Former Waddington man dies in Belgium

Obit Leonard Thomas Oddie
Obit Leonard Thomas Oddie

A FORMER Waddington man, who emigrated to Belgium in 1948, has died aged 87.

Mr Leonard Thomas Oddie, who received an MBE in 1986 for services rendered to the British community in Brussels, was well-known in the Ribble Valley.

His mother, Hannah Wilkinson, was from Waddington and his father, Thomas Oddie, from Clitheroe.

After attending Waddington Primary School, he started as an apprentice to become a joiner

He was 16 when the Second World War broke out. During the war he volunteered at the age of 19 following a request on the radio for tradesmen to come down to London to help repair the houses damaged by the Luftwaffe bombardment (in Clapham Common, the site where most of the damage had been done). Between 1944 and 1947, he served in the Household Cavalry, Royal Horse Guardsfirst at Combermere Barracks, Windsor and then in Menden/Iserlohn, Germany, in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

He met his future wife, Josie, in Brussels in the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) 21 Club in June 1946. The couple married in January 1947 in Brussels then spent some time in Germany and England before definitely settling in Belgium.

As a foreigner Mr Oddie required a work permit, which was extremely difficult to obtain in those days. He started with many small jobs such as a porter, checking tickets at the entrance of a cinema in Brussels or driving a lorry to deliver beer all over Brussels. At one point he became the chauffeur of the manager of an important French fiberglass firm in Belgium (Saint Gobain) and gradually moved up the echelons until he became a business executive (speaking English, French and Dutch).

In 1948, the couple’s son Danny was born. Sadly, his wife Josie died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 67. He was extremely proud of being a member of the British Legion and belonged to several branches in Belgium, but also in Clitheroe. Partly because of his personal involvement during the occupation in Germany, but also in memory of his father, Tom who, as a soldier lost one arm during the First World War on a battle field in Northern France. He had a lot of respect for his father whom he considered as a brave man. In 2007 he went to Neuvilly near Cambrai, to visit the site where his father had been wounded and laid a poppy wreath in memory of those who had lost their lives there.

He was actively involved, as a member but also as chairman in several British organisations in Brussels: Toc H, The Brussels British Community Association (BBCA), the Royal British Legion, Brussels British Football Club, British United football Club and many Charities.

He had many friends at St Andrews Church in Brussels who will sorely miss him. As a long standing member he took his various duties over the years seriously and carried them out with great diligence. During Sunday school classes children were spellbound by his testimony and enjoyed listening to his stories illustrated by photos and mementos.

He shared the last 20 years of his life with Yvonne, his partner. Together they travelled to England on several occasions.

Paying tribute, his son Danny said: “Although he spent most of his life in Belgium with his wife and family, his heart remained in his native village, Waddington, which he used to visit whenever possible. He often talked of the happy memories of his youth and remained in contact with the locals. He surely missed the Bowling Green, billiards in the ‘readin room’ and going out for a pint with the old pals he knew.”

Mr Oddie has two granddaughters, Ann Catherine (36) and Deborah (34), and four great-grandchildren, all of them living in Belgium.

A memorial service will take place on Wednesday, April 11th, at Waddington Chapel. Danny added: “According to my father’s wishes, his cremated remains are to be interned in my mum’s grave at St Helen’s Churchyard, Waddington.”