SHIP & WEAPON TRIALS
1953 - 1961
There were a number of outposts that were manned by ARL personnel, both in Cornwall and in Scotland, scattered amongst the various loch sites. One such post was the Admiralty Hydro Ballistic Research Establishment (AHBRE) at Coulport and Glen Fruin. The latter was involved with a scaled-down version of water entry facilities, whilst at Coulport, there was a full scale version, albeit now obsolete.
It was required of me to visit Glen Fruin to collect information on their water tanks from a Mr J W Norman, officer in charge of this outpost. A few of the draughtsmen who had done this trip before regarded this as a 'jolly'. All my travelling arrangements were made for me, requiring me to journey overnight.
Leaving on the 11.30 pm Euston train, I was able to kip down in a first class carriage booked for me. This train was due in at Central Station, Glasgow at 6.40am. I had not been here before, so I was keen to see as much as I could. At this hour of the day, I realised this would not be a great deal, I was aware that the train passed over the Clyde when entering Glasgow city.
The ticket inspector, when checking my ticket and noting it was made out to Arracher, told me that I had to change stations. This meant catching the Fort William train at Queen Street station. We would be alerted before the train was due in at the station. This happened, enabling me to see some ships on the River Clyde, as we traversed the bridge.
I arrived on time, to find that the Central station was very much deserted, with only a handful of passengers alighting from our train. Thankfully, there was a ticket collector to instruct me to find Queen Street station. I found it quite eerie, making my way through a myriad of small streets and buildings at this hour of the morning. Not having been to Glasgow before, I had no landmarks to guide me, I do remember a road sign pointing to Sauchiehall Street. I was reminded by Gladys that this was the chief shopping centre, I think this was a hint to buy a souvenir from here.
On arriving at the station, a train with ancient carriages and an engine more used to shunting, I should think, was puffing up smoke. The guard, who was putting parcels on the train confirmed this was the Fort William train and would be starting soon. Again, only a handful of passengers were on this train, and I was glad to be on my way.
Being still dark, there was not much I could see of this Scottish city and it was not until reaching Dumbarton that the dawn started to break through, enabling me to see the Clyde Estuary. Now, on my right, a range of hills appeared, including Ben Bowie, according to my map, with Loch Lomond hidden on the other side. On my left, as the train approached and left Helensburg, we hugged the banks of Gare Loch.
By this time the sun had risen on my right from behind the hills, setting off the green scenery in contrast to still waters on my left. Suddenly, the train pulled up in the middle of nowhere, so I thought. In fact, the engine driver had stopped at a track leading to a farmstead, allowing the guard to leave a parcel in a raised box by this track. How civilised, for the rail service to provide a parcel delivery service to the farmers on this line. With the 'puff puff' of the engine, I knew we were about to be on our way again, according to my map it was now only about 10 miles to Arracher.
My instructions, on arriving at the Arracher Halt, were to walk on the road in the opposite direction to the Loch Lomond, until I reached the first white-washed semi-detached house, where bed and breakfast had been booked. This was the address of a security guard based at Glen Fruin.
Before I had reached this address, a lady was standing at the front door waiting for me. In broad Scottish dialect, she welcomed me and, having shown me my bedroom and bathroom, said my breakfast would be ready in 5 minutes. Needless to state that this subject, of food, was uppermost on my mind.
This kindly red-head middle-aged lady said transport would be arriving from the Research Establishment and that she was well-used to ARL people staying with her. My breakfast included two kippers, making me drink many cups of tea.
The purpose of my visit to Glen Fruin was to collect information on water entry tanks, and to gain as much knowledge as possible from the officer in charge, Mr JW Norman. I was to receive a complete history of AHBRE, which included the full-scale version at Coulport, separated from Glen Fruin by Gare Loch, with two ranges of hills, one on either side.
It came as a surprise to learn that in another section of ARL drawing office, a scheme was being developed to replace the full-scale version at Coulport. I was intrigued by this news and was determined to learn more about this project on my return.
There was a small kitchen at Glen Fruin, where I could obtain a snack before returning to my accommodation, having completed my brief. The night was spent playing chess with Harry, the security guard. During the game, I heard noises from next door, which seemed to get louder as the night progressed. Katie, the landlady, laughed and said they were having a wedding anniversary celebration. I asked to be excused for an early night's sleep, as I hoped to catch the first train back the following morning.
Having retired to bed, the neighbours' piano, suddenly accompanied loud voices singing their local songs, such as 'Road to the Isle'. This continued until they got tired of singing 'Auld Langsyne' a hundred times into the early hours of the morning. So this was peaceful Scotland, I was telling myself! Maybe I was just unlucky!
When I waited to be picked up after breakfast, I could not help but admire the peacefulness everywhere, with no visible movement apart from Angus cattle and birds. One can understand London city commuters, who it is reckoned, spend an average of an hour and a half travelling each way to work, suddenly calling it a day. Some of these have pulled their roots up and moved to the Scottish Isles, living in crofter's cottages and finding happiness.
On this trip, I felt I had learned quite a lot concerning my work, about ARL and more importantly, that even in Scotland, you have to check your neighbours before buying a house, more so, if it is a semi.
The first year of Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered not only for the magnificent Coronation, but also for the end of sugar rationing after 14 years. Sir Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, yet another reason for remembering the Queen's first year of her reign. Churchill was still to write outstanding literature in his mid-eighties, when he produced four volumes of 'A History of English Speaking People' during 1956 and 1958. As with most works, he used a team of historians, scholars and researchers, working all hours of the clock.
When I returned to the office, I thanked the manager's secretary, Miss Olive Bourgois, for the excellent arrangements for travelling and accommodation for my visit to Arracher. I did, however, request that before booking at the security guard's house, she enquire first if there are to be any celebrations next door.
Having discussed the outcome of my visit with my section leader, Fred Hickish, I called at Upper Lodge to report my mission to Mr Mills. He then referred to the need for equipment, which would be required during the acceptance test, following the completion of the water entry equipment now out to contract to the International Combustion Company. I took details of what he had in mind.
Whilst in G group main building, I was instructed by Mr Hickish to seek out Norman Hodson, who wanted to check that I could take part in trials at sea. This was a requirement of the project, that whoever did the design and drawing should be at the trials to attend to modifications, should they be necessary. I told Norman that I did not have any reason for not being available. I had never turned down a job, no matter how different from the type of work I had been used to. I have always said that if I was required to go to the North Pole, then I would go. That is, if it was in the course of duty and there was a 99% chance of returning, and that Gladys agreed, which I took selfishly for granted.
