Francis John Ronald

Male 1909 - 1996  (87 years)


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  • Name Francis John Ronald  [1
    Born 4 Jan 1909  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 2 Mar 1996  [1
    Buried 12 Mar 1996  St Paul's Haywards Heath Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I0163  My Genealogy
    Last Modified 3 Jan 2019 

    Father Francis Joseph Ronald,   b. 20 Dec 1874,   d. 1955  (Age 80 years) 
    Mother Irene Isabel Runtz,   b. 19 Jun 1889, Stoke Newington London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1964, Haywards Heath Sussex Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years) 
    Married 9 Jul 1907  St James's Spanish Place Marylebone Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F056  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Edith Protheroe,   b. 19 Feb 1918, High Street Clay Cross Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Apr 2005, Brighton Sussex Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 87 years) 
    Married 18 Mar 1940  St Thomas More Seaford Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Divorced 14 Nov 1963  Decree Absolute 18 Feb 1964 Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. John Anthony Ronald,   b. Private
     2. Wilfred Ian Ronald,   b. Private
    Last Modified 3 Jan 2019 
    Family ID F053  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Jill Muriel Jenkins,   b. 11 May 1933,   d. 15 Mar 2008, Princess Royal Hospital Haywards Heath Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years) 
    Married 1970 
    Last Modified 3 Jan 2019 
    Family ID F141  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 

    • Our father the Colonel, we could never use the intimate parental terms such as Dad or Daddy as somehow they did not seem to fit the individual whose infrequent visits to our home, seemed to have little impact on our lives. On his part, there was little indicated desire to play a significant role in the lives of these two boys, his sons and this fell upon our mother, his opposite in every way, a woman of great kindness and humor, liked by everyone and a dedicated mother.

      Throughout his life, the Colonel maintained his military bearing, tall and straight backed, and thinning ginger hair combed straight back and cut short. He took much pride in his appearance and dressed well, and expensively, even gardening in fawn camel hair trousers, always a neat paisley cravat tucked into his shirt.

      To the outside world he was a local success, a distinguished army officer popular in the local pubs, putting two boys through college, a charming well liked wife, a large house but it really was a facade. Even, I believe, his near and dear family did not see him as we did.

      A small monthly stipend to our mother was to support the three of us whilst he spent more on his clothes and his life style, maintaining a discreet apartment in London, club memberships, a liking for good food and wine, and worse of all gambling.

      On a couple of rare occasions he took us to the Plumpton Race track,where we picnicked in the sun, placed small bets on horses that inevitably came last, all very innocent and great fun, but far from the heavy betting done by phone with bookies who sometimes would phone demanding payment against losses.

      The education was paid mainly by the army and no interest was shown in our progress by the Colonel, any visits to the schools, letters infrequent and always signed 'from your father, Colonel F J Ronald Even when he was home, he never attended school events such as plays, sports days, bonfires when as we looked around we saw the supportive faces of committed parents and in our case, just one, there for us as always.

      The amount paid monthly to our Mother was not enough for the family and did not take into account the family allowance he received as a serving army officer and the large house in which we lived was rented and needed investment, never received, to upgrade its facilities.

      Certainly, in maintaining his life style the Colonel spent much more than he spent on us, the family of three and even as children we were aware of this.

      To eat a satisfying meal then catch our mother in the kitchen wiping bread around the frying pan, to catch the meat juices, because there was not enough money to buy the same food for herself is something I never forgot, or forgave.

      In later life when I became a member of the Junior Army and Naval Club,as was the Colonel, I was able to see the extent of his enjoyment of life, his indulgences in fine wine and food, female companions, this life style starting to show in the red mottling of his cheeks and across his nose.

      He was a Colonel, a well paid military status with many financial benefits yet he never invested in the home, never bought a house, any luxuries we had bought by our mother from monies earned in jobs she had to take, necessary to meet the household bills. He never took us on annual holidays, or out for dinner, to the movies or went out of his way to make Christmas or Birthdays fun. The only trips I remember with him were to visit our Grandparents in Burgess Hill and one trip overseas to Germany, courtesy of the British Army and where we stayed in unattractive military housing for two weeks and did very little much relieved to get home.

      He did not play football with us, or fly kites, teach us children to swim; he did not know where we had ability and where we had none.

