Soham Grammarians - Mr FK Webb 1948-56

Soham Grammarian Summer 1948

We are very glad to welcome Mr Webb to the School this term and hope that his stay with us will be long and happy.

Soham Grammarian New Year 1957

We cannot let Mr. Webb and Mr. Foster depart from our midst without placing on record our appreciation of the great contribution each made to the life of the school during their gears here - Mr. Webb from 1948, Mr. Foster from 1951.

Though Mr. Webb's pupils here - and particularly the "T" boys, whom he always took so much under his wing - will always remember the fatherly interest he took in them and the friendly banter with which he so regularly treated them, perhaps only those close to Mr. Webb know just how untiring and selfless were his efforts for the school, so unobtrusively did he work behind the scenes (literally - with every stage show - as well as metaphorically).

from the 1949 School photo

from the 1956 School photo

He was always ready to help with all the day-to-day needs of the school and of other masters for a "practical expert," whether to answer an urgent S.O.S. sent from a R.I. broadcast lesson or to spend Saturday in overalls fixing up spot-lights for "Hamlet." To boy and colleague he was kindness personified, and countless parents will long remember his organisation of the Parents' Association for which he worked so hard and to which he brought a remarkable gift for establishing friendly relationships.

True as it is, all this sounds rather like an obituary! But we have had to take advantage of Mr. Webb's absence to say what we always found difficult to say in his almost fiercely modest presence.

We wish Mr. Webb all happiness and success in his new post as instructor to boys taking National Certificate Examinations at the Technical College attached to the Ministry of Supply Telecommunications Research Establishment at Malvern.

3/12/08 Peter Webb, FKW's son writes: Mr FK Webb (Ken) was born in Swindon in 1913 but his family soon moved to Lillington, a village near Kenilworth, and he was educated at Leamington. On leaving school, he became an apprentice (presumably) at Cossor Radio in Birmingham, commuting daily by train. If he had to do overtime, he would post a letter to his mother by 10am with the certainty that it would arrive in Lillington by late afternoon. He later moved to Cambridge to take up a post as head of the Service Department workshop at Pye. At this time he was keen on rugby and also had a boat on the river.

With the advent of war, he volunteered for service, entered the Army and was posted to the Middle East. However, quite exceptionally he managed to get himself transferred to the RAF, so that more use could be made of his radio expertise. He served mostly in the Middle East and became Flight Lieutenant. He was responsible for putting radar on top of one of the pyramids for a visit by Churchill. It was only for show, so came down again as soon as Churchill left. It seems he was involved with the mobile Oboe radar system in Holland towards the end of the war but he never mentioned this. Also towards the end of the war, he was involved in using radar for blind bombing experiments over the River Deben estuary in Suffolk.

On demob, he did not wish to re-enter the commercial world. There was a big recruiting campaign for teachers, so he decided to retrain as a teacher. The teacher training course was at Wimpole Hall. He joined Soham Grammar School in 1948, teaching science and maths. He was also much involved in the Scouts and he used to tell a story about cooking dumplings over a camp fire. The dumplings came out of the pan hard as rocks. They found that someone had used plaster of paris instead of flour (the plaster was intended for taking casts of animal footprints).

He played badminton at the Soham Badminton Club and there met Elma, who he married in 1949 at Fen Ditton. They lived at 'Rest Haven' in Station Road and had a motorcyle and sidecar, then a Jowett car. The wooden floorboards of the car were so rotten that you could lift some up and see the road going past underneath. The windscreen and back window opened, especially useful for carrying ladders. Before leaving Soham he purchased a Ford Prefect: more suitable for family motoring.

He had not lost his interest in electronics and during this time at Soham undertook evening study, by correspondence course presumably. He gained Associate Membership of the British Institution of Radio Engineers, hence the AMBritIRE on the school staff list. This was equivalent to a degree qualification and must have been very challenging; certainly in later years the pass-rate for people following this route was only about one in three.

He left Soham Grammar School in December 1956 (as recorded in the New Year 1957 Soham Grammarian) to take up a post as lecturer at the College of Electronics in Malvern Worcestershire. The college was part of the Royal Radar Establishment (RRE) and was opened by the Queen shortly after his arrival. Although most of the college was training apprentices, his courses were for 'mature' students who wanted to catch up with the very rapid advances in electronics at that time. Students came from the Civil Service and armed forces. He was in his element in the well-equipped electronics laboratory

Ken Webb at an SGS Speech Day:
who is with him?: source Peter Webb

Ken and Elma kept in touch with many other members of school staff through Christmas cards, but the journey time was too much at that time for visits back to Soham. The family visited the Hunts in Wedmore, Somerset and the Thomas's in Ogmore-by-Sea, Vale of Glamorgan.

The BritIRE became the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers and Ken gained corporate membership (MIERE) and entitled to use the title 'Chartered Engineer'. He was active on the local committee of the institution, arranging visiting speakers.

The college closed in about 1968 and he was made redundant. Worcester Technical College were taking over the teaching of the RRE apprentices and required some extra lecturers. Considering he was not teaching apprentices at Malvern, he was extremely fortunate to be offered a job. He remained teaching ONC and HNC courses at 'the tech' until his phased retirement in about 1977.

In 1979 Ken and Elma moved to Felixstowe. He continued an active life-style, with walking and cycling. He purchased a short-wave radio receiver and helped with the Talking Books for the Blind. He died suddenly in 1991, aged 77.

Elma is now 90 and lives with son Peter and family near Woodbridge, Suffolk (2008). The family interest in badminton continues with his grandson captain of a Cambridge college badminton club and his grand-daughter county ladies singles champion at age 15. It's no coincidence that his grandson is reading Physics.

If you can add memories of Mr Webb or provide other photos of him, please contact the editor.
page last updated 14 Jan 2009