JOINED ADMIRALTY - TEDDINGTON
1949 - 1953
It was not easy saying goodbye to the family that Sunday afternoon before departing to Wimbledon, where a place had been reserved for me at the Admiralty Hostel. Looking at the road map of Teddington district, Wimbledon was only a matter of six miles away, I decided to take my cycle with me, not giving a thought as to how I was to negotiate the London Underground.
On the train, I had plenty of time to dwell on the pros and cons of this move and I was thankful the journey was over when the train reached Euston Station. I had now dispensed with the idea of travelling by underground to Waterloo Station, and hailed a taxi. The cockney driver kindly gave me a running commentary of the places we were passing - The British Museum, Theatreland, St Martins-in-the- Field, The Strand, Waterloo Bridge and finally, Waterloo Station. I noticed that the railway line to Teddington also passed through Wimbledon, so that if my cycle broke down, I could use the railway to go to work. This knowledge relaxed my mind.
I was pleased to learn that a hot meal was ready for me when the warden of the hostel greeted me. She told me that there were a few others due to arrive for their first time. One of these arrived while I was eating. He later joined me. He was an Oxford University graduate and had been accepted by the Royal Naval Scientific Service, RNSS, and would we working at ARL. He told me his name was Alex Mitchell, who later was to become Director of this establishment. I felt humbled that I could not tell him I was also an Oxbridge man. Fifty years later, I might have stretched it a bit and said I was a 'Redbrick' student.
My cycle journey next morning, taking me through Kingston-upon-Thames and across the Thames bridge put the fear of death into me when making my way along the High Street, Kingston. The Wolverhampton cycle route between home and work was like riding in the heart of the country compared to the density of outer London traffic.
The narrowness of the High Street prevented traffic overtaking when there were oncoming vehicles, causing motors to stay on your tail through the town. My cycle ride home was equally dangerous and put the seal on this way of travelling to work.
When making contact with the secretary of ARL, I told him I wanted local accommodation. This I obtained at Mrs Finch, at Blackmores Grove, Teddington, a matter of ten minutes walk to work from this address. I learned that Richard Blackmore wrote Lorna Doone whilst resident in the Grove. It was subsequently named after the author.
My career as a draughtsman was extremely limited, so I felt very anxious in case I did not measure up. On approaching the establishment from Queens Road, the high wall surrounding the building made this place look more like a prison. At the main gates in the wall, a security guard examined my papers and escorted me to the drawing office. On my way, the guard pointed out the main administrative modern building on my left and indicated that all the stores, laboratories and other facilities were in the complex on my right.
The drawing office was sited on top of the bulk stores, requiring you to climb up a flight of stairs. The guard handed me over to a manager of the office, who introduced himself as Mr Bartlett. When formalities had been completed, he described the design work undertaken by this office. I became even more anxious when he told me that every task undertaken was original, there being no available equipment or facility possible to obtain by the scientist to carry out their research programme.
Later I would be taken to see the director of ARL. I was handed over to my section leader, Fred Hickish, a small man smoking a large pipe, which smelled as if he was using old socks for his tobacco. He turned out to be a most likeable man, an ex-Portsmouth dockyard trained draughtsman. He later told me that he served in the first world war with the Hampshire Infantry. Towards the end of the war, they were involved in Russia helping the White Russians in protecting the railway between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea against the Bolsheviks.
He was a keen Pompey football supporter and was a great admirer of Scoular, the right half-back. When he knew I had lived in Wolverhampton and supported the Wolves, he was keen to remind me of when Pompey beat them 4-1 in the 1939 cup final at Wembley.
Having established a common interest, I was taken to the leading draughtsman I would be assisting. Frank Pengelly gave me the low-down on the scientist, a Mr Baxter, of the Oceanographic Group, who was in charge of the project I would be working on. Frank had completed a layout of a gradient recorder for measuring the angle of slope of beaches and ocean beds. Its concept was that of a pram on caterpillar tracks, with a weighted vertical pendulum. My function was to complete the detail design and drawings for manufacture with a parts list.
I was then assigned my desk and drawing board. Following the accepted office tea break, Frank, a west country Plymouth ex-dockyard apprentice gave me a conducted tour of the establishment.
He told me that his war work included development of the Pluto oil pipeline from the Isle of Wight to the Normandy coast. In the gun laboratory, he told me that the 3.7 gun hydraulics were developed here - as was the three dimensional cam used in the 'ack ack' predictor to provide the future position dial data to enable gunners to point their guns to hit the target. He again referred to ARL's 'most important war work', where every ship in the Navy was reproduced in model form to assess the electrical signature of each vessel. This information was required to degauss every ship, so that it repelled the German magnetic mine instead of attracting it. Before this counter measure could go ahead, Frank referred to a Dr Wood, who at the start of the war carried out a 'post mortem' on the first magnetic mine to be recovered from the sea. It was his evaluation of this mine that enabled Navy vessels to be protected against this weapon.
On the tour round the buildings we went through another drawing office, called the Admiralty Gunnery Establishment, AGE, to be located at Portland Bill when the buildings and facilities had been completed.
So this was the other side of the coin, when I was interviewed at Bath. Only a week passed by before Frank Pengelly was transferred to this drawing office, he was already aware that he was a member of their staff. This placed the gradient recorder firmly in my court.
After returning to the drawing office I had met most of the draughtsmen by lunchtime. It seemed that the main theme of the conversation dwelt on the sports club inter-competitions with the departments of the National Physical Laboratory, NPL, whose sports ground and pavilion belonged to NPL.
After dinner at the ARL canteen, Frank took me through the gate in the wall that separated ARL from the many sports fields, including football, cricket, bowls, hockey and tennis facilities.
In the afternoon, I was taken to the Director's Secretary who gave me some back history of ARL, including that it was well-known for its social functions. My interview with the director was brief, however I did notice that he had a travelling trunk in his office. I think he was more of a boffin than an administrator. Nonetheless, I was impressed that he made an effort to see each member of staff when joining ARL. It was then that I was passed on to the Secretary, who told me about the conditions of service and that there was a Whitley committee made up of staff and union members.
Work-wise, if able to cope, sports-wise it looked like a good move so far. I now had to research the housing market in this desirable area, where royalty had already chosen Hampton Court with its attractive gardens and river banks to stroll away the time. Then, of course, if royalty were tired of this scenery, all they had to do was cross over to their Crown property of Bushey Park and visit the houses of favour, such as Bushey House and Upper Lodge.
Property in Teddington was old and very sparse, due to limited building land available. In fact, the width of Teddington between the river and Bushey Park was barely a mile.
It was only a matter of days after I moved into Mrs Finch's boarding house. I learned that Mr Finch had been in the Royal Marine Band and I got the impression that he was the handyman of the house and missing the pageantry he took part in. There was no mistaking his military bearing as he brought in my meals on a tray. There was a predominance of baked beans in all the breakfasts and evening meals.
I regarded this address as my HQ in the campaign to secure our house. I collected from all the local estate agents their lists of property for sale to study with Gladys and read on the train. In general, any property that was affordable was old and in need of major repair.
