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Hornchurch grandfather, firefighter and soldier, 98, gets fitting send off

Photo of Ronald Alfred Newbold taken on a visit to Normandy with his son David in 2009 Photo of Ronald Alfred Newbold taken on a visit to Normandy with his son David in 2009

Friday, June 6, 2014
4:49 PM

The long life of Hornchurch war veteran and firefighter Ronald Alfred Newbold was one of duty and service.

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The funeral procession of 98-year-old Ronald Alfred Newbold passes Hornchurch fire stationThe funeral procession of 98-year-old Ronald Alfred Newbold passes Hornchurch fire station

His funeral this week, which began with the procession of his coffin on the back of a fire engine, served as an eminently fitting tribute – although one that may have angered him.

“My dad was a northerner – he’d have been very, very cross at spending money!” said daughter Chris Hunt of her Leicester-born father.

Ronald – Ron to his friends – died aged 98 on May 21.

Whether it was joining the Army’s Coldstream Guards – which saw him taking part in the Normandy landings of D-Day –- or his full 25 years as a firefighter, his was a life characterised by service.

Picture of firefighter Ronald Alfred Newbold, taken at the opening of Wennington Fire Station on September 15 1962Picture of firefighter Ronald Alfred Newbold, taken at the opening of Wennington Fire Station on September 15 1962

Ron, who lived in Coniston Way, Hornchurch, from 1948 until his death, joined the Army in 1937. He intended to become a police officer but a former guardsman advised to sign up first for experience, his daughter recalls.

Though he kept many of the more harrowing details to himself, he had a tale or two to tell about his wartime experiences.

“In the liberation of Eindhoven [in the Netherlands],” says 59-year-old Chris, “they were welcomed by the people and they had false ceilings in their homes to hide from the Nazis. And they took the false ceilings down and handed out all of these spirits and champagne.”

After the war, Ron joined the fire brigade, working first at Hornchurch fire station and then at Wennington when it opened in 1962. Nine years later he retired, spending ten years at the water board before drawing his pension.

His career in the fire service became another episode marred by the sad loss of friends – stories of which he very much kept to himself.

But in retirement, he dedicated his life to remembering the fallen as chairman of the Romford branch of the Normany and Dunkirk Veterans’ Association, organising yearly journeys back to France. To have missed this week’s 70th anniversary commemorations by just a few days would no doubt have disappointed him.

A man active to the end, twice-widowered Ron only last year showed signs of deteriorating health. He was diagnosed with dementia and two weeks ago succumbed to a bout of pneumonia. He is survived by his three children and 11 grandchildren.

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