Babs Benstead 1924 – 2007.
Babs was born in Islington, London in 1924 and the family moved to Wiltshire in 1937 – one of many moves in her early life, a result of her father’s involvement in the retail furniture trade as salesman, manager and owner, and his later postings in the services. Babs did not enjoy good health as a child, and with the many house moves she did not have happy memories of school.
Babs learned to drive practising first on the furniture vans in the yard when young. She joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps where her ability to drive large trucks was an asset, and after training she was posted to drive the supply trucks into searchlight sites around Dover, – a noisy hectic and dangerous time, as when she had to avoid exposing a camouflaged searchlight location to an enemy aircraft by diverting into a wood for cover. She found several holes in the truck engine and a groove in her helmet after that escapade. Later her Unit was ordered overseas, but being underage, Babs remained in the UK, and it was a terrible shock to learn that the whole Unit was lost in one raid. Other postings included driving Liaison Officers and a wide variety of trucks and even crash tenders when required. Driving was a lifelong skill.
After demob and travelling round the UK visiting friends and relations, Babs returned home and bought horses to run a small riding school, and riding remained part of her life for many years.
In the mid 1950’s, Babs moved to North London where she met her husband John, an Engineer. They stayed in the same London house for 24 years, before moving to Broadstone in 1981 to retire. She developed a love of gardening, and she and John were particularly keen on orchids, lilies, and chrysanthemums. In their larger garden Babs also encouraged small birds and animals.
A major activity for Babs in Broadstone was the Neighbourhood Watch, which she was part of for some 20 years. The Watch was started in 1984 by PC Ted Giles with Frank Wood as Chairman, and later with Denis Phillips as Chairman Babs became increasingly involved in the growth and activities of the Watch. She was Secretary, Membership Officer, and Editor of the monthly Newsletter, as well as a Co-ordinator and Contact.
Babs worked tirelessly to promote Neighbourhood Watch. She was approachable, energetic, determined, tenacious, and could be forthright and mischievous at times in dealing with people and situations. She lived for Neighbourhood Watch and her knowledge was encyclopaedic. It was only through ill health that she gave up her official duties some 2 years ago, but she was made a Life Member and kept in close touch with what was happening in the Watch and in Broadstone. There are now over 2800 members, 32 Co-ordinators and 226 Contacts.
In 2004, Babs was joint runner-up in the John Jay Shield award in Poole, and in 2005 she received the Gold Award for Community Service for her dedicated work for the Watch.
The regard and affection for Babs was illustrated by the number of Police Officers of all ranks, past and present, and the representation from the Neighbourhood Watch who attended her funeral.
She is greatly missed.