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Tribute to Bishop's Stortford bell-ringer and Second World War 'Polar Bear' veteran Kenneth Westwood

A half-muffled tenor bell tolled in memory of Second World War veteran and Bishop’s Stortford campanologist Kenneth Westwood.

The 95-year-old died in Elmhurst care home in Windhill, where he had lived since December 2017.

He grew up in Sawbridgeworth, where he attended the Fawbert and Barnard School, was a choirboy at Great St Mary's Church and rang the church bells.

Kenneth Westwood and his wife Olive (36670011)
Kenneth Westwood and his wife Olive (36670011)

He was working as a maltster at the maltings in Station Road when he was called up for service in April 1943, and so it was that on June 10, 1944, Gunner 14577089 Kenneth Westwood, of the Royal Artillery, boarded a Liberty boat at the Royal Dock and sailed down the Thames with his regiment, the 49th West Riding Division.

Also known as the Polar Bears, the soldiers were on their way to take part in Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion. They landed on Gold Beach the following day.

Kenneth served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. When the war in Europe ended, he was posted to India as part of the Royal Army Service Corps before being demobbed in 1947.

He and wife Olive, nee Bayford, who died in 2017, were married at All Saints' Church at Hockerill in 1945. After Kenneth left the Army, the couple lived and worked in Bishop’s Stortford and made it their home for the rest of their lives.

Kenneth was employed at Ernest Lake Ltd, a light engineering company, in 1947 and remained there until his retirement in 1989.

His sons Colin, born in 1949, and Andrew, born six years later, said: “He had no ambition to work elsewhere and turned down the opportunity of promotion in order to stay in a job that he enjoyed.”

Mr and Mrs Westwood were active members of the congregation at St Michael’s Church in Windhill. From the late 1960s, Kenneth was a bell-ringer, serving as tower captain, secretary and district secretary for many years. His sons said: “He continued to take part long into old age until he was physically unable to do so.”

Kenneth died on May 24. His funeral took place on Wednesday June 10. On its way to the crematorium, the cortège paused outside St Michael’s Church while the half-muffled tenor bell tolled in tribute. To reflect his wartime service, the coffin was draped by the Union Jack and his medals were displayed.

His family, including five granddaughters and 12 great-grandchildren, have asked for donations in his memory, via www.drobinson.co.uk, to the St Michael’s Church Society of Bell-ringers for the restoration fund.

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