Memories

This page of our website (last updated in September 2020), provides access to stories of ex-employees and others who have contacted us with their memories.

When this page is updated, any new stories will be added to the top of the list, and a link to each new story will be added in the following table. Click on the link shown to jump to a specific story, or simply scroll down below the table to access all these memories.

B.G.OMTTen years with OMT
B.C.Newall EngineeringBriefly employed in drawing office
I.P.Newall EngineeringOne of the last Newall Apprentices
R.P.OMTWorking for OMT
KBNewall"Kathie Bradley story from 1946"
E.M.Keighley/Newtool"Reminiscences from Eddie Murphy"
CBNewall Group Sales"assistant to the Group Publicity Manager"
P.A.OMTHelston Recollections
D.H.No.3 factory Sparks, Rule & Bodger.
OMT "Steady govnor!"
Newall Electronics M/C topples over
Newall Electronics Happy family at Electronics
Newall Electronics A flying dinner plate
M.R.Re-Newall / Newall ElectronicsNoise at Re-Newall site
T.S.Newall Engineering I joined as an apprentice in 1966
Newall Engineering 2 doors leading into stores
Newall Engineering Go and see Stan Ball
D.H.Newall Electronics My first major project
Newall Engineering Cliff Croxford looked after No. 2 factory
Newall Engineering Cliff Croxford amusing incident
Newall EngineeringComputer system at No. 1 factory
B.C.Newall EngineeringWho's Mr Card?
M.R.Newall EngineeringInterview for Electronics Dept.
D.H.Newall EngineeringSpacematic with a BTH control
Newall EngineeringJig Borer problem at Airmec-AEI
Newall EngineeringFlying saucers?

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From Brian Groves.

OMT Maidenhead.
I joined OMT as an indentured craft apprentice after leaving Maidenhead Grammar School in 1964, alongside David Field. Other apprentices were John Hughes, Norman Eatwell and Chris Birnie.
First year training was ‘off the job’ at the Government Training Centre on the Slough Trading Estate followed by a further 4 years in house training and day release for college. I was lucky enough to be encouraged to undertake 2 days / week plus evenings at colleges in Maidenhead, Windsor, High Wycombe and Reading for City & Guilds and National Certificate training.
I progressed through the machine and fitting shops at OMT and spent the last 2 years of my apprenticeship in the drawing office and finally in the planning department where I was heavily involved in process planning for the Maidenhead factory but also planning for the eventual move to Helston. In 1969 I completed my training as a Gauge and Instrument Maker and received my Certificate of Apprenticeship from the Scientific Instrument Manufacturing Association (SIMA).
The company move to Helston was needed because it was very difficult to recruit and retain labour in the Maidenhead area (there was tremendous competition from firms on the Slough Trading Estate which paid higher ‘London Rates’ of pay). Also the local authority in Maidenhead was threatening to compulsorily purchase the portion of the site adjoining Bridge Road (where Oldfield House stood) to accommodate a proposed large roundabout at the junction of Bridge Road and Oldfield Road. This major roundabout was never built, although a much smaller one was constructed there a few years ago.
In the final year of my apprenticeship the company was involved in changing from imperial to metric measurement in production and introducing more electronically biased control systems for its products. For the new factory we were also moving from piece work to day rate working and introducing numerically controlled machines as well as recruiting a substantially new workforce. All heady stuff for a 20 year old apprentice!
In Maidenhead Oldfield House housed the administrative, finance, management and sales offices with the planning office and photographic department behind it. Further back in a separate building was the drawing office and further back again was the machine shop and behind it the fitting shop.
Products manufactured were the whole range of OMT rotary and rotary lifting tables, Newall measuring machines, OMT Omtimeters, toolmakers microscopes, optical dividing heads, roundness measuring equipment, projection pantographs, air gauging equipment (Etamic) and Keighley universal grinders. A widely varied, low volume product range.
I particularly remember:
Ernie Gieler – the Teutonic and highly strung toolroom supervisor prone to throwing heavy objects at anyone who incurred his displeasure.
Les Bareham – the Works Manager – who would also cut your hair in his office at lunchtime.
Jack Hann – General Manager who kept a decrepit old 2 cylinder Jowett Bradford van parked in the rear car park. I never saw it move in my time at Maidenhead.
Jeremy Rowe – who always seemed to be being berated by his father (our joint MD) HJ Rowe.
Geordie – the flat capped fettler, who was always smothered in debris from grinding castings and who would disappear swiftly over the wall at lunchtime straight into the back entrance of the ‘Rats Ole’ (The Grenfell Arms in Oldfield Road) where several pints would be lined up on the bar waiting for him.
Mr Christmas –Company Secretary
Alan Dietrich – Accountant
Nessie, Beverley and Helen in the various offices.
Mr Ansell – Chief Inspector
Arthur Sawkins and the Gibbs brothers – fitting shop.
Ray Butler (Chief Designer) and Mr White (Chief Draughtsman) –Drawing Office.
The unearthly glow of the mercury arc rectifiers of the Newall Jig borers.
The very skilled ladies who operated the capstan and turret lathes in the machine shop.
The Newall / OMT sales demonstration vehicle in blue / grey livery (which looked like a formula 1 race car transporter of the era) – manned by Pete Tickner?
The delicious beef dripping rolls sold by the ladies operating the tea trolley.
The horribly sore throat you would get from inhaling the fumes from the neat cutting oil used, when operating the thread grinder.
The basement at OldField House was used for experimental Etamic air gauging equipment (Dr Butler). Pumps were installed in case of further flooding from the Thames.

