Fireman Arthur Alfred Howell passed away on 23 December 1952 aged 76.
Arthur was born 25 April 1876 in Ventnor. While his mother Caroline, from Cowes, cared for the family that included one younger sibling and three elders, his father Robert was a shoemaker in a family business with a heritage of over one hundred years based at the family home, 4 South Street, Ventnor.
Although Arthur was still at school by the time of the Census of 1891, he was already learning the skills of the family trade from his father. He married Minnie Constance Thomas Silsbury also of Ventnor, in 1900. The 1901 Census places them living at 25 South Street with a two-month old son Harold and Arthur's 15 year old brother Archibald, an apprentice painter.
It is known that Arthur served as a Rifle Volunteer and later with Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles. However it is not believed that he served actively in the war as he joined Ventnor Fire Brigade around 1916. It may be the case as a business proprietor he was sanctioned with an exemption from service by a Military Tribunal but as a condition (a very common one) ordered to serve with the depleted fire brigade.
However he maintained his role in the fire brigade for a long time after the war and was eventually forced to retire in April 1932, having reached Ventnor's brigade upper age limit. On the occasion of his formal retirement Captain P.R. Spencer presented him with a silver cigarette case in recognition of his service. Spencer remarked how much he regretted having to lose Arthur's services.
Arthur concentrated on the family business, by now recognised as a master bootmaker. The 1939 Register evidences that Arthur, Minnie and their two children, Harold (10) and Constance (3) were still living in South Street but soon after Arthur relocated both home and business to the more prosperous address of 116 High Street. It is known that this address was bombed out in 1942. The family survived unharmed but the loss of their home was probably one of those bragged about by Luftwaffe pilot Leopold Wenger in his diaries that reveal tip-and-run attacks on Ventnor on both 18 August and 2 September. In regard to the latter the local branch of the Women's Voluntary Service noted that around sixty persons chose to leave the town for the remainder of hostilities. Arthur however kept his family close and relocated to Waters Way, The Grove and resumed his business activities.
In his spare time Arthur was a member of the Boot Traders Association, the Town Band, the L.S.A. crew, the Rechabites and the Foresters. He finally retired in 1947 and Minnie passed away earlier in 1952, a week after they celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.
Arthur had been unwell for a fortnight and passed away on 23 December at the County Hospital, Ryde. The very well attended funeral included representatives of the Isle of Wight Rifles plus veteran firemen who had served with Arthur. After the service he was laid to rest with Minnie.
Rest in peace Fireman Howell.