START WORK AND STUDY
1946 - 1949
There were many ex-service people who, like myself, were now being re-launched into civilian life. Whilst in the uniformed service, we had no worries as regards the essentials of life. We were all provided with shelter, clothing, food, and were free from the environment of family disputes should they exist. A kind of being encapsulated against the stresses of day to day life.
From the years 1946 to 1949, the pattern of life was dominated by the need to reassert myself in civvy street, both career and education wise. On the domestic scene, I was very fortunate that I had, in Gladys, a truly feminine wife who put her family before all other interests. It is Gladys that I have to thank if I did attain any academic achievement.
Apart from the summer period, it was three nights at the local Technical College after work, and four nights homework and completing laboratory reports. There was a worrying feature about Harry, who was eight months old when I returned home. He was continuously crying both day and night. The doctor said he was well-nourished and that his crying would cease once he had been properly weaned. The trouble here was that the only milk that could be obtained was in the powdered form and this could have been the failure in satisfying Harry. It had a very distressing effect on the family to know the child seemed to be unhappy. Also, there was a continuous tiring effect due to lack of sleep, which could go a month before having one full night's sleep.
My mother spent hours drawing 'cock a doodle doos' to interest Harry. He had a set of crayons and a slate board and would spend hours trying to copy his Nan's 'cock a doodle doos'. This seemed to keep his interest more than any activity and in later life has proved to be his chief calling.
Although I was officially transferred to the reserves until the 7th February, 1946, I was able to combine Christmas and demobilisation leaves, so that when I returned home for the festive season, this was the end of my army career. After all the celebrations associated with Christmas and my return were over, I was anxious to restart work, be it at the Ever Ready, or elsewhere.
I called in at my old firm and felt that nothing had changed. Margery was still the receptionist, as she was when I joined in 1935. She gave me a debriefing on the present staffing of the management. Bernard Taylor, former head of the efficiency department, took over my post as production controller; Sam Irwin was now head of the efficiency department; Norman Glaze was still head of the design and drawing department. Norman Skidmore, former assistant to Mr Terry was now manager, following Terry's clash with a director over policy, resulting in his dismissal. It was the same team with a new captain, apart from Sam, who seemed to have made it in my absence.
I was able to see Mr Skidmore, who I had found very approachable before the war. He was well known at Wolverhampton Technical College for taking an active part in its affairs, being an Old Boy of some standing.
I was resolved to restart my career, as against taking on any kind of mundane job. This I now expressed to Mr Skidmore, as he shook hands and gave me a welcome back to the firm. He smiled and said, "We have been waiting for your return, I shall now send for Mr Glaze." Mr Skidmore continued, "The Ever Ready had set aside a large budget to replan the factory layout to cater for new- designed products."
Mr Glaze arrived, and after formalities had been completed, he proceeded to read out the job specification, viz;-
1) Undertake the pre-production planning of a range of new torch products. Specify equipment, tools and special processes needed and the number required.
2) Re-plan the factory layout to cater for new products.
3) Keep an up-to-date factory model showing the latest state for producing new articles." Mr Glaze then added:-
"To assist in your task, a junior draughtsman will be assigned to produce drawings for the model maker to make scaled down models of all equipment and machinery required to place on a scaled floor model of the factory. A mechanic will be available for any machinery development."
I addressed them and said, "So all my dreaming about what I was going to do on my return had been sorted out for me. I am a very lucky man to be a member of your company. I am most grateful to you for offering me this work, which I hope will justify your trust." I then left Mr Skidmore's office with Norman Glaze, to the drawing office, where arrangements were finalised for me to start the following morning.
Again, I felt very bewildered, as I did when offered the production job. This time, however, I could grasp the size of the challenge put in front of me. I felt that any failure would be due to my mistake, unlike any failure in production, which would have been due to an inadequate control system. So now, I could feel that my war service did not cause me to lose out in shaping my career. I knew several in the drawing office and had every confidence that I would fit into their environment.
Back home, there was much satisfaction with the news and that I had found a career post with Ever Ready. During the Christmas period, I visited my in-laws, including Grandma Morris in Park Village. She lost her former lodger, Sam, when he married Ella Bennett from Urmston, the 3rd member of our Urmston gang to live in Wolverhampton. Ella's brother, Jack, met and married a daughter of Sam's staff while on a visit from Urmston to stay a few days with his sister.
It would be interesting to note the number of lives that had been shaped as a result of my late father's move to this area.
With Attlee taking over as Prime Minister, as a result of Labour winning the 1945 election, Churchill spent a great deal of time spelling out that Russia could be a threat to future world peace. Russia had created an Iron Curtain from Stettin, on the Baltic coast, to Trieste on the Adriatic. Behind this line, all the capitals of the Communist states of central and eastern Europe were propped up by the political police, KGB as they were later to be known.
