Ronald Vandersteen 1921-1942

Strange but true.....

The actual photo of Ronald Vandersteen

When I was about ten, my schoolmates and me were playing in an old abandon house on Canvey island. Suddenly this old photograph came fluttering down from somewhere onto the remains of the floor. I took it home to show my mum, and my nan, bless her, who was also there asked what it was. I showed her, and she squinted her eyes and paused for a moment…… ” I think I know that boy ” Pausing a moment more ” I think it’s the Vandersteen boy.” She then went on to say they used to own the chip shop that used to be in Canvey high street. Mum then said, well I see Mrs Vandersteen quite a lot up the town, so I’ll take it with me and ask her. Eventually mum met Mrs Vandersteen, showed her the photo and was surprised when she said “why, that’s my Ronald, we lost him in 1942… where did you get the picture?” Mum went on to explain but it was a mystery how the picture got to be in that old house, as they never lived there. I got invited around to the Vandersteens house and was honoured to hold and read Ronald’s flying log book and see all the missions he went on written by his own hand. Even the departure time for one where he never returned from, and the return landing time sadly blank. I gave the photo to the family which I felt was the right thing to do, but we managed to get a copy done. I thought I had lost this copy years ago after spending much time searching for it. Suddenly tonight, I opened a book I read a lot and then once again, it fluttered to the floor.

He was only 21 when he was lost over the North Sea on 22 July 1942 , believed to be caught by night fighters, whilst flying a Wellington bomber of 142 squadron and still rests on the seabed

A few night previously he bombed Essen. Anybody with an interest on the subject will know how bad the raids on Essen was for the crews of the RAF. They had no chance but still they went.


NOTE: The Vandersteens first came to Canvey c1937. Ronald’s grandfather Charles Vandersteen had a Fishmongers in Furtherwick Road. Ronald’s parents were Charle’s eldest son Charles William Vandersteen and his wife Jenny Elizabeth Dunmore. Ronald’s birth was registered in Poplar in 1921 his death on the 22nd July 1942 is recorded on the Runnymead Memorial at Egham, Kent.

Comments about this page

  • This posting brings back memories for me, because late 1940’s early 50’s I went to school with two Vandersteen girls, Jean and Sheila, they were friendly smart girls. If my memory serves me, Jean had reddish amber hair and Sheila was a blonde. I must have learned about their older brother Ronald, however, I had not been on Canvey very long when his tragic incident took place. I do remember Vandersteen’s Fish Mongers on Furtherwick. I think that the girls and their parents lived on the Driveway? Perhaps somebody can correct any of my memories

    By Gerald Hudson (07/02/2016)
  • yes, that’s the road I went to visit 

    By Roy mitchell (21/02/2016)
  • Hi Gerald & Roy,

    My name is Jan and I’m Jeans son, sadly Mum passed away years ago. Sheila is still alive and lives in Lewes Kent. You are correct about the Driveway, my Nan lived there until she past away some 30 years ago.

    Take care


    By Jan Tickell (16/01/2018)
  • Hi Jan.

    Thanks for confirming some of my Vandersteen memories from the 40’s- early 50’s. Our family moved to Canada in 1953, however, my eldest daughter, Annette Hudson actually met and worked with Jean, your Mum and she informed me about Jean’s sad passing. I still remember the two Vandersteen girls from my school days on Canvey.

    By Gerald Hudson (16/01/2018)
  • Hi

    I am Ron’s nephew, Rennie Pilgrem and currently have his Log Book on loan from my mother Sheila (still smart and friendly but no longer blonde). I also have some similar photographs from that time, some of which were sent by a Dutchman who who has been researching one of the crew’s Ron served with. 21 year’s old and flying a huge plane, still incredible to take in.

    Rennie Pilgrem

    By Rennie Pilgrem (28/03/2018)
  • Hello all,

    Hope you are well Jan! My dad did indeed know the Vandersteens in the 40s and 50s but it was you and your dad, Ian (Jean’s husband) that I worked with as you know. The fish and chip shop was still there in the High Street when I was growing up on Canvey in the 1960-70s. It was your mum, Jean who told me the secret to cooking perfect rice! 

    By Annette Hudson (29/03/2018)
  • I loved going to The Dolphin fish and chip shop which was ipposite the old cinema. They also sold wet fish. I remember being able to buy scallops and chips there at the same proce as they did scampi, but this was, to this day, the nicest thing I have ever eaten.

    The couple there (1970’s) must have been Mr and Mrs Vandersteen. A really lovely couple. Do we know where they are now? He was tall and they were both blonde. I also wonder what year it closed?

    By Stewart Ford (29/08/2019)
  • Unfortunately I never got to meet my Great Uncle, my Grandad and Nan were Mr & Mrs Vandersteen who later owned the fish shop. My Grandad passed away just over 20 yrs ago and my Nan passed just over 15 yrs ago.

    By Vicky Vandersteen (04/01/2023)
  • I was good mates with Anthony (Tony) Vandersteen. Lunchtimes at Canvey Secondary school opposite the Fish shop We used to go for a bag of the best chips I have ever tasted. We were born on the same day Jan 5th 47.

    By Tony Wood (19/02/2023)
  • My family Vandersteen. Came from Holland circa 1600. To
    We. Are. Most likely related
    My Great Grandfathet was
    Charles Vanderstern

    By Pilar Vandersteen Howard (20/01/2024)

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