Having seen the report about Bryan Jenkins’ RAF career, Probus member, Geoff Twine reminisces about seeing the photograph of the Avro Lancaster at the main gate to RAF Scampton.
Many years before Bryan was involved in having the Lancaster re-positioned back into its place, there had been quite a panic, when, in 1958, Lincolnshire County Council needed to change the road layout around the east side of the airfield. It was due to the RAF station needing to lengthen the runway to accommodate the soon to be arriving Avro Vulcan bombers. This meant it was necessary to move from the gate, not only the war time plane used by 617 Squadron, who were still based at RAF Scampton, but also its neighbouring war time relic. This was none other than a Grand Slam bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb used towards the end of WW2.
Known affectionately as Ten Ton Tess it also had the semi-official name of the Earthquake bomb and also the bomb designed to miss its target. It weighed 22,000 lbs (10 tons) and was designed by Barnes Wallis the man who created the bouncing bomb used by 617 Squadron on the Dam Buster raids. With a tail fin to create spin the 25 feet bomb would be travelling at over 700 mph when it hit the earth. Having a pointed solid nose, it would penetrate deep into the ground and seconds later would detonate creating a similar effect to an earthquake which had greater damaging impact on buildings and adjacent constructions than any direct hit.
As a RAF armourer, Geoff still has his hand written records of his training on the Grand Slam bomb in the period 1949 – 1952 and clearly recalls what happened to this monster when it had to be moved for the road positioning scheme years later and what caused a major panic.
An 8 ton Coles Crane from RAF Scampton MT Section failed to lift what had been expected to be just a casing. Perhaps it had been filled by concrete which had been part of the training of ground crew responsible for loading the Grand Slam under a specially modified Avro Lancaster. Eventually it was proved to be still filled with high explosive although no records could be found as to why such a monster would have been exposed to the public for so long.
Some safety calculations were done to estimate the damage a Grand Slam detonated at ground level in the open would cause. Apart from the entire RAF station, most of the northern part of the city of Lincoln, including Lincoln Cathedral, which dates back to 1250, would have been flattened.
Using a much heavier civilian crane the Grand Slam was carefully placed on one of the RAF’s Queen Mary low loaders and taken under a police escort to Shoeburyness in Essex where it was detonated proving that the filling was very much alive.
From the age of 10 I had a passion for building scale model aircraft from kits. They were actually quite sturdy and realistic with propellers driven by wound up rubber bands. Later on, small jetex engines became available that provided the propulsion for scale model jet aircraft such as the F86 Sabre and Mig 15. These jetex engines ejected a plume of hot smoky gas, but did not provide much thrust, a bit disappointing, but fun, nevertheless. I hung these models from my bedroom ceiling and must have had at least a dozen at any one time.
My interest in aviation led naturally to me joining the air force section of our school Combined Cadet Force. I applied for a Flying Scholarship and after 30 hours on Tiger Moths I obtained my PPL when 17. The CCF brought me into much closer contact with the RAF at summer camps held at RAF Stations. I remember RAF Topcliffe (in Yorkshire) where I was thrilled when the pilot flew VERY low over the Yorkshire Dales in a Chipmunk. Who wouldn’t want to join the RAF after that? RAF Thorney Island (next to Hayling Island on the South coast) was another winner where we were rescued and winched by helicopter.
My father noticed an advert in the paper for scholarships into the Engineering Branch of the RAF. The conditions of the scholarship provided for some candidates to study engineering at university instead of spending the 3 years at The RAF Technical College at RAF Henlow. Furthermore, flying training was available to those who qualified, my aim was to do both of these as I already had a PPL. However, to be successful I had to endure 5 days of evaluation. This included thorough aircrew medicals and aptitude tests at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Hornchuch followed by 3 days at RAF Cranwell. I was passed suitable for officer aircrew, but the interviewers (all RAF pilots) could not understand why I wanted to be an engineering officer, they tried to change my mind (but failed). I always wanted to go to university, and I made this known at interviews – it worked.