I was now attending Sunday morning services at St Alban's and sometimes took Harry to the Teddington Lock before returning for dinner. In the afternoon, the family generally watched Harry sail his model boat at Hampton Court model boating pond at the Hampton Wick end of the long water garden. From time to time, Harry was seen looking into the pram to see if Andrew was awake. Harry was now conversing more about his school, even though it might be considered telling tales out of school.
The headmaster, he said, got drunk every Friday afternoon and a male teacher bullied the children. He was still very rebellious about attending the church choir and as he did not seem to have made any friends, there seemed to be no benefit to be gained by him remaining in the choir. Gladys and I could not get used to high church practices, so it looked as though we would be soon to cease our membership. Hampton Wick St John Church, we were told, did not employ such high practising customs, such as the use of incense. Perhaps, with my allotment being local to this church, as well as the boys' school being close by, we would be better fulfilled by switching our attendance to St John's in the near future.
I had been back a week, when Fred Hickish came across to me and said, "Well, Alan, you have got yourself this trials job. This official signed order by the G group leader, means that as the trials start middle of January, you will have to get cracking. I hope you cleared this with Gladys."
"Thanks, Fred. I think you had better come round to my house and explain that I have been specially chosen, being the only member of your staff to do this job." I replied. He then left me, saying something about sorting your own domestic problems out. Now I wished I had mentioned this trial when first told of it. Instead of Fred telling how good I was at work and I had been honoured to be chosen for the forthcoming sea trials, it was now left to me to put this across. I think Gladys had got hardened to this business of my going away, and so long as I returned, all was well, without the fear of my being turned out of the house.
I still had George Britton working on the final stages of the water entry tank, and who would be available to work on the test pieces. A meeting soon followed with the scientific staff consisting of Norman Hodson, the leader and his assistant, Peter Boyle, to discuss requirements from the drawing office in support of the sea trials in mid-January.
The purpose of the trials was to establish air flow patterns for different wind speeds on the flight deck of the HMS Perseus, a light fleet carrier of 16,000 tons. The role of the drawing office would be to design and draw a pole mast, containing an array of anemometers, fitted with wind vanes. The mast was to be fixed on a swivel, clamped to a truck. The design of the swivel joint should permit rapid angular setting and removal from the truck, to enable the truck to be lowered into the hangar deck daily, via the ship's lift. All instrumentation would be the responsibility of Peter, who would be using standard anemometers and the truck to fit wind speed and direction dials.
Technically, this was a straightforward task, so long as the requirements did not change. Speed was what mattered here, in getting the drawings into the workshop with only around six weeks to go before the sailing date. Time also had to be allowed for the preliminary assembly to the truck and testing. Norman then added that the workshop would be releasing Stan Fields, an artificer, who sometimes deputised for the head of the workshop. I was pleased to learn this, for I had a good relationship with Stan, both on and off the shop floor.
Stan was an amusing character, who could take off Norman Wisdom, having both the facial appearance and build of the comic. To me, this was good management, to maintain the practice of bringing in the people who had been responsible for designing the equipment in order to take part in the trials, in case modifications had to be made on board ship.
Norman made us aware that from the time of sailing on the 18th January next year, we would be three weeks at sea. What we did not know, until we were aboard ship, was that the captain was required to seek out rough weather. This trip had been mainly commissioned for a helicopter trials team, who needed rough weather to ascertain the gale force state at which helicopters become inoperative at sea.
This trials team was embarked at Sydenham, Belfast, in the morning of Wednesday, 20th January, consisting of civilians and RAF service crew. Later that morning we, that is the ARL RAF teams, were assembled in the ship's cinema, to be addressed by the ship's captain. This cinema-cum-lecture room, having a screen and platform with tiered semi-circular seats, was a very impressive set-up.
The ship's captain, P C Carey, having welcomed us aboard, set out the sailing itinerary, which included a short stay at Bangor, after a few days at sea, which would then be followed by the main trials. He gave us the names of the liaison officers, who would schedule the trials time for each following day. It was made clear that our trials would have to be fitted in during the silent hours - in the main, not working on the flight deck until after evening dinner in the mess. He finally closed his address, stating looking for rough weather was not a hobby of his.
After we left this cinema, on our way back to our quarters, Stan said to me, "I don't go much on this rough weather business. Norman never made it known to me when this trip was first mentioned. I thought I was coming on a free cruise. What about only working at night? I expected to be spending my time drinking duty free drinks in the wardroom each evening."
I replied, "Seems to me, you got your sums wrong." He then commented,
"I think I shall stay ashore when we anchor off Bangor and go across in the liberty boat."
I gave a grin, and said, "You can't do that, there will be no one to undo those three bolts each time the truck pulls down into the hangar deck."
"That will be alright", he immediately responded, "I'll teach you to use a spanner."
We settled into a routine, having assistance from the ship's crew in securing the truck to the flight deck. The weather was mild, the sea was calm, which was not what the flight team wanted, it seems they needed a link with the weather controller. We were able to stroll on the flight deck without our coats on.
Arriving off Bangor, where the ship anchored, we took advantage of shore leave. I did not like the rope ladder descent into the liberty boat. Whilst the four of us were ashore at Bangor, there was a sudden change in the weather, which turned into a storm. It was too rough for the liberty boat to take us back to the ship and we finally finished up at a railway tavern for the night. We ordered a meal in the restaurant, where to our surprise, a hen party was gathering. Shades of Arracher were beginning to form.
When we had eaten, we retired into the bar, where we met members of Perseus' crew, who had also booked in for the night. They informed us that we should be by the quayside at Bangor by 10 am to catch the liberty boat. This had not happened to them before, and this was due to having civilians on board. If so, what else might happen?
We thanked them for their thoughts, when loud voices from the restaurant were heard singing songs such as 'Knees Up Mother Brown.' This was the cue for the company of sailors to disappear into the restaurant, where, from the continuing noise, a good time was had by all. Thankfully, there was a throwing out time before midnight at the tavern.
Arriving at the quayside, to my dismay, we could see this rope ladder we would now have to climb, because the liberty boat was now operating. I wished that I had not gone ashore. I am a coward at showing my fear of heights, so there was no alternative but to go with the others. The trouble here was that, not only was our boat being moved about by the rough waves, but the Perseus was now behaving like a tub, rocking from side to side.
Once on the rope ladder, there can be no turning back, because of those following. It was a case of mind over matter, holding tight to the rope with a foot at a time, feeling for the next rung and praying that the hand rail would come closer to get hold of. There was a rating to give assistance where necessary, that is if you made the deck.
Although the storm had abated, there was still a strong south-westerly blowing, making the sea rough. Once on board in our cabin, Stan let it be known that he suffered from sickness on a rough sea and was now feeling upset without the ship sailing. Stan became a sea-sickness casualty for most of the rest of the trials.
