Working Lives

The post office engineer – and the horses (1940s-2016)

Location: Norwich

Although most of Dick’s life was as a Post Office engineer, his first job was as ‘ho gee’ boy on the farm.

My first job was before I’d left school. I started work when I was 11 year old on the farm as a ‘ho gee’ boy.

In those days [late 1940s] agriculture was labour intensive and very much driven by horse power and during harvest time I had to lead the horses which were pulling the trailer on which the men loaded the sheaves of wheat, mostly, barley, sometimes, to cart to the threshing machines to either convert it into grain or if it wasn’t to be threshed, to do a stack.

So I was the boy who led the horse from the sheaves to the stooks which were where they collected all the stooks into one spot to be picked up. And it was ‘ho gee’ to remind the men on the cart that I was going to move and they’d better not fall off because they had pitchforks in their hand laying out the actual sheaves on the cart. It was great, I mean, I can’t express my love for the old carthorse.

Can I give you an example? After I’d done a year of it, the second year when I was twelvish, in the first year the team man, the man in charge of the horses, he had to put all the saddle up the horses, all the trimmings on, the halter, the collar and all the rest of it. And we then went to the farm at seven o’clock in the morning, went to the horse in the field, brought it back and everything was done by the teamster. Second year, yes we picked the horses up but when we came away from the field at the end of the day’s work, all the farm hands, they either walked to the field or came on a bike to the field and they just disappeared so we had to take the horse back to the stables. Well for a twelve year old, maybe thirteen year old boy with these wonderful massive horses [Suffolks], we had to take all the saddle and the traces and everything off. And, of course, the biggest problem was the collar because you had to reverse the collar round to actually get it off the horse’s head. Well can you imagine health and safety today; you just had to do it. Well the great thing was, this horse put his head down – wonderful – I find it still quite emotional – put his head down so I could get this collar round and get it off. And then, of course, I had to go and hang it on a hook at the back of the stable. When I came out, the horse had disappeared – panic struck – the horse just went out of the stable yard, went to a pit where there was water to drink and I came chasing up after it wondering what the devil to do? He just looked at me, trotted down to the field, the meadow where he was going to stay overnight, I opened the gate and… Wonderful! It’s a magical spot and I’ve had this love affair with the old carthorse ever since.

But then, of course, gradually the little Massey Ferguson took over the role of the horses and I moved on. I was on the drums if they were threshing with the chaff sack – a dreadful, messy job all day standing in this – the chaff came out of the drum to be put into a sack and the dust and muck – there was no safety – I just had a handkerchief and something over my eyes just to try and prevent clogging up of my nose and eyes with dust. And then, a little bit wonderful for a boy, I could drive a tractor and driving on the road in the country was no problem because not many police about in those days.

Starting as an engineer

And I came to the fifth year of my time at Hamond’s Grammar School and I had no interest whatsoever in what I was going to do. I wanted to be a footballer, cricketer: football and cricket dominated my life. I had no interest in lessons. And we came to the School Certificate and I managed to pass maths, chemistry, physics, geography, history and French, oral and written – how the devil I managed that I don’t know because I had no interest in any of them. But I did and I had no idea what I wanted to do. But Major Besley who was the headmaster took a very keen interest in ensuring that his pupils who were leaving school were actually put in the right place. So I was recommended that I should become an engineer and join Post Office Telephones. Now the only interest I had in telephones was when I was a boy with a catapult shooting the insulators on the poles. So an application was forwarded to Norwich. I got a reply to say that because we were in what was then termed in the Cambridge area, to apply to Cambridge. I applied to Cambridge; they wrote back and said ‘Sorry the apprenticeships are full and to re-apply for Norwich’. I re-applied: ‘Yes, come up for an interview’. And Mum took me up to Norwich for the interview. I passed the interview and started on my career as an engineer.

I left home on September 27th 1953.  Came to Norwich and went into digs straight away. So, much later, two years later, when I came to join – at her Majesty’s invitation – join the forces then it was no hardship to me: I’d been accustomed to being away from home. So that began a two year apprenticeship with Post Office Telephones.

