A real Norwich character

From time to time this old picture of life in the Norwich Telephone Exchange has been used to illustrate various stories about how times have been changing.

And today I would like to pay tribute to the man it features searching through the files at the St Andrew's Street exchange – Ron Harbord, a real Norwich character – and a man who once guarded a notorious high-ranking Nazi.

Sadly Ron, aged 80, died early month but he left his family and friends with cherished memories of a man who got the most out of life and a man who loved his city with a real passion.

Ron was born at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in 1928. His mum and dad, May (Burrell) and Herbert, a shoemaker, lived in St George's before moving to Shorncliffe Close off Aylsham Road.

His father died when Ron was nine and his mum took in laundry and worked as a cleaner to make ends meet. She then married a friend of her husband's, also called Herbert, who Ron called Pop. He was always fascinated by his stories how he survived the First World War.

Ron went to St Augustine's Primary and then Norman School, leaving at 14 to join the Post Office as a messenger boy. He worked in the city during the Second World War, surving the 1942 blitz which caused such widescale death and destruction.

It was often down to young messenger boys like Ron to deliver those terrible 'missing in action' telegrams.

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He joined the RAF after the war and was sent to war-torn Berlin and at one time his duties included guarding top Nazi Rudolph Hess in Spandau Prison.

Ron returned to work in the telephone department at the Post Office. He was a keen sportsman, playing tennis, table tennis and snooker. He played football until he was 50 and was a loyal Canary follower.

Ron married Marcia in 1957 and they moved into their first and only home off Reepham Road two years later. Their son Marcus was born in 1971, He married Sara and Ron and Marcia were devoted grandparents to Bethany and Ellie. Marcia told me Ron was a keen amateur radio operator with friends around the world and loved playing bowls and walking until he was given the shattering news he had Alzheimer's in 2001.

'It was his wish that his condition remain private and that he should be looked after by his wife and family at home for as long as possible...and so he was,' she said.