Soon after, a letter arrived for my dad saying that the Air Force Board had approved my scholarship application subject to me obtaining four good “A” levels. This I achieved and I reported as ordered to RAF Henlow on 10th October 1958, my first day in the RAF. While at Henlow, those fit and able to fly were progressed on Chipmunks through aerobatics, instrument flying, night flying and formation flying.
The college staff selected Liverpool university for me starting in October 1959. Being a Pilot Officer in the RAF, I was administered by the University Air Squadron (UAS). The best part of being in the Air Squadron was flying from the airfield at RAF Woodvale just south of Southport. We could fly as often as we liked (although not at the expense of our academic studies). The staff were RAF Flying Instructors and the aircraft were Chipmunks just like the aircraft at Henlow. I was able to represent our squadron each year in the annual inter-UAS competitions in spot landing, formation flying and finally aerobatics.
After the happy days at Liverpool I was recalled to Henlow for 2 terms to prepare me for my first posting to RAF Waddington just south of Lincoln. This was very much into the deep end because it was the time of the Cold War and the RAF provided our nuclear deterrent. There were 3 squadrons of white Vulcan bombers on the station, 27 in all, and 3 aircraft, the QRA – (Quick Reaction Alert) – were always on 15 mins standby, they were fully armed with (nuclear) weapons and guarded by RAF Police with dogs.
Bomber Command would test the readiness of the station by ordering all aircraft on the station to 15 mins readiness; this was exercised periodically (called Exercise Micky Fin) usually at 2 am. My job was in the Hangar Squadron whose task was to carry out the deeper servicings and rectifications that could not be done outside on the line. I had 100 radio, radar and electrical tradesmen in my flight, so it was a great initiation into both engineering and man-management in a real operational environment that set me up for the rest of my career.
Despite the seriousness of the situation I recall some amusing events. One freezing January during a QRA alert, the captain could not insert the cabin door key into the frozen lock and so the crew could not enter. Meanwhile the crew chief had started the engines, so we had a nuclear weaponed aircraft with engines running, but the crew locked out. Luckily, a cigarette lighter saved the day. I once had a phone call from the Station Commander’s wife inviting me for afternoon tea at the CO’s quarter to get to know me. I was rather apprehensive, particularly when she answered the door and said that she had not invited me. It was down to a mischievous young WAAF officer who had pretended to be the CO’s wife. However, when we realised what must have happened, I was invited in anyway for a cup of tea and a very pleasant chat.
Nothing after Waddington could really compare, from a very intensive Cold War operational environment I was posted to Aden (in South Yemen) as the CO of a strategic HF receiving station. My unit was located on former salt pans with large, rhombic HF antenna arrays and with about 100 technicians living on site. Then I was posted to RAE Farnborough where I worked with RAE scientists to define, test and prepare for the introduction to service of new antisubmarine sonobuoys, then a post in MOD writing the reliability and maintainability requirements for new aircraft and major equipment and back to Vulcans in charge of the Electronics Centre at RAF Scampton.
Then followed an unexpected thrill, a three year posting to the United Sates working in their Logistics Command HQ at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
When I returned to the UK, it was to a post in MOD’s Procurement Executive, then11 months at the RAF Staff College and finally my last posting at HQ Strike Command at High Wycombe responsible for the engineering aspects of the electrical, avionic, armament and software of all the equipment in the Nimrod Fleet. I took early retirement in the rank of Wing Commander in 1986 and continued my career in industry.
A particularly good month for the publicity efforts published in October. As well as good coverage in the local magazines the Basingstoke Gazette gave us two mentions in consecutive weeks and their web site had a more extensive offering than appeared in print. The Basinga held firm on their promise made last month and for October, not only did we appear in their printed version, but gave us a complete page carrying two of our reports. You will see that apart from the Winklebury Way which ran late with their quarterly publication and therefore carried a previous story about banknotes, that the remainder carried the report about the reasons behind Nick Waring’s decision to enter medicine.