As I had designed the swivel clamp, I took over the adjusting and the removal of the mast from truck when lowering on the lift down to the hangar deck. This was the weather the flight trials team wanted, so it is the old adage, you can't please all the people all the time.
We had stormy weather some of the time, which was too severe for the helicopter to be operated, so the weather controller had been contacted and done his job. Our trials were slowed down by the strong winds, which were a major problem when securing the truck to the deck. Great care had to be taken when walking to and fro between the truck and gangway, lest you were lifted off your feet by the force of the wind, with sea spray, giving you a sudden dousing.
I had noticed, with our leader, that the later the hour, the more active he became. In fact, I never remember him sleeping - unlike the others in the team. No matter how late we had been working through the night on the flight deck, Norman would be seen reading a book in his bunk.
There was one occasion, when it could be said there was a mini-mutiny on the Perseus at 2 am. This happened after doing a late spell, and Norman was not happy with his readings and told Peter Boyle that we should have to return on deck to check them out. Peter protested and made known that in no way could he make us return. I kept quiet, and pretended that I was asleep. Thankfully I was not drawn into this revolt, for I had been taught to obey orders. Norman must have taken note of Peter's refusal, for he got his book our and started to read as usual.
During the whole of the trials we had very little contact with the other trials team, nor did we with the ship's crew. This, I think, was due to the everyone doing their own thing at different times of the 24 hour clock.
Having completed the scanning of the flight deck, prior to the ship returning for disembarkation, we were able to spend a couple of evenings mixing with the ship's officers in the wardroom. From Commander H Harrel, I learned that Perseus was launched by Mrs Attlee at the end of the last war, and was used in the Pacific as a repair ship. After being placed in reserve, she was used in 1950 to prove the slotted wallsteam catapult, which became adopted by all aircraft carriers. Her proudest moment came when she took her place in the Coronation fleet review.
Our Commander, when learning that we did not know where the expression 'Fanny Adams' came from, decided to improve our knowledge. The expression 'Fanny Adams' was first used in the Navy in 1867, when tinned mutton was supplied. The nickname came from a murdered girl of 9 years old, whose name was Fanny Adams. Her murderer, a Mr Frederick Baker, tried to conceal his crime by cutting her up into small pieces and compressing them, then mixed with mutton into tins supplied to the Navy. Before the messtraps were issued, ratings were obliged to eat out of the mutton tin, subsequently to be called 'Fanny'.
Whilst eating in the mess, I heard some unusual terms being used, and I was not sure I was hearing correctly. "Commander, could you tell me what was meant when an officer ordered 'two faced bastard'?" I asked. He smiled and replied, "Kippers, and if he ordered 'train crash' he wanted bacon and tomatoes." He came out with a whole list of naval food names, one of which is in common use today, being 'bangers' for sausages.
We arrived at Rosyth dockyard to disembark and unload the truck with its associated gear. Stan seemed more cheerful now that his feet were on terra firma and Peter and Norman acted as if there had been no mini-mutiny. I felt that life on the ocean wave was too dependent on the compatibility of the company you were with, to be for me, an appropriate choice of career.
As my career was truly launched as shore-based, I was only too happy to return to where I belonged. I knew my family would want to know if I saw any icebergs or whales as soon I stepped into the house.
Three weeks can seem an awfully long time, but Gladys had not found this a waste of time. She had seen a fur coat in a sale that fitted her. As I knew there would be no way out of this one, I said, "What have you seen for the children?" Gladys brought out a list of items of clothing, including a push chair. My free trip was now proving to be expensive. In truth, when Gladys says she has seen a bargain, you rest assured that she has been in every shop in the area before making her choice for the best buy.
I was to make the second year of our new Queen's reign a year to remember, for I had been accepted as an Associate Member of the Institute of Production Engineers. Although this was more befitting to my previous work, nevertheless it was accepted as a qualification to become a Chartered Engineer. Apart from having my records showing this qualification, I do not remember anything changing because of this.
Harry, now 10 years of age, was reading books such as 'RAF Officer Biggins on his War Exploits.' I took him to see Gladys' relatives in Wolverhampton, staying at Grandma Morris in Park Village.
Here is the letter he sent home-
We have visited Brenda and John and Jeavon's (our neighbours when living in Wolverhampton).
We were just in time for the steam train. When we did get on it, we took a long time to find a carriage. When we got on the underground train, I told Daddy which station we were at when we stopped.
Walkers gave me the looking glass, because they don't use it any more.
Granny is fine except for her shoulder and hand.
Love Harry xx
for ANDREW xx
Brenda was the youngest sister of Gladys'. Joan was the next youngest. Walkers were Gladys' parents. It was pleasing for Gladys to receive this letter, knowing Harry seemed to appreciate what was going on around him.
Returning home, I was able to play regularly for the 3rd XI NPL cricket team each Saturday afternoon. It was the year I hit my highest score of 96, just failing to get the elusive century, which I am sure I could have done in this match. I remember distinctly that when I was in my 90's, three players from the first team match being played stood almost behind the bowler's arm. I was distracted momentarily, taking my eye off the ball, and that was the end of my innings. However, I did get a special mention in the cricket section of the Annual Report for this innings and for having the highest averages in batting.
There was still the second most hated war time restriction being retained, although the war had been over more than eight years. This was food rationing, covering such items as meat, bacon, butter, margarine and eggs. This rationing ceased in the middle of 1954, giving the Queen's subjects a reason to remember the second year of her reign. This year finally closed on my being confirmed as a leading draughtsman, making the grade permanent.
Early in 1955, I received news that I had been accepted by the Association of Chartered Engineers, although the Institution of Mechanical Engineers had reasons not to accept me. This was in spite of having all the necessary qualifications and exemptions. Seems to me that my sponsor, who was my engineering group leader, had not wanted one of his staff to be overqualified. However, if I had been accepted, I should have had two additional lots of annual subscriptions to pay, instead of one.
There were some yet unexplored well known gardens in the Teddington locality, for the family to visit. This Easter, we targeted Kew Gardens, using the bus service from Teddington and changing at Richmond to catch a bus to Kew. We had been told there was a pond with swans swimming around. With Andrew having a bag of bread crusts at the ready in his push chair, this was our first venue.
The swans we saw were afloat, but they soon made their way to Andrew, now at the water's edge waving his bait. Harry managed to grab some bread to attract his share of swans. Some family close to said that there were black swans around that had been given to Winston Churchill.
The centrepiece of this botanical garden is the palm house, a great glass greenhouse, and was the forerunner of Crystal Palace. It is about 360 feet long and over 60 feet high, with an underground passageway to the boiler house, nearly 500 feet away. Exotic plants of all kinds grow, as if they are in their natural environment, with palm trees reaching high above the rest of this hot house display.