OMT Helston.
After completion of my apprenticeship I was asked to relocate to the new Helston factory.
Initially the MD was Ron Kennedy, with Jeremy Rowe as General Manager but latterly Chris Bull took over as MD with RB Carpenter as Works Director.
Dougie Austin was the Chief Planning Engineer; Ray Butler the Chief Designer and Cecil Studley came in as the accountant.
Ralph Eddy was the buyer, and Kathy (the fastest 2 fingered typist in the west) was his assistant (they can both be seen in the photo accompanying the article on the new factory building in Industry Week (January 1970).
Bob Peacock was the production planner, whilst I was the process planner reporting to Dougie Austin. Later after Dougie suffered in a serious car accident and had to retire I was promoted to Chief Planning Engineer (and sometime project manager) looking after Trevor Wiliams and Ray Brown (who later worked for me at Autogard) in planning and n.c. programming , Ivor Bath and Vivian Burt in time study and John Hughes in tool design / heat treatment. Latterly I was involved in the move in manufacturing of the smaller range of Newall jig borers (1520) from Peterborough to Helston. This necessitated the installation of a large Butler planer in the machine shop – which was so tall that we had to cut holes in the roof to install the leadscrews!
A layout plan of the Helston factory can be seen in the article ‘Pacemakers’, in Industry Week January 1970. Only the fitting shop was fully air conditioned, the system was so sensitive the at the end of the day, when all the other employees had left, if you walked through the assembly shop (often in the dark as that was where the light switches were located) to the personnel exit door on the opposite side of the factory the system would roar into life frightening you half to death.
Optical manufacturing did not move to Helston during my time there but was planned for a future phase.
I recall that labour was more plentiful, but the degree of precision required caused new employees some problems. The move to n.c. controlled manufacturing – horizontal and vertical boring, and milling was certainly justified, but the programming was certainly complex – all ‘point to point’ with no canned cycles or parametric to help. This was in the early days when n.c. controllers were all hard wired, instruction was by punched paper tape and reliability of equipment was not the best.
The Helston area was a lovely place to live, if somewhat remote before the introduction of the M5 motorway and the upgrading of the A303, A30 and the A38 to avoid all the small villages and towns that they snaked through. Bob Peacock, John Hughes, Jim Flinders and I shared a rented house in Porthleven. Being single men in our 20’s we all dated local girls, John married his, mine, a lovely local hair salon owner got away. Bob moved back ‘up country’. Jim, I think, ran off with one of the girls from the OMT office.
I was fortunate to be sponsored by OMT in further training in Works Management, at Cornwall Technical College in Poole and in 1973 received an SSRC post graduate studentship to study for my MBA (specialising in Manufacturing Operations Management and Industrial Marketing) at Cranfield. At the end of March 1974 my employment was transferred from OMT to the Newall Engineering Company in Peterborough, where I was offered a position in the marketing dept., to coincide with the completion of my studies at Cranfield. In the event I decided not to accept this offer and left to become Director and General Manager of a contracting company. I will always be grateful to OMT / Newall for the training and opportunities they afforded me over the ten years that I worked for them.

