I joined Rolls Royce straight from school aged 15, in 1948. On my first day I reported to the R.R. Employment office which was by No.2 gate, from there I was sent to the payroll department on the middle floor of No 6 Shop. The errand boy for the employment office (a lad called Harold Page) escorted me to the correct office. Incidentally this lad was also destined to become a member of the Tool room milling department, and thus became a lifelong pal of mine until a few years ago when he sadly passed away.
My duties in the payroll department were to take round the clocking-in cards and put them into their various racks around the factory, a task I first thought I would never be able to perform as quickly as those that had gone before me, but fortunately I soon got the hang of it. My other tasks included sorting and counting all the bonus cards, printing names and numbers onto new clocking-in cards, making up entries in the pension books (which were the size of a large church bible and weighed a ton), delivering the pay-cards to all the departments, and the first thing every Monday morning I had to go around those departments of the personnel, who's clocking cards were missing the Friday’s after-dinner clock-in time, and to ask if they had forgot to clock in after dinner or had they took ½ a shift off. All this as well as mash and take round the tea to all the desks. Needless to say I had no time whatsoever to reflect on whether or not I had chosen the right career. But then did I have a choice seeing that my Father, Brothers, Uncles & Cousins all worked for RR?
After my time in the payroll I started my engineering training at the ‘Tech’ on Normanton Road. Here we were taught the rudiments of engineering, fitting, grinding, turning, and heat treatment. Fitting training was started off by having to file a cube of metal, flat and square on three sides, a seemly impossible task, until we discovered it was a lot easier if one of your mates on surface grinding were to give you a start, it was then only a matter of roughing up the surfaces a little to pass with flying colours. We then advanced onto making inside and outside callipers out of sheet metal. When we went onto turning we made a tap wrench , and I also had the chance to make a small cannon barrel out of brass, This later was to be used to great effect in the tool room fitting department, let me explain, we would get some shot-gun cartridges and empty the gun powder out of them, ram the powder down the barrel, followed by a bit of old rag, and then a closely fitting ball bearing. After this we would clamp the loaded barrel in a vice, light the fuse and stand back, the projectile could piece the side of a metal cupboard at twenty paces. On reflection a very dangerous act not to be tried at home.
Upon finishing at Normanton Road I was transferred to No 1 shop onto ‘Boy's Milling’ (I don't know why they called it ‘Boy's Milling’ because most of the operatives were female). Three nights a week it was off to night school for further education, Maths, Physics and Engineering Drawing, with drawing board and T square under one’s arm, occasionally I and my mate Tony Sweating would skip a night. One morning following one such absence we spotted the assistant apprentice supervisor a chap called "Piggy" Davis, chatting to our Forman Mr Chambers, after which his charge-hand came to Tony and me and told us to report to Mr Arthur Lamb the Apprentice Supervisor. Well we thought we were in for the high jump for skipping off night school, this worry proved to be unfounded because he informed us that we had been selected for the tool room, and that this was a great honour because we were to join the cream of the workforce, who incidentally were on half a crown above the rate.
That first day we had to report to the superintendent Mr Len Heath who in turn sent us to Mr Bob Firth the milling Forman. He made it quite clear from the start that he was very annoyed, because he wanted lads over eighteen who could go on the dreaded night shift, but being only 16 we were too young. Anyway he passed us on to his charge hand Teddy Briggs who quickly showed us the ropes; he was a grand bloke and with the aid of his red pencil, soon explained the mysteries of where or not to leave metal on for carburisation. From our first humble beginnings on the two Archdale milling machines, Tony and I separated company to a large extent, because he went on to the shaping machines and I worked most other different types of milling machines from machining castings to the very difficult process of producing blade fixtures, which involved working out compound angles with the use of trigonometry. I was soon to get in with an other bunch of lads, Harold Page (who I have mentioned before), Roy Chambers (who's dad worked on turning), and Derek Haywood. It was in the company of these chaps that we all decided to join the London School of Dancing on Babington Lane and try and learn the art of ballroom dancing, and perhaps in the meantime get us closer to the fairer sex. Well after we had picked up the rudiments we went on to join the Bosworth School of Dancing situated in Friar gate, they were a little less strictly ballroom and more informal, instead of dancing along to Victor Sylvester records we danced along to the Pop Stars of the time, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Nat King Cole, The Platters to name just a few. It was at this venue that I met my wife Margaret, who I was to later marry whilst I was in the RAF, and we celebrated our Golden Wedding last December.
When most of the gang reached 21years old, National service beckoned and we were all to part company for the next two to three years. After our interviews with Lt Col. Lane (the chap that Rolls Royce had employed to advise and channel those about to start National Service, into the various armed services). I and Derek Haywood were designated for the RAF, we travelled by train down to Cardington together, but on arrival we were put in different huts. After we had completed further medicals and been kitted out in our smart uniforms etc, we were put on the train en route to our ‘square-bashing’ station a place called West Kirby near Liverpool. Somewhere along the way and after such a hectic few days I realised that I had not seen anything of Derek. It was only after I had finished my ‘square bashing’ and I was back in Derby on leave that I happened to bump into him in Derby; I said to him "Where the heck did you disappear to"? To which he replied "I was found unfit and discharged on the second medical, didn't I tell you"? I was ‘gob smacked’. From that day hence he was known to us all in the milling bay as didn’t I tell you?