Information was also sent (in late August) to two CommunityAd magazines for Bramley & Sherfield and Overton & Oakley but nothing appeared from what I can see. These magazines are printed by a Kent based publisher that has an impressive stable of magazines – not only for locals (including one for Old Basing & Lychpit) but for many general and specific interests. Like many such publications they exist by selling local advertising space.
Just to ensure that you are aware that I have not succumbed to any pressure to give undeserved publicity to a young looking Bryan Jenkins when a Squadron Leader, it is just the way the programme assembles the pictures when there is a number like the ten we have this time. Had the two CommunityAd magazines come good then there would have been a final row of three pictures. If you view this page on your smart phone it assembles the pictures in five rows of two so Bryan Jenkins appears the same size as the others.
Probus Club of Basingstoke member David Rawden is a retired chemistry teacher who also had an interest in geography. He set a mini quiz before embarking on his story.
Firstly, to test your knowledge of British geography based upon his exploration of Great Britain that has taken him to the four “corners” of the country. Can you name the most northerly, easterly, westerly and southerly points of mainland Britain?
Answers can be found at the end of this report.
Some people collect items as a hobby: stamps, books, antiques and so forth. David collected hills. They don’t take up room in the house and they don’t need dusting. After ascending all the Wainwright listed Lake District Fells he turned his attention to the Pennines and county tops. He visited the highest point of all the English counties which gave him the Heineken experience – he reached those parts of the country that people would not normally reach.
The highest top is Scarfell Pike at 3209 feet situated in the Cumbrian mountains; the lowest is in Norfolk, Beacon Hill at 345 feet found just west of Cromer. Most tops are surmounted by a trig point or cairn so that you know you have succeeded. However, this does not happen in most eastern counties or those near to London. On one occasion he wandered through Pavis Wood near Tring trying to decide which hump was the highest point of Hertfordshire.
There is limited access to two tops in military training areas: Mickle Fell in County Durham and High Wilhays in Devon and its near neighbour Yes Tor. Both are on Dartmoor and are the only mountains (hills above 2000 feet) in England south of the Peak District.
Proper walking gear is essential to reach the majority of tops. However, there are a number of tops fairly near Hampshire which can be accessed by a simple walk from a car park. One of these is Leith Hill not far from Dorking in Surrey and another is Whitehorse Hill which can be found west of Wantage in Oxfordshire. Easiest of all is Ditchling Beacon, not far from Lewes in East Sussex. If you can find it amongst a myriad of unsignposted roads, there is a large pleasant summit area at Black Down, in West Sussex, south of Haslemere (Surrey). Walbury Hill in Berkshire, near Combe to the south west of Newbury, can easily be reached from the cark park at Inkpen Beacon. Continuing east along the Wayfarer’s Walk brings you to Pilot Hill, the highest point of Hampshire, situated just west of Highclere.
Further afield and needing more walking effort are the tops of Dorset, Lewesdown Hill near Beaminster, and in Wiltshire, Milk Hill near Alton Barnes and west of Pewsey.
Perhaps when we come out of lockdown some of the more active readers might like to visit a few of the local tops. They will be rewarded with a splendid view.
Answers to the quiz:
Most northerly: Dunnet Head. NOT John O’Groats, which is about 10 miles to the east.
Most easterly: Lowestoft Ness, Suffolk. A splendid ground marker (geoscope) denotes the spot. Distances marked show that, for a crow, Amsterdam is lot closer than Cardiff or Newcastle.
Most westerly: Point of Ardnamurchan. It can be reached by crossing Loch Linnhe by the Corran Ferry (SW of Fort William in the Western Highlands) then heading west with a short stop in Strontian – the only place in Britain with an element (strontium) named after it.
Most southerly: Lizard Point, Cornwall. NOT Land’s End which is the most westerly point of mainland England.
If you correctly answer this quiz it proves that your GCE “O” level in Geography has not been wasted.
Towards the end of 1974 I obtained a job with the PNG Government Legal Department. We travelled to the capital Port Moresby in April 1975 – a journey from the UK of about 33 hours, with two changes of plane (at Singapore and Brisbane). I was sent some information with the plane tickets before we left, which informed us that when we arrived at the airport we would be met by someone from the recruiting department.