Postscript.
During the latter part of my time at Cranfield, with a few of my fellow students we carried out a project which involved us in negotiating with Newall Engineering regarding a possible purchase of the rights to manufacture OMT products , which had just been put up for sale.
[[ See our OMT (General) page – Late History for more details. ]]
Brian Groves

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Hej from Sweden. My name is Barry Chandler, and I was only with Newall’s from ’67 to ’69 upon returning to England from Volvo in Sweden. My previous employer, Perkins, had an intake stop, and I was offered a position in the Newall drawing office, which I took. I was totally new to the form of heavy machinery, and took it as a challenge, but found that I was simply not cut out for it, preferring to work with the end result as you might say, the crankshafts and camshafts as finished items to be installed in engines. When Perkins opened up again it was a fond farewell to Newalls, leaving as a wiser and more knowledgeable draughtsman as a result. I still have in my possession mementos from that time, items provided to make life easier:- an OMT Handbook, a well-thumbed Newall Standard Table of Limits (In Inches) and the later metric version of which I have seen that you already have a copy. I was also responsible for a slight re-design of the Newall nameplate as fitted to the machines, but unfortunately I cannot find my example. Being now wheelchair bound, access to my workshop/garage is severely limited, but I will find it and send you a photo in due course if you wish. Unfortunately I am unable to remember the names of anyone I worked with there, age plays a part I fear, but I can still see many of them in my minds eye, as all were very helpful in trying to make me feel at home there, including my section leader on the crankshaft grinder section.

[[Thank you Barry. I started with Newall in January 1969 working with Jim Phillips in the electronics department. This meant that for my first few years with Newall, I had very little contact with drawing office staff apart from Clive Ellington in the electrical section.

Please let us know if you find any other information (or photographs) relating to you time with Newall]].

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Just to say how great it was to look through the website. I was one of the last of the apprentices to go through Shrewsbury Ave site, there were 7 of us – Myself, Andy McCullouch (his mum Joy worked in the offices and eventually married Stan Wheeler), Adrian Behenna, Chris Sharpe, Alan Harrison, Brian Moore(?) and Rob McHattie. We started in 1980 and all managed to get our papers. Great times! My mentor in the light machine shop was Charlie Newman, a turner. Vic Markley was our foreman. I attach a photo of most of us apprentices alongside a cylindrical grinder that was made – I think the roll on it weighed 15 Tons. Vic is in the photo far right; I am second left.
Ian Polson.

[[The photo Ian provided has been included in the section on Churchill Roll Grinders on our Newall Engineering Products Page 3]].

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Hi, my name is Bob Peacock.  I stumbled across your website when trying to locate one of the employees working at OMT in the 1960’s.  Instead I ended up reading the comments from other people that have played a part of my life at OMT. As a result, for what it’s worth I penned the following:

I joined OMT in Maidenhead in 1960 when I left school to complete a five-year apprenticeship. I must admit it was the best time I have ever spent in a company.  I started on the same day as Mr Sid Gibbons and we seem to follow each other throughout our time on a slightly competitive basis. After the initiation process of getting buckets of steam and left-handed screw drivers we settled down to an industrious time. We followed the normal apprenticeship route through the machine shop. Turning, Milling etc. The learning process was excellent where it was normal practice to read a micrometer to a tenth of a thou’ by eye.

The fitting shop was a great experience.  It was a challenge on the detail fitting section to beat the piecework system by making or adapting the jigs, therefore cutting the through time by 200 to 300 percent and earning greater bonuses. I was given the job of assembling, from start to finish, 10” rotary tables under the watchful eye of Mr. Arthur Sawkins (fitting shop foreman at that time). This involved preparing all the components for finishing and painting, assembling the detail components and hand scraping the top to within a tenth of a thousand of an inch all over with about 50% bearing surface spotting.  Also, we had to set the optical circle with an auto-collimator and prepare it for final inspection.

I progressed from there back into the machine shop on to the grinding section, part of which was spent on the thread grinder. Out of all the challenging components there are a few which stand above the rest. The Optical Thread Comparator requires a stylus with a ground ball on the end to fit into the thread being measured. Obviously, these have to be a perfect spheroid and extremely accurate in diameter and cover the range of sizes and thread forms the machine was capable of measuring. The grinding wheel had to be formed with a cube diamond on the pantograph. Other oddballs were the rollers used in the Measuring Machine base. Each roller when it has been hard chromed forms a build-up of chrome on each end which has to be removed then ground parallel and round, chamfered and the locating spigot formed on each end before being finally lapped to size. The tolerances to which we worked were very stringent because over a 2 or 3 metre length any error would accumulate and be unacceptable. During this time, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Mr Gordon Wheaton, Mr Bennet, Keith Thompson and of course Dave and Stan Gibbs who eventually transferred to the Helston Factory. Being lowly paid apprentices, the camaraderie between the “year” was very good both at work and socially. There was quite a good underground operation in skimming motor cylinder heads and blocks. We also managed to run a coach to Richmond Ice Rink every few weeks, and of course stopping off for a Fish and Chip supper on the way home.

