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The Revd Terence Tatton: 1919-2018

 

 
A most intelligent, deep thinking, well educated  N.C.O who has rendered consistently good service.
His ability, bearing and outlook are well above the average. He is a very quiet and unassuming man of sterling character, who is valuable, loyal and unselfish.


Notification of impending release 21st February 1946
Testimonial written in Schwarte, Germany, 8th February 1946 by Officer W. Ben-Oliphant




Terence TattonBut as we all know, Terence Tatton was this and more.

Born 1919 into a post war world,  a year after a war universally recognised and declared as the war to end all wars, my father grew up in Brixton, south London with his Father Charles Juston Tatton and his Mother, Rose Cordelia.

You have to imagine a world with no NHS, no benefit system or social service support where thousands of returning service men and women were trying to pick up their lives and find jobs. So life was hard, competition was tough with the focus being on living and surviving.

Terry had an older brother Juston and a younger brother Ken.

I remember my father saying that they did not have much of a social life, friends were few.

He always remembered his mother with great affection, sometimes asking him to take jewellery to the pawnbroker to pay for food and then redeeming it once his father had come home with the pay packet.

His father Charles had two jobs, one of which was selling crockery out of  suitcase door to door but he also had a gambling habit which impoverished the family. He also liked a drink, could be quite violent but was of the Catholic faith into which Terry was baptised. Charles was also a keen and successful racing cyclist and athlete.

My father was schooled and by 1935-6 was working as a Clerk in the Danish Bacon Company in the City of London. He said to me that he started as a messenger for the company and enjoyed travelling around the City looking at the buildings.

There was a character in his office who used to approach people and whisper in people's ears “ Have you seen the light?” and of course people used to snigger but my father remembered.

Late in 1938 he met a Captain in the Church Army who told him about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, how he came to die for our sins, came back to life and by faith in him can lead us into a new fuller life led by the Holy Spirit. This was the first time that Terry had heard the gospel and he embraced it and committed himself to the Lord.

War was declared and in 1939 he was called up into the army and for the next few years he was intensively trained. In barracks he used to kneel by his bed for prayer and suffered the comments and worse from his fellow soldiers but he earned their respect and they all knew of his love for the Lord.

He set foot in France on 9 June 1944 a three days after D Day by amphibious craft to beaches that were still highly dangerous with snipers and other hazards. He once told me that there were things there that nobody should ever have to see. He was self effacing and like many men of his generation who went through this time, was reluctant to talk about his experience.

As the army made its way north east out of France and into Holland, he did tell me that on one occasion, when the Germans were retreating, his Major asked him to drive out from the camp to see if they could spot a German. My father did as he was asked and approaching a country crossroads, a sniper hidden in the hedge, shot Major Pink through the shoulder and they had a rapid drive back to camp. As my father said, it was a daft thing to do and they were both lucky to get back alive.

He was trained as a range finder and heavy machine gun operator and it was his job to assess when the Germans were homing in on their position. He said you could tell as their shells came closer and closer, but we were doing the same thing to them. He said with typical humour that you waited until the last minute, fired your mortar or heavy machine gun, grabbed your equipment, mortar and machine gun and scarpered. Occasionally, the mortar would not fire and the live ammunition just plopped out of the mortar barrel onto the ground. Apparently, someone would pick this up and throw it away, get down on the ground and wait for it to explode. Rather him than me….

When he was discharged, he came back to the home in Brixton to find that he had a 16 year old sister, Pat, who was not in good way with eye and dental problems. My father set to and got her treatment and also found her a job as a nurse. She and her family never forgot his kindness which typified my father's demonstration of God's love in action. Pat went on to meet Alan and they had five lovely children, one of whom is here today. Thank you for coming Brian and for visiting Dad when you could.

Dad met his life partner Joan May and attended Rye Lane Baptist Chapel under the excellent spiritual leadership of the Revd Theo Bamber who married them in 1949 and the picture on the back of your service sheet is of them standing on the steps of the chapel on their wedding day June 11th – two years later Elisabeth was born and three years after that I appeared. Mum was a dedicated committed support to my father, working alongside him for over 60years.They had a close relationship and my father was blessed with a gentle and mischievious sense of humour. Typical was if Mum stubbed her toe and Dad would laugh and ask if it really hurt. Mum would reply “oh Terry!!!”

Our childhood was quite unique – bible reading and prayers at the meal table and also around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Looking through our fingers as Dad prayed on… but he had it right….

My father worked for 21yrs in the London City Mission as a door to door evangelist and also had a mission hall in Lothian Road. In this time he led countless people to faith walking in the steps of Christ in a modern world where social needs were changing along with attitudes and behaviour.

