Published: 19 November 2014

Back on campus for first time in 73 years

The last time alumnus, Ted Lewtas stepped foot on campus was 73 years ago; and he had just completed his final exams in a bomb-damaged Ashton Building.

The 94-year-old returned, alongside his wife, for the first time since 1941, when the young engineering graduate left his student days behind to begin what became six years of Army life.

Now, almost eight decades later, he declared himself “completely taken aback” by all the changes made to his undergraduate home.

Development

Ted, who lives in Warrington, said: “It’s the development that has taken place; I just couldn’t work it out.

“All there was when I was here was the Quad, those buildings around it and the (Harold Cohen) library across the road.”

Clutching a copy of an almost immaculate Engineering Society’s Open Night publication from November 12 1937, Ted enjoyed tea and conversation in the Victoria Building, before a visit to his old departmental home – still found in the Harrison Hughes Building.

Ted’s time as a student overlapped with the war years, but he remembered fondly the ‘chariot’ races that would take place in the Quad; not with a horse and buggy but with “an old car”.

Ted said: “That went on for two years, but in the end someone drove it off and set fire to it, then got the fire brigade to put it out.”

He would cycle into class every day from his family home in Litherland, even during air raids, and remembers the damage done to the Harrison Hughes Building by German bombers.

Although he didn’t see it himself, or was a member of the constant watch maintained on University property, Ted remembered the impact it had on his studies.

He said: “The Engineering Building was hit in 1941. I was halfway through my finals at the time and it just wiped out all of one side.

“So, we all turned up to take our exams but we were told they had been moved to the Arts Building (now the Ashton Building).

“All the windows were blown out but they had done a reasonable job of making the thing warm and weatherproof.”

In response to the outbreak of war, Ted said the University decided not to have a summer vacation in 1940, so he completed his degree in March 1941, ahead of Army life.

After Liverpool

After six years and with the war over, he found work with Aldbury Borough Council, before moving on to Wigan and finally Chorley, where Ted served as Deputy Borough Engineer.

And while he credits the University with happy memories, he says those Army years were most influential in determining his later path.

Ted added: “I went from here to six years in the Army and those years made a deep impression on me.

“I don’t know what it would have been like had that not happened. Who knows where I would have gone.”

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