After I finished my time, I decided to gain some commercial experience and left OMT to work in Slough in production control. One day I received a phone call from Mr Jack Hann at OMT and in the course of the conversation he invited me to come and talk to him. It was around 1967 when I returned to OMT and according to the OMT Management Structure Diagram was responsible for Progress and Planning. This started a period of very hard work trying to meet the deadlines and ensuring parts were in the right place at the right time. At that time there was no mention of the move to Cornwall. I was in an office next to the Buying Department where I first meet Mr George Roberts who was responsible for Purchasing at Maidenhead and to whom I will be eternally grateful for shaping my future career later in life, but that’s another story.  Some of the work was out-sourced to local machining companies to meet the production capacity requirements.

I was eventually asked if I would like to transfer to Helston and saw it as an opportunity to gain some independence and establish a new life. I can still recall catching the overnight sleeper from Paddington and emerging from a warm train onto a chilly Redruth station. In the early days the grey building, being partially finished was a bit austere.

At that time, we were attempting to manage production with completely new staff with a manual production control system. We recruited staff from Hollman Brothers in Camborne and RNAS Culdrose in Helston and in all fairness the calibre of the people was really good, but they were not used to the sort of tolerances the work demanded.  It took some time to achieve the standard, but they were supported by the likes of Mr Dougie Austin, Gordon Wheaton, Tony Warburton, Norman Ladd, Trevor Williams, John Hughes, Brian Groves. We formed a Sports and Social Club to integrate the people that transferred and the locally recruited Staff which worked extremely well and as a team we worked very well together.

The experience of my apprenticeship has served me well over the years in my working life and helped me overcome some of the challenges set me.

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[[This story by has been reproduced from the January 1947 issue of the Newall newsletter ‘Precision’. It was written by Kathie Bradley, and is an interesting example of life while working at Newall at that time.]]

The supply had to meet the urgent demand. But who had to take the place of these fighting men ? Women ? Yes. They could, and they did; and I was one of those women.

Six years ago I left an easy job at Symington’s to do my bit at Newall’s and help with the war effort. I found it very strange at first, working among men and young boys, wearing boiler suit and cap, which I cannot say I like, and working machines which I never thought I would have the nerve even to touch.

At first there were so few girls with whom to make friends, but as time went on, girls rallied round and came to help with the big job. We worked long hours, both day and night shifts, including Sundays, starting at 8 o’clock; but we did not mind that so much really, until the beginning of the air raids, which was the most trying time for our nerves. The men were very kind and considerate, and helped us a good deal, especially when we were flying to the shelters. Of course, those moments were not too bad – when we got used to them! We were always able to amuse ourselves by singing, playing mouth organs, a hot cup of tea, and then back to work after the ALL CLEAR.

Then there were our gay times, such as the work’s dances, which were on Saturday evenings, being our only free evening. Yes, they seemed to help us forget about our machines, gauges, etc.

Christmas times . . . we always enjoyed that part of it. That was, of course, without a foreman’s or chargehands cold, grey eye upon us. But, then, they were very understanding, and would not mind too much. We always had a moment to spare for the purpose of a sprig of mistletoe, or a spot of mother’s ruin. Even then, foremen and chargehands have their good days and their bad, just like the rest of us.

Well, back to the grindstone!

Then came the end of the war – husbands and sweethearts came home. The friends which I found were honest and good friends, all had to part. No more laughs with all the girls in the cloakroom at 12:20 or 5:20 or 7:20, whichever we were working. The remaining girls went back to the different towns which they had left, the rest got married, so that leaves me still at the same machine, doing the work I like so much.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
Miss K. Bradley – Newall’s sweetheart. Operates Herbert Capstan No. 2s. Average run of work to + .001″. Joined Newall at time of Dunkirk.

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[[Here a few of Eddie Murphy’s memories of his time with the group]]

Ike Good’s older son, Ted became Works Manager at Newall Peterborough. The younger son, Kenneth, was in the Clergy. In my time the major step forward was the association with Louis Gamet of France who made precision taper roller bearings. There is no doubt this moved Keighley Grinders up a notch and led to the first automatic angle approach grinder. Louis used to visit with his Bugatti.

We always had 4 months’ of orders which enabled Arnold Gamble the General Manager to ensure that all castings were well weathered. The Newall-owned foundry was in Lancashire. The major expansion at Keighley Grinders was in the time of John Macinley, the son-in-law of Dennis Player.  At that time Keighley Grinders also had Jeremy Rowe, the son of Harold Rowe who was MD at O.M.T. in Maidenhead. I believe that many Newall products were moved to Keighley but that is after my time.