We didn’t get off to a very good start: the area training officer at the time really had no grip on anything. I spent the first nine months in the stores ‑ not much engineering going on there ‑  we were putting telephones here or bits of cable here and doing nothing which taught me anything. And then we had a spell cleaning telephones and dials which was slight engineering but within a day you could do it with your eyes shut. Then, after complaints to the Union, they put us into a slightly more technical job which was customer-based which was going round fitting telephones, modifying cabling in the houses and all. It was great because I went with an old chap called Ronnie Lincoln and he was just like Charlie Chaplin except he didn’t have the cane. But he was great because he let me do all the work. And it was a very happy nine months and then, of course, it began to stir all up again. And we were getting nowhere: we were approaching within six months of finishing our apprenticeships. And we had to be moved so I went into Norwich telephone exchange.

Well that was a real eye-opener because the day I joined we went into Norwich telephone exchange as a, what shall I say, a ‘starter’ and the electro-mechanical equipment – it was like going into a factory with massive machines banging away all the while. And I can remember when I walked round ‘What on earth have I come into?’ I really couldn’t focus on the noise, the equipment and all the cabling.

I was sixteen. It’s strange really because I got a grip to it and about eighteen/ nineteen years later I was the engineer in charge of that telephone exchange equipment.

Anyway, we were in Norwich exchange but I didn’t do too much there. It was a day when communications was dominated by telephonists so I spent a lot of time on the telephonists’ floor on the switch room as they called it. And it was just mending plugs; trying the avoid the attention of the young girls because they were forever… there was something in the order of two hundred working in Norwich telephone exchange in those days connecting the calls; mending keys that they used to switch the connection on and off and all that sort of thing. It was not a great technical job but it was something that you had to go through because the technology was such in those days that you couldn’t really do anything… all the trunk calls had to be connected by operators; local calls you could automatically dial. But some of the exchanges ‑ for example, the one on Unthank Road at Eaton was still manually operated ‑ so every call that came into Eaton had to be manually connected. Norwich main exchange of course was beyond that. That was round about 1959.

Bletchley for Post Office training

In the course of the two years I had to go to Bletchley regional training school, first of all in November 1953 for a very basic month’s training course. We were taught – if you could call the word ‘taught’ the right description – we learnt about jointing, we learnt about telephone poles, we learnt about cabling – mostly it was external work.

When we got there, there was this beautiful mansion with the lake and it was a teachers’ training college next to the lake. And there was the accommodation – was two to a room in, I would call them ‘billets’ for want of a better word. And of course some of the huts were somewhat dilapidated where we did our lessons in. But that was a little bit of an eye-opener. I thought I was basically on a clapped out army camp.

Then towards the end of our apprenticeship we had to go down for two months much more technological training: switching equipment, relays, transmission equipment, that sort of thing. It fascinated me – I wanted to know what went on there. And after I came out of the forces, I was down on one or two courses again, I ventured to ask one of the tutors, ‘What went on here?’ And I was told at the time that because of the link to Bletchley railway station coming up from London – you walked about three-quarters of a mile from the station to get to the Bletchley Park – and we were told that this was used as a hospital during the Second World War because of the amount of cloud cover which meant that German reconnaissance aircraft couldn’t see it too well. Well that subsequently turned out to be an absolute joke because when Wing Commander Winterbottom released, I think ‘Ultra Goes to War’ or something like that in the ‘70s, the whole thing collapsed around. But it was a fascinating interest at the time but nowhere near the truth, I mean, talk about being misled.

When I first joined the Post Office, 41 to 45 St Giles Street, Norwich, the first two days were – well you needed a good solicitor because you were signing for anything and everything, one of which was the Official Secrets’ Act which in those days was really sensitive because of the technology that was and the communications and the link to the Ministry of Defence, etcetera which I was involved with for many years afterward but we had to sign that. There was the widows and orphans pension and you could go on and on and on. As I said, you need the services of good solicitor to know what you were signing for but you just did it: ‘Sign here!’ de-de-de.

Bletchley had passed its sell-by date in those days for the purpose that it was put to. When I look back, I think, some of the huts we went in – Hut Six maybe – where all the work went on – where was Turing? I still find it slightly magical that we were privileged to actually be there because I have an interest in cryptology, if that’s the right word?

I hadn’t suspected all that had happened there. You have to remember at the time that it was not just for engineers: it was a training centre for Post Office engineers, clerical staff – that’s postal clerical staff and telegraphists – telephonists, as I said earlier, somewhere in the order of two hundred in Norwich telephone exchange and of course, us apprentices. So it was a multi-purpose training school.

1950s telephones

The interesting things for me during the apprenticeship was towards the end we did occasionally get out and technology from those day. We went to Costessey Exchange which was a switchboard in a lady’s front room. Also in Wroxham. And a telephonist there during the day and the ‘lady’ actually kept the system going at night. What a change.

