Benjamin John Legge
04 May 1918 - 14 Feb 2005
The following is the text from the reading given by my father Ian Legge at the funeral of my grandfather:
My Father's funeral is a time for celebration, a time to sing as he so loved to do particularly in church, and very much in this church. Let me share with you, albeit very briefly, some aspects of his long life so that we may celebrate together.
Ben Legge, and more of the name later, was born in 1918 in the Berkshire village of Childrey which nestles in the Vale of the White Horse, part of the Berkshire Downs, now unfortunately in the County of Oxfordshire. I hesitate to say it in this building for fear of contradiction but it is an area that Dad referred to as God's own country. His Father was the local master baker, the postmaster, and Clerk of the Parish Council. His mother was from Vikedal a village near Stavanger in Norway, and Dad was always proud of being, as he put it, half Norwegian.
He was part of a large family having four sisters and three brothers and was educated at the local village school. When he left school at the young age that one did at that time he worked at the local brick-works, very hard work he said, and spent some time at a small engineering factory. A desire to travel saw him joining the Merchant Navy at the age of sixteen and he served on the cargo ship "Marilyn" to South America and followed with trips on board Oil tankers mainly to Scandinavia. At home on leave he met up with a few of his old school friends who had decided to join the RAF and they obviously convinced him that this was a good future because he went along as well. A mention of the fact that he had worked in an engineering establishment got him into the technical branch and that was the start of a connection with the RAF that lasted all his working life.
Whilst in training in 1936 Dad was selected to be part of the Guard of Honour at the Coronation of George VI and was awarded a coronation medal. He was very soon posted to India and it was here that he stayed for most of the remainder of his time in the RAF and certainly for the whole of the Second World War. It was of course during his time in India that he met and married my mother who had lived over there for most of her life, her Father being an Officer in the Indian Amy. They married in Lahore now part of Pakistan in 1944. Both my parents speak fondly of their time in India. And along with this came the change of name. Apparently Mum was not keen on the name of Benjamin and so She called him by his second name John. So if you have the Childrey connection you call him Ben otherwise it is John. You will hear him called by both names here today.
The return to England came in 1945, with me coming on the scene in that same year and we moved to Old Windsor in 1946. My Sister Fiona completed the family, being born in 1953.
On leaving the RAF Dad kept the connection going by becoming a technical draughtsman working for the then Air Ministry spending some years at Signals Command, 90 Group. He moved eventually to the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine in Farnborough and spent the last 20 years of his working life there. His contribution was reflected in the award of the Imperial Service Medal just before his retirement at the age of 62.
And so to the loves of his life. First of all of course his family, Jean his Wife and companion for over 60 years, my Sister Fiona and I and most importantly four Grandchildren, Matthew, Vicky, Lee and Kim. He was immensely proud of his Grandchildren and I suspect that many of you here today would have been regaled at some time with tales of their progress through early life. How proud he was that both of his grandsons studied for and earned Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
An important part of his life centred on this Church he being a lifelong Methodist. He was for very many years Treasurer or Chapel Steward looking after property matters particularly from the time it was taken over by the Methodist Church in the early 1950's. His greatest challenge was probably leading the effort in the 1960's to provide the hall which still exists today at the rear of the Church. My outstanding memory of him is as the leader of the "back row choir" for he loved to sing. My sister was christened in this Church, both she and I were married here, we were both Sunday school teachers and we have had family funerals here, truly a family Church.
He had a great passion for Freemasonry, active in both London and Berkshire for 54 years. He loved the ritual, the discipline and the fellowship that goes with membership.
So many people have said to us recently what a grand chap he was. A loving Husband, Father and Grandfather, sociable and jovial, generous of nature, always willing to put others before himself, a man of considerable principle and deep Christian faith. We will all miss his presence in our different ways.
My Father died on St. Valentine's Day, we will always remember him and that day with great love.
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