Posted by: thomlift | April 1, 2009

Starting Work

Young GeorgeTime came to look for jobs.  The school was a great help with this task, many boys went to a clog factory, others to a surgical instrument maker and I myself started at a company called Laystall Ltd who was looking for a full time tea boy.  The factory was not far from Measure Bros where my Dad worked.  Laystall manufactured crankshafts for many  engine makers.

One crankshaft was for the Rolls Royce engine fitted in the Spitfire which had a special extension for a supercharger.  Another was for Air Pumps Ltd for use in their compressors and also cast iron ones for Ford; these were for army vehicles.

When I was not carrying out my duties as Tea Boy I would watch the men working on the machines and my special treat was helping in the inspection department.  After nine months I asked for promotion from tea boy.  The foreman said if I could find another tea boy to take my place he would promote me.  There was a likely candidate a few doors away in Deverall Street and after working on him he finally decide to give it a go.  I had to train him but very soon he left and so did I.

My Mother said to me, “Why not try for a job at Aldous & Campbell Ltd where your grandfather worked”.   So at the age of 15,  off I went to see Mr Uden who had the job of recruitment and was also the only official salesman for the company.  He interviewed me through a small window in the door to the Buyers office where Reps would come to speak to the buyer to try and sell their goods.  Anyway, he took me on to start work in the stores with Mr Garlick Senior.

I found this very interesting and soon became very familiar with part numbers and the type of components. The work was mainly for the war effort; pedestals for depth charges on ships, special rudders for small navel vessels, the bearings for PLUTO – the under water pipe used in the “D” Day landings among others.

I soon became a registered apprentice Fitter & Turner which was back dated to the time I first started at the company, my Dad had to sign the apprentice papers.  Mum & Dad were so proud of me.

The works Manager was very good to me and moved me around in the work shop using different machines and also doing fitting or assembly work, in fact when two new lathes were bought by the company Eric Greene and I were the first to use them.

Soon after this the company enrolled us at the Borough Polytechnic for Engineering classes, attending one day a week and one evening, to study for a City & Guilds Certificate for Fitting and Turning at the Borough Polytechnic which took 3 years to complete  There was about 12 of us from the factory attending this course, but each year more and more boys dropped out or stayed away from College and had the time off. The subjects were very basic to get us up to what would probably be today a GCSE standard.

These included English and Maths which for me was very useful. I stayed on for another 2 years to obtain a Full Technological Certificate.  After this I was offered a job as an instructor in the college workshop in the evening teaching machine shop practice.  One day on my way home about mid-afternoon from the Borough Poly there was an almighty explosion and I saw shop windows flex in towards the shop and then come back out and break on to the pavement.  I saw all this whilst I was being blown off my feet.  The cause of this was a V2 rocket landing on a pub called the Virginia Plant not far from Aldous & Campbell in Great Dover.  Needless to say, the pub was completely demolished.

My next good fortune was that the company was short of draughtsman and the company decided to try using apprentices in the Drawing Office, no prizes for guessing who was the first to be given the opportunity, you’re right it was I.

It so happened that our Managing Director had given me a prize for my school attendance, which was a small set of drawing instruments.  I started at 8.30am on a Monday morning and reported to Mr Len Adlard who organised the office together with Mr Charlie Barret.  Len asked me if I had any drawing instruments and I replied yes.

“Show me”, he said.

“Ah”, said I, “I didn’t bring them because I did not think I would be drawing so soon.”  However, quick as a flash, I said “I only live up the road and I could soon get them”.

“Good”, he said “Off you go.”

I ran like the wind and was soon back at the office.  I had a drawing board in between Len & Charlie.  My very first drawing was to trace on to linen a Guide Shoe Part No 19 WS 27 that Charlie has designed.  Charlie spent most of his time designing new equipment, which he discussed with Mr John Halliday the Chief Engineer.  Len did most of the contract drawings for the lifts and wrote all the letters.  He reported to Mr L Meering, a company Director who was also in charge of Sales.  I spent my time working for both Charlie and Len, but as more work came in for new lifts, I was working almost full time for Len.  It would seem that I had set a standard for other apprentices to join me in the Drawing Office. During this time Geof Meering, son of Mr L Meering Director of the Company, started work as a draughtsman with us. He went on to become a salesman for the Company and he and I became good friends.

My Dad worked at Measure Brothers for 34 years and was retired or sacked by them with no pension or payment.  Money was a problem and so I made enquiries at A & C for a job for him, he started as a Labourer lifting and carrying the raw material that came in to the factory from lorries. This was sometimes very heavy work, Dad didn’t complain but shortly Dad was relieved of this task.   The Works Manager Frank Foster together with a foreman Eric Clarke, who was a friend of mine, who incidentally stored his bike in our front garden, decided to put Dad on a bench painting components.  I would often see Dad with all the items he had painted stacked up on his bench with him nowhere to be seen.  He was having a great time.

After the war was over, my Brother John was repatriated and arrived at the house in Deverall Street while I was out , when I arrived home from work and was standing in the kitchen,  John asked Mum who I was , remember I was 10 years old when he left and now I am 16 , he was in shock when he was told this is your brother.

All the time my brother was away he had been in contact with Dot his girlfriend and she had waited for him throughout the whole of the war and during this time she came and visited  us quite frequently and soon after him arriving home they got married with him still wearing his uniform. They had two children Lynda and Shirley and were now living in Crawley East Sussex.  Lynda now lives near Vancouver BC with husband Alan.  Shirley lives in Crawley, East Sussex.  Sadly their mother Dot died at a young age.

Ted remarried and had further children with whom I lost contact.

My second eldest sister was Louis.  She married a man called John Ferguson who was a machinist at a local wood yard also in Deverall Street.  They married and moved out of the London area into Dagenham, which was like a new town built by the LCC (London County Council), they had two children John and David.

My girl friend Kath also came with me to Dagenham for a ride out on our bikes, we had a lot of fun on our bikes going to all manner of places including a place called Runnymede.  My brother John, who worked for Claude Butler a famous bicycle maker, there he made a ladies bike for Kath which was constructed with Renolds 531 tubing and consequently was very light, we carried on cycling on our individual bikes until one day I decided that waiting at the top of the hill for Kath which was not on, so I bought a tandem.  This made life more bearable and fun.

On one of my solo trips to Dagenham, cycling along Whitechapel Road,  the air-raid warning sounded and soon after I heard the familiar sound of a German V1 rocket, otherwise known as a doodlebug because of its distinctive buzzing sound.  It was coming along the road behind me so I pedaled as fast as I could and turned left at the next road junction to get out of its path.  Soon after the engine stopped and then there was an explosion, needless to say I survived.


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