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Interview of Sybil Gamble (nee Marshall) and her brother Trevor, 26th November 200

Interviewed by Peter Stoddart

Interviewer
How do you remember, obviously in your childhood, getting involved with Taylorcraft? What was the first thing that happened?
Trevor
It would be in the school holidays and going with the drivers for a ride, that’s basically what it would be.
Interviewer
Did your father know Mr Wykes do you think or?
Trevor
Yes.
Interviewer
So he would offer your services to Mr Wykes or?
Trevor
Literally I think we just went for the ride.
Interviewer
Do you remember how early on? Did you tend to try and get in with every aeroplane? Do you remember the actual first trip?
Sybill
The one with the photograph? I don’t know, you probably didn’t then.
Trevor
No. My memories are more war time so I wouldn’t really be old enough to know before the war.
Interviewer
Marshall Brothers were still towing the aeroplanes up to the airfield in the war and would that include Tiger Moths as well then?
Trevor
I don’t know, possibly, yes.
Interviewer
I’m not sure at what point work on actual airframes would cease at Britannia Works. Once the firm established the new building on the aerodrome on Gaddesby Lane that was built for the Hurricane repair, well that came after Tiger Moths. When they didn’t sell the Taylorcraft as a military aeroplane initially they repaired Tiger Moths, that was how they kept in aviation. When they moved onto repair Hurricanes as well they needed a much bigger premises and they only ever repaired Tiger Moths at Britannia Works and when they came to be repairing Austers later in the war I don’t think they were done at Britannia Works. I don’t really know what happened there eventually.
Trevor
Parts were taken from Britannia Works to the airfield on lorries, not necessary Page but Parks, so that’s more what I remember.
Sybill
It fits in with what you said doesn’t it? It’s very likely.
Interviewer
More likely to be making parts later on into the war. How long did it carry on? Right through the war they were supplying transport to Taylorcraft do you think?
Trevor
I would say right to nationalisation.
Interviewer
And that was 1948.
Sybill
50.
Trevor
January 11th 1950 nationalisation.
Sybill
But although I was older it wasn’t until I came to your talk and saw those slides that I realised the significance of it, because you know I was at school and quite a bit older than
Trevor
so I wasn’t so close to it and anyway it would appeal more to him to get involved with it but I don’t think you were either were you? Until you saw that photograph it didn’t hit you how we used to do it. When I said I’d seen it and I got hold of the photographs that’s when it sort of clicked.
Trevor
When the business expanded I preferred to go on the long distance rather than, basically the lorry was more comfortable, loading and unloading.
Sybill
Would they have had a contract with the aerodrome? How would it have worked? I don’t know, to sort of keep this job going.
Trevor
There would be sentries on the gate even then.
Sybill
But I mean who would the arrangement be with, would it be with the War Office or what?
Interviewer
Originally it would have been between your father and your father’s company and Lance Wykes. When they got the contracts for repair of military aeroplanes, when they got the contracts to military Austers they were still in charge of the operation as a manufacturer and presumably they could specify who was transporting things themselves, unless during the war transport was allocated, I don’t know about that.
Sybill
That’s what I was just questioning because I don’t remember. I mean I used to see a lot of the papers and stuff helping in the office but I don’t ever remember seeing anything like a contract. There may have been but you’d have thought it would have been in the archives.
Trevor
Saying that, from what I can remember, I never ever saw any of the peoples lorries in Auster at Thurmaston, you would on the what I call it the base at Rearsby yes but that ties in what you said about it being more military.
Interviewer
Yes I mean I’ve no idea how it would be organised but I think as you weren’t supplying transport direct to the military I imagine Taylorcraft themselves would organise the transport they needed. Basically all they had to do was fulfil their contract but the only way it would be controlled from outside would be how petrol was allocated but that presumably was down to your father to getting petrol, I don’t suppose he’d get petrol allocated for doing a job for Taylorcraft.
Sybill
No, that’s interesting isn’t it.
Trevor
I don’t think you’re right what you’re saying there. I can remember we had our own pump, 200 gallons underground and he just used to ((?)), give you cheque and got it. The same petrol was used for anybody’s job, so that bears out what you said.
Interviewer
Obviously it was in short supply, it wasn’t necessarily in short supply but it had to go to the right usage…
Sybill
It was rationed.