It appears that in the late 19th Century, wealthy people concentrated in this area so much that St Alban's church, near Teddington Lock was built on the lines of a neo-gothic cathedral. There were two rows of houses, back to back, with a cutting from the river enabling river vessels to moor alongside steps leading from their back gardens. These were referred to as 'millionaires' row'. Sadly for these people, tram lines were laid through the town before the completion of the church. The trams did not fit in well with owners of horses and carriages and that was the end of the wealthy Teddington era. The church failed to be completed.
There was much to talk about on my return home, including the difficulty in finding my way on the underground from Waterloo to Euston. The main problem for me was that the routes are indicated by different colours and I am colour-blind.
As ever, Gladys did not make the home situation a problem for me, neither did she say much about Harry, who still had a behaviour problem. He was approaching five years of age and I doubt if he had made any friends of his own age apart from Crumpy, with whom he was always fighting. It was really a worry to know what to do. He had never allowed me to cuddle him and would not sit on my knee. We were taking the schooling aspect into account, as well as public transport whenever a prospective property was being considered.
When I joined ARL I was classed as a temporary draughtsman, with a salary of around £7 per week. As I had only saved £500 during the war, I had very little finance to manoeuvre in the property market. Neither did I have a guaranteed job. As time went by I became very despondent about finding suitable housing and I decided to retrace my steps and apply to Ever Ready for a job.
On the Friday of that week of depression, an advert appeared in the Kingston Evening News - 'Terraced House, Broom Road, Teddington, £1,450. Phone xxxx'. I immediately 'phoned the advertised number and in response received a reply from the executor of the deceased owner of this property. His name was the same as mine, Rayment, but no known relative.
Arrangements were made for me to view the property the following afternoon. At that time, it was a five and a half day working week, which included Saturday morning working. On the Friday evening, I identified this terraced house as being the third one from the south end of a block of ten houses. Four houses at the north end had been rebuilt due, I am told, to a German bomb overshooting the Teddington lock by half a mile. It was in an ideal spot, - close to work, close to the Thames River and not too far for either school or shopping at Kingston. Broom Road was meant for us and with the negotiator of my name, it had to be ours.
I 'phoned the news to Gladys that I would be delayed on the morrow viewing the property. This house represented my job at ARL and was almost as important as the pitch trawler that came to rescue us at St Nazaire.
This red-brick dwelling, when shown by my namesake, consisted of three bedrooms, front and living rooms, with kitchen without heat and an outside entrance to the toilet. There was a small garden to both the rear and front of this house.
I would treat it as a priority to ensure that the toilet could be entered from inside the house and that a stove be installed in the kitchen. After all I was taking a chance in choosing a house without my wife being present, but this was an extenuating circumstance, where no chance could be taken for another buyer to steal the deal.
The executor of the will, 'Mr Rayment', explained that the property had a war damage claim outstanding and showed me the documents giving details of the reported damage agreed.
I ascertained that this was a freehold property and was built in 1913. There was no point in trying to reduce the price, so I told him I was keen to go ahead subject to a satisfactory surveyor's report. This smartly dressed, small man, giving the appearance of a solicitor, seemed keen to complete the deal by exchanging relevant addresses. I was surprised when he revealed his address was a house boat moored on the upper reaches of the Thames, near Chertsey. Before parting, he gave me the address of a relative of the deceased lady, who lived in Hampton Wick close by, and was in the building trade. His name was Dobling, who knew this property well.
Later, when Gladys saw this house boat at its mooring, all she could think of were water rats. Everyone is entitled to his or her own favourite animal, or rodent, as in this case.
Before leaving Teddington, on my late journey home, I 'phoned Gladys the news that we were about to own our first house. I felt good and relieved that this battle to secure a home here at Teddington was almost won.
On returning home, there was much to sort out. In particular, arranging mother's move to Davyhulme, which required the selling of Old Fallings Lane and then the purchase of a bungalow. This would be handled by my sister, Edith, once we had achieved the final purchase of Broom Road. For mother, this was added pain to her suffering from arthritis in most of her joints. One can have a sense of guilt in causing that upheaval. On the other hand, Gladys had cared for her for the best part of ten years. All are guilty of taking everything for granted when others do the work.
Getting back to work after this eventful weekend, seemed to have a special meaning as I now could really see a future at ARL. In completing the gradient recorder layout, I incorporated a drive from the track wheels to drive the transverse chart paper on which a pen recorded the degree of angle deviation from the vertical pendulum. My next task was completing the details to ARL procedures laid down in the standard practice handbook. The responsibility for obtaining special parts was that of the designer.
I had imagined that working in the civil service, that prior approval would have to be obtained to purchase any item and then everything written in triplicate. In this office, the reverse was the case, the criteria being, is this purchased item the best for the job? It was a wonderful environment to be in, with each draughtsman designing equipment or a facility that has never been created before.
Whenever the customer, that is, the member of the scientific staff, came to discuss his project, Christian names were used. I was given great help from section leader, Fred Hickish in producing workshop drawings.
There were no snags in the purchase of the Teddington House. It took place in early Spring 1950. We had only a small amount of furniture, including a leather suite, which was not very popular on cold days. The house was in need of painting and decorating both inside and outside. We made contact with Dobling to install the kitchen stove, to replace the outside toilet entrance with an inside entrance and to do work on the roof against the bomb damage claim.
One of the advantages of living at this address was that I could come home at lunchtimes. I suppose there are only a few experiences more stressful than moving into a house requiring a lot of work to be done and in a strange area.
It was a surprise on coming home one day, that I discovered Gladys crying. She then declared, "That man Dobling has been rubbing himself against me, get him out of this house." Well, he was not in the house at that time, he had gone home to eat at Hampton Wick, where I immediately called on him. I threatened to call the police should he ever enter our house again. It was raining and water was coming through the roof, a leak which I swore he had made to increase the repair work.
Harry was very quiet and once he had been given his bedroom, he was content to scribble and doodle his 'cock a doodle doos'. I took the war damage claim to a builder, who passed this claim onto his architect. This resulted in the whole of the roof being retiled and a new gate and posts fitted at the front. So out of bad came good - strange how God works!
Gladys soon found her way to the Kingston shopping centre by walking to the end of Broom Road, then into Lower Teddington Road. This route led into Hampton Wick, being on the west side of Kingston Bridge, once over the bridge, Kingston awaits you.
Harry was now due to attend Hampton Wick Junior School. It was a Victorian building with small school rooms on two floors, with the first floor straddling half the playground. The headmaster's room was at the top of the stairs, on the second floor. There was great difficulty in getting Harry to attend school with his mother. Finally, after many months, I had to take him on the crossbar of my bike until he was able to settle down. There were no school buses in those days.
Now I was a resident of Teddington, I could take advantage of further studies since time from work could be taken off for technical qualifications. I applied, and received approval to take the Higher National in Mechanical Engineering. In my own time, I decided to take endorsements to qualify for membership of the Institute of Production Engineers.
Being a resident of Teddington, I was now a prime target for the sporting enthusiasts of the office of which Alan Hagger was supreme. The fact that I was aged 35 made no difference to them, and before I realised what was happening I was playing football in the London league for NPL. Alan had an arm deformity, which seemed to act as a challenge, for he never ceased to be taking part in the main sports, such as football, tennis and cricket.
