FIREFIGHTERS formed a guard of honour as family, friends, local dignitaries and the military remembered a stalwart of the Ludgershall community at his funeral last week.

Tributes were paid to Alderman Kenneth Raymond Frank Beard MBE at St James’ Church on Thursday following his death from pneumonia just weeks before his 92nd birthday.

Representatives from the Royal Navy and the Fire and Rescue Service attended the funeral along with MP Claire Perry, local councillors and a Royal Marine bugler to say a fond farewell to the decorated great-grandfather who served the town as a retained firefighter, councillor and school governor for more than 30 years.

Mr Beard was born at 4 Lansdowne Villas in Ludgershall in 1925 where he grew up, attending Ludgershall Primary School.

Aged just 14-and-a-half he joined the Royal Navy shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in October 1939.

“He got a lift to sign up with old Admiral Morse and his boy who dad knew,” Mr Beard’s son Neil said describing how he came to join the military underage.

“I suppose in those days if an admiral walked in and said, ‘Sign these boys up,’ they did.”

“He was sent to the Med after basic training where they discovered he was underage and sent him back to Britain for his own safety where he was put on fire watch over Southampton docks just as The Blitz struck.”

On coming of age he was assigned to HMS La Malouine where he served on the Atlantic, Russian and Malta Convoys.

His ship’s company also supported Greece in the fight against ELAS (The Greek People’s Liberation Army).

When La Malouine was decommissioned Mr Beard was assigned to HMS Birmingham aboard which he undertook a goodwill tour of the West Indies before leaving the military in 1946.

Returning to Ludgershall he worked as a baker in the NAAFI where he met his wife Enid.

They married in St James’ Church in 1947 then lived in a metal hut in Tin Town, the former prisoner of war camp in Ludgershall, opposite the present site of The Wellington Academy, for three years.

During that time their daughter Gillian was born and then they moved to Perham Crescent, where they remained until their deaths.

Their sons were born in the living room there, Neil in 1955 and Dale seven years later.

A passionate baker and cake decorator, Mr Beard set up his own bakery in Ludgershall as well as working as a retained firefighter.

The business was later destroyed by fire but he continued cake decorating into his 80s, working at Burbidge’s Bakery during his retirement.

Following the fire he was employed by EE Roy, the furniture company in Ludgershall, where he worked his way up to being general manager.

Mr Beard was a councillor, and chairman for a time, on Ludgershall Parish Council and a councillor on Kennet District Council for 22 years.

During that time he was elected as chairman, also chairing the housing and planning committee which helped to set up Sarsen Housing Association.

When Kennet District Council became Wiltshire Council Mr Beard was awarded the title of Alderman.

He served as a retained firefighter for more than 30 years, becoming station officer at Ludgershall Fire Station, and served for a similar period of time as a governor of Castledown School.

He was an assistant scout master and also helped with the planning of the play school in the grounds of Castle Primary School.

In 1994 he was honoured with an MBE for his longstanding community service in Wiltshire which accompanies his numerous military and civilian awards.

The grandfather-of-six and great-grandfather-of-five made the national news in 1998 when he reeled in a four-foot alligator while fishing in Florida where he liked to holiday with the family.

Last summer a ceremony was held in Ludgershall where Mr Beard was awarded Honorary Freedom of the Town by the town council.

Remembering his father, Neil Beard continued: “He was very much the centre of the family, the first port of call if anyone wanted to do anything and he will be greatly missed.

"The family would like to thank Pembroke Ward in Salisbury District Hospital for the care given to dad and the compassion shown to us in the weeks before he died.”

Paying tribute, mayor of Ludgershall Town Council, Owen White, said: “The town council is very sad for the loss of Ken. He was very well known and respected by the community and worked hard for the town.”