When Twins Marry Twins
Major Donald Arthur Tovey TD* Sherwood Foresters & Essex Regiment
The Man Donald Arthur (Don) Tovey was born at Walthamstow, then in Essex, now in East London on 4th June 1926 son of Henry Harold, an Optician and Ivy, nee Ellis and had a twin sister, Margaret. The family home was in Highams Park and Don was educated at St.Egbert’s College in Chingford. Little detail is known about his early life except that the family moved to Gunthorpe in Nottinghamshire and later to Devon. As a boy Don learnt to sail with his sister Margaret, and sailing remained a great joy to him throughout his life. On leaving school he joined the Shell Petroleum Company, where he trained as a Lubricants Technologist, his expertise being deployed to investigate industrial and automotive lubrication problems. Don was called up for military service on 16th November 1944 aged 18, and reported to the Essex Regiment Depot at Warley Barracks. During his basic training he was selected to attend 163 Officer Cadet Training Unit (Artists Rifles) at Alton in Hampshire. On 1st December 1945, having successfully completed his course Don received an Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham & Derbyshire Regiment) service number 360072. A week later he was posted Regimental Depot at Normanton Barracks in Derby. At the conclusion of World War II Don was awarded the Defence Medal and War Medal 1939-45, possibly having been a member of one of the many Civil Defence organisations during the early years of the war to qualify for the former.
In February 1946 Don was sent to Northern Palestine and posted to No 307 Prisoner of War Camp. To pass the time usefully Don supervised the building of a yacht by some of the German prisoners, a portent of his days to come in ‘civvy street’. One item they needed but could not find was a mast. This was eventually acquired from another unit who were surprised one morning to fine their flagpole had somehow mysteriously disappeared overnight! A year later Don joined the 2nd Battalion The Sherwood Foresters stationed at Haifa, Camp 22 Nathanya, the 2nd Battalion seeing action in Jerusalem, Mount Scopus and Sarafand. Don was in the operational area between 18th January and 9th May 1947 qualifying for the General Service Medal with clasp ‘Palestine 1945-48’ as a Temporary Captain. Upon return to the UK a few months later he was posted back to the Depot at Derby as Lieutenant, and training as a Personnel Selection Officer (PSO) at Limpsfield in Surrey, being appointed as PSO in the temporary rank of Captain at the Depot in November. In early July 1948, Don’s full time military service came to an end when he was granted a Class A release.
Don returned to employment with Shell on the lubrication side of the marine industry until the mid 1960s, when he worked in a series of jobs in the marine engineering sector. On 5th November 1948 he joined the Territorial Army and was appointed acting Lieutenant in the 459 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. His substantive rank was confirmed on 4th June 1949 with seniority backdated to 5th November. In a previous incarnation, until 1935, when it was converted to an anti-aircraft regiment, this unit had been the 7th Battalion The Essex Regiment TA. Don attended four annual camps with 459 Regiment before transferring to the 4th Battalion The Essex Regiment in February 1952. Don met his future wife Audrey Grace Ellis (her surname coincidentally the same as his Mother’s maiden name) at a dance in the TA drill hall at Whipps Cross, Leytonstone in the late 1940s. They were introduced by Audrey’s twin brother Raymond and her father, John who were serving with Don in 459 Regiment and they married on 15th December 1951, at Leyton setting up home in nearby Leytonstone and later in Loughton. They had two children, Judy and Mark. Over the next few years Don was an active and loyal member of the TA who put in many hours of training and became an able commander of Support Company at Burnham-on-Crouch. He was promoted to Captain on 1st February 1954 awarded the Efficiency Decoration 'Territorial' in July 1959 and promoted to Major on 1st December 1962, only missing one annual training camp.
He saw the transition of his unit from the 4th Essex to the 4th/5th Essex, East Anglian Brigade and served until their disbandment in March 1967, in January the same year he was awarded the 1st clasp to his Efficiency Decoration. On 1st April 1967 aged 41 he was transferred into the Regular Army Reserve of Officers. He was described at this time by a contemporary as “A hard working and successful officer who maintained the ethos, standards and commitment of the Territorial Army at a time of change”. Following his release from the TA Don transferred for a time into the Royal Naval Reserve, although no further detail is available. Donald lived with his family at 139 Hainault Road, London E11 and during 1973 moved to 4 The Avenue, Loughton, Essex.
Following his retirement in 1987 aged 60 he moved again to 31 Fairway Drive, Burnham on Crouch where he kept busy and enjoyed himself working for a ship chandlery and sail maker in Burnham. He also acted as race officer for the Royal Burnham Yacht Club and was Co-ordinator for the local Neighbourhood Watch. Naturally he continued with his principle pastime of sailing, and frequently raced cruisers in the annual Burnham Week Regatta. As a boat owner in the 1980s he took the family on many sailing holidays. Don's wife Audrey passed away in February 2007, and this was a severe blow to Don, yet he continued to look forward with courage and as much joy as he could muster. Audrey’s ashes were scattered in the grounds of the Essex Regiment Chapel at Warley, where they regularly
attended the monthly service, and for which Audrey made several kneelers in memory of family members who had served in the Regiment. Don died unexpectedly at the home of his daughter Judy, at Cliffe near Rochester on 12th May 2009 aged 82 and was cremated at Bowers Gifford Crematorium on 29th May 2009. The Essex Regiment Association were represented by their President, Colonel Shervington TD DL, and it was described as a fine tribute to Don’s lasting popularity that no less than eight fellow Essex Officers attended his service, including the last Commanding Officer of the 4th/5th Essex, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Brewer TD.
Kneeling Cushion in the Essex Regiment Chapel
The Story The medals awarded to Donald Arthur Tovey were acquired from E Bay during January 2013. As is the case with a lot of medals within this collection they were of interest because of the Efficiency Decoration and clasp, and the named General Service Medal adding provenance to the group. They also came with Donald's matching dress miniatures. The decision to buy them was made in unusual circumstances and having thought long and hard I decided not to place a bid as there had been little interest in the auction, and it was possible they may still be available for a negotiated cheaper price if not purchased by anyone. However this decision was soon regretted, and as I was wandering around Bangkok as the auction end time grew closer with no Internet access on my phone, I was quickly resigned to the fact I may lose them. By chance I stumbled across an electrical shop within the Siam Centre, and as luck would have it one of the computers on display was linked to the Internet! Having feigned interest in the computer, I logged onto E Bay and placed my bid about 10 minutes before end of auction, and won them by only 1p! Another story where perhaps one should react on an initial gut instinct rather than leave things too late, and then regret it? On 2 May 14 an e mail was received out of the blue, from the daughter of Donald Tovey, who had seen his name on this web site. Following e mail exchanges she kindly provided a very detailed obituary of her Father and allowing the above biography to be put together and provided a much sought after photograph or two!
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as issued
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as issued
- General Service Medal: CAPT. D.A.TOVEY. FORESTERS
- Efficiency Decoration: 1959 Clasp: 1967
This page last updated 21 Jul 14