Our own Government, made up of characters such as Bevan and Beveridge, were working towards a welfare state. The continuous food rationing, including that of bread, which had only recently been introduced, made life very austere.
The American Lease Lend Aid had disappeared and all goods from the USA now had to be paid for in dollars. However, in July, the American House of Representatives approved a loan to Britain, thus easing the burden of the dollar exchange.
It was with a funny feeling in my stomach that I found my way to my desk in the drawing office on the first Monday morning of the New Year 1946. Quite some time was spent renewing acquaintances, especially with Ernie Proffitt, who I knew would be of great assistance in the future.
Norman Glaze came up to me and said, "Now you have a chance to put your stamp on the future factory layout. Before we get down to details, there is a need to tackle the machine shop problems. We need a way to store items from the Taylor and Challon presses, which produce a month's supply of items for cycle lamps in a matter of half a day. Secondly, the annealing of aluminium torch bodies, taking a length of 20 feet, requires a rethink to cut this down to a third." He had a clean face, looked you straight in the eye and expected you to come up with the answers. From my pre-war experience with production queries, he would always refer to his 'bible' when it came to workshop practices. This was an American publication on production engineering. He was later to become the top manager of this factory at Canal Works.
David, who had helped to design the range of new articles put me in the picture on the schedule, setting out annual production with the priority as to the dates for torches coming into production.
Norman Glaze, who had remained with me during David's exposition, then said, "If you require drawing assistance, or a workshop mechanic, speak to Ernie Proffitt". I felt no one could be more helpful in putting at ease in my task and replied, "You have been busy creating new models and I am very lucky to be chosen to bring them into production. I would like you to know I have planned to re-start my technical studies at the start of the new term at Wolverhampton Technical College, I have been accepted for 3rd year Ordinary National Certificate for production engineering."
Norman Glaze instructed me to ask his assistant, Ernie Proffitt, to take me round the factory when he was free. This he did in the afternoon. Very little had changed. The nickel plating shop had now been absorbed into the bright chrome plating shop, having eliminated the need to nickel plate before chrome plating. This area brought sad memories of Graham Blackmore, who was the chief chemist's assistant. He and I joined the Territorial Army together; alas he was to die before war broke out.
On completing the tour, I said to my escort: "Seems to me we have the same key players, playing on the same ground as before the war. Did you notice we got a smile or two from the female operators? I am sure they were looking at me. I thought I recognised a swimmer who attended on our firm's club swimming night at Heath Town."
"Yes, you are right, the one who smiled was Dora, who still attends the swimming sessions regularly." replied Ernie. Before returning to the drawing office, I was to learn from Ernie that Geoff Bond survived as a pilot of a Lancaster bomber, but had to leave to help in the running of his brother's garage business, as his brother had become a war casualty.
During the lunch break, I got up-to-date with the social side of the firm while playing bridge. One of the bridge players new to me was Roy Sury, member of the drawing staff. He continued his studies and later became a lecturer at the Technical College and finally became a professor at Loughborough University.
Another bridge player, David Jarman, joined the Marines and took part in a raiding party on the coast of France, following the German occupation. He had only been in the service a matter of months before taking part in this raid. He was captured, along with the others, and remained a prisoner of war until the end of hostilities. You could say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, such is fate. He was a Wolves supporter, and vowed he would never take a job elsewhere if it meant missing the Saturday Wolverhampton Wanderers match at the Molyneux ground. I was an occasional supporter, but in truth I preferred to take part, as I did at the start of the cricket season.
The Ever Ready sports section cricket XI played on a local park cricket ground. In one match, when fielding near the boundary, I made a spectacular catch when running backwards, with my arm held upright and hand open. The ball, which should have gone for a six, stuck in my hand. I just managed to stay within the boundary, so the batsman lost his wicket.
By the following season, the team members, using their contacts, succeeded in developing a cricket ground at Spring Hill with the backing of the sports section. The head of despatch stores had a son who owned a bulldozer and offered to level the ground. With Sam's contact, a ground was made available close to where he lived. At that time, he was not aware that his house would be used to store the club's cricket gear. Nor did his wife realise that for a number of years, in the summer, that she would be their chief caterer and washer-upper at every match.
This cricket ground is still used by the Spring Hill Cricket Club, having been born by the endeavours of a few who, at that time, were members of the Ever Ready sports club, more than 40 years ago.
In those days, the firm held their annual dinner and dance at the Victoria Hotel and combined this event with the bonus announcement for each employee, based on the firm's trading figures for that year. A children's party, held annually at Christmas, was made possible from raffles organised throughout the year in the factory. Harry attended one of these events and shook hands with Santa.
