Robert Wade as pictured at the Spalding Remembrance Day Parade on his 98th birthday. Picture by Robert Bester.

Spalding veteran’s passing after stunning life

A Royal Marine veteran whose ship was torpedoed during World War Two has passed away.

Robert Wade of Georgian Court on Haverfield Road, Spalding turned 98 on November 11 when he attended Spalding’s Remembrance Day commemorations.

The former Royal Marine and latterly keen puppeteer and master of ceremonies passed away peacefully at Pilgrim Hospital on Monday, November 26.

He leaves behind only daughter Julie Ridge, two grandchildren, five great grandchild and one great, great grandchild, all of whom live in Australia.

Originally from the Chertsey and Guildford area, he worked in the family bakers and confectioners business before joining the Royal Marines.

Robert Wade’s daughter Julie Ridge with her father’s medals.

Julie, who flew back from Adelaide for his funeral at Surfleet Crematorium on December 14, said: “When he was 17 (in 1937) he saw a picture of someone in a Royal Marine uniform.

“He thought they looked very smart in the uniform with the white helmets and he marched straight down to Whitehall to join up.

“He was mainly on HMS Cornwall then going across the world including Sierra Leon, South Africa, China and Suez.”

In 1942 Robert heard from home that his parents had split up. It left him so upset he applied and was accepted for compassionate leave as a result.

It was during that leave on Easter Sunday of that year, (April 5) that HMS Cornwall and sister ship HMS Dorsetshire were sunk by the Japanese in the Indian Ocean.

From both ships a total of 424 men were killed while 1,122 survivors spent 30 hours in the water before being rescued.

He continued with his military career on HMS Anson and at Chattenden barracks in Kent where he met then Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

More importantly he met the love of his life Jean at a bus stop.

The pair were engaged within six weeks of meeting each other and married later on in 1943.

Robert came out of the Marines in 1949 and began a career as a physical education teacher.

Amid his love of hockey and rowing, he also developed a passion for puppetry and marionettes after becoming good friends with Fred Tickner who made Muffin the Mule.

Fred taught him how to make puppets and he particularly specialised in making Punch and Judy.

Julie said a whole collection of Robert’s creations is on display in the Wayang Museum of puppetry in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Further to that he also had a sideline of as a master of ceremonies, regularly entertaining at weddings and formal occasions.

Julie said of her parents: “Whenever you went out with them, people would come up to say hello. A lot of people knew them.”

Robert and Jean came to Spalding in 2002 due to the expense of where they were living in the south east and they had friends in the town.

Jean passed away just two days before the couple were due to celebrate their 70th anniversary, aged 88 in 2013.

“Since mum died he closed up went in to his shell a bit,” Julie said. “He’d said he was ready to join her for a while, but he remained active and lived independently right until towards the end.

“He would still have a walk to the shops everyday and have something to eat in Hills or Bookmark’s cafés.

“Due to his profession he always liked to stay fit and until very recently would still do exercises including with dumbbells and insist on using the steps rather than the lift.

“He was a very funny man who was always telling jokes and was a very friendly guy.

“I’m so proud of all the things he achieved. He was so clever.”

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