The power source to drive everything was called Leclanché cells which were in the customer’s premises, not at the switchboard end but in the customers’ premises –inevitably they needed to be checked every so often, re-charged and so on.

When I look back over these years, it’s unbelievable how quickly we’ve advanced. At the end of my two years I was promoted to what’s called a ‘Technician 2A’ and that’s from a ‘Technician in training’ to a Technician 2A and I moved up to the privileged amount of money of seven pound a week.

We are now in 1955 – earning seven pounds a week. But it was wonderful – I could buy a book and the first book I bought was General Montgomery’s memoirs. Remember, when I first came to Norwich if I went home weekends, after I paid my digs I had five shillings a week in my pocket. But it cost five shillings and threepence for a return ticket to go home so I didn’t go home.

Football – but National Service instead

But then – I don’t know how it came about – but I was asked would I join Norwich City Football Club as an amateur. And, ‘Yes, I’ll give it a go’ and I signed on – amateur forms – and we played at the time at the start of what was called Norwich B. There was Norwich B, Norwich A, Norwich Reserves, Norwich First Team. And we played our home games at Boundary Park which was now B&Q which was a football pitch inside the dog racing track. And we got tea money and that was two half crowns: five shillings a week. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Two years up; seven pound a week: everything was swimming. And then Dad rang me up, ‘I got a letter here for you, boy. It’s in a buff envelope.’ ‘Yes, I know what it is. It’s my invitation by Her Majesty to join her forces.’ In November 1955 – Royal Air Force – did my two years which I could talk about in very great detail because if I remember anything in my life, it’s those two years. They really were the making of me because I was a – nobody would believe it in later years – but I was still a totally innocent. ‘Doff your cap, young man’ – because that’s the way we were brought up on the farm. Nobody was going to tread on me after that. So I look back at the most important period of my life: the two year’s National Service and it was my university. That’s how important it was to me.

Kitted out at Cardington; moved up to Royal Air Force, West Kirby and some ungodly hour – near about midnight we de-bussed at the camp, went into the hangar and all lined up in threes after a bit of a shambles as you can imagine. And this little, tubby Pilot Officer fellow came up; stepped forward: ‘Any professional footballers?’ Well by then, I’d signed part-time professional terms for Norwich City. I stepped forward and a lad named Jackie Swindells who played for Blackburn Rovers. ‘Where are your boots?’ ‘Well, we sent them home, sir.’ ‘You send home for them immediately: you’re playing for the station on Wednesday in Liverpool.’ It caught up with me in the end because I got so far behind with drill, I got the biggest rocket I have ever had in my life. Our drill instructor was a little, ginger-haired Scots lad and I couldn’t do the funeral drill and he really tore me off a strip because I should have asked the boys in the billet to actually show me how to do it but I didn’t dare tell him that it was no good asking them because they didn’t know either. After basic training I had an awful time because I had a tooth removed and it was a real introduction to life in the raw, dentist-wise. We all lined up, having seen graphic films of unsociable diseases and dentistry – the dentistry was the worse one for me – there was all pus coming out of your mouth and whatnot – awful. It was meant to shock you and it did. But we all lined up; went in; got a jab; ‘Go and sit down there’ and eventually pulled into the chair and he, the dentist broke the tooth. And it ended up with me in the chair; hands underneath the arms of the chair; the medical orderly pressing down on my shoulders and him trying to lever this… And of course you don’t go sick. And that afternoon we had a twenty-mile reliability – an initiative march – over the Wirral in a blizzard. And it really hit me – I was fit up to that point.

We then moved on to Royal Air Force Locking which was a radio/radar training school and I spent a very happy five months down there. Training on intercontinental radio transmitters which were plum postings because they were Nairobi, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon or Sri Lanka as it is now, Australia and if you were desperately unlucky, Christmas Island, where as you know they were testing the atomic bomb. I thought well if I don’t get abroad, I might as well… so I volunteered to go to Nairobi, Hong Kong or Norfolk. Well I thought if you can’t get abroad, you might as well be at home but I got to Royal Air Force Henlow between Hitchen and Bedford where I never saw another intercontinental radio transmitter. My pal, Taffy Hurn, got Christmas Island. But I went to Henlow, 18 months, didn’t do much at all – the only meaningful work I did was wiring up air traffic control consoles but most of the time was spent playing football and avoiding the – well, I’m trying to think of a polite way of saying it – avoiding the RAF police. But I did some work on the side because in the evenings in the summer we went pea picking and you got five shillings for picking a sack of peas so that supplemented your income. Then they asked for people to volunteer to go potato picking because with so many people away from the farms we, in fact, were asked would we help the local farmers. The farmer had to pay the Royal Air Force for our services so we had to pick 12 sacks of potatoes before we could earn a shilling a sack. It was no hardship to me: I’d been accustomed to labouring when I was a boy being brought up on the farm. Several of them dropped out fairly quickly. We were given a couple bottles of beer at lunchtime which was okay but it was getting a bit chilly in October time and a couple of – well, you could hardly call them baguettes but that was rolls with some, goodness knows what inside them. Then what we used to do or what I used to do and a couple of me mates, we used to take enough potatoes home, back to the billet when we had the evening meal about five o’clock, nick some butter, go down the pub, put the potatoes on the old tortoiseshell stove in the billet – when we came back that was our supper: baked potatoes. I mean, it got us out of the section that we were working in.