We then wandered across spacious grounds, where children could play, as did Andrew and Harry with a ball. In the distance was a pagoda, which according to the brochure was 163 feet tall and had 80 dragons decorating the roofs and eaves before it became neglected, as did the whole of George IV Royal Gardens.
In 1840, the gardens were taken over by the nation and became known as the Royal Botanical Gardens. After our picnic, we returned via the various museums, where plants useful to man are displayed. As botanists have been bringing rare plants from all over the world here for many generations, it must be regarded as the Mecca for all botanists.
After my three weeks sea trip, I was still required to play for NPL Lower XI soccer team, and I was due to be 40 years of age later that year - they must have been short of players! There was no break, for immediately the soccer season was over, the cricket season started. There was no way I could let my team down, being last season's batsman with the highest batting average, was there?
The trouble was that, having played in the ARL inter-departmental bowls team, I was now being asked to play for the NPL bowls section. This I agreed to do on one occasion, this being on a Sunday afternoon.
It came as a surprise when having tea at the interval, the captains of each side stood up after the meal and gave a formal speech. Drinks with your opposite opponent followed after the match. It seems that each sport has its own protocol.
With cricket it is tea without speeches and taking drinks with the opposition as soon as you can after the match. With soccer and rugby, it is get washed and dressed as soon as you can and dive into the bar. The rugby home side, however, do first clap their opponents into the pavilion after the match.
At the end of the cricket season, I had again finished first in the team's batting averages and second in the bowling averages. At this rate, I should find myself in the second team again next year, which I did not want. When fielding on the outfield of the third team's ground, one is surrounded by trees and hedges on two sides of the playing field, for we were on the south extreme border. Occasionally, a rabbit would pop its head up or perhaps a squirrel may have been seen climbing a trunk of a tree. There was quietness all around with an occasional shout of 'How's that!' from the Teddington cricket-cum--hockey ground in Bushey Park.
I kept asking myself, 'is this for real?', with the many parks and river walks around, in addition to the sports field, reaching like a green carpet up to the entrance to our workplace. Having a wife, children and a home in the middle of all this, plus interesting work, I felt was too good to last. In the meantime, I thanked my Maker and tried to make the most of each day.
Well, ARL won the Stanton Cricket Trophy again for the third year running. We had a new draughtsman, Ernie McDonald, who had joined the team, which all helped to keep a good spirit in the office.
This was the third year of the Queen's reign and she was to have London a smokeless zone. Sadly, also, she was to lose her Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in my opinion the greatest Statesman and orator that Britain has ever had. He had a mild stroke in 1953 and was told by Moran, his doctor, 'to rest for the blood in his head to get round the back streets.' This is what doctors called collateral circulation. He would have none of it and continued to work at his usual pace, planning meetings with heads of governments. Later, however, he was to admit to RA Butler - "I feel like an aeroplane at the end of its flight, in the dark, with petrol running out, in search of a safe landing." He finally resigned as Prime Minister on the 5th April 1955. The following day, Anthony Eden was invited to the Palace and asked to form a government.
As soon as the cricket playing season was over, I was reminded that I should be required for the NPL soccer team, surely the soccer team could not be that short of suitable players? The likes of Alan Hagger said they were, so I had very little say in the matter.
Perhaps this was because I was allergic to shopping on a Saturday afternoon. My knee joints became weak as jelly as soon as I entered a shop, but I need not explain this phenomena, it was discussed years ago. Frankly, I think that Gladys assumed that age would be on her side in this matter and that I would just be left out of the team, as indeed, I thought.
Harry, returning to Hampton Wick Endowed School, was made aware that the 11-plus examination would take place next year, if not sooner, and that he should give of his best.
I had now become involved with the mystique of hydrofoil mode sailing. The hydrodynamic group had undertaken the investigation into why a Canadian hydrofoil vessel, the 'Brior Dore' behaved in a drunken fashion. Those who have seen or sailed on this type of boat will know that the higher the speed it travels, the higher the hull lifts out of the water. This action reduces drag and allows the hydrofoil to travel more efficiently. Should the V-shaped foils fitted on either side of the hull have different lifting capabilities, the vessel will become unstable and cause lurching from side to side.
Derek Hilbourne, a scientist from the group, produced an official drawing order, signed by his leader, which Fred Hickish handed to me in the usual way with a smile, and said, "Now get on with it." I struck a very good relation with Derek, which could have resulted in further work of this kind to follow.
Here we are, dealing with aerofoil shapes, for the hydrofoil this would be similar to the cross-section of an aeroplane wing. For propeller blades manufacture, our follow-up project, the cross-section again would be aerofoil, but on an angle of twist. For the latter job, when it was completed and tested, the propeller assembly was a total failure, there being no thrust recorded when the blades were rotated.
Derek stood by my board and revealed that the information for this propeller unit was immediately required for the Admiralty Gunnery Establishment new torpedo programme at Portland. Derek then said, "I shall have to use my divining rod to come up with a fresh set of co-ordinates. Will you prepare a fresh set of drawings, leaving out the blade profile co-ordinates and replace them with those I get from my divining rod?" This I did, and later had a meeting with Stan Fields in the workshop to see how quickly they could get the blades made. This was one of the specialisations that ARL had developed in producing a master blade in a matter of days, from which the rest could be produced on a hydraulic copying machine.
ARL excelled in team work between staff at all levels, be they scientists, draughtsmen or from the workshop. He used the right divining rod for the tests made on the second version, they were satisfactory. There have been a number of cases where the scientific staff have revised information on the spot, using, in some cases, calculus to arrive at their new data. I am now firmly convinced we all have different levels and different shades of grey matter. I was always good at maths at school, but had the greatest of difficulty to use calculus at Technical College.
This was probably the last time I received work from Fred Hickish before he retired. We heard that he was busy helping his neighbours to do their painting and decorating. He was even decorating a neighbour's cafe, and being of small stature, over-strained himself reaching to the ceiling. He suffered a heart attack, and soon died. I was very sad to learn of his death, but was not surprised that he had given his life for others. We were all the poorer for the loss of his presence.
When Harry sat his 11-plus entrance examination for the Thames Valley County School, Twickenham, he had a temperature. Not surprisingly, out of this contest, he failed to make the grade for acceptance. I wrote to the Education Authorities, explaining Harry's state of health. He resat the 11-plus and passed. With his interest in reading, I felt that he should benefit from a Grammar School education.
After attending this school for three months, I had contact with the school, as Harry spent most of his time in his bedroom. I learned that his oral work was below standard, which was regarded as an important quality to acquire. This came as a surprise, as his last school report gave him 8 out of 10 for reading. I felt that this was Harry's diffidence coming through, when in relatively new company.
