Inside Industry (2013)

Location : London, Norwich, Gamlingay

I’m talking toH. who is nearly 95. It is the 25
June 2013.

I think we will call this
‘Inside Industry’ as the title. I first started work in 1932 and I worked first
and foremost on a farm owned by my brother-in-law. I was soon fed up with this and
I took myself to London to see if the streets were paved with gold.

And were they?

I found they weren’t but
I found a job very quickly because I had one or two friends. And I settled in
Leytonstone whereby I had a job before the war, at 16, with Woods engineering

Early introduction to work study

So you started at 16?

Yup. And on the Finsbury
Park Road, Hackney. I was then introduced to, in those days, therbligs – that were
a measurement of work study.

So say that again what was
that word?

Therbligs, named after
Gilbreth, an American who instituted work study and ergonomics. This entailed
the use of a stopwatch that would record the momentum and the ability to do the
job in hand. You studied this person and you rated them from 80 to 120. Very seldom
would you use 120 because this would be exceptional. You usually used 80 per
cent work study.

So you actual timing them?

I was actually timing
them, yes. The point being you had various stages of work that you can break
down into sections and study them, and then add them all add up and find just
out how good the worker was. You would study the ergonomics that would enable
you to decide whether she was correctly seated or whether the work was placed
to her in a workable fashion. This continued till nineteen, September 6th 1939,
when I swore allegiance to His Majesty.

Then I went to war

So you went to war?

So I then went to
war. I was four and a half years in the service, three of them spent at sea
under the auspices of the navy, the Royal Navy, and served on warships mostly, I
think mostly flat tops we called them, which were aircraft carriers. I was sunk

You were sunk twice?

Yes ,once in the channel on August 8th
1940 at 1300 hours, the ship went down. And again in mid Atlantic on another
one of His Majesty ships. I was wounded and invalided from the service in April
1944, on pension. I still hold a 100 percent war pension.

Back to work study

After being invalided
out of the service, I then returned to the hardwall engineering company whereby
I was taught further work studies. And I was a member of the Institute of
Industrial Engineers. This meant that I was able to, in those days I could see everything,
I could measure the time it took to blink your eyes, to whether you picked up a
pen. You then studied the work place that everything was at the best possible
position and the operator was the best. I did many innovations that caused me
to have complete control of the workforce in the bonus that they could attain
if they attained the appropriate performance that was rated by me.

So you rated the performance if they hit the target they got a bonus?

If they reached 80
percent of the target they would get a bonus and 100 percent they would get a
higher bonus. This didn’t happen often, but occasionally you got a girl or workman.
I studied anything from a BSA multidrill machine that made mouthpieces for
trumpets to packing chocolates

So a very varied job.

So I worked 11 years at
one particular place

I instituted many alterations,
some that were obvious and some that were hidden and I changed the complete
circumference of the work study. In other words, if it took two minutes to put a
sweet in a box, I would say, “Sorry, it’s not good enough, you must attain one
minute. I will therefore make adjustments to your workplace so it’s easier.” I
would introduce engines, motors and various types of things that would make
things easier and therefore easier for the work study engineer to put in a rate
that would be attainable. So they could earn a bonus. So one had quite a bit of
responsibility, in one place I had 2000 employees working at benches and what
have you and they all came under me for their bonus and also for their work rate.
The last particular place I had 700 people. At the age of 60 having pursued this
career including production control, I was then approached by the Norwich … not
dole, office,


I was classified as
being at 19 – young – in 1945 I was on the disabled register at Lowestoft –
Norwich. And I had a letter from them saying that under a new rule by the
government, people of the age of 60 could retire on a blown-up pension. Instead
of it being 30 something, it was up to 40 something, but it meant at that time
I was working in Gamlingay, Cambridge for a print and packing station for
aircraft and various other things, I was responsible for. I had this letter saying
that I could retire at 60.

Were you actually living in Cambridge as well?

No I was travelling from
the other residence to Gamlingay every Monday morning early and coming home for
the weekend. Which my wife enjoyed. I answered that we were married for 63
years and I accept that, that’s not particular. So, I went to the managing director
and he said, yes he’d had a letter, and he was leaving it all up to me, he
didn’t want me to leave. I’d done quite a bit of work for him, but you had to
look at it logically as I didn’t have to travel at all. Bearing in mind that
this was 35 years ago. I could still see and after due consultation with her
that has to be obeyed, she agreed that I should retire at 60. Then funnily
enough ,after having hospital treatment for this, that and the other,
particularly on my spine and jaw piece and various … I suddenly increased,
whether it was because I had nothing much to do apart from gardening which I
was very interested in and growing flowers, I could see. I had a greenhouse, so
I was well employed.

So retirement was quite pleasant?

Early stages of
retirement were very, very pleasant.

Can we just go back to all these various engineering jobs, where were
they were they based all around Norwich?

No, one, the 11 year
was Norwich.

And after the 11 year one?


That was Gamlingay for the rest of the time?

No, London, I was with

A further three years
in London and we lived in London.

Then I got moved here,
back to Norwich. I worked in Norwich for two years and then the firm went to –
they closed this factory because they were at Romford, and I didn’t want to go
to Romford, so I went back to London.

