Benjamin Ferguson 1927 - 2005
It was a short while after the September 'live' auction at our all-day meeting we heard that Ben had been taken into hospital although we had no indication as to the reason or to which one. It was early November that our Secretary received a call from Ben's brother David to say that Ben had a brain tumour the prognosis of which was bad - it was incurable and he was not expected to live beyond a few months. We were therefore surprised to find that he was at home in early January 2005, but later learnt that having been told there was no cure he had discharged himself and returned home to be in familiar surroundings. It was with great sadness that we heard that Ben died on Sunday 27th February.
Benjamin Ferguson, to give him his full name, was born in Edinburgh on 3rd May 1927. He was the eldest of three (his sister Ella was born in 1929 and brother David was born in 1934). Ben and Ella were raised by an aunt and David by a foster mother when their parents died tragically within three months in 1939. Ben's interest in things military was shown in his early pre-teen years when during these hard times he cut and coloured armies of paper soldiers. At Larbert Central School he was awarded the "Dux" medal for his scholastic achievements.
Ben's working life began at the age of 15 in the office of Carron Ironworks in Falkirk. The company was famed in the 19th century for cannons - Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, was equipped with the famous "Carronade" naval gun (also known as the "Smasher") - and in the 20th century for making Britain's famous red telephone boxes and post boxes. But after a few months he moved and found employment in the General Post Office (GPO) at Falkirk. Towards the end of the Second World War found Ben in the in the Army serving with the Royal Engineers (Postal Section). His service with the Army Postal Service took in such places as Algeria (where he arrived on 4 May 1946 and closed the last British APO there - APO S.401 with datestamp FPO 601 at HQ Army Troops North Africa on 8 October 1946); then Italy, Austria, Trieste and Pola in 1947 (this latter location with 13th Infantry Brigade FPO with datestamp FPO 748) before moving with the Brigade to BAOR from where he was demobilised. In his early twenties at the end of his military service in 1948 he returned first to Falkirk then to Edinburgh Post Office. He later moved to GPO Headquarters in London and it was in London that he met and married Cynthia in 1957; they had no children. They stayed for a year or two in Ebury Street, Victoria, London SW, before moving to the suburbs of Wimbledon. In 1969 Ben joined the Civil Service and worked at the Home Office (latterly in the Prison Service administration) for some 18 years where he reached the grade of Senior Executive Officer by the time he retired.
Ben joined the Forces Postal History Society in 1983 (member 762). A regular attendee at our London meetings Ben joined in debates, sought out information and provided advice. A quiet and unassuming individual he often talked about accumulations of covers he had obtained but rarely displayed material from his own collection. He did, however, on one occasion show items that related to his own service in the Royal Engineers (Postal Section). Ben was an avid collector, particularly forces and censored material and his enthusiasm for the hobby lasted until his death. Ben became involved in the running of the Society and took over as Editor of our Newsletter following the decision of the late Alan Brown to step down at the end of 1991. He was only our fourth editor since the Society was founded in 1952 and held this position for nearly 11 years until poor eyesight forced him to relinquish the post at the end of 2002. His editorship spanned some 44 Newsletters from Issue 211 (Spring 1992) to Issue 254 (Winter 2002). However, Ben continued to organise the live auctions, something he started at our AGM in April 2000 (and later extended to include a live auction at our "All-day" London meeting in September of each year). He reasoned that a live auction would attract more members to our AGM ! He ran these until September 2004 when he acknowledged that he needed help and decided to relinquish the role. At our April 2003 AGM Ben was elected as a Vice-President of the Society in recognition of his valued support over the years.
As well as being a member of the FPHS, Ben also belonged to a number of other societies including his local Wimbledon & District Philatelic Society, The Postal Stationery Society and the Civil Censorship Study Group,. He was unique within the CCSG in that he was their only Honorary Member, made in recognition of his generous donation of censored covers to the Group. Ben was also a member of The Society for Army Historical Research, the Army Post Association and the Society of Friends of the National Army Museum and was a frequent visitor to the Museum.
Ben's funeral was held on Tuesday 15th March 2005 at Putney Vale Crematorium. Attended by his brother David and his wife, together with their children there was also a small gathering of his philatelic friends from the Forces Postal History Society (Michael Dobbs [President], John Daynes, Peter High, Alistair Kennedy and Eddie Weeks); the Wimbledon and District Philatelic Society (Barbara Priddy [Secretary], Jim Dobbie, Ray Downing and Mike Warwick - the latter two also being members of the FPHS) and the Civil Censorship Study Group (Chris Miller [Secretary]).
Before his death Ben had expressed a wish to donate his collections to the various societies of which he held membership - some of which he did before he died and the family have tried to execute his wishes on the remainder.