Interviewer
…and it wasn’t really available to private motorists at all unless they were doctors and people like that could get petrol.
Sybill
That’s right, yes. We couldn’t put the business petrol. We had got a car, we couldn’t put it into our car.
Trevor
That was later on because the first year they didn’t put the red dye in, so then red dye was for commercial vehicles and that’s what we started to get so that stopped us using the car.
Interviewer
Because previously you could just fill up the car from--
Sybill
Not that we used it a great deal, we didn’t go joy riding or anything.
Interviewer
I think the telephone was more important than the car wasn’t it.
Sybill
Telephone was really important.
Trevor
Sometimes on a Saturday in the summer we used to have a little country run in the car.
Sybill
Yes. Dad sometimes used to save the deliveries that were picked up at Richard the Third, which weren’t urgent and then he’d save a whole collection and we’d got a little van and we used to go with him on the trip around the accounts, the Melton area and into Rutland and into ((Liddleton, Furely and Hazelton)) and places like that.
Interviewer
That would be a real treat in those days.
Sybill
Yes. He used to do that himself, not one of his drivers.
Interviewer
During the war, were they working 7 days a week?
Trevor
No. Interview They still just worked, what, 5½ days?
Trevor
Yes 5½. He used to fetch some money from the bank, Barclay’s, about twenty odd pounds for about six drivers and you had to cart your bike outside somewhere, probably Raleigh’s shop, and there was the money in the basket on the front. I remember that.
Sybill
I don’t remember. Oh yes he went by bicycle and it was a good mile down into the village and cycling away with this money in the basket.
Interviewer
Well it was probably safe then.
Sybill
It was probably safe then, yes.
Trevor
And Dad paid a driver Saturday dinner. Sometimes it would run into the afternoon if a driver got back late of course but he tried to load up Saturday for Monday because that’s when the factories closed, say 12 o’clock lunchtime so then sometimes the drivers would get overtime to wash the lorries as well, they would just lag it out a bit.
Interviewer
So if there was six drivers there must have been around about six lorries then.
Trevor
We ended up with five. Five lorries and two vans.
Sybill
Have you told Mr ((?)) about the procedure when you went with one of those Auster or parts or bits up to the airfield, that was Ratcliffe wasn’t it?
Trevor
For a start, yes. I can’t remember the first plane going up. It’s times I went up in the van, occasionally the lorry, and you’d pick up spares and take them to Ratcliffe. When the war was on I think I only got onto the airfield twice because there was a sentry in the box, you can’t keep still there where the box was and I always had to wait there and if there was other people in the queue I could stand like ((Alice?)) for two hours.
Interviewer
They just let the driver through then.
Trevor
Yeah, security like, because of the war. ((?)) that got easier, after the war it would do.
Interviewer
Yeah into the war Ratcliffe then became no.6 ferry pool for the Air Transport Auxiliary so you didn’t just have Auster operations there any more. In fact it hadn’t occurred to me actually, I don’t know whether the earliest of the Tiger Moths would go to Ratcliffe and actually be assembled there in the same way as the Taylorcraft. I’m struggling to remember the exact dates now and I can’t remember the date when the Rearsby Airfield opened for Taylorcraft use. We have a photograph of a Tiger Moth with this new hanger, that’s the big hanger nearest the road, that was the first new building, we’ve got one of those, it was an original with A.O Wykes in his material. That shows the Tiger Moth assembled ready for flight at Rearsby but I think they may have been flying those from Ratcliffe so that might be why you were taking spares up there because they may have repaired some of the aircraft on the airfield. I mean they were all in two small hangers originally at Ratcliffe, the ones that are still there but during the war they put another hanger up, a bigger hanger, but that’s now gone. That must have been taken down after the war. The original pre-war hangers are still there, used as agricultural buildings. Do you remember the Hurricanes and Typhoons at Rearsby?
Trevor
Yes. They seemed massive they did.
Interviewer
Yes because they had to extend the airfield to get bigger planes off and everything must have been delivered for those I think to Rearsby. It would only be detailed parts I think that would be dealt down at Britannia Works. Though did the company have any transport of their own do you remember?
Trevor
Austers?
Interviewer
Yeah, I mean in the war time years and the early years, did they have a vehicle of their own or did they always rely on Marshalls?
Trevor
As far as I was aware it was just Marshall’s. I wouldn’t say for sure.
Sybill
Somebody else might know.