When Harry was asked to write his memories in his 20+ years, he wrote the following: "There was a lot of ill feeling against me in the school from the headmaster down to the boys, they thought I was not bright enough to go the Grammar School. When I got there, they kept me down in every subject, tortured and tormented me." He also writes that Mr Osterberg, his sports master was very pleased with his rugby performance and that he showed promise in athletics. His strong legs enabled him to avoid many tackles, due to the fast spurts he displayed.
Harry also gained a swimming certificate for a 25 yards distance swim. We hoped that his sport would build his confidence up in his classwork. Of course, we did not realise what was in his head at that time, and now after his writing disclosure, he can be identified as having symptoms of paranoia. However, he did give a clue to this, when early at this school he said all the teachers were looking at him at morning assembly.
ARL cricket team had again won the Stanton NPL Trophy. We had a new draughtsman, Ernie McDonald, in the team, which helped to keep a good spirit in the office, especially when we won our matches. This was the fourth season in succession we had won this prize. I too, had repeated a previous performance by being top of the batting averages and second in the bowling for the third XI team NPL.
During the year, the drawing office had been transferred to the vacant offices, following the move of AGE draughtsmen to Portland Bill, where their new establishment had been sited. Our open office over the bulk stores, gave no privacy to the head of the draughtsmen. With the new arrangements, both the head and the three sections would have their separate offices. In addition we would be closer to all the main activities, workshop, measuring room, gear shop and chemical laboratory. This last unit, headed by Dr Soole, had a direct involvement with the atomic bomb trials, the first to be held by Britain at Monte Bello Island off NW Australia.
The civil servant subjects, me being one, of our Queen in the third year of her reign, will remember this year for the reduction of their working week of five and a half days down to five days. No more Saturday morning working, well not at the workplace, but no doubt somewhere else, such as the allotment.
It was now the football season again, and believe it or not, I was still needed for the NPL football team, and I should be 41 years old soon. I cannot think that they were short of football talent!
With my promotion to Acting Senior Draughtsman, I was assigned to Fred Hickish's section during April 1957. This section provided the main design and drawing support to G group, which worked on hydrodynamic studies. There were a number of interesting persons in my section.
Tony Johnson, a leading draughtsman, was very sure of himself and very industrious. He like to have two jobs on the go at the same time. If he could not get the right arrangement on the job he would be drawing, he would switch to his other task. I was told he preferred three jobs, thinking out the third one when he cycled to and fro from work to home, which he did twice a day.
Gordon Newcombe had already been mentioned for his sporting prowess, was also a good designer. I used to say that between us we could design a battleship. Put that down to my pride and ignorance. Both Tony and Gordon became great friends, as did our families. These two, together with Stan Fields and myself, formed a small group whenever there was an occasion in the famous room 201. This was where promotion and retirement parties took place, bringing together staff from the whole of the establishment to share these occasions, usually with drink and refreshments. These celebrations, usually in the presence of the director, took place at 4.30 pm on Friday afternoons. Should speeches become too long, a hubbub would be heard to remind the speaker that it was time to start on the next phase of the event. It has been known that it was unwise to cycle home after the liquid refreshments had been taken, to which, no doubt, Tony could testify. It was this sort of event, that produced the high morale of the establishment and why those that worked there claimed there was no place like ARL.
There was also another interesting character in my section, he was an Austrian Jew, who was rounded up during the Nazis' occupation of Austria, in 1938. He obtained his release through some influential person and escaped to join his wife, who was already in Britain.
His name was Steven Sternfeld and revealed that our secret service had helped his escape, having given shelter to their agents in Austria. I kind of adopted him, as he had no relatives in this country. He would always call me 'Alern'. He had mastered the English language, by selecting a number of words written down and kept in his pocket each day to remember. He could now tackle crossword puzzles. An expression he came out with was "We British", he being a naturalised British subject, and made sure everyone around could hear him. Later, when he retired, I was able to help him and his wife, Anne, find a residence in Hove. Gladys and I visited them many times and Anne, being a cat lover, persuaded us to take back a kitten from the lost cats' home at Hove. This we did. He escaped within minutes of taking him out of his cat basket. It became an embarrassment when Anne asked how Sammy was getting on each time she 'phoned. Eventually, we had to tell a white lie and said he had been killed by a car when crossing the road.
Although Steven claimed he had no relatives in this country, one turned up at his funeral, which I attended at Brighton. It is not unknown for distant relatives to suddenly appear before an estate is to be claimed by the nearest relative.
Most of my section had passed their driving test by the time I had considered becoming a motorist. Gordon promised to teach me to drive, provided first that I bought a car. This I did. It was an 8HP Ford Popular saloon, coloured black. I was grateful to Gordon, who travelled five miles each way to give me practice around Bushey Park. It did not help me when he claimed he had never had a failure out of the dozen or so he had taught.
Like most others who take this test, one is all keyed up with self-pride playing its part in not wanting to fail. My driving examiner, a man with greyish hair and a harassed look, gave me orders to drive through the main streets of Teddington and then to a side road. Here I was asked to do a three-point turn and to reverse, which I felt quite happy about. After being asked questions on traffic signs, I was then required to return to base. I was feeling cock-a-hoop with my effort and became careless on my return. The examiner then referred to my failure to look in the mirror on the last stretch and said I was lucky to be allowed through. This brought previous memories of just getting through on my belly.
I am grateful, for at the end of the day, this kind of pass equals any other kind of pass in obtaining that certificate. So now I could drive a car on my own, and not just look at it in front of the house waiting for Gordon.
One of my chief objectives was to take the family to the Kensington museums, such as the Natural History, where one could see a dinosaur skeleton. I was also hoping to attend the Sunday night concerts at the Albert Hall, nearby the museums, that is, when I had the confidence to drive in London traffic.
Andrew would be going to school the following year. He was bright and cheerful and never without a smile. He too, did not have many school friends - there seemed to be a real dearth of children in this locality. No doubt this would change once he commences school.
There was also a dearth of footballers at NPL sports club for I was still playing for them and I was now 42 years of age, this, surely cannot go on for much longer!
During May this year, being the 4th year of the Queen's reign, her motorist subjects were very pleased to have petrol rationing removed, which had been imposed in December the previous year. Also in May, the first British H-bomb was exploded in the Central Pacific near Christmas Island, where ARL had an input.
Now that I had a car and was qualified to drive, it was possible to take the family to places we had not seen on Sunday afternoons. One of these was Gatwick Airport, where the boys got excited standing on the viewing balcony whenever a plane took off or landed.
Gladys had not had a break for some while, and it was decided to take the car to some seaside resort. We chose New Brighton because it sounded nice. I found that, on checking my route, there was no way that I could sensibly avoid travelling some distance on the notorious A5 Holyhead Road. Looking back, I was an idiot to attempt this trip, for I was still a relatively inexperienced driver and I believed that the acceleration pedal was to put your foot down hard on.
