Bob & Jenny’s day

One of the intriguing entries in Gerry Newey’s 1945 diary refers to him taking leave to be a witness at a friend’s wedding.  

On the 9th of March he writes:

“Saw Bob Bawden to arrange his wedding which is coming off tomorrow.”  

Flight Sergeant Robert Samuel “Bob” Bawden, RNZAF, NZ4212629, was Mid Upper Gunner with Doug Sadgrove’s crew. He came from Dairy Flat, a small rural district near Greenhithe, just north of Auckland, where Gerry grew up. So they probably knew each other from back home in New Zealand.  

Bob had already done way more than his share, having completed a tour of thirty-six (!!) op’s, just ten days earlier.

So it would be a doubly happy occasion.  

– More about the Sadgrove crew’s operational history here:

On the 10th of March Gerry wrote:

“The crew is on the Battle Order for today but a spare W/Op is flying in my place as I’m going to Ely to be a witness at Bob’s wedding.”  

A replacement Wireless Operator flew on that operation (to Gelsenkirchen Buer), although we don’t know who, as Gerry’s name was still listed as W/Op in the Operations Record Book.  

Gerry’s WAAF friend Betty was also a witness at the wedding:  

“Bob married at 12.30 then we had a dinner at The Lamb hotel. Betty & I went to a show after having our photos taken with Bob & Jenny.”  

The Lamb still operates in Ely.

Betty features quite frequently in Gerry’s diary, accompanying him to movies, shows and dances on Base. She lived at the large WAAF camp on Base at RAF Mepal.   We don’t know her surname, but in the back of his diary Gerry has written an address for a “Nurse Betty Armstrong”, c/o Timaru Hospital. So maybe she was a Kiwi nurse?  

Ever since reading this, I had thought it possible that maybe, somewhere out there, one of these wedding photos still exists.  

I Googled “Robert Samuel Bawden” but didn’t find out much, and in the process inadvertently contacted the family of Flight Lieutenant Nelson Bawden, who was 75(NZ) Squadron Navigational Leader.  

So much for my detective skills.

And somehow, in all my searching, I missed the Auckland White Pages listing for “Robert S. Bawden J.P., Bawden Road, Dairy Flat”!!  

Anyway, eventually I had another bright idea and placed a message on the Greenhithe Heritage Facebook page, thinking that there was a reasonable chance that someone would know the Bawden family from nearby Dairy Flat, and perhaps help me make contact.  

Within an hour someone had thoughtfully shared the post with the Dairy Flat Community Facebook page, and a very kind gentleman had looked me up in the phone book and called me.    Within a few more minutes I was speaking to Bob Bawden’s widow on the phone!  

Bob had died in 2001. Shirley, his second wife, was a lovely lady to speak to and we had a good chat. Bob had stayed in touch with Gerry and she had met him and played golf with his wife Marion. She also knew Gerry’s oldest sister Kate and her family. It turns out that there were more than a few connections between the Newey and Bawden families!  

Bob had come home from England on the S.S. “Andes”, arriving in October 1945.  

Jenny (Evelyn, but she preferred to be called Jenny) followed him out to New Zealand on a later ship and they settled back on the family farm at Dairy Flat. They had a son, Linden, born in 1946.  

Tragically, Jenny died in 1948, when Linden was only 2 years old.  

Later Bob met and married Shirley and they continued to live in Dairy Flat, where the Bawden family have had a strong presence since 1907. Bob was an active member of the community, becoming a J.P..  

In fact, there are two roads in Dairy Flat named after him, Bawden Road and Bob’s Way.  

Shirley couldn’t remember seeing the wedding photos in question and therefore doubted that they had survived.  

The following day I got a call from my cousin Keith who is friends with Bob & Jenny’s son Linden. News of the Facebook post had travelled fast and Keith wanted to pass on his phone number, and another connection; that Linden’s son (Bob’s grandson) Todd used to race rally cars in the U.S. with Gerry’s son Bruce!   So I rang Linden and we had a very interesting talk.

Linden of course doesn’t remember his mother but her death hit his Dad pretty hard. Also his Dad didn’t like to talk about the war, so Linden grew up not knowing much about that part of his life.  

However later in life Linden re-connected with his mother’s family back in Wales – she had come from Pontypool. He made several trips over there to meet up with them, including a visit to The Lamb Hotel in Ely, where his parents had enjoyed their wedding meal with Betty and Gerry.

Jenny had been a WAAF, like Betty, based at Mepal.  

Linden thought it was possible that the photos are still around and said he would have a look for them.

Only a few days later Linden emailed to say that Bob’s sister Elsie had passed away only 3 months short of her 100 years.   At the funeral that day there had been lots of relatives and lots of photos – and yes, the one we were looking for!

Linden offered to get a good copy of it for me, and last night, Sandra & I got to meet Linden when he and his lovely wife Julie dropped a copy off.

The wedding of Robert (Bob) and Evelyn (Jenny) Bawden, Ely, 10th of March 1945. L-R: Betty, Bob, Jenny, Gerry.
– Linden Bawden.

So nice to be able to see four young, happy faces from 70 years ago sharing those special moments. It must have been a very welcome break from Base routine and as the war slowly wound down, a hopeful glimpse of normality to come.  

And nice to be able to put faces to Bob, Jenny and Betty, and fill in that little piece of the story.   Bob, Gerry and Jenny obviously remained good friends after the war, and the family friendships survive to this day.  

Amazing that in the end, the answers to our questions were all so close by – we just had to ask.  

Robert Samuel “Bob” Bawden passed away in 2001, aged 79.  

Ake ake kia kaha

  – Thanks to all those who helped us contact the Bawden family. Special thanks to Shirley and Linden Bawden for their help in finding the photo, and for sharing their memories of Bob.

2 thoughts on “Bob & Jenny’s day”

    • Thanks Vic, yes, it was well worth the hunt! And nice to discover a family connection that I didn’t know about.


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