I moved to Newtool in Fakenham taking over from Chris Bull the grandson of Sydney. Newall was taken over by the B. Elliot Group. In fact I remain in touch with Harry Wingrove then Elliot Deputy Chairman who recently moved to Somerset.

I was called to Peterborough one winter, the road was icy, I skidded across the road and hit the kerb causing damage. I drove slowly to a garage for an urgent repair and they gave me a lift to the factory. At the end of the day I had to get back to the garage to collect my car. It was Joe Hobbs who drove me to the garage. I remember he phoned his wife to explain why he would be late home.

E.M.

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[[The following information was supplied by Chris Bennett]]

From 1964 to 1969 I was the assistant to the Group Publicity Manager, John Pudney at Newall Group Sales Offices in Oundle Road. What a job! I had the privilege of visiting most companies in the Group as well as attending any International Machine Tool exhibitions during that time. I also went to a number of our customers such as Ford at Dagenham with Colin Clarke who was the company photographer and film maker. He and I had many adventures together until he eventually left the company to get married to a Belgian lady and moved to Belgium. Two other members of the Publicity Dept. were Harold Day who processed the many hundreds of photographs from his dark room which we regularly sent out with press releases and Anne Trevor who was our secretary. I remember many of the staff who worked in the Sales Offices and I will list them below:
Noel Staunton who was the Office Manager
Geoff Walker
Jack Adams
Len Bussey
Ralph {not Ron} who was the Export Manager and drove an old “high rise” 3 litre Rover.
Don Brown who was the Sales Manager and lived just a mile away in Oundle Road.
Mick Skelton who used to invite me round to his house occasionally for a meal made by his wife Cristal. He was best man at my wedding and died all too soon in his 40’s.
Masie and Joan we have already mentioned.
Jenny Bennett was the receptionist and telex operator
June Shewan
June Lincoln
Elsa Sayers (I think that was her surname)
Bob Clarke
Mr Wozniak (we never knew his Christian name) who was responsible for all transport whether to exhibitions or customers. We used mainly Kuehne and Nagel in those days. today they are still in business as K and N.
I also knew Vernon Wheeler and Bob Bridges and must not forget Arthur Howard who always found time to talk to me when I wandered down onto the factory floor and needed to know some information for one of the brochures I used to write and help produce. Arthur was a scraper and used to sit there patiently all day with his blue stuff scraping the beds of the jig borers.
Two other people I must mention were overseas agents. The first was Fred Ferraris from Switzerland who used to visit the company regularly and always called in for a chat. the second was Sergio ? [[see next paragraph]] who was our Italian agent and was always bursting into song. He had a fabulous voice and could easily have been an opera singer.
I believe I still have the odd copy of company brochures including an OMT one that I was particularly proud to have designed as well as one or two of the famous Newall Make A Note pads which I will try and dig out and photograph for your site.
I had many adventures while I worked at Newalls – not all for publication I have to say – but I will try and follow this up with one or two on another occasion. To anybody I have missed out of the list above I apologise but at the age of 71 the old brain is getting a bit hazy these days!

C.B.

[[Update. We have received feedback from Simon Wheeler, who added that:

“The Italian agent was Sergio Piuno based in Turin – his wife was Anna with children Raffaella and Christian.”]]

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My name is Peter Atkinson and I was an employee of OMT for three years 70/73. I delivered their finished products as far as Glasgow, Cwmbran and Chelmsford. I delivered OMT finished products during these dates from the Helston factory, until closure. I went to most of the factories in the group, Peterborough, Fakenham, High Wycombe, Keighley and I think a place near Southampton. I had a table, can’t recall size to deliver to Massey Ferguson Tractors, Coventry, who as it happened were on strike, typical of the 1970s. They questioned me but let me in. I remember a little happening involving John Hughes. He was in the hardening shop at the rear of the factory next to the car park and he dropped or spilt a container of industrial ammonia, quite pungent, I think you would agree, but luckily there was a roller shutter door opening onto the car park, and everyone got out double-quick.

Amongst others I knew there were Tony Warburton (Machine shop), Mr Studley (Director), Mr Tiplady (Lapping dept.), G Wheaton (Quality control), Ray Kearney (Dispatch), J Hughes (Hardening shop) and Ken Measures, Joe Johnson and A Ladd (all in the Maintenance section). It was a very sad day when the factory shut; not just jobs going but there had seemed to be a good feeling about the place, satisfaction I would say.

