The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R A Ward
Rufus Arthur Ward was born in Croydon on 15th February 1917, the son of Rufus Ward (1889-1952) and Louisa Violet Ward (nee Anderton 1891-1970).
'Rufus' and 'Arthur' were both recurring names in his family. He was known as 'Rufus' by his parents but his wife would later prefer to address him as 'Arthur'.
His father became an NCO in the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays). In an assault on an occupied mine crater at Zillebeke in March 1916 Ward was the first man over the rim and engaged several of the enemy in hand-to-hand fighting.
He was awarded the DCM.
RA Ward was educated at Stanley Technical School and became an aircraft engineer. He was a member of 12th Croydon (St Michaels) Scout Group.
He joined 600 Squadron AAF on 3rd March 1936 and transferred to the RAFVR in December 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up at the outbreak of war, Ward completed his initial training at 15 EFTS Redhill.
Ward married Mary Evans in Croydon in October 1939.
He was at 5 FTS Sealand for No. 47 Course from 29th April to 25th July 1940. He was awarded his flying badge on 20th May. He completed his training and arrived at 7 OTU Hawarden on 12th August.
After converting to Hurricanes he joined 19 Squadron at Fowlmere on 2nd September 1940. Ward went to 616 Squadron at Coltishall on 5th September and moved to 66 Squadron at Gravesend on the 29th.
Over North Kent on 8th October 1940 Ward was shot down and killed by Me109s. His Spitfire, N3043, crashed near Valley View Road, Borstal, near Rochester. His body was taken to the Royal Navy Hospital at Chatham.
Ward is buried in Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon.
An eyewitness, Peggy Whamond, recorded:
When we saw the pilot bale out from the falling plane a great cheer went up from the gardens all around and when another plane began to fly around the parachute we thought he was one of ours protecting the falling man. Suddenly my father shouted "The swine is shooting at him". This in the bright sunshine of an Indian Summer. It seemed unbelievable but it was so. I was 13 at the time and the memory that has stayed with me all the years was not I am afraid the killing of the pilot but my Dad's sheer rage and frustration and his yelling "You bastard, you bastard". That was a dreadful word to use in those long ago days and in front of the neighbours.
In 1990 his grave was one of a number in the Croydon area renovated by Co-operative Funeral Services, without charge, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle.