'There will never be another one like Ted' - tributes to Harborough WWII hero who has died aged 101

The much-loved great-grandad worked until he was 94 – and dedicated an astonishing 63 years to swimming in Leicestershire as well as nationally

By Red Williams
Friday, 25th March 2022, 6:01 pm
Updated Friday, 25th March 2022, 6:02 pm
Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted.
Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted.

A Second World War hero who worked for 80 years and settled in Market Harborough has died at the age of 101.

Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted, followed in his father’s famous footsteps by winning a prestigious Military Medal while serving in the revered Leicestershire Yeomanry.

The much-loved great-grandad worked until he was 94 – and dedicated an astonishing 63 years to swimming in Leicestershire as well as nationally.

Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted.

Today Ted’s wife Barbara, 77, paid an emotional and heartfelt tribute to her beloved husband after he passed away at Kettering General Hospital on Thursday March 17.

“Ted was a complete one-off. There will never be another one like Ted,” said Barbara, of Market Harborough.

“I miss him like mad already.

“But he got to the grand old age of 101 and he packed so much into his life that it was just incredible.

Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted, with his wife Barbara.

“We were married for almost 41 years.

“And I will cherish every minute of the time we were together for the rest of my life – I couldn’t have met a better man,” Barbara told the Harborough Mail.

The powerhouse former chairman of Market Harborough Swimming Club, Ted was born in Leicester on September 12, 1920 – just two years after the First World War ended.

He started swimming at 10 and began his apprenticeship as a litho plate maker at the now defunct Leicester Evening Mail in 1934 when he was just 14.

Charles Quarmby, fondly known to everyone as Ted.

“Ted joined the Territorial Army in 1938.

“He went on to join the Leicestershire Yeomanry and went off to fight for his king and country when the Second World War broke out in September 1939,” said Barbara, who has two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Ted specialised in signals and communications.

“He was sent to serve in the North African desert with the Eighth Army and fought at the iconic battle of El Alamein against the Afrika Korps in late 1942.

“Ted went on to take part in the tough Italian campaign and saw action at the bloody battle of Monte Cassino in early 1944,” said Barbara.

“He had been promoted to sergeant by then, becoming a non-commissioned officer, and was in charge of a troop of soldiers.

“And that’s where Ted was awarded the Military Medal for great courage under fire from the enemy.

“He could easily have been killed as he took it upon himself to act there and then to restore his unit’s crucial communications after they’d gone down.

“Ted’s father, William Charles Quarmby, was also awarded the Military Medal while fighting in the Leicestershire Yeomanry in the Great War.

“So Ted was literally following in his dad’s footsteps – and outstanding bravery obviously runs in the family.

“He also saw service in Iraq, Jerusalem and Austria before being demobilised in February 1946 as a bombardier sergeant.

“I can reel off Ted’s army number to this day – 318517.

“Ted lost a lot of good friends and close comrades during that terrible war and he never talked about it much.

“But he always insisted that he was very lucky because he didn’t once get injured or wounded despite taking part in some of the fiercest battles,” said Barbara, who said Ted has two daughters, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

“And Ted took huge pride in the fact that he put his life on the line fighting for this country for all six years of the war – and I am very proud of what he did for us all.”

Returning to Civvie Street, Ted picked up where he left off, going straight back into the hectic post-war world of local newspapers, printing and publishing.

A lifelong swimmer, he quickly became a swimming referee, timekeeper, starter and judge for Leicestershire Swimming Club.

Tireless Ted became famed all over England for his relentless devotion to the sport he loved before he moved to Market Harborough in 1970 aged 50.

He immediately dived into the town’s thriving swimming club.

“Ted became the club’s chairman in 1980 and took classes at Welland Park School to help pupils become timekeepers, starters, referees and judges.

“He also helped disabled children with their swimming, officiated at national level with galas and was awarded the bronze medallion for lifesaving,” added Barbara, who married Ted at Market Harborough Registration Office on August 26, 1981.

“He also served on the national Amateur Swimming Association Committee.

“Swimming was right at the heart of his life and he gave the best years of his life to it.

“He was Market Harborough’s Mr Swimming in many ways while he also used to play polo in Leicester too.

“Ted was just phenomenal when it came to work.

“He was still working for AM Labels Limited in Kettering as a salesman when he was 94 for goodness sake!

“They loved him and his expertise, knowledge, energy and enthusiasm were absolutely second to none.

“I can honestly say there wasn’t a single day when Ted got out of bed and said he didn’t fancy going to work,” said Barbara, who said Ted was divorced from his first wife while his second wife sadly passed away.

“He worked for an unbelievable 80 years – and he never talked about retiring or putting his feet up.

“There cannot have been anyone else like him in the entire country.

“I met Ted back in 1980 after I moved to Leicestershire and got divorced – and we never ever looked back.

“He was a proper gentleman and a man of old-fashioned duty.

“Ted was totally devoted to me, his family, his work and his swimming.

“He was such a kind, caring man, brimming over with energy, and he would do anything for anyone.

“And I’m sure that he’d have carried on working well into his 90s if he hadn’t been seriously injured when a car smashed into us as we drove back from Fosse Park on May 29, 2015,” said Barbara.

“Poor Ted suffered a bleed on the brain and was unconscious in hospital for 10 days while I ended up with a big hole in my leg.

“He’d still been in very good shape, physically and mentally, but unfortunately began to decline after this horrific accident.

“Ted had always been a very active man and he didn’t deserve that, he could have been killed and I feared the worst for him.

“So we had to put Ted into Oxendon House Care Home in Great Oxendon to be looked after in 2019.

“But we still saw a lot of each other and we remained as close as ever,” said Barbara, originally from Twickenham, south-west London.

“I was 24 years younger than Ted and, of course, some people talked about that when we got married over 40 years ago.

“But it couldn’t have worked out any better and I am proud and feel privileged to have married such a fine man.

“Ted was a true force of nature – and we’ll never see his like again.

“I’ll miss him terribly but I have a whole life’s worth of fantastic memories to treasure and to make me smile.”

Ted’s funeral will be held at Great Glen Crematorium at 12.30pm on Thursday April 14.