And then of course, time came, my two years was up, when I came back to Norwich, back into digs with a – I was very fortunate – I was sharing digs with a family whose son, Donny Foxhall, I was friendly with as an apprentice and they looked after me wonderfully well. So I came back and for the first two years I was terribly unsettled. After being in the Forces, I found it difficult to resettle.

Just a couple of more things about my time at Henlow. One of the radio programmes that we were very keen on listening to was the Goon Show so what we used to do is – there was a tannoy in the billet so we used to disconnect the tannoy and connect the radio to it so that we could lie on our beds in comfort and listen to the Goon Show for half an hour. Everybody loved it; it was mad but so were we at times.

Food – well, my favourite: corned beef fritters and at lunchtime or at the evening meal – teatime, I suppose you would call it – the orderly officer used to come round, ‘Any complaints?’ Well nobody normally would dare stand up for fear of the wrath of the Senior NCOs. One bright so-and-so, ‘We never get chips, Sir’ – we had chips for the next six months.

Another thing that springs to mind is – well two things – the state of our billets was getting a little bit dodgy to put it mildly and our squadron leader, at wireless engineering squadron, decided he would inspect the billets. Well, opposite our billets were the Number Five Central Band of the Royal Air Force and I don’t know who did it but some of the lads managed to get some red carpet from somewhere and between the billets were pavements and they’d laid the carpet on the pavement with the entrance to our billets with the red carpet. And Squadron Leader Jilkes came along; the sergeants were doing their nut ordering us to shift the red carpet, ‘You’re not doing that!’ Squadron Leader came round, just walked up and down the billets, called us all together, ‘Well done lads. Nice to see you’ve still got a sense of humour’ and off he went. Now that was a man who you could accept as an officer in charge. And then we were allowed to go to the pub.

Our billets were Nissen huts. And tortoiseshell stove, one each end of the hut, red hot come eleven o’clock at night; freezing in the winter when you woke up.

Work started in 1957

Anyway, back to work which started December 1957. So, what I suggest, if I briefly run through my working life because I was multi-tasked over a period of thirty-seven years, I suppose, excluding the two years’ National Service, I was employed by Post Office Telephones and then British Telecom for thirty-seven years.

When I returned to Norwich for a time I was on customer apparatus fitting which meant because there were no vans available and I couldn’t drive anyway, I had a trade bike with telephones in the tray at the front and cable and work kit in a bag. And it was heading towards the summer so it kept me fit riding up and down: I’d be at Eaton one day in the morning and then I’d be up Kett’s Hill in the afternoon. But it was a huge experience because it got me to understand customers, you know, you began to see the real customers at the sharp end: some were delightful, some were bloody awkward, to put it mildly. But most of them, you could say, were ordinary people who were happy to have you come in, do the job and then disappear.

Then we went on loan to Ipswich where we were working at Royal Air Force Bentwaters: re-cabling, re-fitting. And it was another eye-opener because it was full of American airmen: huge, coloured airmen: the Giles cartoons’ officers with a bloody great cigar out of the mouth. We were there – one day they shut the whole station down to have a major exercise. We got all the floor boards up in the control room and we were just left to go and sit outside in the sun for about four days while they got on with the exercise. You wouldn’t believe it but that happened.

And then, of course, we had to go to Oxford – I was two months at Oxford on loan – because it was a time when the car manufacturing was really getting off the ground at Oxford and they couldn’t get engineers to save their life. So we were shipped off down there.

