Len Ward – RIP

With his departure to an infinitely more peaceful place, Anthony Lynn Ward left Cape Town much the poorer on Sunday 11th July. Crankhandle Club members will have to rely on books to make up for the loss of their human encyclopaedia; for Lynn (he hated that name), Jumbo, Victor, Len or whichever you chose, had deep knowledge of how mechanical and electrical things worked, all self-acquired by reading and putting it to practical use. In an uncanny way, engineers and music have a creative affinity and Len was no exception. With his extraordinary skills on guitar, piano and keyboard, he and singing partner Lainey Boonzaaier were constantly sought on Cape Town’s retirement complex circuit.

Len’s life was richly endowed with humour spiked with tragedy and sadness, though he never allowed the latter to be shared around. As a Rustenburg pupil he had a solidly eclectic grounding to his educational career. From Rustenburg his mother sent her youngest child to St George’s Preparatory School in Port Elizabeth, which meant that from an early age he was imbued with a penchant for transport things – the electric trams of Port Elizabeth, and the steam trains that transported him for two-nights-and-a-day between there and Cape Town. St George’s went down well with (Len) but not his subsequent schooling at Bishops, where he was denied a competent teacher in the subject that he needed most – mathematics. It is a desperate irony that his practical knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering was unsurpassed, but he did not pass Mathematics 1 at UCT. So he joined Waygood Otis while attending night classes in electrical engineering at Cape Town’s Technical College, married Doren Templeton and headed for a classy job with the famous Electrical Engineering firm of Brown Boveri at Zurich in Switzerland.

When Len and Doren returned to South Africa, Cathy, Margi and Robbie were born and (later) daughter Kim was fostered. Len joined Kantey, Templar, Lotteryman and de Kroon, consulting engineers who sent him to Windhoek six weeks after Margi was born. After a few years they decided it was time to return to the Cape and Len joined the SA Navy in Simon’s Town where he had a long and successful career, being employed in the Naval Logistics Command, dealing with everything from (literally) nuts and bolts to submarines. While in the Navy, Len acquired his fourth and most obscure nickname, ‘Victor’. When eventually he retired from the Navy and set up his own auto-electrical business, this nickname stuck whenever he was involved with the business, especially work involving vintage and veteran motor cars.

The last word comes from Crankhandle member Harvey Metcalf: When I met Len, one of the first things I had to do was to help him start his newly restored 1927 Chev truck. More than 40 years later, one of the last things he did was to drive that truck on the Slanghoek Run. The anecdotes of those 40+ years cannot be counted. Some of them one would like to repeat – helping in his workshop with a compass trying to determine North and South poles of an ailing magneto, some not – such as fixing five punctures on his Austin 16 on the way to a rally in Queenstown. Len’s working career included lifts (the elevator type, with Frank McLean), ships (with the SA Navy) and, of course, cars. Even steam engines featured…

An ardent Crankhandle Club member, as so clearly stated in his own words in our June Chronicle on attaining 60 years of membership, makes it unnecessary to repeat here. Not restricted to his own club, his presence was known in many of our sister clubs around the country. No George Old Car Show will ever be the same again without his musical contribution and as a walking encyclopaedia of old cars heralded by his Claxton horn…

He passed away in hospital on 11 July 2021 after a short illness, and the Franschhoek Motor Museum adds its condolences to everyone associated with this remarkable man.


This celebration of Len’s life was compiled by Harvey Metcalf and Charles Lewis for the Crankhandle Chronicle and is reproduced with their kind permission.