Ralph was the son of Ernest Albert Sturman and Jessie Helen Sturman nee Powrie.
[According to Winnie's earlier letter of her memories, his father owned a chemist shop in Mossel Bay, where the family were born. (
Win wrote it like that, but she also told us he was born in Observatory, Cape Town and that is what I had entered on the family tree]) She said that, later, the Sturmans lived in George, where again Ralph's father had a chemist shop. For details on Ernest Albert Sturman
refer Lucy's recollections on the Sturman family and Powrie connection
Winnie added the information that Mr Powrie collected the finance to build the church in George, which is now the Cathedral and there is a street in Mossel Bay named after Mr. Powrie.
Ralph attended Rondebosch Boys' High School and after matriculating in 1916, went to the Pretoria University and then Cambridge, where he obtained his degree as a Communications Engineer (AMIEE) and Electrical Engineer. He was Gold Medalist of his year. [Which year? Did she mean at Cambridge or Pretoria?&&?# NF1c Query 4] He played tennis for Western Province and was in the first rugby team for Rondebosch High. His sisters were Grace, Marjorie and Peggy and his brother was Edward, called Teddy.
Winnie wrote: 'He joined up when the war started.
[Refer to NF2b - Lucy's recollections for details in this regard]
And then returned to the Engineering Branch of the G.P.O. and served for 16 years prior to going to Northern Rhodesia, for which he got a small pension until his death. She added ?I don't know much about Teddy's career except that he went to Pretoria University and was taken to England when his father retired as P.M.G. in 1925 and was sent to one of the big Engineering Colleges. When he got his Diploma the old Man got him a job with Cables and Wireless and they sent him out to South Africa. Cable and Wireless was eventually taken over by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Teddy became a Civil Servant?
Ralph and his brother, Teddy were trained at the Marconi School in London and both excelled there, taking second and first place in their respective years, when obtaining their certificates there. [&&?. Is this what she refers to as the Gold Medalist?] NFc Query 4]
Ralph worked for the South African Government for sixteen years and was then seconded to the Colonial Service as Engineer in Chief of Posts and Telegraphs to organise and build communications throughout the Territory to the Copper Belt, as the mines were in the process of development.
Winnie wrote: ?I saw all the correspondence in connection with Ralph's appointment and I went home the day before he was due to arrive in Livingstone and happened to mention to Ma that we had an Engineer coming up from South Africa to do the communications and he is a Mr. Sturman. Ma thought for a minute or two and then said, 'I wonder if that could be the son of your father's old contemporary Edward Sturman', (my Father and Ralph's Father came out to the Cape Colony Government on the first steam ship to come to South Africa. Ralph's Father came from the British Post Office and ended up his career in South Africa as Post Master General. My Father came from Woolich, having done an Engineering/Communications training there and finished up in South Africa in association with Mr. Rhodes and the B. S. A. Co.)
Ralph took up his position as 'Engineer in Chief', Posts and Telegraphs, Northern Rhodesia?... and proceeded to engage staff from the British Posts and Telegraphs and South Africa. A number of the men who worked under Ralph when he was Divisional Engineer, Eastern Transvaal followed him to Northern Rhodesia when they realised the potential of the jobs he was advertising. The Colonial Service was quite a plum in those days.
When the Engineering Department Head Office, Livingstone was well established he said he wanted a typist to help run the Department. I applied to be transferred as I thought it would be more interesting than the Postal side of Posts and Telegraphs. The Post Master General agreed to the transfer, providing I continued to issue the Post Office stationery and Stores for the Territory, which was a two-day job every month. I liked the Engineering Department because it was hustle and bustle all the time with the Engineers, Surveyor and staff and the Technicians coming and going all the time, in and out of the office and Ralph spending Millions allocated by the Overseas Development Fund of which Roy Wolensky was the Chairman. In addition we had Engineers and Salesmen from the big English Firms like G.E.C., Siemens, A.T.M. Automatic Telephone Co. and Standard Telephone Co. corresponding and visiting us to secure contracts for supplying materials, etc. for the new Routes, as they were called. In addition we had a big staff out in the field living in tents and they had to be looked after and their welfare taken care of. I am not taking the glory for all this because we had three men in the office including Bill Adams, who was in charge of stores and consignment of all the materials to the various areas of the Construction. Ralph was away a lot, up and down to the Copper Belt visiting the various Construction camps. He was seconded for six months, but found the position so interesting he decided to join the Colonial Service, a decision I am sure neither of us ever regretted.
I was friendly with a couple of the Post Office chaps and we used to join with the other Livingstone young and go boating and swimming on the Zambesi and dancing at the Falls Hotel - it was a wonderful way of life.
Reg Gurr, one of my friends, was offered a transfer to Malaya in 1930, which he accepted, but he was caught up in the War and made a prisoner of war for four years. One day Ralph said to me that there was a Dance at the Falls [Hotel] and would I go with him - wonderful to be invited out by the Boss!! I accepted, of course, as my other friend was in England on his six months leave and that Dance was the beginning of my life with Ralph.