Being in the NPL football team meant that with away games each Saturday, I would get home for a quick meal, then off on the football coach to a London district such as Blackheath. To my surprise, I could still give a good account of myself playing in my usual right back position, although I had not played regularly since my school days.
Now came further demands, it was known that I played bridge and there was an NPL bridge club, which met weekly in the sports pavilion. How could I refuse their invitation to join this game, which is ideal for those who like to bluff and bid points that are not there.
Taking part in the NPL sporting activities proved to be very beneficial work-wise, in that many technical specialists who took part were available throughout NPL via the back door. One such person, a Dr Fox, known as Les, spent most of his free time playing tennis, cricket and football and yet had a leading role in the Ace computer, the first to be built in this country, comprising 1,000 valves.
Les could truly be described as an all-rounder. NPL was just another area, as was ARL upper lodge, to explore. Indeed, the whole district was still unexplored territory for the family. Our Sunday afternoons were sacrosanct, for discovery walks. In truth, each afternoon we landed at the same spot. The Diana Fountain in Bushey Park.
It was here that Harry took his model boat to sail and watch others with their remote controls going haywire. Close by, a children's play area allowed parents to let them loose while they themselves had refreshments from a kiosk, where ice cream cornets could be bought, as Harry could verify. From the fountain, a splendid view of an avenue of chestnut and lime trees could be seen with a wide through road in between, joining Hampton Court with Teddington.
Hockey players will tell you that the game of hockey was first played in Bushey Park in 1891, on the Teddington Cricket Ground. There are a variety of paths to choose from when we visited the Diana Fountain, which we varied.
On Whit Saturday, we decided to take a boat trip from Teddington Lock, where perhaps Harry could trail his fishing line, which we had recently acquired. It was a pleasant road to walk to the lock passing Lensbury residential sports club and spacious ground with its many facilities. They included swimming baths and a boating club - all for the employed members of the Shell Petrol Company. Just before we reached the end of Broom Road, we passed the Warner Bros. Film Studios. Both places were on our right, with the River Thames flowing alongside their grounds on the opposite side and parallel to Broom Road.
Turning right, at the end of the road, the lock was a matter of 100 yards away. Passing a small pub on our right, Tide End, so called to remind you that if you should leave your car at the lock gate, as many do, you may need paddles to manoeuvre it onto dry land.
We climbed the steps of the metal foot bridge, which spanned the river to reach the locks, where the lock-keeper was found in his office. We told him we were new residents of Teddington, which seemed to give him the opportunity to show us his knowledge of his territory. He pointed to Tough's boatyard and said, "That is where a small flotilla of small ships set off to help rescue members of the British and Allied forces to escape at Dunkirk. Had Charles the Second been alive, he would no doubt have joined them in his royal barge, which was kept in this boathouse, now owned by Toughs." Now pointing in the direction of Warner Studios, he said, "I saw Errol Flynn when they were filming 'Murder at Monte Carlo'. On the reopening of the studios after the war, I saw Danny Kaye perform the opening ceremony. Now it is used as storage by Hawkers.
"Annually, there is a canoe race, starting at Devizes and finishing in London, which many spectators come to Teddington to watch as they race through." We thanked him for his interesting commentary on the lock and then enquired where to board the pleasure boat for Hampton Court. He pointed and said, "It is in the lock over there, waiting for customers. Don't get sea sick."
The last remark was not funny, for Gladys had a dread of water and marine life, such as rats. Going down the steps into the boat, Skylark, there was no holding back Harry with his fishing rod. The reverse was the case for Gladys, who was now showing signs of wanting to turn back. Somehow we managed to get seats forward, close to the bow, where Harry was bending over intent on catching a fish. It must have been low tide, for there was a difference of about 12 feet between the levels either side of the lock gate. There were small craft around us, waiting for the gates to allow us to go up-stream. It was holiday time and we had many people looking down at us. I did not see Gladys smile during the time we were in the depths of the lock prison she must have thought she was in.
As we passed out into smooth water, the vessel's engine seemed to be cutting out every now and then. I noticed the skipper of this small boat, it had about 50 passengers, asking his mate for some tools. He said something about the diesel not getting through. This was becoming serious. I tried to keep Gladys' attention on the river scenery and pointed out where our house was. Soon after this, as we approached Hampton Wick, the skipper announced that we were opposite Tommy Steele's riverside home, and we might be able to catch his eye, while he moored to repair the engine. This was my worst fear, for now I was going to get a reminder that she did not want to go on this trip in the first place. We did not make Hampton Court, although our boat, Skylark, did.
Our trip was terminated at Kingston, and it was fortunate that a tea shop was open to provide a cooling off period. We made our way back via Kingston Bridge, Hampton Wick and thence home on the school route.
While walking over the Thames bridge I noticed a number of allotments between the river bank and the Hampton Court Home Park. This seemed an attractive spot and, I thought, could be useful growing fresh vegetables and not too far to cycle.
The seed was sown, and I was to have an unexpected crop. On obtaining the address of Hampton Allotment Association's secretary, I 'phoned to enquire if there were any available allotments by the river. He said there was one, but it had not been cultivated for the past year. This did not seem to worry me, so I said I would be pleased to have it. Next day, I identified this weed-covered plot.
A nearby allotment holder, looking like an old age pensioner wearing a British Legion badge came over to me. He asked, "Do you know anything about allotments?"
I replied, "No, but I am ready to learn."
Smiling, he commented, "One year's seeding is seven years cleaning! To clean, you will need to sow most of your plot with seed potatoes, which you can buy from the allotment association on Saturday mornings." I thanked him, and asked, "Are you retired?"
Again, he gave a broad grin, and answered, "I have three pensions, the last one was with the Ministry of Works. This one included my war service, although I did not enter the civil service until I was invalided out of the army." I now knew his name as Barry, so in bidding him goodbye, I remarked, "Thank you for all this information, it will be useful in more ways than one."
After the Whit holidays, on returning to work, I requested an appointment with the ARL secretary, who told me to visit him at this moment, as he was free. He confirmed that added years could be obtained for war service, provided application was made before the end of 1950. This was part of the condition of the reconstruction entrance examination, in which I had entered the service. This was to give recognition to those who had given war service. He explained a trawl had already taken place for such candidates before I arrived.
I was asked to submit my war details immediately. I had given almost six years service, which when divided by two, would give me more than 2½ years added on to my years worked in the civil service for pension purposes.
God works in mysterious ways! Without Skylark breaking down, I would not have been walking over Kingston Bridge and, if I had not gone to the allotment after seeing them from the bridge, I would not have met Barry!
The years 1950 and 1951 were ones of consolidation in that I had now been awarded substantive grade, removing the 'temporary' from my position of draughtsman. At evening classes I had passed the endorsement to the Institute of Production Engineers, but had failed Part 1 of the Higher National for Mechanical Engineers.
The redecoration of the inside of the house at Broom Road was proceeding on the basis of 'as and when'. The outside needed repainting, and I required courage to go up the ladder.