One of my main tasks in the machine shop came about as a result of a factory safety officer's report, drawing attention to the hazard created by a large number of hoppers and bins, blocking the main machine shop passageways. The white lines alongside the passageways were being seriously breached. Having been made aware of this problem, I had given the matter some thought before tackling the task.
I eventually proposed that the dividing wall separating the machine shop and components stores should support a number of tall silos. These were to be top- loaded and the funnel shaped base was to protrude through the wall and be tapped, like a furnace, to feed the components stores after being coated. The items involved were metal top and bottom caps for cycle lamps, so that no more than four silos were required. This scheme was approved and installed.
My next most urgent task was to reduce the space required for annealing torch bodies. Here I was given an annealing vat to use as a prototype, so that a mechanic could test and modify where necessary in the test shop. The present practice for annealing involved inserting torch bodies into spring clips, secured to one side of a 3 foot width metal frame. This frame, resting on a pair of rails, bench high, would then be turned over twice to immerse the torches in the vat. The operator then, after the annealing period, would continue to turn the frame over in the same direction, to immerse into a cooling vat. The process became finalised after a further two turning movements, when the torch bodies would be removed from the frame by an operator. This frame would be manually returned to the loading position. In all a total number of six 3-foot turns, using a distance of approximately 20 foot.
This is when my technical drawing classes, which I attended before the war came in very useful, not only for this project but also for the silo scheme. I proposed that an endless belt, motorised with spring-clips, secured to the belt, be installed to return above the annealing vat. Thus, the total length of the space occupied by the plant would be the vat width of 4 feet, plus a drip tank of 2 feet to collect the cold water spray, reducing 20 feet to about 6 feet. To enable the operators to load and unload, platforms were installed on either side of the tanks. So, this became my second drawing board project, which I had reason to be pleased about, since both prototypes were put into use. It was of great help to have Harry, the mechanic, to discuss aspects of the design from the practicality point of view. I suppose I could claim to have achieved three innovations if I include the plotting table for the 'ack ack' command post at Eston.
With the machine shop tasks out of the way, I could now concentrate on the new articles pre-production project. This was not so much a drawing task, but rather the introduction of a Kardex system to record the equipment and tools, also special services required in the manufacture of each torch. A meeting was held by Norman Glaze, where I was able to put forward my proposals to his staff, for it would be their main involvement to produce the necessary drawings.
The Kardex record for each torch included; a) the article; b) basic cycle time per unit, derived from the schedule for annual production forecast; c) tool number for each operation; d) number of operators per operation, or vice versa. To obtain information for d) it would be necessary to simulate the operation using work study. Once the schedule of requirements had been accepted for each article, a scaled model of equipment additional to existing would then be drawn and made to install on the floor scaled model.
During the summer months, my sister, Edith came to stay with us to look after mother. This enabled Gladys, Harry and myself to go on holiday to Weymouth, where we had booked rooms at a boarding house. This was a welcome break for Gladys, or should have been.
Harry was now almost 18 months old. When we knocked on the boarding house door, a Great Dane nearly collided into Harry as it rushed out when the owners opened the door. This started a crying session for almost the rest of the day. To our surprise, as we sat to eat with the owners, the dog also took its place at the table. The landlady, Mrs Morris, told us that the animal, called Peter, welcomed any titbits that we cared to give him. He did not do very well sitting next to me, looking at my plate and then at me. He then found that he got a much better service alongside Gladys, who had now become very attached to Peter.
We daily spent our time on the beach, sometimes watching huge castles being built by a handicraft beachcomber. But mostly, we made our own castles, to be kicked down by Harry.
From Mrs Morris, I learned that Whiteheads of Weymouth built torpedoes, which were used in both world wars. Weymouth being a naval port, gave us the opportunity to see warships, which interested Harry for a short time.
We took a trip around Portland Bill and on the return route, going down onto the Causeway, we had an excellent view of Chesil Beach, stretching many miles along the Dorset coast. When on the beach, the pebbles gradually became smaller or larger, depending which direction you were going. It gave the appearance that someone has spent years in grading them.
When I began evening classes, I would have a Welsh Rarebit in the college refectory. On the same course as myself were a number of ex-servicemen, who had a need to catch up with those who stayed behind. It is always helpful to feel that there are others in the same boat as yourself. I must have been tired on reaching home on those three nights attending college, and yet I do not recall being tired. Put this down to a short memory.