      One time, he took us to watch the Changing of the Guard, from his office in Whitehall and here he was in his element, introducing us around to fellow officers the picture of the proud father and it was for two small boys an exciting day, the gleaming breastplates and wind blown plumes on the helmets, the precision of movement, the diminutive figure of the Queen erect upon her horse but it was just one day, never repeated, a day when paternal contact could have been made between us, but was not.

      As I grew up I lived with the Colonel, after my brother departed to Australia as did our mother, I drank his wine, ate his food, persuaded him to buy me a second hand motorcycle, later a car done with no compunction or guilt because I blamed him for my brother and I growing up basically in a one parent home, missing out on the support yet at the same time I tried to get him involved in my life, my ideas, my desires for the future but there was no interest.


      The Colonel fell ill, he died and was buried with the pomp that he would have chosen and enjoyed. His coffin carried by members of the Royal Sussex Regiment, eulogy by a well known comedian, Laurence Percival. The local newspaper wrote a flattering article describing his military career, his talent as a painter and a cook, mentioning so briefly that he had 2 children.


      To me it became clear that he was a very lonely man, that he had missed much that could have made his life more productive and certainly much happier. In the last few meetings, on trips to the UK, I had with him he was struggling to establish contact, making a real effort to be a father and grandfather, for the first time ever showing interest in how life was progressing for me and the family. Sometimes from the austere demeanor a sly humor slipped out, surprising me and I felt that there was a much more humane and likeable man imprisoned within and unable to escape to the outside world.

      He was certainly a very intelligent man, well educated, a recognized military historian. He was an accomplished cook, most knowledgeable on wines. He was good with his hands as once demonstrated in a surprising gift of a fort made by him, a small coffee table that reposed in his last home and an avid Gardner. His love of art drove him to success in his role as money raiser for the restoration of the arts treasuresin Florence, damaged by the floods. This earned him the title of 'Calviere de alto merito' conferred on him by the Italian Government.A grateful queen gave him the CBE. It therefore is most sad that he never succeeded in being a good husband and a successful father as he would have had a much richer life.

      I think a major problem was the gambling as living with him I had an opportunity to see how much of his income was paid out on his betting, little evidence of his success as a punter. He also liked the extravagancies of life, clothing, good food, club member ship all of which would have been beyond the reach of a more committed family man.

      Many of his colleagues had bought homes, enjoyed annual holidays with their families, drove nice family cars but they focused on this without the same outside extravagances.

      He never bought our Mother jewellery, clothes or birthday and Christmas gifts, he kept her so tight on money that she had to work outside to supplement the household income. After divorce he never even paid her the court stipulated allowance so, with her usual self reliance she worked and supported herself and us.

      I have two lasting memories of him. One after a pub lunch with him and Selina and Thomas, both very young, he wandered off and I found him standing by the waters of a reservoir, almost in a trance and he looked so sad. In fact took his picture as clearly shows his expression.

      The other memory was on one of my calls to him in hospital shortly before he died. He asked my name and I replied 'Tony'. He then repeated my name as a query so I said' Tony, your son in Singapore" and he laughed and said 'Oh the funny one!' and I hope this refers to my sense of humor and not to any quirks in my character.

      He was not a bad man, just one unsuited to be a father and husband and he never realized that actually when we were small, in those early ages of innocence, we were proud to be the sons of the Colonel. The sole legacy given to me by his second wife, Jill, was a bettered leather wallet with a map of Thailand, a gift from me 20 years before and, despite is age and condition, she told me that it had always been in his pocket. I wish I had known him better, I wish he could have shed that military skin, sometimes, and we could have probably been good friends.

      TR June 2005

      Another draft of this document received by IKM July 2005

      The Colonel.

      Our father, the Colonel, I could never use intimate parental terms such as 'Dad' or 'Daddy' as somehow they did not seem to fit the individual whose infrequent visits to our home, seemed to have little impact on our lives. On his part, there was little indicated desire to play a significant role in the lives of these two boys, his sons and this fell upon Mum, his opposite in every way, as we know a woman of great kindness and humor, liked by everyone and a dedicated mother.

      From school master to soldier, soldier to fund raiser he departed as he would have wished with a formal funeral and with an apparent life of success behind him.