P.A.

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I heard this tale of an incident that occurred at No. 3 factory before I joined the company. Apparently one of the employees was trying to get into the premises to do some late night work and although he had a key to the factory he had forgotten to bring a key to the outer gate. Having decided he could probably climb over the gate to gain access to the site he was apprehended by a passing policeman (we used to have them in those days) who asked him what he was doing. The chap replied that he was an electrician who needed to get in to do some work. “OK, what’s your name” asked the policeman. “Sparks” came the truthful reply to which the response was “Sparks eh? – a likely story!” and he was marched off to the police station. It always amuses me to think that there was an electrician called Sparks, the chief inspector was Bert Rule and the service manager was Bill Bodger.

D.H.

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Although my father was a well-respected member of senior management he still wasn’t exempt from the occasional wrath of his boss’s tongue. His boss was Mr. Rowe (“old man Rowe”; dad always called him “guvnor”) and he chose to have an argument with my dad while seated at the glass-topped boardroom table in the Maidenhead factory. I don’t know what the argument was about but my father obviously said something wrong because Mr. Rowe shouted at him “No Joe, No Joe, No, No, No!”, each time crashing his fist down on the table to emphasise his displeasure. On the final “No” the glass top of the desk shattered and my dad said quietly “Steady guvnor”.

D.H.

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We were getting ready for the machine tool show at the NEC. A firm of specialist machine movers had been engaged to transport the machines safely from Peterborough to Birmingham. Some machines had been deposited at the Ivatt Way factory ready for collection and these included a small Danobat (I think) grinder. Anyway, whether or not it was a Danobat, it was certainly a top-heavy machine that cried out to be lifted from the top. Unfortunately, these specialist machine movers decided to lift it from close to the bottom which they did by putting some bars through the base and then lifting it by slings suspended from a forklift truck. They started to move it, but for some reason the forklift driver got off the truck to go and sort something else out, leaving the load suspended. It was quite a few minutes later (and I still don’t understand what triggered the event) but a group of us watched in amazement as the whole grinding machine suddenly toppled over and smashed to the ground, doing itself a considerable amount of damage.

D.H.

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Jim Phillips, our chief engineer, liked us to think of ourselves as one big, happy family (which to be fair, we probably were for most of the time). On one occasion, a new recruit was being introduced to us all in turn. When Jim brought him to meet me he introduced us and told him he would be working alongside me and that we are all one big happy family here, “isn’t that right David?” I replied “Yes Jim” (at which he beamed) but I continued “… except in an emergency and then it’s every man for himself.” Jim’s expression went through several changes until he decided it wasn’t a bad joke and he muttered below his breath “Yes quite so, quite so.”

D.H.

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John Stevenson had been a panel builder at No. 3 factory and joined us at Ivatt Way, looking after the PCB prototype etching section and other photographic duties. A Welshman through and through with a super sense of humour, he would often tell stories against himself. One of my favourites was about the time when he arrived home for lunch from the pub rather later than he should, and his wife had worked herself up into a very angry state as the dinner was really ruined. John said as soon as he opened the back door his dinner (complete with plate) came flying across the room, just missed his head and smashed into the wall behind him. “I can’t understand what’s wrong with her” he said, “… she used to be a much better shot than that!”

D.H.

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Cica1973, I was called to the North Luffenham Re-Newall site to investigate a problem on a Newall Jig Borer which had been re-furbished, and fitted with a new readout system using the glass grating transducers. The problem was that the position display on one, or both, axes would suddenly ‘jump’, even though the machine axes had not moved. This problem was not unusual on the earlier systems, and was typically caused by power surge when a motor started or stopped. The main cure was to check the earthing system, particularly on the signal cables, and to ensure that the machine guards were earthed and closed. However, in this case, the fault still occurred 2 or 3 times a day even without operating the machine. As might be expected, we then noticed that the fault was worse (occurring every hour or so) with the guards removed. Attempting to investigate further, I tried monitoring the low signal circuit with an oscilloscope. This caused a further deterioration – in fact it became so bad that the fault seemed to occur every few seconds. And there was the clue – we realised that we could predict precisely when the fault would occur – every 9 seconds! When asked what might be happening on the site every 9 seconds, one of the staff noted that a radar system on the nearby RAF airfield rotated and pointed directly at the factory every 9 seconds! We conclude that providing the machine was not being taken to a site next to an airfield, then there should not be a problem.

M.R.

