Surrey’s Battle of Britain heroes: Hurricane pilot Rufus Arthur Ward
PUBLISHED: 13:23 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:21 13 July 2020
The Few who fought to save these isles in the summer of 1940 are remembered at The Battle of Britain Memorial without prejudice, reports Malcolm Triggs
The list of the aircrew who make up the Few, engraved on the black granite of the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent, is a simple, alphabetical one.
The names are listed without rank or decoration, each airman sharing equal status with his comrades in arms.
Famous names like Douglas Bader have no more prominence than those who failed to return from their first sortie; future high-ranking officers rub metaphorical shoulders with sergeant pilots.
That commitment to giving equal status to all those whose shared sacrifice and courage prevented a Nazi invasion of this country in 1940 extends to the National Memorial to the Few, a sculpture of an airman whose rank and nationality are obscured by his Irvin jacket.
One of those who gave his all but was not destined to become one of the high-flying aces of the battle is Rufus Arthur Ward, who was born in Croydon on February 15, 1917.
Ward, known as Rufus to his parents but Arthur to his wife, was the son of an NCO in the Second Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), who was also called Rufus and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, a decoration second only to the Victoria Cross.
The younger Rufus Ward was educated at Stanley Technical School and became an aircraft engineer, joining No 600 Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force on March 3 1936 and transferring to the RAF Volunteer Reserve in December 1937, as an Airman u/t Pilot.
Called up at the outbreak of war, Ward completed his training and converted to Hurricanes before joining No 19 Squadron at Fowlmere on September 2 1940.
He moved again, joining No 616 Squadron at Coltishall before making yet another transfer, this time to No 66 Squadron at Gravesend, where he arrived on September 29 that same year.
Finally seeing action as the Battle of Britain drew to a close, Ward probably destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and damaged two others on 5 October, but just three days later he was killed, shot down over North Kent by Bf 109s, his Spitfire crashing near Rochester.
Ward is buried in Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon. In 1990 his grave was one of a number in the Croydon area renovated by Co-operative Funeral Services, without charge, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Churchill’s Few are remembered at the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne in Kent. For more information see battleofbritainmemorial.org