My sport had taken off so far as football and bridge were concerned. My cricket had only been activated at the level of inter-NPL department competitions. There were not NPL teams for me to play in at the lower levels, which was fortunate from the domestic aspect. How would I find time to cultivate my allotment, for which Barry had provided vegetable and salad seedlings to go alongside my rows of potatoes. Barry also supplied flower roots of the chrysanthemum family, known as Esthereeds, producing masses of white daisy flowers for the house.
During these two years, Harry's reports were very much the same. Both reports stated he was tearful and did not mix with other children to any degree. The second report did give indications that there were signs of settling down. I took him to the NPL sports ground to watch cricket, while his mum went to look at shops in Kingston.
At the ground, there were some playing facilities for children to play, while their parents did more serious things. But before we reached that spot, I noticed, sitting on my usual bench, that Tonya, with whom I used to cycle to Yale and Towne in Willenhall, thirteen years ago.
She had a boy with her, about Harry's age. "Well hullo, long time no see." I greeted her. "A lot of water has passed since we last cycled together" she responded. From the rest of the conversation, it appeared that her airman husband had been a rotter to her and they were now separated. He had a representative job in this area, before he left home.
As we sat talking, a cricketer, who I knew as Vernon, came across to speak to her. So she was not there to watch cricket, but for social reasons! I remember Tonya's wedding to a squadron leader being reported in the Wolverhampton Express and Star as being a big affair. Her father, a colonel in the army, made a big splash of his daughter's wedding, with many guests being invited to the reception, where drinks and food had flowed. I felt very sad for Tonya, for when I knew her she was a jolly girl, buying flowers for my sick mother.
It would have been interesting to know what the odds were in meeting at this spot, almost 100 miles away from where we both lived thirteen years ago. Before leaving, she asked, "Have you been cruel to your son, he has not mixed with us?" I replied, "You should ask him yourself." This gave further fears that all was not well with Harry's behaviour.
At the end of 1950, detailed drawings of the gradient recorder had now been passed to the workshop. This brought me into contact with the workshop staff. There was a very minimum of formality between the drawing office and the workshop, once the works order had been signed by the group leader, who had initiated the project in the first place.
Any queries were dealt with directly by the persons involved. A number of close relations were developed, resulting in joint efforts, as in my case. John Lovegrove and Stan Fields, both workshop overseers, became personal friends. My section leader, Fred Hickish, now came to me with the authority to design a high speed drum camera, with a specification to work to.
This was, basically, a strip of film secured to a face of an 18 inch (approx) drum, to be driven by a variable-speed electric motor. The drum was to be contained in a light proof case, with the film face to be within a fixed tolerance from the lens focal plane. Both the loading and the unloading was to be carried out in the dark. A stroboscope would be provided to act as a gate between each frame. The purpose of the high speed drum camera was to study the formation and the collapse of a bubble. 'Scientists playing about with bubbles?', you might query. The bubble's presence, I was told, when given this project, causes noise, the pitting of propellers, wear and drag, these being the effects of cavitation. Noise gives away a ship's presence, pitting generates more bubbles, drag reduces a ship's speed and wear reduces the life of a ship's propulsion parts.
I explained to my leader that I had not had any experience of cameras, but would research where necessary. After my first session with Mr Glegg, from the research group based at Upper Lodge, I felt the main task was holding the strip of film at a constant distance within a few thousandths of an inch from the focal plane of the camera's lens. No securing device to hold the film could be fixed to the surface face on the drum.
I produced an outline scheme after a few days and was then asked to take the layout to Mr Glegg's laboratory at Upper Lodge, Bushey Park. This was now my first visit to this detached part of ARL, so I was hoping to have a tour round whilst there. The mini-bus service left by the main gate into Queens Road, turning right, until it reached the entrance to Bushey Park. It was here that the driver entered the long avenue of beech and lime trees at the opposite end to the Diana fountain. About mid-way along this avenue, the bus took a minor road on the right, where the driver pointed out the famous Teddington Cricket and Hockey Ground situated along the other side of the boundary to NPL sports area. It was a matter of minutes when we arrived at the entrance to a compound of mixed buildings.
A security guard checked our passes and then allowed the bus to proceed to, I presumed by its ancient appearance, the lodge. I was directed to Mr Glegg's office by the porter at the entrance to the lodge and noticed a jumble of huts with a few modern brick buildings here and there, but pride of place was this extended lodge with what I presumed were its former stables and coach house.
My scheme, in the main, was accepted and now I was given the variable speed motor to drive the drum with its controls, together with the selected lens. This required me to produce an overall layout showing the complete assembly.
We were now on Christian name terms, as seemed the custom there. Ted offered to give me a tour round the premises. Some of the lodge buildings had been occupied by an old court retainer, Sir John Hippesly, as early as 1628, who was made custodian of Bushey Park. During the civil war, he became a roundhead when Oliver Cornwall occupied Hampton Court. He did not fare well when he switched to being a cavalier, for Charles II gave the lodge to his procurator-in-chief, Mr Edward Progers.
Ted Glegg pointed out two ponds, which were originally part of an irrigation system for Hampton Court a mile away, dating back to Charles 1st's reign in 1639.
We entered a purpose-built building, housing an enclosed water tunnel, with a 12-inch working section. This facility was used by G group, dealing in hydrodynamic studies. Generally, the aim of designers in hull shapes is to achieve lamina flow. This reduces drag, noise emission and wear. The working section had a glass window, enabling visual observation to be made of test models. Ted then mentioned that a 30-inch version was planned. There was also a major facility in the pipeline to install a 50 foot rotating beam channel, which would take models round in a circular tank, reducing boundary wall effects experienced in water tunnels, where water was pumped through the working section of a relatively small dimension.
Ted thought I had seen enough at this stage, so I awaited my return courier service. It seemed the least likely place one would expect these facilities to be located in the heart of Bushey Park, as least likely that I, some time in the future, would be spending most of my time here. On my return journey to the drawing office, I noticed small herds of deer grazing in the park.
Back at my desk, I started to have doubts about my ability to produce the goods. To my surprise, my design drawing work created quite an interest, especially from my manager of the drawing office, Reg Bartlett, who took action to register the design.
I was rather surprised to find a war time practice, that of allowing time off to help the farmers at harvest time, was continued in the civil service. This was too good an opportunity to miss, for the few of us who had struck up a friendship. There was George Britton, who had been a prisoner of war at Japanese hands. He was a sergeant and was court-martialed for trading eggs between the natives and prisoners, for which he got stripped of his three stripes, as he told us. A very tough character and a good all-rounder at cricket.
There was also Gordon Newcombe, half-Welsh, half-English, another sports all-rounder who had played football for his local Newport FC and could put up good batting performance for ARL.
Another in their sporting class was Alan Haggar, a leading figure in NPL sports club. These and a few others applied for a week's paid leave to attend the Harvest Camp at Cirencester, as specified in Admiralty circular.
This was not a soft break, it was potato-picking without a change. Some described this work as almost slave labour. We tried sabotaging the tractor over- night, but a large dog at the farm had been alerted.