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[[ During a meeting with Tom Skop, we were discussing the buildings at the No.2 factory, and the Apprentice School reminded Tom of the following story. He said: ]]

I joined Newall as an apprentice at the No.1 factory in 1966. Soon after that (early 1967) we moved to the new Apprentice School in Shrewsbury Avenue. There, as part of our training, we’d be given the job of making some intricate parts for the optical reader head used on the readout grating system on jig borers. These were quite small parts, and made to a very high degree of accuracy in respect of diameter, flatness etc. Sometimes, we might slip up, and produce something that we knew would fail inspection, and we’d not want to be in trouble for wasting time and material. So occasionally, we’d just hide the faulty piece in our pocket, and set about making a new one, hopefully without any one noticing.
Behind the apprentice school was a fence, beyond which was a field that was part of Newall’s land, and used as a football field. When needing to dispose of a faulty part that had been hidden in ones pocket, we’d surreptitiously chuck the offending part over the fence into the corner of the field!

T.S.

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[[ Following on from that last story, we discussed what the building between the Apprentice School, and the main factory bays, was used for. There were 5 bays to this building, and Tom was sure that 3 of the bays were used for stores . . . . ]]

I remember that there were two doors leading into the stores area. When you went through these doors, the stores counter ran across from left to right. Both doors led into the same area, but we were told that we should use the left hand for parts (eg screws etc), and the right hand door for tools (taps for example). On one occasion I went through the right hand door and asked the guy behind the counter for some bolts. I was told I had come in through the wrong door, and he couldn’t help me. So I had to go back outside, and return through the left hand door. I then asked the same guy for the bolts I needed, only to be told they were out of stock! Of course, he could have told me that the first time.

T.S.

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[[ The last story reminded Tom of another . . . ]]

I cannot now remember exactly why, but after requesting something, I was told I’d have to go and see Stan Ball – I’m not sure if that was the name, but it was one specific individual I needed to see. I was told he’d be in, say, the machine shop. So I’d go over to the machine shop, and ask someone if Stan Ball was about. The response would be something like “sorry mate, he’s gone over to the hydraulic shop”. So off I’d go. When then making enquiries in the hydraulic shop, there might be some discussion between two or three people about whether anyone had seen Stan Ball. Then someone would ‘remember’ that Stan had said he was going to (say) the drawing office. Off I went . . .
It was not till some time later that I discovered that this ‘Stan’ guy had died a couple of years ago, or never existed!

Those were the days!

T.S.

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My first major project at Newall Electronics was a control system for an automatic inspection machine at RAE Bedford that was going to be used for checking wind tunnel models of Concorde wing shapes that were then being developed and tested. I remember Jim Phillips’s design included some revolutionary new dynamic memory chips with a capacity of 128 bits, miniscule by today’s standards but cutting edge stuff in those days. They were hugely expensive: I seem to remember each chip cost about £19 in 1971, which corresponds to roughly £262 today (2015) and I had the honour of soldering in these devices to our prototype circuit board. Unfortunately, when we tested the circuit we found that this particular chip was not working. We had a spare, so I soldered that one in its place, but this also was found to be dead. It was at this point that I discovered I had been using a soldering iron with a broken earth lead so I had just destroyed two expensive chips due to static discharge. My recollection is that Jim was not best pleased with my performance that day.

D.H.

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Cliff Croxford was a lovely fellow who looked after the No. 2 factory site single-handed during the last few years of its Newall days and who tragically died in a road accident a short time later. He was very down-to-earth and sprinkled his sentences liberally with words of ancient anglo-saxon origin and I think he was probably the kindest person I’ve known – nothing was too much trouble and if you tried to thank him he would seem a bit embarrassed and just say “Oh, don’t be so fu**ing soft!” One day, I walked up the outside of the factory from the front offices to the rear gatehouse and every drain cover had been lifted off to expose an overflowing gulley. When I reached the gatehouse, poor Cliff was sweating away, pulling and shoving what seemed like about a hundred metres of drain rods into the furthest manhole that was full to the brim with raw sewage. He stopped for a breather when he saw me, and said “Look at this lot, just look at it. Of course, you know where it’s come from you don’t you?” Naïvely I said I didn’t and he just replied (with a broad smile) “Arse’oles mate, arse’oles!”

D.H.

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Talking of Cliff Croxford reminded me of another amusing incident that happened just as the No. 2 factory was closing down, the auctioneers were in, cataloguing everything saleable, and there was a general clamour to grab anything that might be useful at home and not missed! I was running a smallholding then in addition to being a Newall employee and I had been taking a crop of hay from the old sports field. Cliff asked if I would let him have a bale “for his rabbit” and of course I readily agreed. The next thing I knew, at lunch-time Cliff was heading off across the field with a bale of hay on a sack truck. Well I knew he had a fair old journey to get home and back so I started running after him shouting that I would take a bale home for him in my Land Rover. Strong arms grabbed me, turned me round and urged me to be quiet and not make a fuss because “it isn’t really the bale he wants!”

