Charles William Snowden was born at 17 Victoria Road, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on 26th
December 1915 to Lillian (nee Pratt) and Albert Snowden. He was the second of three
children, the eldest being Amy Kathleen Lillian who was born on 12th July 1910 at Doncaster
and John Noel (Jack) who was born on 12th December 1921 at Lichfield. His father was a
Corporal in the 2/8th Sherwood Foresters and his mother a nurse.
In 1922, at the age of seven, he went to Richmond Grammar School in N orth Yorkshire and then two years later, in 1924, he went to the Military School in Catterick. In 1925 the family moved to Hampshire and he went to Queen's Road School in Farnborough and then in 1926 he went to Farnborough Secondary School. He remained there until finally leaving school in 1931 at the age of 16.
He then undertook a five year indentured motor engineering apprenticeship with Messrs A Gray & Co Ltd in Guildford. He started on 12th October 1931, initially for four years, but this was later extended to five years to allow him to gain additional experience in the Sales Department. His father had to pay a surety of £50 to A Gray and Co for the apprenticeship. In the first year he was paid 4/- a week and this was increased by 2/- a week each subsequent year. He successfully completed his apprenticeship on 2nd November 1936. He worked for Caffyns Ltd, in Eastbourne, from 1936 - 37, and then as a civilian fitter at 13 Command Workshops RAOC, Aldershot, from 1937 - 39.
He had joined the Supplementary Reserve as an MT Fitter in the RAOC (Regimental No: 7592099) on 29th November 1938 and on 1st September 1939 he was called up and had to report to Hilsea Barracks, Portsmouth. On 12th September he went with the BEF to France but when the Germans invaded in May 1940 he escaped from St Nazaire. At St Nazaire he boarded HMT Lancastria on Monday 17th June 1940. However, the ship was overcrowded and he was ordered off. Soon afterwards the ship was attacked by the Luftwaffe and sunk. Between 3000 and 5000 men were killed - Winston Churchill deemed the news of the loss so bad that he forbade publication of the story. He must have had leave from France because on 31 st January 1940 he married Grace Mary McDonald at Aldershot Register Office. From August - November 1940 he was on Coastal Defence at Gorleston, Yarmouth, and Lowestoft, and then AA Defence at Strood. In December 1940 he sailed to the Middle East via the Cape - a journey of 13 weeks cramped on a troop ship.
He served with the 8th Army in North Africa and in Italy and was employed on tank recovery and repair. In North Africa he was at the Battles of Tobruk and El Alamein (where in November 1942 the allies broke through the German lines and put the Afrika Corps to flight) and then in September 1943 he took part in the invasion of Italy - the 8th Army came ashore at Reggio di Calabria on 3rd September 1943. He witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in March 1944. In August 1944 he returned to England and was demobbed on 18th March 1946. The only record of a unit he served in was the 5th Manchester Regiment, at Llanybyther, Carmarthenshire in July 1945. Whilst he was serving with the 5th Manchesters, his only child, David Ian Snowden, was born at Farnborough, Hampshire on 6th July 1945. Although he joined the RAOC, he transferred to the REME on its formation on 1 st October 1942. His Army Pay Book shows his promotion to Paid Acting Staff Sergeant on 23rd February 1940, to WOll (AQMS) on 31 st August 1943 (subsequently granted War Substantive rank ofWOll on 27th May 1944), and to WOl (ASM) on 6th February 1945. It does not record his earlier promotions.
He was awarded the 1939 - 45 War Medal, the 1939 - 45 Star, the Italy Star, and the Africa Star with the 8th Anny Clasp.
After he was demobbed, he worked for Henleys Ltd from 1946 - 48 as their Workshop Foreman. He then applied to join the South African Army, was accepted and enlisted. However, just before he was due to sail to South Africa it became clear that the Nationalist Party (the Party of Apartheid) would win the next General Election there and so he decided not to go.
He then got a job in Nairobi, Kenya, as the Service Engineer with Gailey and Roberts Ltd (Albion Motors Division). He sailed to Kenya in November 1948 and my mother and I joined him in February 1949. He worked for Gailey & Roberts for a year and then in 1950 he was offered a job with East African Railways and Harbours (Tanganyika Road Services) as Motor Transport Officer.
The Colonial Office List (held in the PRO Kew) has the following entry in the 1962 edition: "Snowden C W b 1915. MU Svc 1939-45. Mech Inspr EAR&H 1950. MTO 1955".
In April 1964 he voluntarily retired and returned to England and found a job with Warwickshire County Council, as Foreman at their Transport Depot in Leamington Spa. However, he had only been there for a year when he was "head-hunted" by the United Transport Overseas Group as the Chief Engineer of the Uganda Transport Company. He and my mother moved to Uganda in 1965 and remained there until 1970.
Both he and my mother had always wanted to run their own village shop or post office and in 1971 they bought a small self-service corner shop at Romsey in Hampshire. However, this was the period when VAT was introduced and they found they were working extremely long hours, not only in the shop, but in the late evenings to complete the myriad of paperwork. At the same time a new large supermarket opened just down the road and the factory, opposite, where much of their trade came from was scheduled to close. Consequently, after a year they sold up.
They moved to Somerset to Middle Chinnock, near Yeovil, and then to Merriott. My father found a job at the "Handyman Centre" in Yeovil - the local DIY Shop. Sadly, my mother suddenly died on 25th November 1981. My father carried on working at the Handyman Centre until 1985 (when he was 70). He died of prostate cancer on 6th July 1994, aged 79. He was cremated at Yeovil Crematorium and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.
The History of the EAR&H Tanganyika Road Services Article
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