When the time came to leave, we had this small car fully loaded, with the four of us plus the luggage. Travelling via Oxford, we ultimately reached the A5 road. I had travelled some distance on this road, gaining confidence, and was actually passing cars, when I came up to the rear of a lorry. After several attempts to check that I was safe to pass, I finally made the decision to go. Almost immediately the road dipped quite a depth and as it was nearly catching up to the lorry cabin, I found I could not pass the lorry. Due to gravity, the lorry was also accelerating and now another vehicle had reached the bottom of the dip and was coming up to the incline towards us. I suppose both the lorry and myself were travelling at sixty miles an hour plus at this moment. As the approaching vehicle's distance got shorter, I was contemplating going off the road. Quite frankly, I did not know what to do. Suddenly, a space appeared, to allow me to get in front of the lorry, and it was as if a guardian angel had got hold of my steering wheel and guided me through the gap that the lorry driver, by pulling up, had miraculously provided. A car driver, coming down and facing the incident on the opposite side of the dip, put out his fist to me as he passed.
Of course, I realised I put all our lives at risk and had to stop at the first convenient place to recover. I thought I would get a blast from the wife and the boys, but no, I was left to rebuke myself, as I have many times since. I am now a believer in angels coming to my rescue and watching over me, as I was to experience again before this holiday was through. Should this lorry driver ever read these memories, I want you to know that I thank you for looking in the mirror and slowing down to allow us to pass, for there is no doubt you saved at least four lives.
During the holiday at New Brighton, we played with a beach ball on the sands. There were a number of danger notices prohibiting swimming in this spot, due to strong currents running parallel to the shore and into a mass of barbed wire, acting as a sand barrier. On this particular occasion, the beach ball got blown into the sea and I paddled in after it. I had my swimming suit on and sandals. I continued to follow, when I found that I was out of my depth and was being swept away by this current. At this moment, there was a yell coming from the beach, "Come in, come in." I knew I was in danger at that moment, and turned round, swimming as fast as I could. Each time I tried to put my foot down on the sea bed, I got swept along. I did eventually make contact with the ground and was then able to walk out of the sea. I learned from this man who shouted to me, that he was a local resident and spends a lot of his time laying on the sand bank at this spot. He told me there had been several drownings where I had entered the water.
Again, that angel was keeping watch over me, so I thanked both of them. Needless to state, we found another spot where we could swim, this time in safety. There are some occasions that you can never forget. I had two which have served to remind me 'that there for the grace of God go I.'
I had been approached by the staff side to take on the Whitley secretary post now vacant. I said I wanted to know more about it, before I made a decision. Apart from very occasional meetings, comprising both staff and official side representatives, the work involved organising retirement presentations. I discussed this with Gladys and the reply was, "Never a show without Punch."
So, yes, I did take on this extra-mural task, bringing me into direct contact with the director, Bill Borrows. I found him a most-likeable man, fairly tall, who wore dark-rimmed glasses, his hair side-parted, but above all he had a whimsical smile. Now being captain of the ARL cricket team, at the first opportunity I had with him I invited him to come along to the first match and have his photograph taken with the team, particularly as his establishment were almost permanent holders of the Stanton Trophy. This paid dividends for he came to each match, whenever he was free to do so, and bought drinks all round for the team.
After a while, it became routine organising the presentation occasions. It was a matter of ensuring that the director would be free to make the presentation and that the retiring person would be present, and not go sick to get out of the expense of paying for the usual drinks and refreshments at the end. There was also a need to obtain the individual's background to a) brief the director and b) prepare a notice for the collection. It was usual for the director to have a private session with the individual, prior to the formal presentation event.
The NPL Stanton Cricket Trophy had again been won by ARL, for the sixth year in succession and this time, in the presence of our director. I had not been able to repeat my previous year's performance in coming top of my NPL cricket team batting averages, I had dropped to second position. This lowering of my cricket performance did not alter the demand for me to play another football season. I should be 43 years of age before the year was out, I did not think they would be satisfied that they had had the full use of me until they carried me off the field.
In the fifth year of the Queen's reign, the Commonwealth Day had replaced Empire Day, signalling a return of all the Colonies to their own people, unless they wished otherwise. It was noticed that most who adopted their independence chose to join the Commonwealth. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II gave added strength as Head of the Commonwealth, in having no allegiance to any political party.
Harry was not at all settled in school. After watching Harry play in his rugby team at school, his new sports master, who was refereeing the match came across to me when the game was over. He wanted me to talk to Harry, because the boys were taking the mickey out of him for behaving unusually. This, again, worried me for if I drew his attention to this matter, I felt it would only increase his sensitivity with regard to other people. I was hoping his sports would build his confidence up.
I decided on the way home in the car after the match to talk about his school generally, so I asked him, "How are you getting on at Thames Valley this year?"
"They are all looking down on me," replied Harry.
"Who are 'they'?" I asked.
"They are the masters at assembly in the mornings, and the boys are all brighter than me." Murmured Harry.
I responded, "Harry you are good at art and English and I know that not all boys are brighter than you in these subjects at least. Keep your head and do not take notice what others may think." Again, the problem was that he took too much notice of the derogatory things he thought others were saying or thinking about him. This is a symptom of an inferiority complex and would require me to address this problem to the headmaster in the future if there were no signs of overcoming this complex.
Andrew had been to Hampton Wick Endowed Infants School for several months and appeared quite happy, much to his parents' relief and hope that things would stay that way. With both boys out to school and having school dinners, Gladys had more time to do the shops in Kingston and have afternoon tea in the Tudor Restaurant at Bentalls in time to pick up Andrew after school. This Tudor room was very attractive, having mural scenes of the Tudor days around Hampton Court painted on restaurant walls. There was live music to help you spend your money by prolonging your meal or afternoon tea.
I was told customers came from as far afield as Hammersmith. Sadly, later Bentalls decided to replace this restaurant with a cafeteria, as their research had shown that three times the number of customers could be served over the counter in the same area as with waitress service. This information came from the controller of Bentalls responsible for engineering services, when later I joined their bridge section and played with all the top brass and Bentall himself.
It was some time before I regained confidence to drive the Ford Popular after our lucky escape last year. One of the short trips I took the family on, was to the concerts on Wednesday evening at the Military School of Music based at Whitton, close to Twickenham. Those concerts were geared to enabling their future would- be band conductors in the army to gain experience of conducting a full band in front of an audience. Those concerts were very popular from late spring to early autumn with coaches of people who had arrived from as far afield as the Midlands. It was an impressive sight, with the musical director and his invited guests seated in their roped off court on a high spot centrally in front of the band stand.