We spent most nights at a local pub, where a few land army girls, doing the same as us provided light entertainment. I have since held potato pickers as a very tough breed of farm workers. The weather was kind to us, and I took home to Gladys one potato and a bunch of flowers.
ARL held a children's party each Christmas, paid for by weekly raffle tickets, sold by volunteers. The group organised annually some form of entertainment, it becoming traditional for them to put a show on. This was held in the gun laboratory, after space had been cleared to install canteen tables. Harry attended the one in my second year, and when we came to collect him, he was all smiles, holding a balloon and a small present.
All the research groups vied with one another to out-do each other in decorating their areas and providing Christmas fare. It was a standing joke that promotion could be lost if the Christmas effort was not up to standard. I think this occasion was just another opportunity to show their originality, being an ingredient of their work.
I received news that my mother had been taken into Davyhulme Park Hospital during April 1952.
I was due to take English endorsement for the Institute of Production Engineers in late April, followed by repeat examinations for Part 1 of the Higher National for Mechanical Engineers.
Telephoning my sister, Edith, to obtain the latest news on mother's health, I was advised to come as soon as possible. I left immediately I had clearance from my manager.
On reaching mother's ward, I observed her having difficulty in breathing as she lay in a prone position in bed. I told the ward sister, who told me, "There is nothing to worry about, she has just eaten a full meal."
This was a flying visit, in view of my English endorsement examination, to gain admission to the Institute of Production Engineers, due to take place on the morrow. I felt guilty having to leave mother, who was in a coma. It came as no surprise that by the time I had returned home, mother had died. A post-mortem was held, which confirmed that death was due to bronchial pneumonia.
The nurse I spoke to should not have ignored my concern that mother was lying flat on her back in bed. This position surely added to the flooding of the lungs, causing internal drowning. I felt like suing the hospital, but even if I had won the case, this would not have brought back my mother's life.
I realised that to make the professional grades, it was necessary to hold professional qualifications. With this in mind, I sat the English endorsement examination to prove I had the required standard of literacy for the Institute of Production Engineers. I had failed Part 1 of the Mechanical Engineers' Higher National Certificate the previous year.
I did a repeat course and would be retaking the examination in May. The subjects were maths, including calculus, strength of materials and structures and theory of machines, which I failed previously. To me, it was ironic that I should fail when being given time off work for the first time.
These subjects proved very beneficial for design work, with which we could be involved, (as in the case of the high speed drum camera).
To do my studies, I used the front room at Broom Road, playing my favourite classical records. These included most of Tchaikovsky's works and those of Puccini's operas - always remembering not to play too loud. Tastes in music do differ.
We did not go away for summer holidays, so we were expecting a number of visitors to stay with us - Gladys' two younger sisters, now in their teens. Joan, the elder of the two could always be recognised by the large dimple in the centre of her chin. Brenda looked more like Gladys, with a rounded face and fair hair. Their stay provided an opportunity to visit London and do a rehearsal for Glady's planned visit in 1953 to see the Queen's Coronation celebrations.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II on the death of King George VI on the 6th January, 1952. This was to be the main visit while they were here, but others were planned, including ones to Kew Gardens and Hampton Court.
Teddington Council had set up a committee to organise events during the Coronation week in 1953, making full use of the recreation ground in Broom Road.
With me as tour leader of the Rayment family and Gladys' sisters, we set off from Teddington Station for Waterloo Station, where we were able to have a good view of the Houses of Parliament. Once over the bridge, we turned right into Whitehall and proceeded towards Trafalgar Square. On our route along Whitehall, we passed the Cenotaph. Further on our way, we passed Downing Street and waved to Churchill, who was now Prime Minister again. Unfortunately for him, he was elsewhere at the time and missed a rare opportunity to greet the Rayments.
A little further on, we reached Horse Guards Parade, where Harry wanted to stroke the black steed of the Horse Guard on sentry, standing motionless, facing Whitehall, while visitors took photos. Needless to state, we also had our share of the photos with our party around the Guard on his mount.
At the far end of Whitehall, we came into the presence of Nelson looking down on us from the top of his column in Trafalgar Square. Harry fed the pigeons on nuts he bought on the spot, and then more photos. After the pigeon- feeding ritual, our tour took us through Admiralty Arch into the tree-lined Mall, leading up to Buckingham Palace. It was along here that Gladys hoped to wave to the Queen as she passed on her way, in her golden coach, escorted by Beefeaters on either side of the carriage.
As we proceeded towards the Palace on our left, we could see the St James' Park lake, on our right we had a view of St James Palace. Coming towards the Queen's residence we gaped at Queen Victoria, who was proudly looking down on where once were her subjects, and on the new occupants of the Palace.
Now, some more photos outside the gates, where the sentries were mounted in front of their sentry boxes; I was reminded not to cut off their busbies as they stood on either side of the chosen Hussar. The Queen did not spot us, so it would have to be picnic sandwiches after all, on a bench seated near some swans in St James' Park.
On our return along Birdcage Walk, we could hear and see soldiers being drilled in the grounds of Wellington Barracks and noticed the Guards' Chapel as we left the Barracks. So now for something to eat out of the basket for the hungry ones, not forgetting the swans, which Harry has made doubly sure about - more photos for the album.
We were very lucky with the weather and very tired on our arrival home. All our future visitors, who were not familiar with the capital city had this standard tour offered to them. Gladys, a royalist, could not put up with waiting to see the Coronation, and now alternative attractions were being found, such as city shop sales.
On our tour of London, I noticed Queen Anne's Mansion as we left Birdcage Walk. It was here, the HQ for Admiralty Scientific Service, that I attended a promotion board. I was successful at this board, resulting in my promotion to leading draughtsman from January 1952.
Sam and Ella also visited us during late August and were treated to Alan's London Tour. On visiting Hampton Court Gardens at the Hampton Wick end of the long water garden, we came across a pond frequented by model boat clubs, using wireless controlled models. This was, of course, a great attraction to Harry and from that time our rendezvous with the Diana Fountain, Bushey Park, changed to this model boat club on Sunday afternoons. I also found that I could leave Harry there while I visited my allotment at the Hampton Wick entrance to the long water garden of Hampton Court.
I have played in the ARL Cricket XI in each of the NPL Stanton Trophy inter- departmental competition matches, in which we won this coveted award. It seems our team had been strengthened with the drawing office's new intake, mainly Gordon Newcombe and George Britton - I could easily have included myself, but then I would be accused of being biased. Our presence was particularly welcomed as players from the AGE drawing office could be transferred to Portland within the next two years on completion of the AGE establishment and facilities. Maurice Atkinson will be particularly missed by NPL cricket XI, being one of their top batsmen.
With the close of the summer season, I was faced with the technical courses to complete over the winter period. I feared most the electrical engineering subject - as I had always been involved with mechanical work. I had been given George Britton to do the detailed drawing for me, enabling me to be free to take on new design work, after all I was now graded a leading draughtsman.
Fred Hickish told me that a Mr Mills would be discussing a new facility to study water entry behaviour and I was assigned for this project. The gradient recorder I was engaged on had been tried out in NPL grounds and, apart from a few teething troubles, had proved satisfactory. The whole of the oceanographic group were transferred to Whitley, Surrey and were no longer part of this establishment.
