Obituary for Albert Ernest (Ernie) Reynolds
Albert Ernest Reynolds (always known as Ernie) died on the evening of Friday 24th February 2017 at the age of 91. He was at home, with his family in Wheatley Hill in Durham.
Ernie’s death followed a long period of dementia and other health problems however he was active until his last days; singing and reciting poems at his day centre.
Ernie was the beloved husband of the late Elizabeth Agnes Reynolds (nee Fisher) and survived by his daughter, son in law and three grandsons; Marie, Tony, Adam, Bill and Tristan Lovell and his remaining sister Doreen, who lives in Canada. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends from the local church and Patton House Day centre and by a wider network of contacts and associations of which he was a member.
Ernie Reynolds was born in 1925 in Dale Street in the ‘Hill street’ area of Middlesbrough. One of ten children; their two bedroomed home had no electricity or gas and their water supply was a cold tap in the yard; but his stories of that time are about fun and love and pranks.
His father died when Ernie was 10 and he left school at 14 to start work at Furnace Shipyard in Haverton Hill. The Battle of Britain inspired him to join the Air Training Corps, and as soon as he was old enough, the RAF.
“when I went into the interview, naturally they asked me what I wanted to be and I said I want to be a fighter pilot and they just laughed. The indication was such that there was no way that I was ever going to be one but they said the pass mark I had was such a good one that I could go as a wireless operator / air gunner.”
He requested a place to train simply as an air gunner, a shorter training course which was designed to coincide with his nineteenth birthday, as aircrew had to be nineteen before they could take part in operations. Ernie served as a rear gunner in a Lancaster Bomber; putting his survival down to the random chances that saw him in a crew with ‘older’ (in their 20s and 30s!) married men who were more circumspect.
As well as bombing missions Ernie and his crew also carried out test runs for ‘Operation Manna’; dropping sacks of dried food over flooded areas of Holland where the isolated inhabitants were starving. More of his memories are available here; http://war-experience.org/lives/ernie-reynolds-w-o-raf/
Ernie was de-mobbed in 1947 and joined the fire service in Middlesbrough the following year. In the 50’s he accepted a posting to manage fire stations in Cyprus during a period of civil unrest.
In the 60’s he became a fire instructor for the home office and was stationed in Dorset where he met Elizabeth, they married within a year of meeting and were surprised to find themselves parents within a further year. He was commandant of the training school in Durham Fire Brigade in 1966, followed by jobs as station officer in charge at Swallwell, Chopwell and Birtley stations; ADO in fire prevention and in Washington. He retired from the fire brigade in 1978, then worked as a hospital fire prevention officer on Merseyside and a fire fighting instructor in Saudi Arabia. Following his return to the UK he worked for care-call in Durham and volunteered with the R.V.S. at Durham hospital. Ernie was awarded the following medals;
• 1939 – 45 Star
• 1939 – 45 Defence Medal
• 1939 – 45 War Medal
• General Service Medal with bar “Cyprus”
• Queens Silver Jubilee Medal
• Fire Service Long Service Medal
• British Fire Services Association Meritorious Service Medal
• British Fire Services Association silver 20 years long service medal with 4 Bars
• British Fire Services Association bronze 10 years Long Service Medal
• British Fire Services Association Centenary Medal
Ernie was a strong supporter of the BFSA welfare fund, writing a series of books of jokey anecdotes which raised over £16,000 for the fund. He was also a dedicated contributor to the letters page of the Northern Echo.
In his later years Ernie delighted in the company of the various people who helped to look after him, enjoying playing cards and dominoes, watching TV quizzes and going for a ‘ride out’ in the car where he enjoyed a good old sing-along.
Ernie’s funeral will be at 2.30 on Friday 10th March at All Saints Church, Wheatley Hill; https://goo.gl/maps/oaPshTCegaL2 , Church Street, Wheatley Hill, Durham, DH6 3PT – eastern end of the village on the b1729.
then 3.30 at Durham Crematorium. Donations to charities preferred in Lieu of formal flowers although feel free to bring or wear a daffodil – his favourite flowers.
These were charities that Ernie supported;
• SSAFA https://www.ssafa.org.uk/give (now manages the fund of the aircrew association)
• British fire services association benevolent fund; https://bfsa.org.uk/ George Halstead, Hon Treasurer and Secretary, BFSA Members Welfare Fund, 9 Home Farm Close, Wray, LANCASTER, LA2 8RG. Telephone 015242 21141
• The Firefighters charity https://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/donate/
• Plant a tree with the woodland trust https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/support-us/dedicate-a-tree/
• Although Dad didn’t directly support them the Alzheimer’s society were very useful to his family too; https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20014/donate/114/give_in_memory
Ernie’s family would like to thank the many people and organisations who helped to make his final years not just comfortable but actually sparkle with fun and meaning, including (but not limited to – and not in any order); the many friends who took the time to have a game of dominoes or chat over a biscuit, All at Patton House Day centre, Southdene medical practice; and Rita Lamb, Amy Broughton & Jax Higginson who were there week after week at the end.
“PER ARDUA AD ASTRA” – Through adversity to the stars
(motto of the R.A.F.)