Ivan JM Saunders (1938 – 2020) Former Guild Vice-President

I was born in Danbury Essex on the 7th June 1938, my ringing started in November 1950 at St John the Baptist Danbury, then a six bell tower, and then later in the 50’s it became an eight bell tower.

My first Peal was at Rettendon, Essex of Plain Bob Minor on the Treble in 2h 38m on the 1st March 1952. I was ringing Peals with Joe E G Roast and company; I had rung up to 50 Treble Bob methods inside by 1958 before joining the RAF, doing service in Cheshire, Shropshire before moving to my final posting to West Raynham in Norfolk in Air Traffic Control at the Central Fighter Establishment, to complete 3 years’ service. I did a lot of my ringing in Kings Lynn with Norman Harding and others. I was able to ring several Peals while in Norfolk, one being the fastest on tower bells at the time, at Saxthorpe, Plain Bob Minor on the 5th in 1h 58 and a half minutes on the 3rd of September 1960.

While in the RAF I had my 21st Birthday and for a present I had a set of 12 hand bells from my parents and other friends gave some more making the set up to 20, so I was able to start tune ringing at Church shows etc, and the odd competitions this carried on until about 1972 when I could not fit them in.

On leaving the RAF, I went back to Essex before doing my Civil ATC course and being posted to London Heathrow. While in Essex I did get back into ringing with Joe and did ring the Treble to Spliced Minor in 80 methods on the 25th February 1961. My Peal ringing with Joe was beginning to come to an end as I was doing shift work and was not able to get home that often to get the practice in for Peal ringing.

In 1962 I was asked by Frank Lufkin whether I would be the main Umpire for his next attempt on the record full length of Bob Major, this I jumped at, so on Friday 9th November 1962 we went up to Loughborough, to the Bell Foundry Campanile to get things ready for an early start in the morning. Next morning arrived, had breakfast and then to the Campanile at about 5-00am. A start was made at 5-18am, the first 5040 rate of ringing was good at about 2h 28m for each 5040 that followed, my first break was after about 3 hours, we had planned not to have too many to save the coming and going in the Ringing chamber. But after 22,064 changes a miss call took place, there was a quick talk between Frank and Norman Harding, should there have been a Bob or not? There I was not saying a word, I knew the answer, (YES you had missed a Bob I said to myself), and others of the band said yes so the bells came to a stand.  So they had been ringing for about 10h 22m which was the longest anyone had rung at the time for the 40,320 changes.

While at Heathrow I was living with friends in Old Woking so I got to know a few ringers when I was able to go ringing in the evenings, no Peal ringing took place. Then in March 1968 saw me move on again this time to the ATC College at Bournemouth training new controllers working on simulators, and travelling to places such as Birmingham, Stanstead and Gatwick, the Exam Centres four or five times during the year. Then in June saw me move on promotion to the Field Training Unit in the tower at Bournemouth dealing with overseas students from around the World learning ATC after doing their basic theory training at the College. In 1970 I got married to Julie and we settled in Bournemouth for a short time. While at Bournemouth my ringing was done at Christchurch Priory with Arthur V Davis as well as Sopley and other towers in the area, here I rang my First Peal on Hand bells at Arthur’s house being Grandsire Doubles on 1 and 2 in 1h 59m on the 23rd April 1970. Then on the 14th November 1970 at my house and on my Hand bells we rang a peal of Plain Bob Minor with me on 3 and 4 in 2h 05m Conducted by Arthur. My time now at Bournemouth was coming to its end as after further promotion I was back at Heathrow already travelling back and forth waiting to sell and buy a house, the house was to be in Old Woking, at this time Julie was great with child, we started our move on the 22nd February 1972 but she did not make it to stay in our new home as on the first night from Bournemouth we stayed with her parents, the next day the removal people arrived, the furniture was unloaded and we returned to Julie’s parents for an evening meal and later that evening to hospital and so Rachel was born. At this point my close links with Guildford Diocesan Guild started, I used to ring at Old Woking and Horsell with Ernie Warner, who at the November meeting of the Chertsey District put me up as one of the Assistant Ringing Masters which I did for 1972/73, then I became District Ringing Master in 1974/75/76. While still at Woking Hazel and Rebecca were born. Then in 1980 I became Executive Member 1977/78/79. In 1978 I was put onto the Library Sub-Committee until I became acting Librarian in 2005 and Librarian in 2006 to this day.

I joined Send tower after Sidney Strudwick died, at the beginning of 1973 as they had a very young band and I found I liked the Church feeling a lot better than Old Woking’s so I stayed. I took over as Tower captain and Correspondent. At the end of 1979 it was planned to set up a Chertsey Bookstall , no one came forward so for my sins  I said I would do it, so I have been running it for 37 years now with the help of Roger Coley until he moved away and at present John Young came on board. I also did one year as General Secretary 1981/82. In 1985 we moved to Worplesdon which is in the Guildford District but I stayed in the Chertsey District as Send was within that District and all ties were as well. Then I did one year as District Ringing Master again in 1998 and the following year I became the Executive Member again to this present day.

Peal Ringing is not my great love even though my total is just over 300 of which 23 are for the Guild and I have Conducted 15 of the 23.

My greatest interest is tower grabbing for in 1998 I said we must think about new ropes, that year I had passed the 100 mark for new towers so I said sponsor me for 100 or towers for 1999, so in March we told the Church members what was planned, as I had already got 34 towers at that point, all the ringers had sponsor forms as well as in church, people were kept up to date how things were going, 70 by 5th September then 100 by 31st October and the year-end saw a grand total of 113. The total money raised was £722. 60p and that was without adding any interest, so the church did not have to give any money.

In 1997 I retired from ATC at Heathrow after 16 years as a lighting  operator guiding aircraft around the airfield, at times 6 aircraft on their way to the holding point and maybe 6 after landing making their way to their parking stand and at times these figure could be greater depending on the weather. One of the times I will not forget is meeting and being presented to the Queen Mother when she came to visit the tower. I then did 11 years in the NOTAM office dealing with briefing of flight crews.

My Quarter Peal total is well over 2,300 of which just over 650 of them have been at Send. At this point in time I have Conducted  615 from the towers grand total of almost 1,000, so one can say I am a Quarter Peal ringer.

So I think I have lead from the front and I try to encourage people to do things and I hope this will still carry on.

In 2007 my proudest moment came at the Guilds AGM in March when I was elected a Vice-President of the Guild. I have tried to do my best in all the posts I have held to the best of my abilities.

Ivan J M Saunders VP,

10th April 2017. 


Ivan died in Guildford on 4th April 2020, aged 81.