing. As part of a very experienced machine setting force, Les began to teach the lads here how to operate these very specialist machines to turn out gear boxes, axles and engines.
Before they knew it, Les and Doris had a modern home with all the mod cons in a totally different environment, from a rural village to Urban life but quickly made close friends with the neighbours as the immediate vicinity formed a kind of little hamlet, Les and Doris were the first in Babington Road to own a coloured TV!
It was here that Dawn grew and holds memories of the Elephant park where Les had to rescue her much swollen finger when she got this stuck in the climbing frame and how he rushed to brush her hair following a game of hairdressers where Dawn had put her hair in the pretend hairdryer that just so happened to be a cement mixer! Les never got cross and always supported Dawn in all she chose to do, One of these choices being to pass her driving test. Les taught Dawn how to drive and during this time was the only argument they ever had due to Dawn not doing as she was told. Dawn got out of the car in a sulk ready to walk home but was quickly taught a lesson when Les drove passed her on his return home in the rain.
Les and Doris homed their soon to be son in law John as their daughter Dawn fell hopelessly in love and despite John's spiky background, Les seen through this and had faith in the happiness he would bring so took him in as the son he never had. John remembers one of his first meetings with Les in the family home where Les gave John 3 pints of his home brew. Not realising the strength of this alcohol John got up to go to the toilet, fell over the coffee table and hit his head on the fire.........Les found this hilarious in preparing him to be the man and husband he was to become to his daughter.
The arrival of his three grandchildren Becky, Kirstie and Nikki at four year intervals brought Les happiness upon happiness.
Many more memories were yet to form as Les became an inspirational role model to the three girls of whom he devoted all of his time to. Les supported each and every club and hobby tried and tested by all so when Becky became the youngest girl to achieve a black belt in jujitsu, Les was so proud and couldn't wait to tell his friends after him never missing a training session or competition. Les's knowledge and academic skills proved to be invaluable whilst Kirstie studied in university as he was always on the end of the phone to offer support and spelling corrections, despite Kirstie being the only one to achieve a degree level qualification, she could still never outdo Les when playing who wants to be a millionaire!
Les travelled to London after teaching all three granddaughters to swim and supported Nikki in the achievement of 'junior champion of England' after again, never missing a training session or gala.
Les collected the girls from school every day as Dawn and John worked full time, Saturday afternoons were when they would all go out for lunch before Saturday nights that were always spent sleeping over at nan and granddads to be treated with French loaf and edam cheese whilst playing cards and board games, gambling with the pennies from the jar before chocolate pieces and stories before bed. Sunday days were allocated to trips out and as you can see, everyday was spent with the idol that they called granddad.
Les brought out the better side and influenced his daughter and granddaughters into the people they are today when getting them involved with the voluntary work he proceeded to complete throughout all of their upbringings.
Les was extensively involved in voluntary work for the disabled, attended various meetings ceremonies and panels to make tremendous efforts and selfless sacrifices to better the outcomes and achievements made by those with disabilities. This was widely recognised through the awards in which he received, one of these being 'Man of the Year'. Les founded the Aquadis swimming club to which he devoted many years of his life to and despite swimming being central to this foundation, Les's impact on the lives of each individual went beyond this as he strived above his charitable role with annual trips, parties and helping in home life. Les's voluntary and charitable involvement such as reading to the blind, Panda and women's refuge, cannot be praised enough with too many to mention, Les simply the made the world a better place!
Les was always one for his holidays and particularly enjoyed visiting the Islands of Greece and also India. Whilst in the UK, it wouldn't matter what the weather was, if it was between the months of May and September, Les would always be seen in his shorts, socks and sandals! Les was a keen gardener and this is exactly where you would always find him either potting plants or on his sun lounger.
Les was so proud of his grandchildren and was honoured when asked by Becky to walk her down the aisle and give her away to Hannah who Les accepted with open arms. Les was delighted on the birth of his great grandson Aiden who loved visiting to play ball an help himself to the biscuit tin.........Les's smile always awaited 'little legs'.
Les looked forward to his time spent with his family from Bedford and always spoke so highly and proud of his younger sister Barbra who he looked forward to seeing during her visits with Paul and together they would share childhood stories of siblings John and Eva as well as their parents and upbringing.
As well as supporting everyone he came into contact with, Les proved to be a rock for Doris during the difficult times, one of which was the trauma of breast cancer which she so courageously won her battle to but unfortunately three years later, on the 14th December 1997, Les lost the love of his life Doris to a brain tumour and bowl complications. Les was devastated, heartbroken and completely lost but continued in his tracks to continue the voluntary work they had built together. It was then within the Aquadis swimming club that Les befriended Julie who soon after, also lost her husband. Together they grieved and found companionship in each other.
As les grew into his elderly age gracefully, his independence and determination to reach 100 years old was amazing. However, the tables were soon turned and it was now time for Dawn, John, Becky, Kirstie and Nikki to give back to Les all he had given to them. From staying over, afternoon visits, trips out or simply completing the tasks that Les could no longer do himself, Les never wanted for nothing as his family had so much devotion for the gentleman they aspired to be, even just a fraction of.