I had a surprise when Mr Mills revealed his requirements. My task was to design a structure to support a launching device to fire a model torpedo into a water tank at various angles. It was planned to have a purpose-designed building to install and maintain this facility, with a photographic and analysis equipment room. This would be built at Upper Lodge, as there was no land available at Queens Road, where we were based.
The device referred to was a slotted wall catapult, similar to that used on aircraft carriers to launch aircraft. In this case, the catapult would be designed by the makers of the steam catapult, but would be a much smaller version.
I was told by members of the drawing office that this scientific officer was always referred to as 'pipes and pockets', for that was his usual stance. He was very short with his hair always parted and wore a dark suit. He was pleasant to deal with, giving as much help in the design as he could. I am told that he and his next in command, Craig, were of the old school, ie mainly experimental, using sealing wax and string.
There was not a lot I could do at this stage apart from 'doodle' with different ideas. There was certainly plenty to think about, until I received a detailed specification. One thing that I was aware of, was that this structure would be at least 20 feet in height, as I had been given the approximate dimensions of the length of the catapult and the height of the water tank. I hoped the building's architect would wait until the design was finished, before he decided on the roof height. The purpose of this project was to obtain the characteristics of aero-torpedo nose shapes at the point of water entry. The aim was to find the ideal shape at a given angle entry to ensure the torpedo kept to the programmed course.
At home we had a French student staying a few weeks, while she attended an English course at a college in Kingston. Gladys found this dark-haired Michelle Guibert from Paris was company for her. We had fun practising our school French, getting our two languages mixed up - 'Parlez-vous anglais, Mademoiselle Michelle?' 'Oui, un peu, do you speak français, Mr Rayment?' I had spoken nearly all I remember.
Michelle was lucky for we went on Alan's London Tour, which had by now been well rehearsed. She must have enjoyed her stay, for she asked if she could come again next year. She lived with her parents in a built-up area, at a flat in Rue de la chaine, Paris, without a garden. I think she envied those who had gardens and lived in rural areas. During her stay, she spent many hours in Hampton Court Gardens and referred many times to the 'Great Vine', loaded with grapes. It is said that its roots had reached the River Thames more than a hundred yards away from the glasshouse, where the grapes were hanging from the vines secured to the roof of the hot-house.
On my technical course, a number of mature students were aiming to establish themselves in an engineering career after war service. David Varcoe, like me, had a need to achieve qualifications to progress in this field. He was a member of the NPL meteorology division, taking the same course as myself. We became quite friendly and useful to each other in sorting out our course problems. I was invited to his office after working hours and he promised me a tour of their facilities.
I was also given a historical background to the establishment, which he seemed proud to belong to. The increasing German industrial power at the end of the last century, he said, caused the government at that time to create a National Physical Laboratory. This was done with grants to sponsor research on land donated with Bushey House by Queen Victoria. Since then, research divisions had been set up covering: acoustics; heat; radiology; aerodynamics; optics; metallurgy; meteorology; electricity; ship-building and applied mathematics. Its most fundamental role was as National Standardising Institute. Sir Robert Watson Watt, when head of the radio division, first developed radar. At this time, the ship division had a 600 feet trough, in which precisely accurate models of ship hulls were tested. Most ship yards at home and in the Commonwealth made use of this facility.
The maths division had a large calculating machine, called 'The electronic brain' by Lord Mountbatten. This machine, called the 'ACE' used 1,000 valves and was the forerunner of computers built in this country. Les Fox, the cricketer had a role in this evolution.
There was a very large building that had been used for wind tunnel tests on different types of buildings and roofs. This facility was also used on airfoil and fuselage shapes. David told me that this building was about to be converted to a modern restaurant for use by all employees of both ARL and NPL. There were to be no tables set aside for different grades. A director would be allowed to sit at the same table as a workman. This building was known as the Glazebrook Hall for Sir Richard Glazebrook had first conducted aeronautic research here.
After David's exposition, we made our way to have a drink in the sports club pavilion, passing Bushey House en route. David pointed out the spacious gardens, where if you were well in with the director, you could be invited to his frequent garden parties.
It was getting dusk as we entered the wooden structured building used as a pavilion. Both tennis and cricket were in play, so I suggested we get our drinks before they all came in together. I was told that the club had to be self- supporting, paying for the lease of the playing fields. I thought this was unfair, since the employers have the benefit which sport could bring in improving staff co-operation between each other. I think there was a lack of interest in the sports club by top management. Cars were not allowed to park facing the cricket pitch in close proximity to the director's residence.
Over the drink in the bar, I tried to get David interested in bowls at the club. We strolled across to have a look at the green. Although it looked in the twilight, in fair condition, the bowlers' pavilion appeared not much more than a shack, this being in keeping with the main pavilion. I did not pursue the bowls idea further, just as well, for I became fully committed to weekend cricket the following year. I think the only way to have something done to improve these wooden structures was for the club to get the directors involved in its affairs.
With the ending of the summer, comes the football season. I was now a regular member of the NPL lower football team again, in spite of telling the club that I was too old, at 37.
Gladys had something else on her mind and revealed that she was pregnant and could not be sure of the arrival date. The question was, would it be before or after the Queen's Coronation, as she had promised the Queen that she would be there. It was going to be a very busy time for the Rayments - for my technical examinations would also be taking place in May.
I would have something to take my mind off worrying about the exams, though Harry's school report was much more encouraging by the end of July. It stated he was less self-conscious and happier with other children. He was placed 23rd out of 35, according to his teacher, Mr N T Mills.
I had been given more information to proceed with the water entry project. The catapult's total length would be 13 feet, the acceleration of the catapult carriage would be 186G force with a 1 foot retardation, resulting in a force of 1,600G. Thus, if the acceleration was multiplied by the weight of the carriage, plus the weight of the torpedo model, the force to be allowed for in the structure design could be obtained - the first angle being between 10 and 80 degrees from the horizontal plane. If we assumed the carriage and model weight to be 5lbs, the retardation force would be in the region of 4 tons.
The scientists would have moved a long way from the sealing wax days, if they record the water entry model nose shape behaviour and do their analysis. I had also been given the height of around 6 feet for the long glass sided water tank, into which the models were to be released from the catapult. I was required to increase the water entry point as the angle of entry increased. This aspect had already been taken care of in the tilting platform layout, where its pivot moved forward. A counter-weight, to balance the mass of the platform assembly allowed the manual setting of the firing angle. A brake system operated automatically on firing, securing the end of the platform to the structure's circular platform guide rails. With the details now given, I was able to complete an outline assembly drawing, arriving at an overall height for this project.
My manager, Mr Bartlett, said a meeting would have to be arranged between my group leader and the project group to decide on placing a contract for final manufacture. This meeting was held and I was instructed to find a suitable firm to cope with the specified force in the structure design. I had George Britton to take over the detailed drawings after the scientific group had approved the scheme and before passing on to a contractor.
I had a session with Mr Mills, the officer in charge of this work, who came up with a firm he dealt with during the war on torpedo manufacture. This was the International Combustion, based in Derby in the Midlands.