His life was bible-based, but he was a very practical man and would often be found getting shopping for those people shut in by disability or illness, painting and decorating along with communicating the Gospel. For a time he had a specialist ministry to taxi drivers and the police.

He met some real characters among whom were an ex boxer and a circus lion tamer. The boxer, who on Dad’s own admission was a bit scary, delighted Dad by showing him a tankard he had won. Engraved on the bottom was a gallows and underneath was written “the Last Drop”. Dad had a field day with that, using the verse that says “it is appointed once for man to die”. He was ever adept at using everyday events to use in communicating the gospel.

Molly Brunel was very poor and elderly and had been a lion tamer and used to sleep with the her animals when she was  in the circus. Dad decorated her tiny flat and led her to Christ. By way of thanks she gave him a pocket handkerchief and note that simply stated “from a grateful convert”.

Around this time, Terry bought his own father to faith. As mentioned earlier, his father was baptised a Catholic, as was Terry. When Dad came to faith in 1939, his father became terrified that he would be excommunicated from the Catholic church and go to hell. My father led him to Christ very shortly before he died and he said that he saw all the years of anxiety and fear drain away as he grasped the truth of what Christ had done for him. He passed away knowing his sins forgiven and peace with God.

After 21 years in the LCM, Dad studied for entrance into the Baptist ministry and over the next decades was a minister at three churches, his first in Wymondham Norfolk, then Colwell Isle of Wight and finally Gretton in Northamptonshire.

A common thread was his ability to build up physically and spiritually the church and its members and there are many who are so grateful for his ministry. My father drew on his past experience in London and laid heavy emphasis on door to door visiting in his area, and it is this personal contact that many remember to this day.

After Mum passed away, he eventually went to Harefield Care Home, Bristol where the care was exceptional and a testimony to the dedication and love of the staff. I know Sue is here today and a special thanks to you and your staff. Unfortunately, we live in exacting times and Harefield had to close and at Easter this year Dad went to live at Axbridge Court closer to us. Again, my thanks to those who cared and looked after him in his last days.

Towards the end of his time, I visited him in the in Axbridge when his mental faculties were failing and as Lis and I know, he did not recognise us. I used to pray with him and always asked the Lord to keep a presence in his failing mind. On this occasion about four weeks ago, I asked him a question to assess his comprehension. 

Do you still love the Lord?

He replied quite clearly “Oh Yes! But it’s really important to put Christ First – you must put Christ first!”

Terry was spot on. The Bible says, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

In other words, put your faith in Jesus and what he has done for you, He laid his life down for you so that you can live a life richer and fuller than you can ever imagine, peace with God and forgiveness. In doing this, involve him in everything you do, have that ongoing daily conversation with him which we call prayer, so that at the end of the day when you lay down to sleep you can say  - Amen.

The Bible is God’s truth so believe it when it says that if you involve the Lord in your life he will guide your footsteps through this world.
In the third chapter of John’s gospel and verse 16 we read:

For God loved the world he had made, including us, so much, that he sent his only Son to die in our place, so that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life.

Once you do this, it is like coming home. You won’t do it all on your own - God knows this and is why he puts his holy spirit in your heart. It’s like having your own personal heavenly satellite navigation system to guide you and point the way forward. When we are driving, we take wrong turnings, the bible says when you do this in life, turn around – its called repentance and you will hear a voice in your ear telling you which way to go. That is God’s guide and mentor the Holy spirit giving you a nudge.

God’s love for us fired my father’s imagination in 1939 and was his life’s motivation. I promised him that I would present the gospel on this day whenever it came – I hope that even this day sees some of you think about renewing your faith or even come to faith and walk as he walked, putting Christ first, looking to him daily, demonstrating Gods love, knowing his forgiveness and following in his footsteps all your life.

This would put that characteristic smile on my Father’s face and also on the face of the God he loved.

Let me finish as we started, but instead, with a notice of impending release from this world 27th June 2018  - I hope the Lord will forgive me for anticipating what He might say, but it seems appropriate.

A most intelligent, deep thinking, well bible educated child of mine who has rendered consistently good service.
His ability, bearing and outlook are well above the average. He is a very quiet and unassuming man of sterling spiritual character, who is valuable, loyal and unselfish.


Amen
 

The address given by Marcus Tatton, Terence's son, at the funeral

 

Photo | Taken on the wedding day of Terence and Joan on 11 June 1949 on the steps of Rye Lane Baptist Chapel in Peckham, London. The minister was the Revd Theo Bamber


 

 

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