After ‘square bashing’ I went on to do my trade training at Weeton near Blackpool and later passed out as a vehicle fitter, and was then posted to the RAF Police Depot at Netheravon in Wiltshire, and was later promoted to the dizzy heights of Senior Aircraftman. My Flight Sergeant thought I was the bee's knees because I worked at RR but I think he got rather confused between a toolmaker and a Millwright, because the first thing he asked me to do was to repair an old centre lathe that was inoperable and had not been used since the second world war. Anyway I said I would have a bash, and after a preliminary inspection decided that the problem was somewhere in the gear box. After I had strewn the floor with gears and bearings I found the problem to be a few missing cogs off the gears and a couple of bad bearings. (See attached photo) After ordering these items and waiting a couple of weeks for delivery, I put the whole thing back together and after crossed fingers and bated breath, I switched on and it ran like a Rolls Royce. From that day hence I could do no wrong in their eyes which meant loads of foreigners to produce but plenty of free 48 hour passes. One of the jobs they gave me to do was to make the foot brake pedals on their Standard Vanguards operate also from the passenger side, for use as driver training vehicles. This was achieved by a cranked lever fitted under the brake pedal and then transferred by a bar through a couple of bearing housing to another made-up pedal on the passenger side. These Fred Carno devises were all produced, just with the help of a lathe, off-hand grinder, drilling machine and with a lot of sweat and tears with a file.
Getting back to the tool room after what must seem to you as my life story. Yes your articles gave both me and my brother Maurice much enjoyment and many laughs, we all seem to have had a great time in the Tool room. Are you sure you cannot remember Maurice he is four years my junior, and started in the tool room in 1954 after also serving time in the sectioning department at Slack Lane, he was transferred to the tool room fitting department on the change section? I was speaking to him today and reminiscing on our days in the tool room, and he remembers the day when he had to climb that dreaded ladder up to the rafters. He well remembers the eye in the bottom of the chamber pot, and could even remember the words printed around the eye "WIPE ME OUT AND KEEP ME CLEAN, AND I'LL TELL NO ONE WHAT I'VE SEEN". Did you ever fall for these two following wheezes, during your early years in the Tool Room? A popular one was for two chaps to get a large funnel out of the stores and then carry out the following task; one would put the spout of funnel down his pants, and then place a coin on his forehead, then try to catch the coin in the funnel when he brought his head forward. They would then take it in turns until they had finally got some apprentice interested in their antics. They would then say to the lad “that it wasn't as easy as it looked”, and if he cared to try they would let him keep as many coins as he caught in the funnel. There was not many that did not take the bait and while they had their heads back, one of the jokers would pour a whole jug of water down the funnel. It was after one such occasion that one victim’s mother came to the superintendent’s office to complain that her little lad’s underwear was soaking wet on his arrival home. The other popular water trick was for six or more water filled milk bottles carefully place upside down on the self of a victim’s cupboard. This was achieved by first putting a piece of cardboard over the top of the water filled milk bottle, turning it upside down and then carefully but quickly removing the card when the bottle was in situ.
One trick that was popular in the milling bay, was to get a ‘ten bob note’ attach it to a piece of fishing line and place it in the centre aisle of the milling bay and then wait for the errand girls to walk down the bay. When they bent down the ten bob note was quickly yanked away much to the poor girl’s amazement, a variation of this trick was to cement a coin to the floor. Needless to say both these two tricks became very popular during the mini skirt era. As did what surely must have been a most illegal act, which was carried out by some of the more perverted members of the milling bay. This entailed attaching a small mirror to the toe of their boot and then stopping one of the girls for a chat, I don’t think I need go any further.
As Mary Hopkins would sing “Those were the days my friend we thought they’ve never end”
Here are a few more Tool room personal, maybe you will remember some:-
Reg the "Belt Man" (hung around the stores chain smoking, never touched the cigarette by hand after having once put it in his mouth, he spat it out when he had done and then lit another)
Charlie Crossley (Fitter)
Len Hicks (Turner was he the one who was rather mouthy)?
Ron Jurison (Turner or was it him)? He could be found leaning on the sinks in the toilet, picking his daily runners)
Ray Keetley (Bruno) Jig Borer in the Glass House, smoked a pipe
Sid Sharman (Ex Marine Commando) Milling
Herbert Blount (Onion Stabber, due to his one front tooth, or The Maggot Man, due to him keeping a fishing tackle shop) Milling
Albert Green (Milling)
Cyril Piggin (Large Chuck Centre Lathe)
Old man Grudgings (Large Chuck Centre Lathe)
Ron Grudgins (His Son, Glass House)
Johnny Bartram (Milling)
Harry Wicks (Milling)
Cyril Marriott (Milling)
Vernon Thompson (Milling)
Ted Boler (Milling) Bookies Runner
Martin Mulvey (Milling) Bookies Runner
Mick Mulvey his Dad (Milling) Bookies Runner
Billy Brunt (Milling)
Harold Fletcher (The Pope, due to his build and the way he sat on his chair) Milling
Ray Rowbottom (milling)
Nev Rose (milling) never seen with his cap off only once every year for the two minutes silence
George Harrison (Milling) Musician
Roy Grayburn (milling)
Joe Fawcett (Milling) could operate his machine without standing up, wore Pickwick collars on his shits and a waistcoat with a very shiny front, never seen the wash.
Harry Caldecott (Milling)
Ray Hampshire (Milling)
Jack Aitchinson (Grinding Forman)
Tommy Garner (Turner)
Tommy Harlow (Milling)
Cheers for now,