Each conductor, before he conducted his rehearsed musical piece would salute the director and give his version of the music about to be played. I think Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture was included in most concerts, giving an opportunity to set off fireworks, adding to the orchestration of the battle scene outside Moscow. Of course, this would be the highlight of the concerts for the boys.
We felt very lucky once again to have this attraction virtually on our doorstep, taking place in the grounds of the former famous sovereign painter, Sir Godfrey Kneller's house. When this estate was chosen there was no Heathrow Airport air traffic compared to modern times, flying to and fro along the flight path almost over Kneller Hall. It could be said they had continuous battle noise added to their facility at no charge.
These concerts had now whetted my appetite to sample the Albert Hall Sunday night popular symphony concerts. Kensington now became a challenge to visit in the car on a Sunday. After studying my road map, I set off via Richmond, Barnes, Hammersmith and thence to Kensington Gardens. As it was Sunday, the traffic was mainly car drivers out on an afternoon trip. Only at Hammersmith did I have difficulty in sorting out my route at the road junction immediately crossing Hammersmith Bridge.
Once in Kensington Park, the boys were able to sail their model boats on the round pond, while we walked through the sunken gardens. This is a trip we did many times on Sunday afternoons during the summer. Now there were further challenges in this area, such as the museums, but not least was the Albert Hall, which I kept glancing at when in the park. To me, it was the largest circular domed building that I had seen. Prince Albert's monument facing the Albert Hall was also the tallest I had seen. Not many modern husbands could claim their wives thought so much of them as to immortalise them, since the pyramids.
Although I made several visits to the Sunday night concerts at the Albert Hall, I most remember the impact this had when I attended my first concert. Having parked the car at the rear of the Hall, I followed what appeared to me to be a group of university students. Going round this large structure, they entered the main entrance at the front and booked tickets for the 'Gods'. I did likewise. Again, following them up the many flights of steps, I arrived at the top balcony where there were many more, to me, students, all in a chatty mood. It was standing room only, and the only place I could see the concert platform was at the side, where some equipment roped off was being attended to by a musician, I presumed, by the way he was dressed.
Looking out across the balcony, I felt the audience seemed lost in the vastness of this huge arena. In the 'Gods' where we were, with the shallow glass domed roof above our heads, I had the impression that we were in some kind of space- ship. I was interested in watching the musicians, dressed in white stiff collars and shirt fronts and dark suits, come onto the platform and start tuning their instruments to the sounds of piano notes.
The audience now cheered the leader of the orchestra, followed by the cheering of the conductor on his entry. After the National Anthem was played, the conductor brought in the solo pianist to a clapping audience. After lights had dimmed and all went quiet, I found that I could just see the pianist and conductor. It was as if a searchlight had picked these two out, and everywhere else had gone into oblivion. I was glued to the artistes in my view, watching the pianist sway to and fro in rhythm of the music he was playing, from Tchaikovsky's No 1 piano concerto. Every now and then, the soloist closed his eyes, and he too appeared to disappear into oblivion, only to reappear to catch the conductor's eye to let him know he was still with his orchestra.
This was an evening devoted to Tchaikovsky's music and I know whatever is played from his music, I shall enjoy it. We then had his No. 6 symphony, 'Pathetique' played to us. This is a piece of music, that it has become known for some musicians taking part to become overcome emotionally, according to Ernie King, an ex-Marine bandmaster and a great personal friend of mine.
The evening finished with the 1812 Overture. This time, instead of fireworks to add to the orchestration effects, electrical condensers were discharged alongside me, which made me think that we were being bombed, not only from the noise but from the vibration effects.
After the cheering and the lights being switched on, we were back to earth, now with the thought of driving home in the dark. This I did not enjoy, with headlights all around, particularly in Hammersmith's King Street, where taxis appeared from nowhere, only to do a pirouette in front of you and disappear in all directions. I had a very understanding wife in Gladys, who never complained about my leaving her, as long as I returned. She was not musical. Nor was I, as my father found, after trying to teach me to play the piano.
Once more, my services are required on the football field, even though I tell them that my hair is going grey. This, surely, has to be my last season at the age of 44. As it turned out, my career was soon to give me an opportunity to terminate my playing days, without having to be carried off the field - as was always a possibility.
The cricket report did not come to hand for the 1959 season, maybe this was because I had done so badly.
In the 6th year of our Good Queen Bess' reign, the first motorway, the M1, was opened for traffic between London and Yorkshire. My section of the drawing office had become involved with the design of struts and test models for the future 50 foot rotating beam channel to be finally installed at Upper Lodge. G group had supplied sketches of their requirements, to enable use of this facility, once it had been installed. I felt this was another challenge for our draughtsmen and was particularly pleased that this work came to my section.
At one of the Whitley meetings, the director made it known that the ARL should have its own museum to retain items of historical interest and of engineering expertise. Such items would include ship's models, used on assessing degaussing requirements for naval vessels. There were a number of war time ship's models scattered about with no final resting place. The staff members were asked if they would co-operate in this venture by identifying items suitable for the proposed museum.
A member of this committee, my engineering group leader, it turned out, was not in favour of the director's venture. At the next meeting, the director informed members of the Whitley committee that there were enough items for setting aside a Nissen hut for the ARL museum.
In my section, I undertook to design an exhibition unit comprising twin 4 feet desks, with a display board 5 feet in height, double-sided with the desks either side. This was designed and drawn and was manufactured by TC Components, who were the contractors for all ARL's wood projects. When this unit was made and brought into the drawing office for Whitley committee members to inspect, my group leader gave a close look at it as he walked past, leaving the drawing office.
Soon afterwards, I was sent for by the chief draughtsman and given a task for a different group from the one I did all the work for, ie, G group. I told him that this was not my area of work, as I worked specifically for G group and turned the job down. Shortly after leaving the office, I was sent for by my group leader. By this time, I realised that a) I had disobeyed an order from my immediate boss, b) that I had undertaken work in doing the museum display prototype without an authorised order.
Arriving in the group leader's office, he addressed me, saying, "Do I understand that you refused to carry out the chief draughtsman's order?"
"Well no, not exactly, I merely stated that it was not usual for me to work outside G group area. I am sorry to cause this offence." He kept his face stern and said, "I hope this will not happen again, now go to your chief and take on this work."
Having been reprimanded, I took stock of myself. Surely, I had not become too big for my shoes to realise that: a) there had been no formal statement that I should work wholly for G group; b) I had no authority to take on work without a works order and c) it was an offence to disobey my immediate senior's order. I rated my future promotion prospects as nil, probably the only thing that prevented me from getting the sack was the lengthy procedure involved with a staff dismissal, be it even temporary staff, at that time. This was mentioned to me by the ARL secretary, when I took on the Whitley secretary's job.
