WARD, Kenneth Arthur

Sergeant (Air Gunner) 1819348 156 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Died Friday 24th March 1944 (Age 20)

At Rest: Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany
Grave Ref.: 8. J. 30.

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A Lancaster of 156 Sqdn

A Lancaster of 156 Sqdn

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We have been extremely fortunate to make contact with Kevin Ward, only son of Kenneth Arthur Ward, who has very kindly provided us with Ken’s story:

“Kenneth Arthur Ward was born on the 27th April 1924, one of three children born to the late Albert and Suzanne (nee Straw) Ward of Dixie Street, Jacksdale. Ken also had a brother Edsel and a sister named Vera.
Ken attended School in Jacksdale, where Mr. Stringfellow was headmaster, and later Mr. Pringle. A keen sportsman, Ken was chosen for both the cricket and swimming teams. After school, Ken spent a lot of time at the church hall near the cricket ground, where Mr. Storer instructed him in weight lifting, gymnastics and boxing. Later three snooker tables were installed and he turned his attention to snooker. The Co-op also provided entertainment, where Ken and his close friend won a Christmas talent competition.
Ken was a regular attendee at St. Mary’s Church, Westwood, where he was in the choir, and he also attended the Youth Fellowship with Rev. Ernest Hill and the late Stan Stafford.

Upon leaving school, Ken began work at James Oakes Colliery, on the fitting staff at Pye Hill. He also attended Heanor Technical College.

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Ken, along with his friend Bill, was keen to wear a uniform and went to join the full time Fire Station being stationed in Jacksdale. Edsel, his brother, was already serving at Kimberley Station. When Kimberley Fire Service was asked to help Nottingham Brigade, Jacksdale took over at Kimberley.
It was while Ken was serving at Kimberley he met and married Rene Miller, a telephone operator at the station. They were married at Kimberley Parish Church in 1943. A guard of honour from the station stood outside the church.

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Later in 1943, he volunteered for active service in the Royal Air Force, being trained as a bomber rear gunner. Ken was posted to Lincolnshire, and flew in the Lancaster’s 100 Squadron at Waltham, Lincs. Later in 1944 he volunteered, with the rest of the crew, to serve with the Pathfinders 156 Squadron, RAF Upwood.

Ken was due to begin leave, as Rene was expecting their first child in April 1944, but on the fateful night 24th March his aircraft, JB667, was shot down over Grossbeuthen, Berlin. Rene received the unwelcome telegram to say that Ken was missing and, just one month later, on 27th April, she gave birth to Kevin.

In 1960, the British Legion made it possible for Kevin and Rene to visit the War Graves in Brandenburg, Berlin, a visit they continued to make on a regular basis.

Many years later, in April 2000, an advertisement appeared in The Nottingham Evening Post, from the Raynor Family of Waltham, Lincolnshire asking the whereabouts of the family of Sgt. Ken Ward, who had spent his last Christmas with the Raynors, and had written two letters of thanks only days before his fateful trip, one to Len Raynor (who was then only a little boy) and one to Len’s parents. Len had kept and treasured those letters for 56 years, and knowing Ken had had a son born a month after his death, decided to try and trace him. The outcome resulted in Ken’s son, Kevin, Rene (who still lived at Kimberley and had never remarried) and also Kevin’s wife, going over to Grimsby to meet the lovely Raynor family.

Kevin and his family were given a tour of the area where his father spent time, and visited Waltham Windmill, the home of RAF Grimsby Museum, and was invited to unveil a plaque commemorating the loss of his father. They also received the two letters written by his father and so greatly treasured by Len Raynor.

At the time, it was not realised how poignant and important the timing of the search for Kevin and Rene was, as Rene died in November 2000, only months after visiting Grimsby. Both Kevin and Rene were touched and grateful to know Ken spent his last Christmas with such wonderful people, who have become an extended family to Kevin.”

Kevin has also kindly provided us with the following news clippings:
Sunday Express 1944
“Greatest ‘saturation’ assault – 2,000 tons on aircraft town at 150 a minute
RAF beat rocket planes
In 23 Minutes Bomber Command last night delivered the most furious air assault of the war against Brunswick, aircraft town, 110 miles west of Berlin.
Never before has a town been so saturated.
The attack will long be remembered for its many unique aspects. It was launched at an exceptionally early hour – 7.10.
It worked up from an average of 90 tons a minute to the unprecedented weight of 150 tons a minute.
It was marked also by the use by the Germans of twin-engined rocket-carrying night fighters and multi-coloured fighter flare paths. It was all over in 23 minutes. During the peak of the attack a great force of Lancasters dropped a heavier load of bombs than the Luftwaffe have ever dropped on London in a whole night. After the load of more than 2,000 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs had crashed down our crews were well on their way home long before the moon rose. The airmen brought back accounts of colossal destruction.

The target was cloud-covered, but the area to be destroyed was clearly ringed with sky-markers – laid by the Pathfinders. Airmen who went in on the last wave reported big explosions and a heavy column of smoke rising to 18,000 ft. Rear-gunners 150 miles from Brunswick on the home run could see the fires.
Sergeant A Ward, a Lancaster rear-gunner from Nottingham, took up the tale: “They were using lots of rocket shells. I watched them shoot along for over 1,300 yards. Then there was a minor explosion. After that they carried on again, to finish up in a still bigger explosion.”

Kenneth Ward & Crew

Kenneth Ward (far right) & Crew

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A further newspaper article quotes Ken Ward as follows:
“NOTTS. MAN’S STORY OF ROCKET-SHELLS
In spite of desperate attacks by rocket-firing fighters the RAF pressed home a devastating cascade attack on Brunswick on Friday night. In 23 minutes our planes dropped 2,000 tons on the Target. The weight of bombs rose from an average of 90 tons a minute to 150 at its peak. “There were so many rocket shells,” said Sergeant A Ward, a rear gunner from Kimberley, Notts. “I watched them shoot along for over 1,300 yards. Then there was a minor explosion and they carried on to finish up in a bigger explosion”. Great devastation was caused; the glow of the fires being seen 150 miles away.”

We would like to thank Kevin Ward for sharing his father’s story with us.

Our own research has revealed that on Sunday 5th November 1944 a Memorial Service was held at St Mary’s Church, Westwood, for Sergeant Ward, RAF (and also Pte Kenneth Shooter, Sherwood Foresters and Pte Joseph Winfield, Leicestershire Regiment). We have been able to provide Kevin with a copy of the Order of Service.

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Sgt Kenneth Arthur Ward is commemorated on both the Jacksdale and Kimberley War Memorials.

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Ward, kenneth A WWII (F) Berlin                                    WARD K A (Resized)