Frederick Hurley

Also known as: Fred.

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Frederick Timothy Hurley
5 August 1920 - 11 April 2011

In remembering Fred, we thought it would be lovely to use the tribute given by his friend Eric Stratford at Fred’s thanksgiving, and the prayer we placed with his flowers. We all miss Fred and his dear wife Rene enormously, and are forever thankful for all the love, kindness, goodness and twinkly fun they brought to our lives, and to the lives of so many. Thank you Rene and Fred, we hold you in our hearts.

Fred was born in Clapham on 5 August 1920. His father was a tram driver and his mother was a cook in a big house.

Fred had two brothers and one sister but tragically all died young, the boys when very young and his sister at the age of 17. Fred was devastated.

Fred went to Haselrigge School in Clapham and left when he was 14. He was apprenticed at Moray Engineering and like most apprentices in those days was very soon introduced to the art of tea-making. One of the skills he learnt was how not to spill a tray of tea cups when knocking on the foreman’s door.

When Moray Engineering moved away from Clapham, Fred found another job with an engineering firm in Brixton making aircraft parts for Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Fred’s service life began when he joined the RAF on 1 May 1941 as an aircraft engine fitter. His basic training was done at Blackpool where their drill and physical training were carried out on the promenade, much to the amusement of the holiday makers. Already a skilled fitter, Fred attended an aircraft engine course at Lytham St Anns. On completion of this he was posted to 608 Auxiliary Squadron, servicing Lockheed Hudson planes of Coastal Command.

Following this, Fred was sent to Wick in the north of Scotland. Wick was dry, no pubs but the friendly locals would invite them to their houses where there was always a bottle of beer to be had. Fred then went to the Shetlands where he celebrated his 21st birthday for which his mother had made a rich fruit cake which Fred shared with his mates.

Fred went to French North Africa in November 1942 as part of the invasion force, Operation Torch. He was with 111 RSU, a recovery and salvage unit whose job it was to recover or salvage crashed aircraft. Where recovery was not possible, everything reusable was dismantled and retained for further use.

Fred’s travels took him from Bizerte in Tunis eastwards along the coast then to Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and then mainland Italy. He was stationed near Naples just below Vesuvius on the Alfa Romeo test track. He was moving up to Rome when the war in Europe came to an end.

Back home he was demobbed at Wembley Stadium and gained employment as a skilled toolmaker, first at Clapham then later at Brixton. He moved on from there and became an instructor at the MoD training school at the Quality Assurance Directorate in Woolwich Arsenal. Fred was awarded the Imperial Service Medal for his services under the crown and retired in 1985.

After the war Fred courted the lovely Irene, dancing together at the Clapham Dance Hall with their good friends Hazel and Mac, and holidaying on Fred’s motorbike. They were married on 14 September 1957 at St Saviour’s Church, Brixton Hill. They bought 3 Pine Close, the house they lived in for the rest of their life, and where they had many good friends. It cost £2000 and Rene buried a sixpence in the foundations. They had a beautiful garden, always lovingly attended, helping Pine Close to be awarded first prize in the 2009 Swanley in Bloom competition.

Fred and Rene were not idle in their retirement. Both were involved with Christchurch activities. These included the Young Wives’ Club under the management of Mrs Flint, the Christchurch Players, a drama group where Fred’s technical skills came in handy and last, but not least, the Christmas festivities, the pantomime which the children in Fred’s life loved attending and the Christmas Fayre where Fred made his mark as a jovial Father Christmas for fourteen annual appearances.

Fred’s involvement with the Swanley Bowls Club was very ‘hands on’. From its inception he was there to help. When they were able to erect their club pavilion, he, amongst other self-help volunteers, did a remarkable job of converting the basic structure into a homely and well-equipped pavilion ready for use. Fred served on the committee for many years and was an enterprising fixtures and competitions member.

Fred’s membership of The Royal British Legion brought him to prominence last year when as a 90 year old veteran he featured prominently in the Poppy Appeal Launch at County Hall, Maidstone. He was also a regular poppy appeal collector; his smartly dressed figure was a familiar sight in ASDA. For his work as a collector he received the 15 year award.

Fred was a long time loyal support of Arsenal and was also a football referee for Surrey’s Referee Association. He refereed several notable matches. A lesser-known interest of his and Rene’s was Korfball. They played it in their earlier years and once represented England in a match in Holland where the game originated. I’m sure you are wondering what Korfball is. It is a game similar to netball and basketball and is played with a mixed team; male and female.

In 2001 Fred came through a successful triple by-pass heart operation in St Thomas’ Hospital where Rene visited him daily. As a result of Fred becoming infected with MRSA, his recovery was prolonged and painful.

When Rene passed away in 2010 Fred missed her with profound sadness but continued to live independently with the help of his friends in Swanley and his family.

Fred was at the heart of a loving family and circle of friends. He was much loved and although he and Rene had no children of their own, their many nieces and nephews, their friends Hazel and Mac, and their children, have always been especially close.

Thinking of Fred especially at this time with his sparkling blue eyes, dry sense of humour and sense of fun combined with his natural kindness and generosity, we instinctively smile. Fred spoke often about what mattered to him – lasting and loyal friendships with family and friends reflecting the comradeship he experienced in the RAF, living life to the full, caring for others and taking each day as it comes. He was completely reliable, and you could always depend on him to do the right thing. He always looked immaculate and cared about things, for them to be right.

Fred was a wise, kind, courageous and independent person with natural unforced integrity that commanded such immense respect. He was a true gentleman and family man, treasured by all who knew him.

And finally, a few words from Fred himself to his family and friends, that he left in his wishes and asked to be passed on.

‘Both Rene’s life and mine have been richly blessed by the unconditional support and love showered on us by you all. This deep affection played such a big part in making our lives so very happy. For this we thank you with our deepest love. Be happy, take care and God Bless.’

Prayer for a veteran

We pray that nothing of Fred's life will be lost, but that it will be of benefit to the world;
that all that he held sacred may be respected
by those who follow him and that everything
in which he was great may continue to
mean as much to us now that he has passed on.
We ask you that he may go on living in his family and friends
in their hearts and minds, their sense of fun and positivity, their courage and their conscience.

We ask you that we who were associated with him
may now, because of his death,
be even more closely associated with each other -
and that we may, in this togetherness
and peace and friendship here on earth,
always be deeply conscious of your promise
to be faithful to us in death.


(Prayer adapted from the 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Association website which mentions it was seen in RAFA’s Air Mail)

Added by: Shirley Wakley on 30th August 2012.


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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
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