By being involved with all aspects of the end product, an increase in my technical knowledge was gained. This had already occurred on the drum camera, where high precision ball bearings were necessary to meet the tolerance specified. When the required drawings were completed, I visited the International Combustion firm with Mills, who made the arrangements.
The outcome of this visit was that they were very keen to do work for the Admiralty, particularly if this meant renewal of torpedo contracts. Of course, we could not make promises in this direction, but it did help in giving a first class service and product throughout, once the contract had been placed. I do not remember ever being involved with the building to house this structure. I do know that when it was being built, I watched for the final roof height, which I began to question at this stage. A recheck showed there was a foot or two clearance. For me, that was too close should some changes be required on the structure.
The AGE drawing office had been informed of their imminent move to Portland Bill, which had been expected for some time. I went across to Frank Pengelly, the leading draughtsman, I first worked for on my arrival here, to wish him well. While with him, I noticed that he had a wide gap in the mechanism he was drawing. I asked him, "What's the gap for?"
He replied, "I'm fed up with Albatosky, who keeps pulling my drawings to pieces". He explained that it was a predictor he was designing. "He will ask me the same question as you have," he said, "I shall tell him that it is space to service and oil the mechanism. He will then tell me to dispense with the gap and then I shall join the two sections together."
I wished him luck on this exercise and on his future move. This Polish scientist had traces of the Prussian officer type, who clicked their heels on being introduced and then bowing. This, I understood, was also done by the Polish elite. Their two futures took different courses. Frank moved to Portland, but was soon required to move again. That was enough and he told the Admiralty he would not move, whereupon he received his cards. The Polish gentleman finally became head of the Compass laboratory at Slough.
Harry was still without schoolfriends, so we decided that if we attended the local church at St Albans, we might manage to join him in their choir. We spoke to the choir master after a Sunday morning service, and were assured he would be welcomed, provided he attended choir practice. His name was Mr Harold, and he worked at the meteorological office.
Harry had been told that his mum and I thought he might make friends by joining. Although he did not refuse, he went very quiet for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, it was high church, which Gladys and I were not used to - things such as spraying incense about. In our youth, both of us had attended church regularly and we would like our future family to do the same. It is, in a way, helping to understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by the ten commandments. You break them, and you suffer in some way.
During a Saturday afternoon football match at the beginning of the new year, 1953, I collapsed on the field. It was as if a knife had been stuck in my left calf muscle. There were no players close to me when it happened. I was taken to Teddington Cottage Hospital. The nurse in charge greeted me with, "Here they come, the usual Saturday football casualties, to keep us busy." I felt doubly hurt, since this was not due to some stupid foul. The muscle was torn with the skin having darkened. I was advised to rest for a few days and then attend for physiotherapy treatment.
On my first attendance, I was given a good massage around the injury, followed with instructions not to limp. As I left the main entrance, walking across the forecourt with an unavoidable limp, a sergeant-like voice was heard, "Mr Rayment, stop limping and walk properly." I turned round and saw the matron, with her head half out of the open window, with the physiotherapist alongside her. At that moment I froze to the ground. I thought I was on the barrack square again. Very slowly I reached for the bicycle I had come on, riding back virtually with one leg.
When Gladys was discussing where to have the baby, it was realised, because we had no relatives living locally she could not be at home. I did not think she would get on with matron at the Cottage Hospital in view of my experience. Nearly opposite our house in Broom Road, was a nursing home of some kind, so enquiries were made and it was confirmed that there were maternity facilities. A reservation was made for sometime in May, to be monitored.
We asked my sister, Edith, if she would look after Harry during this period, which she was only too happy to do. Gladys' latest forecast for the baby's arrival was early May. The known date for the Queen's Coronation was the 2nd June. My known date for the three exams for the Mechanical Higher National Certificate was the latter part of April. We each had much to occupy our minds.
Gladys' condition was the most important of the three events. For Gladys, the Coronation came second. For me, the exams had next priority. Any spare time during the run up to the exams would be occupied in working on previous test papers. During this period, she would be doing like the birds do, preparing the nest to receive the fledgling.
Also occupying our minds was Harry's visit to his Auntie Edith, which would require me to take him by train. While there, he would have cousin David, Edith's ten year old son to play with, and he could go to the baths.
So, the 1953 Spring programme looks like this, provided there is no misfire:
Exams will be over, giving me time to take Harry to his Auntie the following weekend. Returning the same weekend, I shall be back at the start of May, in time for the big event. If this takes place when expected, Gladys could see the Queen in June, which should warrant drinks all round, for in engineering terms, this would be due to good network planning by all concerned.
Swatting for my exams, like most exams, was trying to forecast the examiner's favourite subjects, by studying previous papers. It was a great relief to get them over with, as Gladys' condition was becoming very critical.
On Saturday, 2nd May, Harry and I set off for Edith's address, at Davyhulme, Manchester, and in saying our goodbyes to Gladys, I kept my fingers crossed that there would be nothing premature in our absence.
Our journey, via Waterloo, Euston, Manchester and Urmston stations, gave me plenty of time to explain the advantages of having either a brother or sister. He made it clear that he preferred a brother.
The last time we had seen his Auntie and David was in Wolverhampton in 1949. It was almost a 'hullo and goodbye' as we arrived at my sister's house, for I only slept the night and returned on Sunday, the following day.
Cousin David had his railway set laid out, taking Harry's full attention, which gave me the feeling he would settle in. I returned home to find nothing premature had happened, for which I congratulated Gladys.
There was not much longer to wait, for on the 5th May, the real labour pains appeared, so now it was a matter of picking up the holdall of essentials, ie safety pins, nappies etc and being escorted across the road to the nursing home.
There was something of a mystery about this nursing home - very few people locally knew what went on there. We chose it because of it being so close to the house. It was known that a police surgeon had a special interest in it. It was a surprise to me the following morning, when a knock at the front door was heard. There was Gladys standing in her dressing gown and slippers. At first I thought I had seen Gladys' ghost, then I realised that she had not been able to concentrate, as was the case before Harry's birth. With a stern voice, I said, "Go back at once, they will be searching for you."
"I want to come home, I'm fed up just waiting for something to happen." I escorted her back to the home, where staff were greatly distressed, not knowing where she had gone to. Later that day, on the 6th May, I received a 'phone call that Gladys had given birth to a 7lb baby boy and that both were doing well.
Having taken time off from work, I was able to be with her from time to time during the next few days. She was more than pleased to be back in her homestead with Andrew, who looked well and contented. A nurse came across daily to ensure Gladys was coping with the feeding, as she did have some difficulty with this from birth. Something was not right here, for the baby was not getting enough milk to satisfy him. A decision to bottle feed was made within a few days of being home. This seemed to reduce the crying sessions that were now beginning to haunt me form Harry's babyhood days. We were delighted to received a letter from Harry. Here it is:
Dear Mum and Daddy,
I am having a fine time with David. We have been to the baths.
I rode Jenny, the white pony. Sometimes we don't go to sleep at night and play about.
I do my sums from Monday to Friday. We have been to a show this afternoon but I did not like it. We've had the train set out nearly all week.
Jenny is still ill. I am doing my sums correctly sometimes.