The Qantas flight from Brisbane arrived at Port Moresby at lunch time. We emerged from the aircraft somewhat bleary-eyed into the tropical heat and humidity, and successfully navigated our way through immigration and customs, and then out into the airport concourse. This was much like any other airport – although the ceiling fans were something of a novelty to us, with a lot of people milling around – both PNG nationals and expatriates. We looked around hopefully for someone to take an interest in us but we were completely ignored by the throng.
After a while, I noticed that a couple of British men who I had seen on our flight were talking to an Australian man who had evidently gone to meet them at the airport. (He, as I recollect, was from the Department of Agriculture). I went over and asked him if he recognised anyone in the concourse from the Department of Law, which he didn’t. However, he must have taken pity on us and said he would go off to a pay phone and let them know that we had arrived (no mobile phones in those far-off days!).
He reappeared a few minutes later and said that he had spoken to the Department of Law and that someone was on the way out to meet us.
We found some seats and sat down to wait, and to try and stay awake. After about 30 minutes, two Australians showed up – little and large – and they turned out to be the admin. officers for the Department of Law who should have been there to meet us. Their first words to us – which I still remember – were “That plane’s always late!” Well, it wasn’t today we thought. In the best Australian tradition we were taken off to a bar for a beer – luckily we had managed to dissuade them from taking us on a tour of Port Moresby! We had to endeavour to make polite conversation, when all we really wanted to do was have a shower and a sleep. After that they took us to an hotel, where we finally achieved the much-needed shower and a sleep.
When I started work, the reason why we had not been met became clear. At lunch time in the Department, a group of people met up to play cards. Two of the leading lights in this card game were the admin. officers. They were evidently not prepared to interrupt their lunch hour and give up their card game to meet a couple of Poms off a plane! Looking at it positively, it was good training to expect the unexpected for the next three years.
Margaret and our cat Timmy in our kitchen in Port Moresby
PLUS: A STORY OF A DEAD PARROT (OR, LIFE SORT OF IMITATES MONTY PYTHON)…. (not a Norwegian Blue!)
We had some friends in the New Guinea Bird Society who had a licence to ring birds, which they caught in mist-nets. Having been ringed, weighed and measured, the birds were then released to go about their business. Occasionally birds died in the nets – probably of a heart attack due to stress. This was clearly unfortunate and somewhat embarrassing.
Some months before my contract came to an end, our friends had been on a bird-ringing trip to the New Guinea highlands, where the day before they were due to return to Port Moresby, a Fairy Lory (now apparently known as the Papuan Lorikeet) – a type of small parrot with a long tail – died in the net. In the hope that some good might come of this unfortunate event, they put the parrot in a plastic bag and brought it home, and put it in their freezer, with the intention of taking it to the University of Papua New Guinea Zoology Department as the bird might be of interest to them.
Inevitably the parrot worked its way to the back of the freezer, and was forgotten. Our friends were due to return to Australia a few months before my contract ended, and when they cleared out their freezer, they found the parrot. Not wishing for it go to waste, they called us and asked us if we would have custody of the bird, and when we were next in the direction of the University, to give it to the Zoology Department.
We were happy to help out, and so the unfortunate parrot was delivered to us and deposited in our freezer, where it languished at the back, and was duly forgotten.
When my contract came to an end, it was arranged that the Australian lawyer who was to take over my job, would also take over our flat. I had known him from when I first joined the Department of Law as he was employed there until his contract ended and he returned to Australia. It was quite hard to return to what may be termed normal life after the “PNG experience”, and when my job was advertised, he must have seen the opportunity to return, and applied and was appointed. He arrived a couple of weeks before my contract ended, so that there was a hand-over period, and he told us not to bother to clear out the fridge and freezer as he would eat his way through what we had left.
Thus we departed leaving him a freezer containing unknown excitements.
A couple of weeks later we were travelling in the Philippines, and it occurred to me that the deceased parrot must have been in our freezer when my successor took over our flat. Quite what he made of it we shall never know – I suspect it was something of a disappointment if he had arrived home from work and was looking through the freezer for something to cook for dinner. The Fairy Lory was unplucked and would not have had much meat on it anyway! Probably it just confirmed whatever doubts he may have had about me.
