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 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.