John Carden died on 14 April 2003, aged 75 years. There are not many persons whom one can claim to have known for the whole of one’s life. Such was my lifelong friendship with John Herbert Carden (H/A. 1942-46), who was born within a few weeks of me in Kemp Town where our parents were friends.
He was the grandson of Sir Herbert Carden, sometimes known as “the father of Brighton” whom I knew as a kind and friendly man after whom John was named. I often told John that he was only entitled to celebrate his birthday every fourth year as he was born on 29 February 1928.
We grew up together and first attended the co-educational nursery school at St. Mary’s Hall, which was next to St. Mark’s Church, now the Chapel of the school in Eastern Road. We then went on to the Brighton College Preparatory School at 16 Lewes Crescent in 1935 under the joint headmasterships of John Gaussen and John Arnold, both of whom were OBs. On the staff were G P Burstow (OB), J V Robb, O T Tucker (OB), J Langston (OB) and Miss Allen, not forgetting Sgt. Major Starkie who taught us boxing and PT, in that order.
Following the closure of the BCPS in 1940, the Brighton College Junior School was founded under the headmastership of F L B Stokes (OB) in the former Bristol House. We progressed into the Senior School and entered Hampden House with J V Bescoby as our Housemaster. In 1944 we were the founders of Aldrich House in the entrance to the Hall with the Rev. J V Dobson as Housemaster. Before the opening of the new House, John and I together with John Dobson, were dined out by H. Wilfred Aldrich, then Chairman of the College Council, at the Dudley Hotel in Hove.
On leaving the College, John joined the RAF and was stationed at Felixstowe with the Air Sea Rescue Service. On demobilisation he read Law at Guildford before joining the firm of Cardens in the Old Steine.
Ever the individualist, he decided that there was more fun in travelling around Europe on his beloved motorbike with Pat Flynn and Donald Mellor, both of whom were contemporary OBs. On his retirement from the legal profession he joined his wife, Mary, in the running of their nursing home in Surrenden Road, Brighton.
He was a quiet and gentle man, who balanced the deep care and love of his wife and family with his own individualism. As a born and bred Brightonian he had an intimate knowledge of it and remained an avid reader, mostly of Brighton and Sussex history, especially its wartime experiences. When we were at the College we did our regular two hour shifts in the Engineering Shop making munitions with fire-watching duties at night.
John had a very ‘near miss’ in May 1941, when he decided to go into Brighton instead of seeing the film at the Odeon cinema in Kemp Town, which received a direct hit during an air raid. There were a considerable number killed, including Peter Stuttaford, a fellow pupil at the school. John kept not only a considerable collection of wartime memorabilia, but also had an extensive reference library. No topic was too big a challenge and he would not be beaten by the most obscure debate and would often not return until he had the facts in hand.
He had a lifelong passion for water and loved being on boats, especially at Henley-on-Thames where the family returned annually for their holidays with his parents and grandparents. Some of his happiest times were with Mary and their family returning to the same places which he had grown up with as a child. He also returned with a caravan in tow and this form of holiday, together with camping, brought him immense pleasure and fun, no doubt emanating from our days in the Scouts.
John showed great kindness , affection and, above all, had a great affinity with children. He believed in treating children as equals, which always produced great respect for him. John and Mary have four surviving children, of whom Timothy and James are both OBs. His passing has left a gap in our lives and everyone who knew him was richer for his friendship.