Here are copies of the publicity achieved in the September editions of the local magazines. And it is pleasing to see all these magazines have returned to having a physically printed publication. Nine appearances is very encouraging, helped, in the main, about something close to our hearts (and wallets), namely the subject of bank notes.
Due to understandable space limitations, it is a pity that the magazines are never able to utilise more of the pictures provided to them, nor, indeed, to include a caption. The inclusion of either would provide their readers with a little more appreciation about the subject matter. At least this is not a concern when I post these reports on our web site.
You will note that the Villager magazine (Sherborne St John) also featured a previous report about the Battle of Britain. However we failed to appear in Popley Matters and in the Basinga (Old Basing & Lytchpit) and despite the magazine advising its readers that the Probus article could be seen on the Basinga Extra web site it failed to appear here as well. On checking with them they blame a new web master. They have tentatively offered to run our report within their October magazine.
I must start with my father. He left school at 14 and became an office boy in a local firm making surgical needles. Redditch, where we were living is/was renowned for needles of all sorts as well as fishing tackle and springs. Anyway he climbed the greasy pole and became office manager and left and set up his own company.
As a boy he had joined St John’s Ambulance brigade and got more involved with this when as a key worker he was not called up during the war. With his exposure to ambulance work and the making of different needles for the full range of surgical operations he had always wanted to train as a doctor but coming from a poor family there was no chance of it. I was clearly influenced by his experiences and with some difficulty was accepted into the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff in 1966.
As a student things were pretty hectic with few free periods and once on the wards we spent lots of time hanging around in the evenings to see as much as we could. It was then you learnt how to suture and do a lot of the procedures you would need later on. Yes the patients were practiced on! There was a saying “see one, do one, teach one” it was during such an evening session that I had the chance to assist at my first operation. About 10pm a surgeon came into casualty saying that he needed two assistants for a renal transplant later that night. It was about 3am by the time we were all gowned up and hanging onto a retractor terrified we might do something wrong. The amazing thing was that the new kidney was inserted under the skin in the groin rather than the abdomen – a real learning experience.
Another very memorable time was when I had to clerk (take a history) from a Mr Bell who was an octogenarian but when aged only 3 had been operated on by Lord Lister who introduced antiseptics. It really shrank the history of modern medicine into a lifetime. Another such occasion was when our professor of bacteriology told us that he had once been tasked with transporting the “world” supply of antibiotics in his brief case.
The first baby I delivered as a student arrived on a very hot and humid evening (no air con then) the day man landed on the moon. It was a boy and no prizes for guessing what they called him!
My first paid post after 5 years training was very fortuitous. I saw an advertisement in the British Medical Journal for 3 jobs in Southampton. I was invited for an interview to find that 2 of the positions were to work for professors. One was Prof Donald Acheson who, unknown to me, was a founder member of the Faculty of Community Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians as well as being the first Dean of the new embryonic Southampton medical school. During the inquisition I mentioned for some reason that I was interested in community medicine and amazingly he hired me. He subsequently became the national Chief Medical Officer and went on to work for WHO.
The system of training then was 2 years pre-clinical, 3 years clinical, and a year split between house jobs in a medical and surgical speciality. You were then fully registered and could set up as a GP straight away but the concept of vocational training was being developed. This involved another 2 years in various jobs in hospital and a year as a trainee. If you were lucky you then were accepted into a practice where you wanted to settle and after about 3 years of working up to parity you became a full profit sharing partner. Very few GPs were then salaried or part time or indeed female.
After Southampton, where I met my wife, I had 3 jobs in Cardiff and a stint in Wrexham before returning to Cardiff for a trainee year. So why did I choose general practice? I had spent a year in children’s medicine and thought that was my future but in Wales, at least, there was huge competition for consultancies in paediatrics and even then very little support with lifelong rotas of one in two, or worse, of evening and night work after a full day’s work. Together with that there were difficult exams to navigate and I had just got married and we had our first daughter. General practice seemed an altogether better option and I have never regretted it.