D.H.

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A computer system was located at No. 1 factory. I never saw it myself but I know it was powered by a motor-generator set to provide a clean source of power. Later, after the system had been replaced, and the company opened the No. 2 factory in Shrewsbury Avenue, the generator part was coupled up to an engine to provide an emergency back-up supply for the plant lighting, and when the company closed down I bought it for a project at home that was going to need 3-phase power. It was quite a beast, about 30kVA I seem to remember and it was driven by a 6-cylinder BMC diesel engine. Hardly the kind of computer power supply we have become used to today!

D.H.

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My favourite story relates to a visit from a team from the Ford Motor Company to discuss progress on their order. After the customary lunch the Ford delegation came to a meeting chaired by Jim Player. The Ford team leader turned to Mr. Jim and said: “Now, Mr. Card.” Clearly his technique of word association to remember names had let him down on this occasion.

B.C.

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In 1968, I attended an interview (for an Electronics Design Engineer) at the No1 Factory in Old Fletton. The interviewer was Jack Willkinson. We had driven over from Rugby, and I’d left my wife and our 10 month old baby (Helen) in the car for the expected 1 hour interview. In the event, I had to go for a second interview with Jim Phillips at the No2 Factory. I had no idea where this was, and was invited to follow Jack Wilkinson in his car. I hurriedly returned to my car – only to find that the driver’s seat was being used to change a nappy! It was a case of quickly scooping up our daughter, and my wife held her (nappy less) for the 15 minute drive to Shrewsbury Avenue. Fortunately, there were no ‘spills’, and we arrived safely. I was offered the post, and began work at Newall Engineering (developing readout improvements, and fixing problems with the existing readout system) in January 1969.

M.R.

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The Spacematic was a large jig borer with a BTH point-to-point automatic control system that used punched card data input, and it exhibited high accuracy and repeatability. Joe Hobbs used to demonstrate these features to potential customers as follows. Using the automatic control system, he would send the axes to a point near the centre of the workpiece and using a single-point boring tool would machine a large diameter hole through the workpiece. He would then return the axes to their datum positions and using a pencil, draw four vertical lines, 90 degrees apart, up the walls of the hole he had just bored. Next, he would repeat the machining process, sending the axes automatically to the original hole centre and boring the same hole again before returning the axes to their datum positions. He would then proudly show that all four pencil lines still remained visible, demonstrating the superb quality of the machine axes, the control system and the spindle bearings.

D.H.

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Towards the end of the 1960’s I was working for Airmec-AEI in High Wycombe, having transferred there from AEI Leicester along with a number of others including a very clever engineer called Derek Needham, who had done a lot of the development work on the Plan-E-Trol continuous path control system. I particularly remember being very unhelpful to Derek when he was doing some testing on a brand new 2030 jig borer in the Airmec-AEI works. He asked me if I knew which lever engaged the quill drive and I said I thought it was “that one there”. He engaged said lever but unfortunately the spindle was running at its highest possible speed and within about 2 seconds the quill had shot down and we had bored a neat half-inch hole deep into the machine table! Derek was very good about it and never actually blamed me but I shall always remember the look of horror on his face when he realised what he had done. I shouldn’t think the look on mine was much different either. Anyway, I think it was Don Cottingham who came out from Newall Engineering, plugged the hole with a cast iron plug and re-scraped the table surface so well that you literally couldn’t tell it had ever been done.

D.H.

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On 29th June 1954 my father, Joe Hobbs, was returning from a Newall sales trip to the USA on a BOAC Stratocruiser aircraft. A little way into the flight, the steward came and asked him to look at some strange objects that seemed to be keeping pace with the aircraft. The steward said the captain thought they were flying saucers and had asked for assistance from the military. My father said it looked a bit like an anti-aircraft shell burst with one large cloud-like object and a number of smaller ones. They were observed for quite a long time before a jet fighter arrived to intercept them. As the jet approached, the smaller objects apparently merged into the larger one, which then shot off at enormous speed, far out-pacing the jet fighter, which had to turn back. The Stratocruiser made an unscheduled landing at Gander airport, Newfoundland and all the passengers and crew were interrogated at length. Although my father didn’t believe in flying saucers as such, he was never able to explain what he saw that day.

D.H.

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