That over, I was then put on exchange construction and that was cabling in the exchange, fitting equipment and also customer premises still – we had to go down to Lowestoft Exchange because Lowestoft Exchange – we’re looking probably round about 1960/61 – Lowestoft was still a manually operated telephone exchange – it was being converted to automatic and we had to do the cabling in the exchange and we had to do customers’ premises: we were changing telephones, converting telephones if they were some of the old candlestick-type telephones – so they were changed. It was an interesting time.

Then it was back to Eaton exchange where we did the same again. And I came… the boss at the time was Mr Des Lamming and whether we caught his eye or not, I don’t know but we got on well – went all around this area here and after that he went to Norwich telephone exchange in St Andrews. And before I knew where I was, I was working in there on construction: cabling again, putting racks in – racks of equipment – and so on and so forth, on the test desk where engineers checked on faults coming in – tested the line and everything – we had to adjust equipment for that. And then it was at the time when everything was being changed to subscriber trunk dialling [STD] which meant to say you’re doing away with the operators, you could dial automatically to most of England and then, eventually, all of England, Scotland and so forth. Interesting piece there in the sense that there was an automatic… there was an introductory call… the setting up the STD for Norwich and we had to provide a private wire from telephone house [41-45 St Giles Street, Norwich] up to Edinburgh – I think it’s the “Provost” in Edinburgh or something like that – because we didn’t dare ask the Lord Mayor to dial it up in case it failed. So we’d set everything up and the Lord Mayor made the call and then as soon as he dialled it up we switched on to the private wire there – I mean, it was safeguarding but it would have happened – we would have got through anyway. It was fairly secure communications in those days.

Then, that over, I was moved by Des Lamming on to maintenance: he asked would I come and I said ‘Yes, I’ll give it a go.’ Various courses again: London, West India Dock Road – promoted to Technical Officer. Then I went to Norwich North Exchange in charge which is the one on Mile Cross Lane – I don’t know whether you’ve seen it – it’s nearly opposite the garage. So I was in charge of that for nearly six years. Saw the technology change: we had basically the old Strowger system followed by Crossbar TXK1 which was a French system that the Government was forced to buy for whatever reason in those days – there must have been some terms of agreement over trade somewhere that we had that.

Then, I was getting nowhere – I was comfortable up there: married, couple of kids, just moving too, moved to Spixworth and then my life changed, simply because of one man, Roger Mason. He came into the exchange and said ‘Go on, look what I’ve got. I’ve got my certificates’ which meant that with those qualifications he could be recommended for management. He’d have to pass interview and all the rest of it but he was eligible for management. And I went home and I thought, ‘He could be my bloody boss. He don’t know what he’s doing.’ And so I took a year out, not from work but in the evenings and that I spent a long time studying and I got all the relevant… ‘cause there was no way he was going to be my boss especially when he was ringing me up about three days later from Wroxham to actually find out how the exchange worked. And so I got the necessary certificates and then I went back into Norwich telephone exchange. After about a year on the very technical “register translators”, they were called which was a switching devices for being on the network for… across the nation network.

The Norwich telephone exchange, and jobs around Norfolk

I qualified; went to an area training board – quite a testing interview because they wanted to know everything – not just about technology but your attitude towards management; what you thought was important commercially and so on and so forth. And I passed the board which meant to say I was… had everything required to be what was then called an Assistant Executive Engineer. Well, within about eighteen months, my boss had moved on and I took his job in charge of Norwich telephone exchange where I spent seven years. It was fascinating but boring because there was no hands-on equipment; most of it was staffing problems; the worst of all was car-parking but the one interesting thing was we then started to get international trunk dialling. So, I was in charge of the maintenance of the exchange during the conversion to international trunk dialling but that coincided – once that come in, the operators virtually disappeared.

rayner telephone exchange

I was there for seven years and I thought, well, again I need more experience. So I went out to Dereham where I suddenly discovered there were customers. You know, you’d be sitting in the office at Dereham exchange and, of course, I had the surrounding area with the poles – never been up a pole in my life – in thirty-nine years – never been in a cable chamber except once at Norwich North when I went to see what was happening with a jointing problem and that caused half the exchange to collapse – so you couldn’t say my apprenticeship was particularly full, could you – not having been up a pole? So I was there – you’d be sitting in your office – knock on the door – ‘Who the devil’s that?’ I think there was a Mrs Edrich, the cricket family came up – there was something wrong with her telephone. Well, there was agreement that if there was a pole on the farmer’s land … I don’t know what the agreement was but there was a certain liability for us on their behalf – we had to make sure she was well looked after. You just made sure that was done that day. You know, they controlled everything in that sense.