We are going to the baths this afternoon.
Thank you Mummy for my clothes,
There was coming and going along Broom Road in preparation for the Teddington and Hampton local Coronation celebrations, to take place on Broom Road recreational ground. More than 30 side stalls and displays were planned for 4 days of fun and frolics, extending to 10.30 pm each day, starting on Wednesday, 3rd June.
The organisation for this event had the use of just about every club, school, scouts, traders, advertisers, service and pre-service units in the area to contribute to this festival. In addition to Broom Road activities, other events, such as under- water attack on Teddington Weir by the Royal Marines Reserves was planned.
For Gladys, the real thing being planned was taking place in London. From mid-May to the crowning day, I was being instructed how to care for Andrew. All this was written down, especially feeding times and it was a great relief to find that he had taken to the bottle before the visit to see the Queen. Of course, I was aware that the whole trip could be a disaster, should Gladys not be able to catch the Queen's eye, or indeed not be able to see Her Majesty at all. Then there is always the chance of wet weather - we shall have to hope and pray hard. Those at home, with our 12-inch black and white TV screens would have no worries of this kind.
An event, which had taken place, and which had been overshadowed by the build-up to the Coronation was the conquering of Mount Everest by Hillary and Sherpa Tensing, on the 4th May.
On the eve of the big event, we were told on the wireless that London was bursting at the seams with visitors from overseas. It was estimated that 60,000 Australians and 40,000 Americans had arrived to see the regal Pomp and Circumstance. It was also announced that crowds were preparing to sleep out all night in order to get a good view. This was then followed by the weather forecast. Rain was expected, with occasional heavy showers. For the likes of you and I, we had heard enough to stay at home and watch the TV presentation in comfort. But then you are not Gladys. She said that she would not let the Queen down, no matter if it was snowing.
That night before going to bed was devoted to getting wet gear together and flask and food handy to take for snacks in a holdall. The final check was that I had all that I needed for Andrew, not forgetting nappies, which I had never changed.
Now all that had been prepared for this royal visit, including ordering the taxis for 8 am to catch the first available train to Waterloo, it was time to put the cat out before going to bed. I thought this would be a restless night for Gladys, but not a bit of it, for she talked herself to sleep by continually repeating, "I'm going to see the Queen."
It was an early rise the next morning, with Andrew receiving full attention, being cleaned up and clothes changed and then being given his bottle. I kept in the background while she collected all her essentials - wet gear, holdall with snacks, plus camera. With the arrival of the taxi, it was kisses for Andrew and one for me.
I was glad it was not me going to the fray, trying to find a viewing space when you knew crowds have been sleeping out nights to achieve this aspect. Somehow, I felt that Gladys would accept this as a challenge, having seen her being fearless with V1 flying bombs overhead. We shall now have to wait and hope the Queen does spot her.
Naturally, I spent the day at home, trying to get Andrew to see his mother on the TV whenever views of the masses of cheering flag-waving crowds were shown. The Queen had extended the original route to enable as many of her subjects to see this spectacular parade with her golden coach taking pride of place.
The Guards on horseback, with the plumes on their helmets set off their own display. This all added to the pomp of the procession. With troops and police lining the route, the spectators could be seen on the TV screen, craning their necks to catch a view of the Queen.
Those at home, with the magic of TV, were able not only to view the procession, but also the crowning ceremony in Westminster Abbey, this being the first time this had been seen on TV. Although the pictures were in black and white, this regal occasion still came across stunningly, the TV showing Her Majesty with her diamond studded crown on her head, seated on her throne, holding the orb in her left hand and the sceptre held vertically, with the right hand, resting on her knee. Surely we must have the best china to bring out on these royal occasions, to match any country in the world. God Save Our Queen and those that follow her. There were more than seventy nations represented among more than 7,000 who paid homage to Her Majesty in Westminster Abbey.
When Gladys arrived home, saying, "I've seen the Queen, I've seen the Queen", she went straight to the crib, where Andrew could not care less, for he was fast asleep. There was now a rush to 'phone her sisters that she had just seen the Queen. I'm not sure if they were royalists too.
Now for the next four days, we were to be treated to Teddington celebrations, where national advertisers put on historical tableaux and decorated vehicles. Besides the competitions aforementioned held at Broom Road recreation ground, barbecues and dancing were held most evenings.
It was good to get back to a normal routine after the excitement of the past few weeks' events. My injured leg muscle had prevented me playing further football for the rest of the playing season. However, I was not allowed to rest completely, for there was a small group in the office, including, of course, Gordon Newcombe, Alan Hagger and George Britton, who played golf at Richmond Park. I was told that this golf course was the only course in the whole of London open just for the public. I was instructed to take half a day's leave and join the golfing fraternity. All equipment could be hired at the clubhouse, so I was told. I felt capable of walking some distance, as my muscle was healing and this fresh exercise would replace my weekly football game.
Richmond Park was yet another park easily accessible from Teddington, being within walking distance on the other side of Teddington Lock. This park proved to be as attractive as the other royal parks, with deer roaming around and wooded areas.
My introduction into this new sport was very fleeting, covering very little ground. I was fully occupied learning to drive off with a spell of putting. I could appreciate people taking to this sport simply to be out in the fresh air amid green scenery. I would not class this to replace team games, to which I have become accustomed.
Somewhere in the park was the Royal Ballet School, perhaps I should have a go at ballet dancing. I did, in my very young days, attend a dancing school, where ballet was performed. I thought I would concentrate on my cricket this summer instead.
A third XI started this summer by the NPL cricket section, which I had taken part in and finished in the top three in the batting average. I had taken part again in the ARL cricket side in the Stanton Trophy competition, which we again won, in spite of losing our star players, who had moved to Portland AGE.
During the early months of Andrew's baby days my routine, on Saturday morning after doing a stint on the allotment, was to push Andrew in the pram around the recreation ground. Occasionally, I would see Tommy Steele on his own, kicking a football about. I used to join in with this neighbour.
I found I could nurse Andrew and have a giggle with him. How strange that Harry, who came from the same pod, should have spurned this sort of fun and affection.
Harry stayed longer than expected at Edith's and did not return until the end of August. This was due to Jenny, the pony on which he had many rides, Edith suggests we get a pony! If we did, it might not be the same as Jenny to him ... excuses, excuses!
At the start of the Technical College term, Twickenham, during September, I was to receive a pleasant surprise when the results of my three A2 examinations for the Higher National were made known. Not only had I passed all three subjects, but I had received a distinction in electrical engineering. This was the subject I feared most, and I can only assume I chose the right bankers.
While at the college, I met David Varcoe, who, like myself, had passed his subjects, so it was a case of joint congratulations. We went into a local pub to drink to each other's future success.
Gladys and I had been discussing Andrew's Christening and I had mentioned David's name for his Godfather. Having agreed to this, David, when asked, was only too happy to oblige. This was arranged to take place at St Alban's Church on a Sunday morning.
I was reminded by the footballers in the office that the NPL football fixtures were out and I was assumed to be playing in my usual position of right back. Again, I had to explain I am now a year older, making me 38, but this does not have much effect. I suppose one should feel pleased to know that one is wanted.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001