Wakeman, Tom

Tom Wakeman was born November 22, 1922 in Birmingham, England.  He was born into a large family of six brothers and one sister.  Tom’s father had had a career as a soldier, serving with British imperial forces in the Sudan and India, and he also served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Great War, where he saw action at the Somme and Mons.  When his military career was over, Tom’s father became a butcher.  Tom grew up in Birmingham, and he attended school up to age 14, when he left to be a metalworker apprentice.  Given that specialization he was involved in war work in the early part of the war, working on Spitfires and Hurricanes.  He also found time to enjoy himself, and he recalls being a fan of Arsenal – even though the Birmingham Blues were his home side!  Two of Ted’s brothers joined up in the early part of the war, and both served in the RAF, while Ted eventually made the decision to go into the Royal Navy.  Before that, he served in the Home Guard and was an ambulance driver and a firewatcher, doing his bit during the Blitz.  As 1943 became 1944 Tom’s role changed:  he went into the Fleet Air Arm and found himself in Scotland assisting with landing craft for amphibious training.  He also found out he was to be posted overseas.  He and his fiance decided to get married while he was on a leave during this time, for which Tom was given an extra few days.  Then he reported back to Scotland, where he was sent to an Atlantic-bound convoy.  They headed west and then south and then back across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and then passed through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, down the east coast of Africa and finally on to Ceylon and India.  The rest of Tom’s war service would take place in India, on an air base near Cochin.  With the war in Europe winding down, the British and the Americans were getting ready for new offensives to end the war against Japan.  The atomic bombs obviated that possibility and within a few months Tom was on his way back to England – and his young wife.  Demobilized not long after, the two of them decided to go to Canada in 1952, where Tom found work at A.V. Roe in Toronto.  The two of them and their growing family fell into the rhythms of Canadian life, enjoying the peace and stability the postwar world provided.  Tom Wakeman was interviewed by Scott Masters at his home in Cobourg, Ontario in March 2024.