      Throughout his life, the Colonel maintained his military bearing, tall and straight backed, and thinning ginger hair combed straight back and cut short. He took much pride in his appearance and dressed well, and expensively, even gardening in fawn camel hair trousers, always a neat paisley cravat tucked into his shirt. He looked every inch that of an army officer. With a keen interest in the supposed Scottish antecedent of the Family,he often would wear a M......... (reference to tartan?)

      To the outside world, he was a local success, a distinguished army officer popular in the local pubs, putting two boys through college, a charming well liked wife, a large house but it really was a facade. Even, I believe, his near and dear family did not see him as I did.

      A small monthly stipend to our mother was made to support the three of us whilst he spent more on his clothes and his life style, maintaining a discreet apartment in London, club memberships, a liking for good food and wine, and worse of all gambling. He received a formal family allowance from the Army as never reached Mum, School fees was paid by the Army.

      On a couple of rare occasions he took us to the Plumpton Race track,where we picnicked in the sun, placed small bets on horses that inevitably came last, all very innocent and great fun, but far from the heavy betting done by phone with bookies who sometimes would phone demanding payment against losses. Living in his home, later, I often was the initial recipient of calls from bookies.

      As said, education was paid mainly by the army and no interest was shown in our progress by the Colonel, any visits to the schools, letters infrequent and always signed 'from your father, Colonel F J Ronald'. Even when he was home, he never attended school events such as plays, sports days, bonfires when as we looked around we saw the supportive faces of committed parents and in our case, just one, there for us as always.

      The amount paid monthly to our Mother was not enough for the family and did not take into account the family allowance he received as a serving army officer and the large house in which we lived was only rented and needed investment, never received, to upgrade its facilities. Mum had to work to support us, keep food on the table, and give us luxuries at Christmas and on our birthdays. From comics and small gifts on Sunday visits home after church to clothes, to holidays these came from monies earned by Mum.


      Certainly, in maintaining his life style the Colonel spent much more than he spent on us, the family of three and even as a child I was aware of this.

      Rental of 27 Vicarage Walk, the family home was ?2 more a month than father's private I bedroom apartment in London. The housing allowance from the Army was actually more than the rental of the Vicarage Walk home. The family allowance paid by the army was more than the monthly allowance paid to Mum .In May 1962, Mum wrote to the Paymaster General asking for an update on family allowance. As a result, her monthly allowance from the Colonel increased by 1/3rd.



      To eat a satisfying meal then catch our mother in the kitchen wiping bread around the frying pan, to catch the meat juices, because there was not enough money to buy the same food for herself is something I never forgot, or forgave.

      In later life, when I became a member of the Junior Army and Naval Club, as was the Colonel, I was able to see the extent of his enjoyment of life, his indulgences in fine wine and food, female companions, this life style starting to show in the red mottling of his cheeks and across his nose. I saw Mrs. Sitwell and his other companions in the club bar, during my use overnight of the bedroom facilities available to members at less than hotel prices.

      Mum married father because in a letter to her, dated January 16th 1940,he stressed that he was to be sent overseas unlikely to return, a letter now in my ownership, begs her to marry him and like many women she agreed, in similar circumstances, and like many whose husbands returned, she lived to regret it. In fact, remaining as a staff officer, father's exposure to war conditions was minimal although he did serve in France and with credit, earning a mention in dispatches, and he proved a cold and distant husband, preferring the company of other women and his fellow officers.

      I quote:

      Peggy my dear,

      War calls for sacrifice and I expect to be drafted soon overseas and like so many of my fellow officers, may never return, gladly laying down my life for King and country.

      I am extremely fond of you and beg you to consider us getting married so that we can enjoy some bliss together before the fatal day comes.

      Married to you will give me more courage to do my duty when the time comes.

      Affectionately
      John

      They married on the 18th March 1940, in the Church of St Thomas More, Seaford. Rev. RG Webb officiated and witnesses were John Thomas Ronald, Francis J Ronald, Hollis Breadon Coulhurst. Deputy registrar was George Henry Charles Bishop.

      They were divorced on the 14th day of November 1963 under the auspices of the High Court of Justice, probate, divorce and admiralty division decree nisi 1597 no 7250.63 this taking effect,3 months later, on the 18th day of February 1964.

