A Page Out of the Book Cliffs
Page 34 - John Bruce Ballard - Part 3
by AJ Rogers
Nov 29, 2018 | 369 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A couple weeks ago I filled you in on Bruce Ballard and his tour through Utah including a pack trip into the Book Cliffs with Ink Harris. Bruce’s father Harry Ballard had been a very influential man in this country around the turn of the 1900s and Bruce had come over from England in 1938 to find some of his roots and see the country that had been so special to his parents during their years in business in this area. Ink had made sure to introduce Bruce to some of the good old boys who had worked for or with Harry and himself in the ranching business three to four decades earlier.

When Bruce left Utah, he returned to England and began his studies for a law degree. Apparently, that is not what he really wanted to do but he had promised his father that he would give it a go and he followed through and earned a degree. The following paragraph is information given to me yesterday by Bruce’s son Guy Ballard, via his daughter Lizzie, who is much more apt to finger a keyboard than Guy.

In 1939 the second world war broke out in Europe and England was in the thick of it. Bruce joined the Royal Sussex infantry regiment and was immediately made a second lieutenant after completing officer training school. His regiment was part of the British Expeditionary Force which was sent across the channel to aid the French and Belgians in their resistance against the Germans. Things got bloody and brutal right off the bat and Bruce apparently soon found himself thrown into the fray somewhere in Belgium. The family story which is at this point a tad hard to substantiate tells of Bruce attacking a tank with a Colt 45 revolver. It supposedly had pearl hand grips just as his mother Maud had on her Colt 32 revolver while living in Thompson’s 30 years earlier. I’m sure that attacking a tank with a pistol was an act of pure desperation when all other options (and bazookas) had failed, but it was undoubtedly a hell of a desperate situation. Bruce ended up getting shot in the foot and captured in that battle. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis and soon found himself incarcerated in Offizierslager VIII, a POW camp for officers. He spent five years locked up and was probably moved around from one camp to another occasionally. Prisoners were often moved long distances in forced marches, especially near the end of the war. I have a short letter that Ink Harris wrote to Bruce in 1940 while he was languishing in prison. Ink was giving him all his best and trying to lift his spirits it seems. Ink would lose his own son Larry in the same war three or four years later.

Now another paragraph follows using information I just got from Bruce’s daughter Carola who is also much more of a typist than her brother Guy. I’ll include her memories pretty much in her own words below:

When Dad got home from the POW camp he went back to lawyering while he tracked down Nancy who he’d met on his pre-embarkation leave. He went to stay with a friend from Officer Training Camp, John Corie, with John’s parents who lived in a village in Devon called South Brent, where Nancy’s parents lived as well. I think she and John were quite close – anyway, Dad fancied her, but off he and John went to war, and Bruce got captured. But John got killed.

Dad had never wanted to be a lawyer, instead preferring to be a farmer. He found Nancy (by that time living in London) and they got married in the early spring of 1950. (I know it was still cold because she wore a white velvet wedding dress that she made herself – clothes and fabric were still rationed). I was born in June 1951 while Dad was still training to farm apples. Then they set off to find a farm to buy, eventually purchasing Cumbers Farm in 1954 (where the family still resides). It needed quite a lot of work to make it habitable, and while that was underway they stayed at a local hotel – and started Guy. My mother said they hadn’t intended to start another baby before they moved into the farmhouse, but the hotel was so dull there was nothing else to do!

Bruce Ballard died in 1961 at around 50 years of age. His children didn’t mention in the info I just got from them, but I think I remember my Dad saying that Nancy had told him Bruce had never been really healthy after his long stint in the POW camp. When my father wanted to buy property near the big freeway to be built just south of Thompson Springs, he found it belonged to Nancy Ballard in England. They did a lot of business through the mail and became friends. Part of the real estate deal was that her children be allowed to come to Utah and stay with our family so they could also see their roots and some of the property they still owned.

Guy came over first. It was in the early 1970s. He stayed for six weeks and I’m afraid some of us guys teased him mercilessly as he was a little different and way younger than what we were used to. He was rather eloquent in his speech and seemed rather suave and debonair to us country pumpkins, for a tie-dye wearing, scrawny, long-haired, 16-year-old British kid, that is. I promptly nicknamed him Lord Byron and still call him that today, 40 something years later. In the mid ‘70s Lord Byron returned and stayed six months. I know we locals ran rough shod over young Byron during that visit as well, but he took it all like a man and gained my undying admiration and respect. He has a lot of his father and grandfather in him for sure. Carola also came for a visit but was not able to stay so long. However, she’s thinking about a re-run and I hope she makes it over. Byron and I had some good times and some Book Cliffs adventures. Perhaps I’ll share some of those before long.

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