Tribute to Ted

Ted Baille with his beloved Jane
I met war veteran, Major (Rtd) Stephen Baille-Reynolds in an oil palm plantation where vintage and classic car enthusiasts in the Malaysia and Singapore Vintage Car Register (MSVCR) gathered for an off-road vintage car challenge in 2007.  Major Stephen, better known as Ted, was with his other half, Jane, a 1928 Austin Seven Chummy bearing registration number B 1451. Born in Oxford, England in 1929, Ted who always joked about his and Jane’s close ages, passed away peacefully at home in Ulu Tiram, Johor, on 20 June 2013.

Ted will always be remembered as a pair with his beloved Jane, the Austin Seven Chummy he christened after English novelist, Jane Austen.  When he was aged 28, Ted bought Jane from her first owner, Chin Voon Foong, on 4 June 1956 and remained committed to her for the last 57 years.  Jane’s relationship with Ted was so special that their 50th anniversary together was marked by a celebration with fellow vintage Austin car owners in Johor Baru – S V Nathan (1928 Chummy), Jimmy Khoo (1935 Ruby) and E S Luke (1930 Chummy), on 4 June 2006.

Ted and Jane being flagged off on the off-road challenge
The story goes that Chin, a building contractor, bought Jane from Borneo Motors Ltd, the then Austin franchise holders and kept her hidden in a room behind a bricked wall to protect her from being pillaged by Japanese troops during their Occupation of Malaya between 1942 and 1945.  Ted and Jane were a familiar sight on the road especially in the 1990s when Ted used to go to church with Jane in a leisurely Sunday drive.  Because he usually puffed a pipe, Ted even earned the endearing moniker as Popeye the Sailorman because he resembled an animated character that always had a pipe in his mouth!

Like many good, patriotic Englishmen, Ted joined the British army after he graduated from Bradfield College in 1947 and was posted to Hong Kong and Korea before arriving in Malaya in 1954.  He served with the Royal Artillery in Korea but the severity of his war injuries left him suffering from acute hypothermia and doctors said that he could not survive more than two years if he lived in England’s temperate climate.  So when Ted got a job with Guthrie, he moved to Malaya and in 1958 he became the proud holder of Malaysian citizenship certificate No. 16.

Jane getting a little help from friends!
His passing is deeply felt by members of the MSVCR as Ted was one of the 12 founding members of the MSVCR in 1955.  Ted, a member of the Malayan Motor Sports Club (MMSC), mooted the proposal to form a Vintage Car Register and when it was approved, the first General Meeting was held in the Harlequin Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 31 July 1955 and the elected committee comprised A. Gartshore (President) and D. Morten (Secretary & Editor), with Ted as Treasurer.  He was voted back into the committee in 1963 and became the President in 1968.  Ted’s passion for motoring is unsurpassed as he participated in all and won some of the events since the inception of the MSVCR in 1955 until 2010. 

On July 11, in a memorial service for Ted attended by his sister, Pauline Churcher, who came from London, E S Luke a fellow church member and former President of MSVCR, paid tribute to him.  Among other things Luke said that when Jane was in the workshop, Ted a church regular, used to take a bus to the city and give himself a sandwich treat at the café in Tropical Inn before going to church.  He would walk 3km to the church at Jalan Mustafa and often braved the rain, wearing a raincoat that he always kept in his carrier bag. 

Ted with his signature pipe and carrier bag*
S V Nathan recalled going to Tangkak with Ted in the 1990s, each driving their Austin Chummy cars and their exciting adventures with the Police and how Jane suffered mechanical breakdowns on the road every 10 minutes but Ted never gave up on her.  Nathan had been helping to maintain Jane in the past 15 years and knows how much Ted loves her.  In fact, 4 days before his passing, Ted called Nathan to ask him, “How is my car?”

When Andre Sean Sibert, General Manager of the former Merlin Tioman (now Berjaya Tioman) read Ted’s obituary in the newspapers, he expressed his condolences on the passing of a great pilot and colleague.  He said Ted was their most experienced pilot who braved all sorts of weather challenges in Tioman during the years between 1976 and 1981.  This reminds us that Ted not only had a passion for motoring but also had extraordinary adventures in the sky!

The dynamic duo, Ted and Jane, attracts a crowd anywhere!

Ted owned an 18-year old single-seater Danish KZ III, 9M-AMF plane and completed a solo flight that left Kuala Lumpur on 30 October 1964 on a journey through Bangkok, Rangoon, Chittagong, Calcutta, Bahrain, Cairo, and arrived in Tunis on November 16 – a total of 17 days before continuing to Gatwick in the United Kingdom.  Only sheer determination and courage drove Ted to complete some 15,000 km, flying at low altitudes, battling all kinds of weather and enduring physical discomfort without air-conditioning!

Ted and Jane has left us with a proud legacy that vintage cars should be driven and enjoyed instead of just being kept as showpieces and investments.  His friends have an abundance of anecdotes about experiences with Ted and Jane and space does not permit me to list them here but we will fondly remember Ted as a true gentleman who lived his life to the full as he pursued his passion in flying and motor sports.  Ted’s presence and witty humour will be sadly missed in future MSVCR meets but he will always be honoured as a true MSVCR hero. 

* Photo taken outside Ted's house in Ulu Tiram, Johor - Courtesy of Perfect Clean cleaning company

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 23 July 2013

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