Celwyn Ball, British First Army 1940-46

Celwyn Ball, British First Army 1940-46

Celwyn 1922-2016

Bralu Kapi, Riga, Latvia

In 1992, I told Cel­wyn of my Lat­vian fore­bears and wish to vis­it the Baltic. He said he knew the area well, vol­un­teered to join me, and made arrange­ments for a tour. Gen­er­ous­ly he showed me places I nev­er expect­ed to see. I remem­ber our strolling Bralu Kapi, Latvia’s Arling­ton, where heroes lie. There I heard Cel­wyn mus­ing, from his own expe­ri­ence, about what they must have gone through. A vet­er­an had told us of dig­ging ditch­es in the flat coun­try, against oncom­ing Russ­ian tanks, in 1945 as the Red Army rolled west. They were Sher­mans sent through Lend-Lease, their white stars recent­ly repaint­ed red.

Churchill said, “Noth­ing sur­pass­es 1940.” He added, quot­ing Ten­nyson: “Every morn brought forth a noble chance. And every chance brought forth a noble knight.” He was one of those, though he would nev­er claim the dis­tinc­tion. On 29 August 1940, 18-year-old Cel­wyn Ball joined the British Army. (It was the day Churchill told Gen­er­al de Gaulle that any French colonies will­ing to con­tin­ue the fight would be defended.)

Cel­wyn in 1946.

Cel­wyn served as a motor­cy­cle despatch rid­er with the First Army in the Mid­dle East. In Pales­tine in 1945, he was wrecked: One of the war­ring par­ties had placed wire across the road. Sent home for surgery, he was hos­pi­tal­ized nine months. He always walked with a severe limp. His rows of medals includ­ed a Unit­ed States Bronze Star. He was dis­charged in Sep­tem­ber 1946. A week lat­er began his long, hap­py mar­riage to Patri­cia, whom he sad­ly lost in 2000. He left us in Monc­ton, New Brunswick on March 30th, at the fine age of 93.



Celwyn as Philatelist

Our friend com­bined an intense admi­ra­tion of Sir Win­ston with deter­mi­na­tion to serve his mem­o­ry in a unique way: his Churchill World Stamp Cat­a­logue (cre­at­ed with the help of Pat and their daugh­ter Ali­son) is the world’s most com­pre­hen­sive com­pendi­um of Churchill com­mem­o­ra­tive postage. Every Churchill­lian should own a copy, whether he col­lects stamps or not.

Cel­wyn served as the sec­ond pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tion­al Churchill Soci­ety Cana­da from 1987 to 1990, and from 1991 to 1993 as chair­man of the Coun­cil of Churchill Soci­eties. He com­bined lead­er­ship with a ret­i­cence of man­ner that polite­ly dis­missed any attempt to thank him, though we did so fre­quent­ly. Celwyn’s work insures that he will nev­er be for­got­ten. And a man nev­er dies so long as he is remembered.


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