The Rev Ted Bale obituary

My father, Ted Bale, who has died aged 98, was a Church of England vicar, most significantly in Corby, Northamptonshire, but also in the nearby village of Wollaston.

Born in Brussels, he was the son Ernest Bale, a bank manager, and his wife, Wilhelmina (nee Carré). The first language he learned was French, but in 1928, when he was five, the family moved to Britain, where he was educated at Willesden Technical College in north-west London.

Passionate about aeroplanes as a youngster, he joined the RAF at 16, training as a wireless fitter. In the dormitories he met men from all backgrounds, in contrast to his rather privileged upbringing. During the war he worked on Hurricanes, Lancasters, Defiants and Beauforts and rose to the rank of sergeant.

In 1944 he was posted to Italy, where he was part of the RAF Regiment supporting the US Fifth Army at the battle of Monte Cassino. There, despite his unit coming under fire, he gleefully reported that all the bullets missed him, although a piece of shrapnel got stuck in his greatcoat.

Ted remained in the RAF after the war, and a shared love of fencing led him to meet Mary Smith at Oakham fencing club; they were married in 1948. He then left the RAF to train for the priesthood at King’s College London.

Once qualified, in 1959 he took up a pioneering opportunity in the new town of Corby, where, in the absence of an actual church to work from, he and Mary initially held services in their home, building up a congregation among families who had moved to Corby to work at the Stewarts and Lloyds steelworks.

Eventually they got a multipurpose hall as a more permanent place of worship, until it was burned down in 1965. Undaunted, the congregation decided to rebuild, and the church of St Peter & St Andrew, Beanfield, remains a spectacular example of 1960s style.

In 1969 Ted and Mary moved to St Mary’s in Wollaston, where they were at the forefront of an evangelical revival and where they remained until Ted’s official retirement in 1987.

Mary died seven years later, and at the age of 74 Ted married Sylvia Williams, a widow, who brought with her a large family for him to cherish.

One of Ted’s grandparents was Oscar Carré, a Dutch circus impresario, and in retirement he explored those family connections, including with the Carré theatre in Amsterdam. He was pleased to represent the Carré family at the annual show of the Oscar Carré school, a performing arts primary school in an ethnically diverse area of Amsterdam, which appealed to his own sense of theatricality.

He continued to be active in the church and in armed forces organisations, including the RAF Cranwell Apprentices Association, and to enjoy meticulously planned and recorded caravan holidays in Europe.

He nursed Sylvia through her last years until she died in 2019. After that he lived alone, only reluctantly accepting daily help before finally moving into a nursing home.

He is survived by his children, Christopher and me, four grandsons, four great-grandchildren, and Sylvia’s large extended family.

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