Book Of Remembrances

Ronald Smith - Leicester St Martins 41 Club

Ronald Smith 11 September 1918 – 2 July 2015

Leicester St Martins 41 Club lost a stalwart member and great friend when Ronald Smith died on 2 July 2015 aged 96.Along with our Chairman Jim Whait and other members of the Club, I was privileged to attend his funeral. Naturally as Newsletter editor I wanted to publish a eulogy to Ron but as he had already outlived most of his Leicester 39 Round Table companions I was struggling to find a reliable source without troubling is widow Audrey or his son Peter. Fortunately, the funeral service was taken by the Very Rev Derek Hole, Provost Emeritus, and he painted a complete and colourful picture of Ron’s Life. After the service he kindly agreed for me to publish his eulogy in full, so, in the words of the Very Rev Derek Hole, here is a tribute to the late Ronald Smith, 41 Club member and friend:

Ronald, better known as Ron, was born in Loughborough on the 11 September 1918, two months before the Armistice was signed bringing to an end the First World War. He was the youngest of four children born to Henry and Florence Smith. His parents were Methodists and Ron was brought up as a member of that Church, that is, until he met Audrey who brought him into the Church of England. The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform! He was educated at the Wyggeston Grammar School in Leicester. It must have been at the same time as the Attenborough brothers were at the School and whose father was appointed the Principal of the University College, founded in memory of those who had died during the Great War.

After he left School, Ron trained as a draftsman at Gimson’s, a well-known Leicester name. From there he was employed at Powerjets, initially at Lutterworth and then at Whetstone, a Company which was led by Sir Frank Whittle. Ron was with the Company when he received his call-up papers and went by train to Catterick. He had not been there long before the Sergeant Major told him that he should not have been called up and he was to return to Powerjets at Lutterworth where he worked alongside Frank Whittle building the jet engine. He later received a letter from the Ministry of Defence, asking for the reimbursement of the Travel Warrant! Whilst working with Powerjets Ron joined the Home Guard and became one of Dad’s Army. He was one of the last surviving members of the original team at Powerjets, staying with the Company until it was nationalised in 1948. The ex-employees of Powerjets were known as Reactionaries and Ron was an active one. They continued to meet up together from time to time. In fact Ron was at Cranwell in 2011 for one of their last informal gatherings. They were there to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Inaugural flight of the first jet propelled plane, the E28.

After leaving the Company in 1948 Ron became a salesman for an Engineering Wholesaler and later established his own business, Ron Smith and Co., selling Industrial Clothing and Quarry Equipment. It was obviously a successful business, which he sold as a going concern when he was in his 70s.

l love this! Ron met Audrey in a blackout outside the YMCA in Leicester! He could obviously see well enough to fall in love! They married at the Church of St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park on the 19 June 1943 and on the‘l9th June this year celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary, which I think is a wonderful achievement. They had a long and happy marriage with two sons, Peter, and David who sadly died some years ago. For many years Ron supported Audrey with all her commitments to Menphys at the Saturday Morning Club at Douglas Bader House. Audrey said that without his great support Menphys would not have got off the ground.

Ron’s interests outside the home were bird watching and sport - he was an active sportsman. He enjoyed table tennis and was the Seniors Captain of Cosby Golf Club, enjoying their annual lunch which he attended this year. He had a significant Rugby career playing for Kibworth, Hinckley and South Leicester, where he was the Honorary Secretary when the Club relocated to Wigston. He played his first match for the Leicester Tigers in September 1938 against Plymouth and was thought to be the oldest surviving former player. After retiring from the game he refereed for many years. He had also been a member of Round Table attending St Martin’s Round Table 41 Club and was the Founder Chairman of Leicester 39/41 Club. He obviously enjoyed Round Table and became a member and later Worshipful Master of the Round Table Masonic Lodge.

Audrey and Peter would like me to pay tribute to Rada, Susie, Maggie and Lorraine who cared so well for Ron over the past four years. That took a lot of pressure off them and Ron was able to stay at home until the last three months of his life when things became difficult. Peter has told me of the great care Ron received from the Springfield Road Surgery, and the Leicester Royal Infirmary where he died after a long and meaningful life during which he achieved so much. He kept his marvellous sense of humour to the end. May he now rest in peace. Amen.”

And the final burst of humour, they played the theme tune to the hit US musical YMCA as Audrey left the church. What a beautiful reminder of their first meeting as they departed at their last!