It was not long after this episode that I was asked if I was interested in being assigned to a work study group inspecting drawing offices within the Admiralty organisations. As the group leader was reading out the details from the letter in front of him, I thought this was a good opportunity to part company for both of us.
"Yes, I would welcome the challenge and experience to be gained by joining this team", I promptly replied.
"Well, if you do, as part of this work study team, you could of course have the task of putting the ARL drawing office right" he said, with a smile. In the letter, it stated that this would be a three-year secondment with six months' training. On leaving his office, I felt that this was my calling and hoped Gladys would not be too concerned about the travelling and being away from home again. If I were selected by HQ, my secondment would not take effect until early 1961.
On disclosing to Gladys what had taken place in the group leader's office, when I returned home, she went quiet. Now I felt a sense of guilt, it was of my choosing, knowing that Harry's unsociable behaviour was causing stress at home. I made it clear that I would give up my sport at the weekends even before secondment, should it take place. I realised there was a need to spend more time with the family.
On Easter Saturday, the national four-day canoe race was due to pass through Teddington Lock, with competitors on their way to Westminster Bridge, having started from Devizes. We decided to join the many spectators that turned out annually to watch the canoeists on the third day stage of the race.
We took our position up-stream of the lock, where we had a good view of competitors approaching from Kingston. Some were on their own, others in pairs, were having a personal race, all with their heads forward, dipping their oars rapidly in and out of the water. On reaching the lock, there was no waiting for the gates to open. It was a question of how quickly the canoe can be lifted out of the water, and carried downstream of the lock gates.
While the boys followed the canoes by passing the lock, we struck up a conversation with a spectator who was a member of the Twickenham Canoe Club. He said, "I wonder if your boys are very interested in joining my canoe club based at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham."
When Harry said he would like to build a two-seater canoe, so that Andrew could also paddle, I was delighted. This canoe interest kept Harry occupied for the ensuing months.
Occasionally, I took a day's leave from work to take Gladys, Steve Sternfeld and Anne to Southsea and Portsmouth in the car to a pub meal at the Still and West, overlooking the harbour. If the weather was suitable, we would sit on the stony beach, watching the Isle of Wight ferries sailing to and fro out of the harbour.
Often, Steve would open out and tell us about living in Vienna and that most parents had their children taught a musical instrument. He mentioned about the famous opera house and the sparkling occasions held there.
By mid-summer, Harry had completed the two-seater canoe. This had now become a main interest to both boys. It was tried out down-stream of Teddington Lock and later at other spots along the river near Sunbury.
I decided to take the family and the canoe to Southsea on a fine late Summer's day. We found a sandy spot at Eastney where we could picnic. The sea was calm and I felt it was quite safe for them to sail their canoe. While we were, at first, watching and beginning to relax, we started to walk along the sea edge in the direction of the canoe. It seemed like a matter of a few minutes, that we had taken our eyes off them, when we found that we could not see them, no matter which direction we looked. It was panic-stations for both of us, how did they disappear so quickly?
We went running up and down the beach in distress. I asked where the nearest coastguard station was. They were day-trippers I was asking, for no one could tell me. As I was leaving the beach, with Gladys crying, I tried to reassure her that they will be safe, and I was getting the coastguards to find them.
Somebody on the beach had spotted them, and yelled out, "There they are, there they are!" Gladys was really mad with me for bringing them. Now for a good telling-off by me, when they came out of the water. Inwardly, I was, of course, overjoyed that they were returning safely.
Apparently a paddle had dropped into the sea and was floating away. Harry then said, "I had to get out of the canoe and swim to recover the paddle, having failed to recover it with the one paddle. Dad, it was a real tricky job getting back into the canoe, each time I tried, the canoe started to capsize, with Andrew yelling at me. Eventually, Andrew used his body as a counter weight by leaning away on the opposite side of the canoe, to the side I was struggling to get on." That was the last of sea canoeing.
I was now having to take stock of my routine at the weekends. With not taking part in sport and my legs turning to jelly when entering shops, I was in a kind of limbo state. I also felt Gladys preferred her solo shopping trips, rather than having me dragging behind. So, when my club asked me to umpire friendly football matches, how could I refuse?
It was not until I picked up the whistle for the first time, that I realised refereeing was a completely different ball game. It seemed to me that if a good decision was made, there were eleven players arguing against it, make a bad decision and both teams, plus the spectators had a go at you. Surely the Wembley cup final referee must be the bravest man in the country. However, I was still wanted for refereeing further matches, and so my limbo state disappeared.
It should be mentioned that I had a handicap in so far as I was colour blind and most shirts looked the same, particularly after the players had been rolling around in a muddy pitch. Most matches taking place were league games, which were umpired by the London Association of Referees. I was encouraged to take their examination to obtain their badge, allowing me to take charge of league matches. I talked this over with Gladys and mentioned that after the work study assignment, I will need to keep busy in Saturday afternoons. She had an answer to that one. "What about your allotment?"
I replied, "Yes, you are quite right, but the weather in the winter prevents doing anything really useful." Having made that statement, it suddenly came to mind that I had to surrender my allotment by the river near Kingston Bridge and take one in its place opposite St John's Church, Hampton Wick. This allotment proved to be very beneficial, for I became friendly with a number of allotment holders, who were members of the parish church. This resulted in Andrew joining the choir after his next birthday in May.
During Autumn, I was sent for by my group leader, who informed me when I arrived in his office, "You have been chosen to join the Royal Navy Scientific Service, Director General Weapons productivity team. No date has been set for your secondment, but before this you will be required to complete a six months' training programme monitored by industrial consultants. You will be representing ARL on this team, I hope you will do well for both of us." I replied, "Thank you for releasing me for this assignment. It will of course, widen my experience which I hope will be of use to ARL on my return." He then stated, "I will send you a copy of this letter, setting out the team's objectives and the composition of the team. Your chief has been informed. I suggest you have a talk to him about the handing over of your section while you are away." I felt very much like a fish must feel when it is taken out of the water - what's going to happen?
My concern now was to ensure that Gladys could cope once I was away on my travels. The major blow was that Harry had been kept down in class when returning to Thames Valley School. This served to increase his inferiority complex and it was not surprising that he wanted to leave school. Again, we were hoping that his new canoeing interest would keep his spirits up at school.
This had been a fruitful 1960 year for our Queen's reign, having produced a son, Prince Andrew, giving a brother for Prince Charles and Princess Anne. This was the year our guardian angel was watching over the boys in their canoe out at sea, ensuring that Harry safely recovered his paddle from the sea without capsizing when getting out of, and then back into, the canoe.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001