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He's run a pub, been a hairdresser, and nearly died in the war - Norwich's Ted Cawdron has quite a story to tell

Norwich original Ted Cawdron 
Photo: Bill Smith

Norwich original Ted Cawdron Photo: Bill Smith

Bill Smith

He may now be confined to a wheelchair after having a leg amputated, but Ted Cawdron still has a twinkle in his eye when he talks about his life.

And after fathering nine children and reaching the age of 92, he has quite a story to tell.

When I met him he was sitting in his wheelchair, dressed in his Norwich City football shirt, while his wife since 1977, Fran, was sitting on the sofa.

Mr Cawdron’s voice was quite soft and he looked frail, but his face lit up when he reminisced about the old days.

He might have lamented that he was not fit for much these days, but his memory is still fine.

He’s probably best known in Norwich for his role as a trainer of young boxers at Norwich Lads’ Club.

He started in the early 1950s, stayed for 17 years, and went back for another two years in the 1970s.

He earned no money during either stint.

“Ginger Sadd – the Norwich boxing star – was training there at the same time,” he said.

The most exciting part of his life was, as for many men his age, the second world war.

He joined the RAF in 1940, and was part of the first land crew to arrive in France on D-Day + 6.

He was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force as a fitter/armourer – the Canadians did not have any fitter/armourers of their own – and he went through France, Belgium, north Germany and ended up near the Belsen concentration camp.

He said he was in the last action with the German air force during a strafing raid in Lubeck, Germany.

“I jumped in a hole to save myself and there was already an officer in it,” he said. “I wondered how he beat me to it.”

He saw the aftermath of the drowned POW and concentration camp inmates after the ship they had been put on by the SS was bombed by the RAF.

The SS machine gunned survivors as they tried to swim back to land but eventually the British fought with them and some survived.

Mr Cawdron, who ended up as a sergeant, also worked in bomb disposal and narrowly missed being blown up when a conical mine went off in the armoury.

He was camp barber at RAF Coltishall and when he returned to civvy street his former hairdressing colleague had bought his business.

He said: “I decided to leave and was packing my bag when he came in and asked me what I was doing. ‘What do you think I’m doing?’ I asked. And then he said that I could not leave as I had not given a week’s notice.”

Mr Cawdron was born on April 23, 1920, in Millers Lane, Norwich.

He had a twin sister, Evelyn, who died when she was 88. She was quite a person and some of her artwork was shown at the National Gallery. She also ran for England as a schoolgirl and was a needlewoman.

Mr Cawdron was a boy soprano at Catton Church and was offered a singing scholarship in London – but his mother wouldn’t let him go.

He went to Angel Road school in Norwich, where his nickname was either “Red” or “Ginger”, due to his hair colouring, and he left at 14 to become an apprentice hairdresser. After his stint of nearly two decades’ training young boxers at the Lads’ Club, in the 1960s he took over the King Edward pub, now the King Edward VII, in Aylsham Road, Norwich, which at the time had a dirt floor which was renovated.

He was one of the first publicans in the area to have a disco, with a young David Clayton, of Radio Norfolk fame, as one of his DJs.

Mr Cawdron used to sing at the pub, which he ran for about nine years, before going back to hairdressing. He was then a self-employed hairdresser in Waterloo Road, Norwich, and only quit when he was 83.

His eldest son, Roger Cawdron, has been running pubs for many years and is currently at the Ribs of Beef in Wensum Street, Norwich. When Roger was younger, he helped his parents, Ted and Betty, run the King Edward.

Mr Cawdron said: “I started Roger off at the King Edward. At that time we had two ponies at the back of the pub.”

His second son Andrew was an architect on the Castle Mall in Norwich, and another son, Brian, was one of the best amateur boxers in Norwich.

He has been married to Fran for 35 years. They met in 1971 at the King Edward, and she added: “I had just been on a 20-mile walk. I used to live near the pub then.”

She said that she had discovered during her research that the Cawdron family has been in Norfolk since about 1701, and originally came over in the Norman Conquest.

Would you like to nominate someone in Norwich to be our next Evening News Original? Please email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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