Sidney Walter GRADIDGE
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No: 929282 (RAF)
Date of Birth: 1913
Place of Birth: Romsey, Hampshire, England
Date of Enlistment: TBC
Date of Discharge: TBC
Date of Death: Nov 1993
Below is a collection of photographs provided by Chris Humby (Nephew). The photos were taken during his service with the 454 Squadron.
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Below is a tribute written by Chris Humby (Nephew)
Sid was the youngest of three brothers and three sisters. He was born in 1913 into a working class family in Romsey, Hampshire, England. Romsey is an ancient market town, which was surrounded by farming and large country estates. The main industry was brewing and Strong and Co. had operated a large brewery in the town. Sid’s father was a drayman for the local brewery, and in 1916 when Sid was only three years old, his father died whilst making a delivery to The George Inn at Fordingbridge in the New Forest, when he was accidently run over by his dray cart. His mother died in 1927 when he was fourteen years old. He, and his other siblings were then raised by their eldest brother and eldest sister. Even into old age the family would squabble about childhood rivalry and who played for the best football team in their youth, but were fiercely protective of each other to any outsider.
Sid started work as a shop boy in a large grocery shop in Romsey, probably soon after his mother had died. He married his wife Somme (Doll) in Romsey in the summer of 1939. I do not believe that they had long together before he joined the R.A.F., but do not have any information about his service record. He was posted to North Africa and seconded to 454 Squadron of the R.A.A.F. These pictures are from two photograph albums he kept as a memento of his service. Like many men, Sid never spoke openly about his experiences during WWII. I believe that he was part of the support staff aligned with procurement and provisions. He was also an enthusiastic, but not overly talented artist, as two of his cards to my mother from North Africa during his R.A.A.F. service illustrate.
After the war, Sid returned to Romsey and re-joined the grocery company he had worked for previously. He was then assigned to a more senior position at a store in another town, before returning to Romsey as Store Manager, which came with palatial accommodation above the shop. As a market town, surrounded by large country estates, Sid was used to dealing with members of nobility. One story, I fondly remember him telling me, was of titled Lady who entered his large grocery store and demanded to speak to him personally. She explained that she was hosting a party and wanted to line the trees on the drive with fairy lights to welcome her guests. The event would take place in a few days. Not one to miss an opportunity, Sid showed her some jars of honey. She exclaimed that they were perfect and ordered 100 jars and one hundred tealight candles. She requested that the jars be cleared of honey and washed, so her servants could arrange them on the drive. Sid humbly explained that he would need to charge her for the honey, so what would she like done with it. Her reply was an instant “I don’t give a damn, I don’t want it, do with it what you want”. Oh, how I wish he had told me what happened next, but the Lady got her jars for the party.
Sid and his wife Doll never had children. Eventually the large grocers in Romsey was sold and they set up a small general store on an estate on the outskirts of Romsey for a few years. They retired and lived in sheltered accommodation, not far from Romsey Abbey. Sid was a very affable, hospitable and entertaining character who enjoyed meeting and making friends with people from all walks of life. He was also active with the Royal British Legion, helping to raise money for ex-servicemen.
I remember visiting him, with my wife, after his wife Doll had passed away, and he was having a cup of tea with a lady and chatting over old times. Eventually his visitor said, “I must be going Sid, things to do”. After she had left Sid said to us, I never really introduced you properly, that lady was a Duchess, with a large estate in Norfolk. Doll and I would normally visit and stay with her for a few days every summer.
Sid was always bemused that his pension from the R.A.A.F. was more than his pension from the R.A.F. He was man of whom I have very fond memories. He died in 1993.