Trevor
Yeah somebody who worked there should know that, yes. Don’t take that as being right because I’m not sure.
Sybill
What I remember particularly about those airfields, particularly at Ratcliffe, you mustn’t slow down as you went past never mind stop, almost don’t look, the security.
Trevor
And yet there was nothing secret on Ratcliffe.
Sybill
I’m sure there wasn’t.
Interviewer
Well yes and no. I mean the Air Transport Auxiliary were in the business of transporting aeroplanes from maintenance units and factories to the services and so there could have been any of the latest aeroplanes there in which case that was about as secret as you could get.
Sybill
I would imagine though it just applied to all airfields didn’t it, it was an automatic.
Interviewer
Yeah you didn’t allow for any chance did you? You take the severe approach and then nothing can happen in theory and if it does happens well you can ((?)) people are involved. If the firm was providing transport then right through and after the war they would be involved in the revival of civil aeroplanes then. Do you remember those appearing at Rearsby? We’ve seen photographs of line ups of aeroplanes, they were very optimistic about their sales and everything.
Sybill
Well they used to sell Austers of course for other purposes didn’t they? Like Mr Keller came over from Switzerland, they used them for crop spraying and things like that didn’t they and wasn’t he the Swiss representative for Auster? When did I go? 1948-ish. From Zurich, he’d got a huge motor business, he imported all Nuffield Group products and he was a sort of agent for Auster. I mean obviously not for himself, he must have just been as I say the agent and he used to come over to Rearsby.
Trevor
I can see that connection now. Lord Nuffield had a shadow factory during the war at Castle Bromwich building engines I believe, the old Wolseley works I think, I’m not sure. Mr Keller was the Nuffield agent for Switzerland, if Nuffield got asked to find an agent in Switzerland, that would tie in. As you said probably nothing actually to do with it but just be an agent.
Interviewer
They had a scheme to sell in this country through car dealerships. Shipside at Nottingham was one of the ones.
Trevor
That’s another Nuffield Group product, T Shipside.
Interviewer
Yeah Tom was it? Tom Shipside was it? They placed all these Autocrats, which were the first post war aeroplane, in these car showrooms thinking they’d sell to the upper end of the car market but they had all these aeroplanes out on a sale or return basis but not really sold any.
Trevor
I remember the Autocrat advert.
Interviewer
They had three full colour adverts on the front of Flight magazine, each with a different picture, which must have cost quite a bit of money in those days. That was the mast end of the magazine and we had a session years ago with Ken Sharp, who was one of the Directors.
Trevor
An Auster man wasn’t he.
Interviewer
Yes, he’s passed on now, lived in the white house in Syston, which looks like it might have one time been a farm house, right near the central island there, just off on the Brompton Road Syston was it?
Trevor
The white house, that was a doctor’s place wasn’t it?
Sybill
Yes, doctor’s house. It’s on your left.
Interviewer
When I interviewed him Ken Sharp lived there and he was saying how they had to lay a lot of people off and then they managed to get some orders and he had to send people round the pubs to see if he could find them all and ask them back and I don’t think all of them were too keen to go back having been laid off but that was the way of industry at the time.
Trevor
What was the like ordinance depot in Broad Street Syston? Where the recreation ground, Peter Street not Broad Street. As you walk up Peter Street from the ((?)) end there was a place there that’s like--
Sybill
On the right, it was a big factory.
Trevor
((?)). Now what made me mention that was that anything to do with Taylorcraft because I think the girls there were doing aeroplane parts but where from I don’t know? I used to walk that way to school.
Interviewer
Well they had several buildings in Syston, I mean in the end they actually had ten different locations and they had Britannia Works, which I think had two numbers because there was Crowthers building fronting onto the road, the main building with the tower but the actual bit, well you remember this. The bit that the Austers, the tail craft were done was in the back one there.
Trevor
That’s right because we delivered for Crowthers, that’s probably how we got the job with Austers then. It’s just coming together isn’t it?