But I was there for two years and then I returned to Norwich North as the Assistant Executive Engineer but it was tied up with… I went on to business systems as well as Norwich North exchange. Well, business systems were the… changing technology was becoming apparent within the customers’ premises because we started to fit digital-type switchboards. So we came away from the operator plug and cord and all the rest of it into automatic controlling through the switchboard – not by electro-mechanical but by computer-type switching. In other words, you can sit there with your telephone, press a few buttons and it would all be done without the need of an operator in-between. And that was interesting – I learnt then that a customer… if you went, for example, I went down to Yarmouth Steel because of a problem there – the customer could be late for the appointment but the one thing you couldn’t be was you couldn’t be late for the simple reason that you were there because the customer had complained. I learnt an awful lot about people again, that way.

That went well – I set up an electronic repair centre within Norwich North exchange for the smaller-type equipment: the Herald electronic system. Then I started to set up a major one at Bessemer Road for the better grade equipment and had a nice team set up there: young men; keen.

Then I went a promotion board for Executive Engineer which I wasn’t fussed if I passed it or not. But again this was taken at Colchester in what was the regional centre of the day – East Anglia – and I passed that. It was a testing, believe you me, a testing, two hour interview so it didn’t come easy. I then, for a short period, became a temporary Executive Engineer on customer apparatus which was again nice to know customers, most of them who were ringing up were complaining – nothing changes.

Standards …

And from there, I went to Colchester for nearly a year where because we had to get the kite mark of BS5750 – if you were maintaining business systems, then you had to get the kite mark to be a repair organisation, as such. And that was the most difficult job I have ever had because from Southend – the area was Southend, part of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk – you had to convert people’s mind-set which was, ‘No, you don’t do it this way. This is the standard that you have to do; you have to conform.’ For example, if you take a card out of a digital system, then you need to have an organisation where that repair process is controlled – you don’t have to go to a customer’s premises where somebody has stocked up X number of cards, not knowing whether they are good, bad or indifferent – they had to go through a repair centre to be processed. People were setting up their own little organisations within the organisation – it had to be a central focus point where if a man wanted a card to replace a card, he went in and took it, in the full knowledge that that was a working card. Not all this shambolic bits and pieces all over the place – no control. But, we got there and it was interesting because bonus payments had come in, in those days. And I’d done all the work. My boss, the Area Engineer, as he was in the time, he got a handsome handout and I got £40. (Both laugh) I don’t regret it but, you know, I just…

And then I came back to Norwich to take over analogue and digital exchange maintenance and conversion of analogue to digital exchanges for Norfolk, part of the top of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and part of the top of Essex so I ended up with twelve operational engineers/managers and about two-hundred and fifty staff. And then of course by then, for many years now, BT had been liberalised; there was competition; there was downsizing because of the changing of technology from analogue to digital: less engineers required; remote engineering from anywhere in the UK, anywhere in the world and that was an uncomfortable time for me because I had to downsize and I had two and a half years of seeing off my team – because I always regarded all of this as a team-work. Some lads went; some of the elder ones, ‘I’ve had enough of this’ but young men, we, lost – the company- lost a lot of very good engineers who would have had a better future if they’d kept them and the company would have done better.

And then I escaped. I went to Colchester, handed in all my cards, you know, what you’d paid for if you were in a hotel, banker’s card, that sort of thing and any, well, dare I go back to the secrets’ act, bits and pieces. And by then, my office was in St Giles and saw my managers who were there, ‘give us a hand to get my personal equipment down into the car’; drove out of the car park and said ‘I start another life’. 31st July 1992.

A new life!

So, I’ve been retired, though I can’t call it retirement because I do work: I do what I want to do now. Wouldn’t be so good without a pension but I paid to that pension fund from the time I was sixteen, I paid six per cent of my money into a pension because we were… the wages in the early days were kept low because that was Civil Service, Post Office Telephones then paid eight or nine per cent of the money into the pension fund so that was all catered for. And when I’d done my apprenticeship, become a T2A, was thinking of getting married, a cleaner on one of the Norwich boot factory floors got more money than I did after two year’s apprenticeship and going to Tech – so I’ve got no qualms now about having my pension.

And I have an interest, as I said, in military history. I go to the Regimental Museum; help as I can; give the odd talk and keep myself occupied.

Dick Rayner
Dick Rayner

Dick Rayner talking to WISEArchive in Norwich on 26th January 2016

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