In 1976 when I started in Basingstoke as a GP a book had just been published titled “Six minutes for the Patient” This was revolutionary as very few doctors spent more than 5 minutes on a consultation and much of that was trying to find your way round the old brown, hand written, Lloyd George records. Those records had been first conceived by the Germans and were employed by the then British government.
Our practice was coping with the rapid influx of patients from London; my personal list growing from 0 to 3500 in about 18 months. In addition, our consultation time was about double the national average initially as quite a few had no local extended family so all problems came to our door. In those days, of course, we did all our own on call on a I in 5 rota. When on duty we would be on for the evening and night following a full day and followed by another full day. We were also covering our maternity patients about half of our pregnant ladies delivering under our care. It always surprised me how many went into labour in the middle of the night! We had no mobile phones so out of hours calls came to us from our partners at home via a bleep. We then had to find a phone and re-plan our route around the patch. The change to the out of hours service with the Hantsdoc co-op came just in time as most of us were on our knees. My low point was probably when I was called out of bed five times after midnight.
Things had to change, and the changes have been massive, largely enabled by the advent of computers as in so many areas of activity. We were able to build on our use of A4 paper records with enhanced coding and that in turn allowed us to tailor our provision of services to improve care. The NHS payment system also made data collection imperative. For a few years we were legally obliged to record everything on paper and the computer which was a big time waster. We became a bit paranoid about the millennium bug which we successfully avoided only to be caught out on the following 29th February.
All of the above has unfortunately meant that patients have less continuity of care seeing their own family practitioner only rarely as ancillary staff take on more of the traditional roles forced by increasing work load. It is a very different job to one I started with.
A postscript – since retirement and more time spent the other side of the desk I have become increasingly aware of how difficult it is to know when to seek help. If I feel that way with my experience then I am sure that others feel it more so. It is a constant dilemma as to how society can best use the service responsibly. Educating the public about when to present and when self- care is more appropriate is an area that requires more consideration but it is better to call unnecessarily than to not call when you need to.
This was a 1950s/60s advertising slogan for pilots for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. I had been interested in flying since, at the age of 15, I had cadged a ride from a member at the London Aeroplane Club at Panshanger, near Hertford, where my family home was. He took me up in a Tiger Moth for about an hour, and we even did some aerobatics (not bad for a first flight!). I was pretty well hooked. When I went to University, I joined the RAFVR Squadron there. We flew Chipmunks – a bit different from the Tiger Moth – and were based at the Filton Aerodrome of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Quite a laugh – taking off in a Chipmunk from the 100-yard-wide Brabazon runway that was 4.5 miles long. You could do several take off and landings in its length, and with the right cross wind, you could take off in its width. My service with them was ended when, instead of achieving my solo at the summer camp, I spent 3 weeks in the officer’s sick bay with a nasty bout of jaundice. Rather than having to go back a year in training the following September, I resigned.
It came alive again when I took my final exams in Chemistry, with the realisation that the last thing I wanted was a career as a chemist! I got through my degree, with the knowledge that I wanted to get into flying. Having decided that dark blue suited me better than RAF blue, I applied to the FAA. All went well with the selection procedure, interviews and aptitude tests. The medical was the final hurdle. To my – and the Naval doctor’s – consternation, it was found that I had limited hearing above 4000 Hertz in one ear. The MO told me that it was noise damage and guessed that I had done a fair bit of shooting, and that I was right-handed (all too true!). He said that the recent introduction of the Belgian FN automatic rifle had done the same thing to some of their marines until they introduced ear protection. I had a second assessment at Millbank, but the result was the same – so, no flying for me!