Then the story starts
again with hospital treatment. I was in the car, I was driving, and suddenly I couldn’t
work the brakes, at those times polio was pretty around. I thought I’d got
polio, but luckily I pulled in and managed to put my hand-brake on and stop the
car. And then luckily for me an AA person came along, came up to me and said, “Are
you in trouble?” and I said, “Yes, I can’t move my legs.” And he took a little peek
in and he said, “Christ, you’re paralysed.” This frightened the life out of me!
He said, “somehow, where do you come from?” So I said … at that particular
time I was living in Stoke Holy Cross, and he called for another person, they
came and he said could they drive the car? And they got me out, loaded me in, brought
me home and sent me up to hospital; which started the trail to a fantastic surgeon,
who after two spinal operations, which he said were useless, the people didn’t
know what they were doing. But he would make me walk completely without pain. And
he said, “I want you in a special spinal jacket for six weeks”. I was in this
spinal jacket for six weeks, and I, I went in and he looked me over and said “Right
I want you on the table in the morning.” And he did this fantastic fusion, found
a bit if shrapnel still and I was off. I was on for year and then I had this.

Was this during your work time?

I was not at work ,then
I’d retired, but then, my eyes started to go hazy and peculiar and I went to my
doctor and he sent me up to the hospital and I saw a specialist and he said I’d
got cataracts. They need to come off, both eyes. So I had them off and about three
months later I suddenly realised I couldn’t see very well and I went, and they
said at the hospital I‘d got … macular degeneration in both eyes, and that hopefully
I wouldn’t go blind but possibly was that I would lose my sight. But at first
it was looking more like looking through a fog and gradually it’s worsened. In
the meantime I had open heart surgery at Papworth.

So you basically you are a walking miracle?

Basically, I am.

How work study helped workers’ experiences

Can you remember how much you were paid when you first started working?

How much I was paid? The
last job?

The first job?

The first I had was £250
a year.

A year?

Yup. The last job I was

So when you were 60?

I was middle management
so I was, consequently I made progress…

Did you make lot of friends at work or were you in a position
where friends were?

Let’s say I was

I can understand you being popular

Yes, I was quite
popular. Now and again one would come up against, particularly females, who
loved me or hated me. One occasion I remember the girl gave me a little whip,
saying this is what you want to drive your people. (Laughs) This happened. But not
often. Just occasionally, she couldn’t make the grade and earn the bonus that
most of her workmates.

So she felt a bit peeved.

She was a bit peeved,
yes, and consequently, with her foreman I had a strong, quiet chat with her said
if she felt she couldn’t make the rating, I would then and get her off that job
and get her on another job. She said she didn’t want to do that because she liked
working with the girls on the belt, and she could put up with them having a go at
her because she was holding up other sections of the line. And then the foreman
suggested that she went on just a packing job at the end of the line and she said
yes she’d do this and she was quite happy again because she could earn a little
more money. It all happened as yours truly had a very interesting insight into people.
I still think, rightly or wrongly, at my age my diction is good, I can converse
on most subjects and I worked in various stages and from chocolates to aircraft.

That’s a very wide
range. One had, was thankful that I had the first working life in engineering on
lathes and multispin drills and what have you, because it gave you a foresight into
what makes people tick. I could, very often I would say to my good lady, “It takes
you exactly so long to walk to the shop and back providing you do a 26-inch step.”

(Laughs). You must be very difficult to live with at home
then if you were timing her. How long did her take her do things in the kitchen?

No, I had three wonderful
daughters; I have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. And they
keep me going and, they look after me, and anyway, any more questions?


Do people still do what you do now?

As far as I’m aware,
no, the computer has taken over. In my younger days, the computers were not
there. In fact, I don’t know where, but I have a slide rule I used all through my
life, I never went on, never had a computer…. I had one or two adding machines.
I always use my old slide rule, that was accurate. I can read it and get the old
cursor going.

Just going back, to this young lady. Did you have lots of
occasions that that who didn’t like as they were being measured, because they
were being measured?

You could not say many,
occasionally, the unions would come in but I would always get my slide rule out
and 90 percent of the union representatives were as thick as two short planks
and they didn’t know one end of a slide rule from the other, so I could confuse
them which I did to my advantage, let’s be honest about it. (Laughs)

I must say, that
throughout my working life, until I retired I had a busy, pleasant interesting job.
I met a lot of the people, they knew a lot of people, and they knew me.

Which bit did you enjoy the most?

I don’t, I can’t
honestly say that I enjoyed any more than any other.

So there is nothing that sticks out as being that was the
best bit of working, or that was the worst bit.

I think so, I think …..
One of the most interesting things was, of course, before 1929 and I flew with Sir
Alan Cotton’s Circus, I don’t know if that’s relevant.

You flew with Sir Alan Cotton’s Flying Circus?

Sir Alan Cotton’s Flying

Did you really, was that as a job?

(Laughs) I was 11 years
old, so I wasn’t working, but I was a very proud boy as I was about the only
one who had flown.

Your family, what did your family think of moving house
and things like this?


they’re all coming to
celebrate my 95th – all 14 of them coming, all at once for my 95th.

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