Obituary: 'Boy soldier' who set-up town's cadet group aged 15, dies at 94

Boy soldier: Ronald "Ronnie" Loades, who swore to be a soldier and formed his own "army" at 15, had died at the age of 94

Boy soldier: Ronald "Ronnie" Loades, who swore to be a soldier and formed his own "army" at 15, had died at the age of 94 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Almost 80 years ago, a then 15-year-old Ronald Loades honourably penned a letter to the Cadet Norfolk Artillery calling for important action. 

The date was January 18, 1943, and Mr Loades, affectionally nicknamed Ronnie, sat up the table in the family home in Hempton, near Fakenham. 

It was a move that would see him hit the national headlines, cementing his name in the market town's history books. 

It had been more than three years since the start of the Second World War when Great Britain declared war on Germany, and while Fakenham had a thriving Air Cadet Corps the same could not be said of an Army Cadet Force. 

Mr Loades wanted this to change. 

Early life: Ronald Loades as a young man serving with the Royal Signals in what was then called Palestine

Early life: Ronald Loades as a young man serving with the Royal Signals in what was then called Palestine - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Pen firmly in hand, he wrote to The Cadet Norfolk Artillery, which was then affiliated to the 78th (1st East Anglian) Brigade, at Calvert Street, Norwich. 

Alongside the letter, he included the names and addresses of 23 other boys who were also willing to put their names forward after attending a meeting, organised by Mr Loades at the local school. 

The list of 23 boys who signed up to join the army cadets corps in Fakenham following Ronald Loades' meeting

Dedicated to the cause: The list of 23 boys who signed up to join the army cadets corps in Fakenham following Ronald Loades' meeting - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

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His son, Robert Loades, explained the importance of the idea at the time. 

He said: “The group had a swell of members due to the number of Jewish evacuees who came to the town at the time. 

“They told my dad that if they had seen and heard what was done to their relatives, done to their own, they would understand why they wanted to sign up. 

“He told us about this when we were children but he would never go on about it.” 

The telegram sent in 1943 to Ronald Loades giving the go-ahead

A quick response: The telegram sent in 1943 to Ronald Loades giving the go-ahead - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

It was not until Robert, and his sister Gillian found many of their father’s cuttings and keepsakes following his death last month. Included with them was a telegram he received from Colonel C. N. A. Commanding from The Cadet Norfolk Artillery. 

Dated January 19, 1943, it gave Mr Loades permission to go ahead with the army cadet corps, informing him to hold a meeting for Friday, January 29 by which time he would have informed the newspapers and relevant officers. 

Soon after, the national press–including the Daily Mail and the Sunday Dispatch–ran articles about the “boy general” who formed his own army, running such headlines as “Shop Boy Forms Cadet Unit”. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

Ronald Loades hit the headlines in the national press

Headline news: Ronald Loades hit the headlines in the national press - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Ronald Edward Loades was born on April 17, 1927, in a cottage on Shereford Road, Hempton, near Fakenham, and grew up in the area. 

He attended Fakenham Central School during the time it merged boys and girls together. The headmaster, Mr Wick, informed the children the schools would also merge its mottos - the boys one being "work", while the girls’ was “love” - and with a twinkle in his eye and much to the horror of the children, revealed it to be “love work”.  

Mr Loades would also claim to pre-empt naughty behaviour and would hand out the occasional “clout or two round the back of the head” while walking through the school's corridors and Mr Loades would sometimes be on the receiving end.   

He left school aged 14 and went to work at E. Bone Ltd bicycle shop, Fakenham. 

He was eventually called up to the Army on May 3, 1945, just days after the news that Hitler had died by suicide broke. Mr Loades trained at the former Britannia Barracks, which now form part of Norwich prison, where he stayed until VE day. He then went on to form part of the emergency deployment to help in Palestine before being released. 

Ronald and Betty Loades getting married following corresponding during the Second World War

Wedding bells: Ronald and Betty Loades getting married following corresponding during the Second World War - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

During his time in Palestine, he began corresponding with a woman back in England, who replied to a request to have women write to some of the soldiers. 

His son, Robert, said: “There were hundreds of letters that they got to look through. Something stopped my dad when he got to this specific one. It was a letter from Beatrice Forrester, of Lancashire.”  

Betty, as she was known, would go on to marry Mr Loades in the church in Hempton in 1950, before they moved to nearby Ryburgh and then Fakenham in 1953. Together they had two children; Robert in 1952, and Gillian in 1955. 

He went on to work as a vehicle paint-sprayer at Baxters Garage before it closed, then FMC, before moving to Ross Foods and taking early retirement at the age of 65. 

Ronald Loades (far right) with his wife Betty (middle) pictured with friends (names unknown) on holiday during the 1980s

Holiday fever: Ronald Loades (far right) with his wife Betty (middle) pictured with friends (names unknown) on holiday during the 1980s - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

During his retirement, Mr and Mrs Loades spent time travelling around Europe, in particular Spain. A number of times he would often be confused with playwright Alan Bennett. He was also the chair of Holt Old Time Dancing club, and enjoyed doing crosswords, puzzles, and reading and reciting poetry, a favourite being Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay. 

Mrs Loades died in 2006. 

Robert and Gillian added: “He was a quiet and unassuming man. I never saw him angry, even when we were little. 

“He was patient, kind, and thoughtful.” 

Mr Loades died on January 11. As well as his children, he leaves behind two grandchildren and a great-grandson.