Heart of Albion
Albert Fretwell (1920–1995) was born in 'Bugs Row', Baddesley, the fifth son of a mining family.
At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, the Fleet Air Arm, as an engine mechanic. He saw service in the North and South Atlantic, round the North Cape, Madagascar, Burma, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. This included Operation Pedestal (the Malta convoys) and North Africa landings. Between tours of active service he served in 787 Squadron, the Naval Air Fighter Development Unit, Z Flight, which perfected the first air-to-ground rocket.
On demobilisation he worked for the Ministry of Fuel and Power's Grendon depot and travelled around the Midlands opencast coal sites, repairing and maintaining the larger diggers, which were leased from the Ministry. In 1948 he married Kathleen Radford, also from Baddesley, who had often been a classmate at school. They had two sons and a daughter.
When the pits were nationalised Albert returned to Baddesley pit, as a member of the mechanical staff, until ill health caused his retirement in 1980.
When the Baddesley 1st Boy Scout group restarted in 1929, Albert joined as a Wolf Cub. He remained an active member of the group and became Group Scoutmaster, until the headquarters building was sold for development in 1951.
He joined the Baddesley Branch of the British Legion as a Serving Member in June 1940. He held a number of positions culminating in Branch Chairman until poor health led to his resignation in 1989.
Two terms of service on the Parish Council totalled twenty years and involved Albert in many committees such as school management, parks and the village hall.
A lifelong trade unionist and for many years a member of the Baddesley Lodge committee, Albert was Baddesley's representative on the Convalescent Home committee, the Lodge Educational Secretary and Warwickshire Miner's representative for the N.C.L.C. (the nationwide trade union education organisation) until it was taken over by the T.U.C.. He organised many weekly classes and week-end schools. During the entire period of the village's Allotment Association (subsequently the Horticultural Society) Albert was the Secretary. The Darby and Joan Club requested his assistance as Treasurer in 1974 and he subsequently became Secretary and then Chairman, until ill-health caused his resignation in 1989.
Albert Fretwell's knowledge of Baddesley Ensor was extensive and, in his later years, augmented by research into the documented history of the village and its pits. Low Seams and High Vistas – Baddesley Ensor of yesteryear, published in 1994 by Heart of Albion Press, was the end result of this work, illustrated throughout by the author's drawings. He died in 1995; his wife died a few months later.
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