I do not know how my wife put up with this routine, coupled with the fact that I spent most of the other nights on homework and making up laboratory reports. Gladys was also looking after my mother, whose arthritis never ceased to be painful. Sunday afternoons were sacrosanct and were reserved for walks around Bushbury Hill. I did a bit of weeding, sufficient to keep weeds under control, together with cutting the front and back lawns.
The wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten was the highlight of 1947. Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh just before the wedding in Westminster Abbey. Now, when it comes to Pomp and Circumstance, there is no other country to beat Britain for royal weddings and funerals, even more so a Coronation ceremony.
At this event, the London pageantry was watched by crowds waving their flags and cheering as the royal coach and attendants passed by. At the wedding ceremony, Princess Elizabeth's hand was held by her father, King George VI, as she slowly walked to the altar with eight bridesmaids holding her wedding dress train. This occasion was a bonus for those possessing television sets. Many houses were filled with friends, who had been lucky enough to have been invited to watch this ceremony.
Due to the Russians reaching Berlin and surrounding it at the time of Germany's surrender, there had been difficulties between the western Allies and Russia on how to divide Berlin. It was finally agreed to divide the western half into zones, administered by a western power in each zone. The Russians built a high wall separating the eastern sector to prevent the Germans in their zone escaping to the west.
The nearest western ally frontier to Berlin was the US army on the Elbe at the end of hostilities. To supply the western zones of Berlin, it was necessary to pass through Russian frontiers. On the 1st July 1948, the Russians closed the borders preventing further supplies from reaching Berlin. A huge allied airlift was organised, which finally beat the Russian blockade. Churchill's warning about Russia's threat to world peace was now being taken seriously.
On one of these airlifts, Geoff Bond, who had not yet left the RAF brought back a cuckoo clock from Berlin and gave it to Sam and Ella as a souvenir.
It is said that where there's a will, there's a way. My will was forged as I lay on my bed at Dorney Common awaiting demob. As 1949 approached, both my assignments were reaching their final stages, they were my work project and my technical qualification.
With regard to my pre-production planning, this was now an on-going process, as new articles were continually being introduced using the Kardex system.
When I passed the third year Ordinary National for Production Engineering, I was accepted for the two year course on the Higher National Certificate for Production Engineers. This certificate was awarded to me on 14th September, 1949. I had a first for five out of six subjects over the two years. The tutor of the subject for which I got a second, told me that I had 'scraped through on my belly'. This was the second time this expression had been used on me. The first had been when I passed my trade test at Middlesborough to become a radar operator, which brought me an extra five shillings a day and helped me to save £500 at the end of the war. This time, I now had a piece of paper which I valued more than any other achievement which I can claim to be academic.
Within a matter of days after receiving this award, I applied for a draughtsman's post with the Royal Naval Scientific Service and received an invitation to attend an interview at the Empire Hotel, Bath. There were no tricky questions to answer, it seemed that all that mattered was that I had that 'piece of paper'.
When asked where I would like to work, I was given two places to choose from, Teddington or Portland. I chose Teddington, I think, because it sounded a pleasant place, but also I had heard this place mentioned in the meteorology course, where the NPL keep the national standards.
To my surprise, it was only a few days later that I received a letter instructing me to start at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, (ARL), Teddington on the 10th October, 1949. At home, I knew that Gladys would welcome the move. She had been very tense, looking after mother all this time, without a real break.
Now I had a guilty conscience, as to justify my resignation. There was general consternation when my superiors learned of this resignation. I do not know what future they had in mind. All I do know, is that they gave me every opportunity to progress.
On the final day of departure, I was presented with a briefcase, cricket bat and a few other small items. I felt very embarrassed in leaving my colleagues of my own free will. What made things worse was when Norman Skidmore made the presentations, he remarked, "I did not realise he was so qualified." If he had known that I was joint top of my course and that I had been awarded the Boulton Paul Aircraft Prize, perhaps he would have bribed me to stay.
As it was, I felt flattered my employers should express their sadness at my departure. If my services were held in such regard, there had been no indication wages wise.
Occasionally, a new recruit into the drawing office would be found to be receiving a higher salary than an existing draughtsman, causing a lot of dissatisfaction in the office. After I had been in the Civil Service some while, I appreciated most that each person's wages were set out in annual pay awards, according to the specialisation and grade. Each person would therefore be earning the same salary, like for like, thus avoiding unpleasantness on account of wage difference doing the same job.
At home, it would be like repeating the war days, for I had decided to commute at the weekends to Teddington, leaving home each Sunday evening and returning each Saturday afternoon. At that time, it was standard practice to work each Saturday morning. This left me barely 24 hours at home. Before moving house, I did not want to go into rooms and then find that we could not afford a house of our own.
Where I worked was to regard as my HQ battle front in the fight to secure a house of my own.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001