Strand 2 – Shooting
This goes back to the age of 11. At my prep school, they had a 25yard indoor range for .22 shooting. For a small fee, I could learn about target shooting. On arrival at my second school, I found that, not only could I shoot at a smart indoor range in the winter and spring terms, but in the summer, we cycled a couple of times a week the 2 or 3 miles to an outdoor range in a valley of the South Downs. Meanwhile, the Master responsible for shooting, with the CCF Sergeant Major, drove up in his brand-new Ford Popular with 8 or 10 .303 rifles and a load of ammunition. There we shot at 200 and 500 yards. I took to this, and for 5 years had 2 terms of .22 and one term of full bore, with occasional inter school meetings at other ranges in Sussex, and then the yearly Ashburton Shield meeting at Bisley.
Remembering that this was the 1950s, no one had heard of earmuffs for target shooting. Although you could buy earplugs at the shops at Bisley, I couldn’t afford those. The result was one damaged hearing and no “Flying Navy“ for me. Bridget said that it had saved my life!
Although I had told the FAA that I wanted to fly helicopters, they said that I would fly whatever they told me to fly. I had done well in the flying aptitude tests, so it could well have been fixed wing jets. At that time, the Navy’s fast, carrier-borne jet was the Supermarine Scimitar. This was a big, heavy, multi-rôle, twin jet aircraft, operating from small aircraft carriers, such as HMS Illustrious and HMS Hermes. In service, 39 of the 76 aircraft purchased were lost to accidents, often during landing at sea. I have been told that, at that time, the average service life of a Naval fast jet pilot was about 3 years! Bridget was undoubtedly right!
The moral is, tell your young people to look after their ears when they are exposed to loud noise, and wear suitable protection!
In normal times we handle it every day. Money, they say, makes the world go around. Others see it as the root of all evil. These days we are using less coinage but an increasing use of cards, however bank notes make us feel good if we have plenty in our wallet.
Basingstoke is the headquarters of Thomas de la Rue, the world-famous producer of bank notes, and Foyle Park resident and Probus Club of Basingstoke member, John Swain, was employed in that specialised printing industry all his working life.
Leaving grammar school at 16 he followed his father into the printing trade and undertook an apprenticeship of five years as a camera operator. On becoming a journeyman he joined security printer Bradbury Wilkinson in New Malden and as John says “learned about making security documents and how to spot and prevent forgeries.”
Despite operating in a tightly controlled secure environment it was noticed that some Travellers cheques began to go missing. Despite stringent checks on employees at entry and exit of the factory it was only by spotting which member of staff was enjoying exotic holidays and had a new car they discovered he was simply using a Royal Mail post box in their reception to send an envelope to his home.
An intended advancement to head up their photographic studio did not proceed as the company was taken over by Thomas de la Rue, but instead he become the general manager of the New Malden plant.
“All I had to do was to reverse a deficit of £12 million which in five years turned into a profit of £2 million.”
Moving to Basingstoke in 1990 to head up a new, large photographic and proofing department was a continuous learning curve as the printing of the latest style of notes can involve over fifty security features as well as three different printing processes with visible and invisible fluorescent inks and holographic images.
Moving from water marked cotton-based papers, made by their Overton mill, to the latest polymer substrate is not as new as one might think. Back in 1970 Bradbury Wilkinson produced the Isle of Man £1 notes on plastic but then discovered that the ink came off if a note was accidently left in clothes put in a washing machine. Eventually, after over two decades of research, the problem was solved, but by an Australian printer.
Visiting overseas De La Rue production facilities became a regular occurrence for John and after one trip he was stopped by a Customs officer at Heathrow. On this occasion the standard documentation he carried failed to impress the officer and as currency printing plates and ink looked suspicious the officer demanded the plate box and ink be opened. It was explained that it contained specialist fluorescent ink that was also indelible and should, on no account be touched. Of course, the officer got ink on his fingers and made the situation worse by using a tissue to spread it over his hands.
John smiled at this recollection. “That was a good few years ago, so I guess it has worn off by now.”
Typically the month of August is quiet for the local magazines as the Rabbiter, Villager and Loddon Valley Link do not publish. However we failed to get a mention in the newly returned Link (but with a promise for September) but did get in the Basinga, Popley Matters,(still considering if they should return to a printed version), Chineham Chat (returning with a printed edition) and the Kempshott Kourier.