Peggy Ward: 21st January 1921 – 1st December 2010
Peggy, christened Sylvia Helen but known to everybody by her childhood nickname, was a committed and enthusiastic diarist. In 1943 and between January 1955 and March 1970 she didn’t miss a day. That’s well over five thousand diary entries. Why she started is a mystery, as is why she stopped – although perhaps, along with her life becoming increasingly full of things to do, she just thought, “well, enough is enough”. January 1st 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the first entry in Peggy’s 1965 diary and for the three years following, this blog has carried her diary entries for each day – updated weekly. With January 2018 marking a 75th anniversary, the blog has gone back in time to publish Peggy’s 1943 diary.
Peggy was born on 21st January 1921 in Malvern, Worcestershire in the heart of the rural English West Midlands. She was the second child of William and Caroline Taylor, born a year or two after her brother James (Jim). William was a carpenter and Caroline a full-time Mother. William and Caroline went on to have six more children: Joan, Patrick (Pat), Muriel, Robert (Rob), Michael (Mick) and Edward (Ted). Twin tragedies hit the Taylor family in the 1940s. First the death of Patrick, aged 19, in the British Army’s 1944 assault on Arnhem (Operation Market Garden), and second, Caroline’s death from leukaemia in 1946, at the age of just 48.
Peggy was a bright child who had done well at junior school and won a scholarship to Worcester Grammar School. After leaving school, Peggy became a children’s nurse, working for a while in Weston-super-Mare.
At the age of 21, in February 1942, Peggy volunteered to serve in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and was trained to operate the radar equipment that became a vital component in Britain’s World War II defences. There’s more information on ATS ‘Ack Ack Girls’ here. She served with the ATS for four years, finally being demobbed in 1946. Following the war, Peggy worked in the pay office at the Radar Research and Development Establishment in Malvern, but with the death of her mother the same year, and as the eldest daughter, she combined her work with the task of helping William to raise the younger children, particularly Ted, who at the time of his mother’s death was just 13 years old. Her eldest brother, Jim and younger sister Joan were, by now married and with young children of their own.
It was whilst working at RRDE in Malvern that Peggy met Cyril, her future husband. Peggy and Cyril were married in 1950 in Malvern and lived in a bungalow on Pickersleigh Road. By 1955, the first diary shows that they were living in Frimley, in the west of the county of Surrey, close to the Hampshire border. Cyril was now working for the Ministry of Supply in London. In 1958 they moved nearer to London, to Oxshott in Surrey, where Peggy was to live until 2006.
Peggy’s life in 1960s was typical of a housewife and mother of the time. By 1965 She and Cyril had two children Gillian, (7) and Philip (5). Gill and Phil were at primary school locally, and Cyril commuted to work; mostly to London but with regular business trips further afield. Peggy was an engaging and approachable woman who made friends easily, and her expanding social life in Oxshott, along with keeping in touch with her Malvern family, and the part-time book-keeping job she started in September 1965 (a job which ultimately became a significant company directorship), kept her very busy.
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