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Obituary: The Revd Ted Bale

18 June 2021

Nicola Webster Portrait Wedding Photography, Dublin

A correspondent writes:

THE Revd Ted Bale, who has died, aged 98, was the grandson of Oscar Carré, the Dutch circus proprietor who founded the Carré Theatre, in Amsterdam; but Ted’s career took a very different turn.

Ted was born in Brussels, and his first language was French; so he was called “Froggy” at school when the family moved to England. Passionate about aeroplanes, he joined the RAF aged 16, in 1938, as a Cranwell apprentice, and trained as a wireless fitter. Sharing dormitories meant that he met men from a range of backgrounds — in contrast to an upbringing that he characterised as privileged and cloistered — and many became lifelong friends.

After training, he entered active service in 1941, working on a variety of planes, and he rose to the rank of sergeant. In 1943, he was posted to North Africa, and the following year to Italy, where he was part of the RAF Regiment supporting the US Fifth Army at Monte Cassino — he was under fire, but gleefully said that they missed him.

Ted remained in the RAF after the war, taking part in the Greek Campaign and the Berlin Airlift. A shared love of fencing led him to meet Mary, an infant-school teacher, in Stamford, and they were married within six months. Diana was born two years later, and Ted left the RAF, after 13 years’ service, to train for the priesthood at King’s College, London; a nudge had led him to attend an RAF Christian-leadership course in Rome in 1945. Christopher was born in 1953.

Ted was a protégé of the Dean of King’s, Eric Abbott, with whom he remained in touch for many years, and was ordained deacon (1955) and priest (1956) by Bishop Russell Barry in Southwell Cathedral. Always proud of being a King’s man, he would interrogate medical staff about where they had trained.

Ted served his title at St Peter’s, Mansfield, from where he went to the new town of Corby, Northamptonshire, for a pioneering opportunity in a housing estate. Starting with services in the family home, a council house, he built up the congregation until they were allocated first a “Terrapin” temporary building — which he spoke about on the BBC — and then two bungalows knocked into one. He also planned the building of a new church and vicarage.

The diverse community, many of whom had moved from Glasgow with the steelmakers Stewarts & Lloyds, and some from northern counties, were brought together in what became annual pancake races in Corby, the Whit Walk, and many youth groups and social occasions, which also helped to raise funds for the new building.

A multi-purpose hall was built, but this was burned down in 1965 by vandals. Undaunted, Ted and his team decided to rebuild the hall and add the church at the same time; the Church of St Peter and St Andrew, Beanfield, Corby, possibly inspired by Coventry Cathedral, remains a spectacular example of 1960s style, with a stunning stained-glass window.

Leaving this thriving church after ten years, Ted and Mary moved to St Mary’s, Wollaston, in 1969, where they were at the forefront of an evangelical revival. Ted officially retired in 1987, but continued to assist, having permission to officiate in three dioceses, for another 27 years.

Mary died in 1994, but, at 74 years of age, Ted found new happiness in Haversham, near Milton Keynes, with Sylvia, also widowed, who brought with her another family for Ted to cherish. They enjoyed 21 years together before her death in 2019.

After retirement, having been surrounded by Carré memorabilia for much of his life, he made contact with other Carré descendants around the world and renewed connections to the theatre in Amsterdam. He was especially pleased to be asked to represent the family at the annual show of the Oscar Carré Basisschool, a performing-arts primary school in the city, which appealed to his own sense of theatricality.

He continued to be active in the Cranwell Apprentices Association and to enjoy meticulously planned and recorded caravan holidays in Europe. He was both a firm British patriot and an enthusiastic European, and was proud to display photographs of his meetings with both Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

It was only earlier this year that he moved to a nursing home, where he suffered a stroke, and died peacefully the next day. He had never missed an opportunity to talk to people, including his carers, about his strong faith, and how the Lord had guided his path throughout his life. He had asked for “Blessed Assurance” to be sung at his funeral. It was sung outside at the graveside.

He is survived by his children, Diana and Christopher, grandsons, Andy, Bruce, Peter, and Roger, four great-grandchildren, Amelia, Millie, Henry, and Sophie, and Sylvia’s large family.

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