Edward Richard Marcus Townsend (6C38)

Date of Birth: 5 Nov 1903
Date of Death: 1978
Generation: 8th
Residence: Seend, Wilts
Father: Percival Crewe Townsend [6C20]
Mother: Slade, Edyth
  1. Obed-Smith, Margaret Beryl
Issue: None
See Also: Table VIC ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Edward Richard Marcus Townsend

These notes are drawn from Edward’s 83-page A4 manuscript autobiography, which came to light through the good offices of Julia Harding of Devizes, Wiltshire, in the late summer of 2016.

Engaged in 1938. Married 14 June 1930 at St Mathias Church, Richmond, London. Beryl (1) was the youngest daughter of John Obed-Smith, a lawyer and immigration official from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Born in Cork, Edward spent the early years of his childhood in Tramore, Waterford following his father's move there in 1906. Sadly his father’s business failed in 1911 and he emigrated to South America, sending Edward and the rest of his family to Limerick, the home of his wife’s parents.

Edward's early education was very scrappy and by his own admission he was not very academic. In 1914 he was sent to The Abbey School in Tipperary, where he remained for the next six years. During this time Edward became very interested in the theatre and this continued throughout his life. He was also an enthusiastic sportsman.

Hoping to get employment with the Eastern Telegraph Company in London after he left school, Edward was met on arrival at Waterloo Station by his eccentric uncle ‘Peter’, Rev Arthur Townsend [6C17], who was wearing a ‘Victorian cloak, a straw hat and white spats’ and standing on a pile of luggage, waving a white handkerchief tied to a walking stick. Having been escorted across London by his uncle, he went to Twickenham to stay with Mr & Mrs Crick, who were friends of his cousin. Sadly Edward failed to get a job at the Eastern Telegraph Company because his spelling was so bad, and he ended up working for Mr Crick, but he does not say in his autobiography what the nature of the work was. This lasted for about four years before the company was liquidated in 1925.

During the General Strike in 1926 Edward worked as a temporary Special Constable based at Richmond Police Station following which he found employment as the London representative for a company importing American merchandise. In his autobiography he recalls how, for the first time in his life, he felt truly independent spending his spare time in the summer months playing tennis and boating on the Thames and during the winter months involving himself with the Richmond Operatic Society and the local theatrical society. It was at this time that Edward’s father wrote to him asking for money as he was hard-up; clearly relations with his father had been strained for some time as Edward was deeply upset and regarded this as “the last straw”. He never saw his father again until shortly before he died in 1936.

Following their marriage, Edward and Beryl lived in Queen’s Road, Richmond and in 1933 bought a house in Rosemont Road, Richmond. In order to help meet the additional costs of house ownership Edward took on a new job as the London representative of a large firm of coat manufacturers.

Shortly after the outbreak of war in September 1939 Edward joined the River Emergency Service run by the Port of London River Authority but after a few months this was disbanded and he decided to join the Royal Air Force. He was granted a commission in the equipment branch 'for the duration of hostilities' as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation on 6 December 1940 (2). After his initial training course, he was posted to RAF Biggin Hill where he spent three weeks before moving to RAF Hornchurch. He spent a year there looking after the equipment needs of three Spitfire squadrons (603, 611 & 54) following which he was posted to 79 Squadron, which was equipped with Hurricanes.

Promoted Flying Officer on 22 February 1942 (3), Edward embarked on ‘The Empress of Russia’ in early 1942 with 79 Squadron and set sail for India, stopping off at Durban in South Africa to bunker. Staging through Bombay and Calcutta, where they set up a base in the jute mills at nearby Kanikara, the Squadron was deployed into Burma in January 1943. Edward stayed there but a short time before being sent to the Air Gunnery School at RAF Amarda Road, Mayurbhanj in Orissa where he remained for the next twenty months. During this time he was promoted Flight Lieutenant in July 1943 (4). Despite being situated in the middle of the jungle and living in primitive conditions, Edward in his autobiography says that he “had more fun in that station than any other before or since” and he relates his experiences in great detail, including trips taken on leave to Simla and Ooty. He was very saddened to leave Amarda Road when he was posted to HQ 3rd Tactical Air Force at Commilla in East Bengal in January 1945, knowing that he only had four months left in India. He sailed from Bombay in early April 1945 on RMS Arundel Castle and arrived in Glasgow on 8 May 1945 – the day that Germany surrendered.

Edward stayed in the RAF for the next ten years during which time he served at six RAF stations throughout the UK and was promoted to Squadron Leader (5) in August 1947. His last posting was at RAF Melksham were he stayed for four years before retiring from the service on 3 October 1953 (6). During this time, having sold his flat in Richmond, he bought a retirement home in Seend, Wiltshire, where he remained for the rest of his life. Sadly, his autobiography ends at this moment and nothing is known about his latter years

(1) Beryl was born in 1905 and was a teacher of dancing. During World War 2 she was in charge of the nursing staff at Leatherhead Hospital in Surrey. After Edward's death she moved to Devizes and later to a nursing home at Derry Hill, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, where she died in August 1999.

(2) London Gazette 35037 page 157 dated 7 January 1941.

(3) London Gazette 35515 page 1565 dated 7 April 1942.

(4) London Gazette 36092 page 3210 dated 13 July 1943.

(5) London Gazette 38035 page 3665 dated 1 August 1947.

(6) London Gazette 39990 page 5570 dated 16 October 1953.