Ballard School Memories
Children remember one of their “old boys” - former Chairman of the Spitfire Society
Children and staff at Great Ballard were saddened by the recent news of the passing of one of their oldest “old boys”, Squadron Leader Leonard Dickson (ret’d). He was a perfect gentleman with a wonderful sense of humour and many tales to tell from his interesting and varied life.
Leonard had started at the school in the 1930s when its home was in New Milton, Hampshire and he then moved to Stowell Park during the war when the school was evacuated to Gloucester. In recent years, he had visited the school and today’s children and took great delight and pleasure in meeting the young people and hearing about life today. What really struck him was that the school today still values many of the things it valued in its early days such as the caring environment and love of everything outside including both nature and sports. His memory was outstanding and his stories and tales from his own childhood were always fascinating as he told them with a twinkle in his eyes.
When the school history was first recorded back in the 1990s, Leonard wrote about the outbreak of War when he was at New Milton and how the army requisitioned the buildings necessitating a hurried move to Clayesmore School in a convoy of yellow and orange “Shamrock and Rambler” coaches” for the remainder of the Summer term. They then started the Autumn term at Stowell Park, home of Lord and Lady Vesty and Leonard recalls how he was head chorister at the christening of the grandson of Lord and Lady Vesty who is now the 3rd Baron Vestey and who currently serves as Master of the Horse to the Royal Household.
After leaving education, Leonard joined the RAF and served overseas before taking on many other interests and roles in charities as well as service to the Royal Family. He became a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) a personal award by Her Majesty the Queen for his long and loyal service to the Royal Family
One of his greatest loves was the Spitfire and he joined the Spitfire Society as a Life Member in its early days and ended up being Chairman of the Spitfire Society and Finance officer. It was quite poignant that last September, that when the Battle of Britain Flypast of Spitfires flew from Goodwood over Eartham House, home of Great Ballard School, today’s pupils watched them on their journey. Leonard would certainly have enjoyed watching the 80th Anniversary flight of the Spitfire that took place last week that re-enacted the original flight-path of the first flight back in 1936. It is such an iconic plane that continues to enthral people, something that the chief designer, R J Mitchell would no doubt be proud of.
Leonard Dickson’s visits to both Great Ballard School and Ballard School included speaking at Remembrance Services and attending Reunions, Anniversaries and Grandparent Days. His last visit to us was in 2015 at our 90th Anniversary when he took great delight in presenting an inkwell to the school that had been discovered in an antique shop that had originally been presented to the school matron who had cared for him during his happy days at school! The school were delighted too to present Leonard with some extracts from the school magazines of the times written by Leonard as a young school boy.
At his funeral that was attended by both Great Ballard School and Ballard School staff, his daughter referred to his school days at Great Ballard and we were proud to have given Leonard such a great start to his highly distinguished and successful life.