      The divorce based on desertion by Mum for a period of 3 years and not contested.

      Mum started to actually hate him when, he did his best to prevent her from visiting her beloved brother, a highly courageous Wing Commander, in the fore front of aerial warfare and who died on a mission over Germany. I am sure Father was jealous of the affection and jealous of the reputation of her brother as a true hero eventually winning, posthumously, the DFC. In a letter, dated June 11th, now also in my possession, the Colonel rants on about Wilfred, the relationship and says:

      "As your husband, I forbid you to visit or have any contact with your brother, Wilfred, as he is irresponsible and not a good influence on you! You will obey me or I shall take appropriate steps"
      John

      Written across the letter in Mum's writing it says:

      'Bloody Bastard'

      Wilfred was a dashing, air force pilot who passed out of RAF College with honors in 1933, typical of the pilots of the era who spent so much of their life, in the air, on dangerous missions, with a high death rate amongst them as tendered to make them more wild living when back home, never knowing when they would go on a one way journey.

      Interesting, as at the time the Colonel was having an affair with a (Mrs.) Eleanor O'Neill, her husband, a Major in a Transport Unit, (the wife living in Burgess Hill), transferred abroad to France and I am not sure why he resented his brother-in-law so much because it did divert the attention of his wife away from his activities.


      He was a Colonel, a well paid military status with many financial benefits yet he never invested in the home, never bought a house, any luxuries we had bought by our mother from monies earned in jobs she had to take, necessary to meet the household bills. He never took us, save once, on annual holidays, or out for dinner, to the movies or went out of his way to make Christmas or Birthdays fun. The only trips I remember with him were to visit our Grandparents in Burgess Hill and one trip overseas to Germany, courtesy of the British Army and where we stayed in unattractive military housing for two weeks and did very little, apart from a day in Wuppertal, much relieved to get home.

      He did not play football with us, or fly kites, teach us children to swim; he did not know where we had ability and where we had none.

      One time, he took us to watch the Changing of the Guard, from his office in Whitehall and here he was in his element, introducing us around to fellow officers the picture of the proud father and it was for two small boys an exciting day, the gleaming breastplates and wind blown plumes on the helmets, the precision of movement, the diminutive figure of the Queen erect upon her horse but it was just one day, never repeated, a day when paternal contact could have been made between us, but was not.

      As I grew up I lived with the Colonel, after my brother departed to Australia as did our mother, I drank his wine, ate his food, persuaded him to buy me a second hand motorcycle, later a car, done with no compunction or guilt because I blamed him for my brother and I growing up basically in a one parent home, missing out on the father's support yet at the same time I still tried to get him involved in my life, my ideas, my desires for the future but there was no interest.


      The Colonel fell ill, he died and was buried with the pomp that he would have chosen and enjoyed. His coffin carried by members of the Royal Sussex Regiment, eulogy by a well known comedian, Laurence Percival. The local newspaper wrote a flattering article describing his military career, his talent as a painter and a cook, mentioning so briefly that he had 2 children.


      To me it became clear that he was a very lonely man, that he had missed much that could have made his life more productive and certainly much happier. In the last few meetings, on trips to the UK, I had with him he was struggling to establish contact, making a real effort to be a father and grandfather, for the first time ever showing interest in how life was progressing for me and the family. Sometimes from the austere demeanor a sly humor slipped out, surprising me and I felt that there was a much more humane and likeable man imprisoned within and unable to escape to the outside world. I remember once he joked about his escape from the Germans, saying that when they awoke in the morning their captors had disappeared, forgotten them or deemed the 'catch' not worth keeping.

      On another occasion, creeping back home in the 'wee' hours of the morning with a friend I woke him up and he came downstairs at 2 am dressed in a morning suit, posing as my butler to produce coffee and biscuits. This to me was the man inside, less austere, a good sense of humor struggling to get out.

