By Jim Hollands
In these days of strikes and labour problems. it is good to learn of people like Leonard Smeed, who has just retired, having spent 24 years with Ellis’ the Ironmongers in the High Street, who are incidentally reputed to he the second oldest Ironmongers in the country, having been established for over 300 years. Not content to call it a day yet, Leonard continues to work in the shop part-time.
Born in 1904. he attended Udimore School, and spent a further four years working for the late Mr. Saunders at Schoolhouse Farm, Udimore. He joined the Navy at 18. His first trip to sea was aboard a cruiser which took him round the World, and this was followed by three years in China. Later he joined the destroyer. H.M.S. Walpole, and remained with her throughout the war years. H.M.S. Walpole became known as the ‘lucky ship’. for several times she escaped near disaster. On one occasion she was patrolling at Dover when a bomb just grazed her sides, but her most interesting mission was when she was called from the Atlantic to rescue the Dutch Crown Jewels! When Belgium and Holland fell, word came to the Walpole’s Captain that the destroyer intended for the operation had run aground. and his vessel was to proceed to Ymunden, where they would carry the Crown Jewels safely to this country. The Walpole arrived at Ymunden in the dark. and had to wait the whole of the next day, watching the many fires along the Dutch coast, before they were able to complete the mission and return, with their “bounty”, to the comparative safety of England. Lucky was the Walpole, for the destroyer that had run aeround earlier, had to take on the Walpole’s intended mission to rescue refugees. and was tragically destroyed by a bomb before completing its task.
Leading Stoker Smeed was discharged from the Navy in 1945. after 17 years service and returned to Rye to his wife Clara whom he had married at Rye Church in 1937, and took up employment with Ellis’ where he remains until this day. He has two Sons, David and Brian.
In 1945. with time to spare in the evenings, he returned to the interests in ‘the Boys and Girls Clubs in Rye, he had fostered prior to the War and spent as many as four evenings a week taking gymnastic classes. He refers to the insatiable enthusiasm of the youngsters at this time, and he would take teams of both boys and girls to enter competitions and give displays all over the country. Later he was compelled to give up his classes on doctor’s orders and Leonard told me with noticeable regret in his voice, that the classes very soon fizzled out.
With a little more time to himself due to his semi-retirement Leonard envisages more trips to the seaside and country in his car, and with a gleeful twinkle he told me that he would be able to spend more time watching his favourite sport, football. He is a great supporter of Rye United, and thinks that it will not be too long before they improve their prestige as an up-and-coming club.
“Rye’s Own” March 1969
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