Local Face: Ted Oates

In 1916, Gertie Slugget was a worker at Sharp’s, the Wendover Jeweller, when she met Ernest Oates, a Royal Flying Corps engineer based at RAF Halton. He had received a bad injury to his knee from a propeller and was convalescing at the time. They later married and after World War I went to live first in London then back to Ernie’s home town of Huddersfield where their son Edward was born on 15 April 1920.

Although Ted grew up as a Yorkshire lad, he spent every summer holiday with his maternal Grandmother in a little cottage situated in front of The Grange in Aylesbury Street. It is now a green open space. This was the highlight of his year and that way he got to know all the local lads.

Ted attended Royds Hall Grammar School along with Harold Wilson; although they were not in the same year, they do appear on a school photo together. In 1938 Ted was working in the office of Hopkinson’s, a local engineering company. After Munich, the company went into war mode and the young men were advised to join the Territorial Army (Royal Army Ordnance Corps) as preparation for call up when war broke out. By January 1940 Ted was in France. On 13 May, things were hotting up and his unit moved north into Belgium. Not everyone made it. Monday 27 May saw the destruction of all stores, equipment and vehicles. Come 31 May there was a rumour that everyone should make for Dunkirk so they set out for Bray Dunes only to discover that they were not in any party logged for evacuation from there. They were machine gunned from the air every day and had no food. They kept queuing up into the sea and even tried to float a beached boat. Ted volunteered to stretcher wounded soldiers onto a hospital ship amid much dangerous manoeuvering.
As many as possible of the remaining veterans were interviewed for stories by Josh Levine who was researching for his book Dunkirk (2011). Ted was invited to a book signing in Milton Keynes. This book became the inspiration for the Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk (2017). Ted was also on the red carpet for a special preview of the film at which he was invited to meet and talk with Prince Harry. If Ted’s stories from this time seem familiar, you may have seen them referenced in that film, to read more detail click on https://wendovernews.co.uk/news/dunkirk-and-ted-oates/.

Ted was transferred to Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and by the end of 1940 was in Egypt, fixing tanks. He spent the rest of the war in North Africa, mostly near Tripoli, arriving back in Cairo in November 1945 ready for disembarkation in January 1946.

At demob, Ted elected to settle in Wendover because although he purported to be friendly with a young lad Alan Brown from Bank Farm, he was actually becoming increasingly fond of Alan’s sister Nora. Ted began work as an Income Tax Collector. Nora’s widowed father retired from Bank Farm to Sydney Terrace where Ted still lives. Although it is customary to move around as a Tax Officer, Ted managed to stay based in Wendover all the rest of his working life even though he had spells of lengthy commuting. His family were very grateful to him for this stability, especially his daughter Jane who inherited the farming gene and love of horses. Jane met a new daughter at Bank Farm, Jackie Mogford, and they were great horsey friends. Jane and her husband now live next door to her father enabling them to support him in his home.

One of the highlights of Ted’s year is now the annual reunion of the Little Ships which went to Dunkirk. The portrait photo  is taken from one such recent voyage from Kingston to Weybridge in Riis 1.

Another special day in his calendar is Remembrance Sunday and you may have seen Ted with his whole family as he was pushed via Back Street to the Manor Waste this year. Then they all retreated to what they consider to be their local – The Swan in Wendover High Street.

Family photo above:

Back row: Granddaughter Alice’s husband, Jamie, with granddaughter Alice; partner Steph of grandson Pete with grandson Pete; grandsons Owain and Alex with Alex’s wife Steph; family friend Rob.

Middle row: Great-granddaughter Nicole, daughter of Mary; great-grandson James, son of Peter; great-grandson Charlie, son of granddaughter Alice; family friend and carer, Sue Curtis; granddaughter Mary.

Front row: Great-grandson Albert and great-granddaughter Isabel, both children of Alice; Ted who is father, grandfather and great grandfather.