      He was certainly a very intelligent man, well educated, a recognized military historian. He was an accomplished cook, most knowledgeable on wines. He was good with his hands as once demonstrated in a surprising gift of a fort made by him, a small coffee table that reposed in his last home and an avid gardener. His love of art drove him to success in his role as money raiser for the restoration of the arts treasures, in Florence, damaged by the floods. This earned him the title of 'Cavaliere de Alto Merito' conferred on him by the Italian Government. In fact, he displayed artistic merit with several credible paintings. A grateful queen gave him the CBE, the Lord Mayor of London, a Gold Medal. It, therefore, is most sad that he never succeeded in being a good husband and a successful father as he would have had a much richer life. Whether raising monies for damaged art work, for charities, for organizations such as BUPA, he displayed sound business acumen, judgement and skills and all credit was due to him for the success he made outside the army, post retirement.

      Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile his two sides - the successful military officer and fund raiser and the dilettante, absent husband and father.



      An interesting letter from Grandmother Protheroe to Mum dated Jan 14th 1973 says. Quote

      Dear Peggy,

      I have lately felt I must put right something I should have done a long time ago. You should have left John as you did, you should have divorced him, you had plenty of evidence.

      He must have been a swine in bed.

      I remember Enid coming round to me (she lived in the little flat with jasper) she said you were throwing everything you could lay your hands on at him. I do not think you ever slept with him again.

      I won't go on but you had to borrow my sheets for the beds, and the only blankets you had were army ones he must have filched. I was so cross with you leaving him and taking the boys which you intended to work for and keep. I had always been taught that marriage was for as long as you both shall live, but now things are more reasonable. Its ten years since I was with Josie and I received the Colonel's letter. I was in the kitchen making food. Josie was sorting the mail in the hall when she called how long has
      John been calling you My Darling.

      Don't be silly I replied read it, and this is what she read.

      My Darling, the Queen has had a rush of blood to the head and endowed me with the CBE. I celebrated last night with the boys but kept a special bottle for us whom I will drink from your slipper, my darling.

      I enclose the key in case I am not there to meet you.

      Your devoted John.

      It was quite clear what the clever man had done. He had been writing and used the wrong envelope. It came by sea with a 4p stamp. I said I would burn the letter but Johnny said keep it and here it is.

      He was a real rotter and will come to a sticky end but they say-the devil looks after his own. Anyway although it is late in the day I shall sleep better. I should have done this at once.

      Love mother.

      The letter should have gone to Mrs. Sitwell father's mistress. The key was for his small but expensive apartment in London. The 'Boys' is not reference to me and my brother but to friends of his.


      I think a major problem was the gambling as living with him I had an opportunity to see how much of his income was paid out on his betting, little evidence of his success as a punter. He also liked the extravagancies of life, clothing, good food, club member ship and the companionship of young, vivacious women, all of which would have been beyond the reach or desire of a more committed family man. In fact, this followed exactly the life style of his father and grandfather both of whom ran dual lives

      Many of his colleagues had bought homes, enjoyed annual holidays with their families, drove nice family cars but they focused on this without the same outside extravagances.

      He never bought our Mother jewellery, clothes or birthday and Christmas gifts, he kept her so tight on money that she had to work outside to supplement the household income. After divorce he never even paid her the court stipulated allowance so, with her usual self reliance she worked and supported herself and us.

      I have two lasting memories of him. One after a pub lunch with him, on a visit to the UK by ourselves, and Selina and Thomas, both very young, he wandered off and I found him standing by the waters of a reservoir, almost in a trance and he looked so sad. In fact, I took his picture as clearly shows his expression.

      The other memory was on one of my calls to him in hospital shortly before he died. He asked my name and I replied 'Tony'. He then repeated my name as a query so I said' Tony, your son in Singapore" and he laughed and said 'Oh the funny one!' and I hope this refers to my sense of humor and not to any quirks in my character.

      He was not a bad man, just vain, one unsuited to be a father and husband and he never realized that actually when we were small, in those early ages of innocence, we were proud to be the sons of a Colonel. The sole legacy given to me, as eldest son, by his second wife, Jill, was a battered leather wallet with a map of Thailand, a gift from me 20 years before and, despite is age and condition, she told me that it had always been in his pocket. I found this rather touching.

      Both parents have now departed, both passed away with sickness and pain and perhaps, at the end, they had a chance to look back on their lives and feel some sense of regret for what could have been, opportunities lost, actions regretted but this we will never know.

      Received by IKM from (John) Tony Ronald in July 2005

  • Sources 
    1. [S001547] Gurl.ftw.
      Date of Import: Jun 3, 2001



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