Interviewer
Yes well it would be because Wykes and Bates were involved with Crowthers anyway. I mean they were already in business and Wykes had been a World War One pilot flier, in the Royal Flying Corp., and he was involved with the County Flying Club, which was the second flying club that had been formed in Leicestershire as a result of the failure of the Flying Flea. The Flying Flea was an everyone can build one and fly type aeroplane, do it yourself job, which was designed by a Frenchman and looked good but was lethal and there were quite a number of fatal accidents and it was all banned in the end but little clubs sprouted all over the place for making these Flying Fleas as a cheaper way of flying. Because the Leicestershire Flying Club, which was by then was at Braunstone at the new aerodrome at Braunstone, it was still the upper end of the market, it wasn’t a cheap man’s sport by any means so there was a push with people trying to fly in Flying Fleas and they founded a club in Leicestershire and originally flew from a field near Melton Mowbray. I think the Flea was banned eventually, Lindsey Everard gave them a drone, a BAC drone, which was a powered aeroplane but it was really almost a power glider, it wasn’t high performance but it was a powered aeroplane and they moved to Gaddesby Lane are Rearsby and that was how that airfield was formed. It wasn’t by Taylorcraft. The County Flying Club were there before the war and I think it was requisitioned for Taylorcraft during the war because I think what must have happened was civil flying stopped dead at the start of the war so there would be nothing happening on that field but it was an established little airfield and that was how Taylorcraft got their own airfield. By the time they were well into the war it would be an embarrassment to them having Taylorcraft going up to Ratcliffe I imagine because they were very busy with this Air Transport Auxiliary.
Trevor
Were Taylorcraft anything to do with the Braunstone airfield?
Interviewer
Not as far as I know. Braunstone aerodrome was used as a satellite for Desford and Reid and Sigrist were running one of these civilian run flying training schools, number 7 EFTS I think it was, which were part of the expansion before the war. When the warning bells finally started ringing, to get a rapid expansion of the RAF they gave contracts out to civilian organisations to train pilots and they trained pilots and they trained navigators and observers at Desford and during the war, well before the war really I think, although Braunstone was a civil aerodrome, there wasn’t a tremendous amount going on there apart from the flying club and it was used as a satellite. That is obviously the connection then, Marshall Brothers supplying transport to Crowthers. It was the same people running Taylorcraft. Wykes simply expanded the business ideas, obviously it was a separate company and I don’t know how keen people like Bates were in doing it but because Wykes was actively in aviation he knew about this American design and they actually got one of the American aeroplanes, an American made aeroplane before they had the license. What happened was when they got the license to build the American aeroplane the material requirements in this country were different and they had to use stronger tubes and things like that in the welded structure so they then gave it a designation plus safety because it was the model B so they called theirs the +B and plus was a sort of gimmick, it’s so much better than the previous one. I mean Crowthers, of course, carried on work there, with ten factories. One and 2 were the Britannia Works site but one of those was the original Taylorcraft building which was this one down the back. I understood from the Ken Sharp meeting, I don’t whether it actually had a connection with ((Driads?)) but there was somebody there who had the ((hosier beds?)) and made the basketwork.
Sybill
Elmores who made the chairs and stuff.
Interviewer
Well apparently the hosier beds went down where the bypass is now, at the back of where Britannia Works was?
Sybill
What’s my basket chair, Lloyd Loom.
Interviewer
Lloyd Loom is not actual reed. The Lloyd Loom system is very clever, they bound wire with paper, it’s paper wrapped wire and it gives you a very thin material for weaving, I mean the basket work is about the thickness of this pen isn’t it?
Sybill
I’ve got a Lloyd Loom chair, from way back.
Trevor
What’s Mr Angrade that’s who I was thinking of? Has he got anything to do with the aircraft? Is it Angrave Cane Furniture, you see it on the ((?)).
Sybill
Yes that’s the one, yes. That’s probably connected originally with Elmores perhaps.
Trevor
Well Bob Ainsley was it?
Sybill
Yes I think it was. Yes because opposite Roundhill School, which is almost opposite Britannia Works, ((?)) farm came up to that at the back, which I used to often be there and down there there were all these wet areas so they would have been these hosier ((?)) right up to the river. You know the district do you?
Interviewer
Yes.
Sybill
If you go up ((Onelit Road?)) you come to the canal and the river, well this wetland, of course a lot of it’s now this Watermead Park.
Interviewer
They’ve dug the gravel out and left the water. I’m trying to think of the name of the chap who’s the founder of Dryad. I mean this basketwork, well Dryad were making basketwork seats for First War aeroplanes and for some of the early airliners because they had basketwork seats in. What happened was that this building presumably was no longer being used and it was a 3R building, an apex roof but I think there were two rows of stanchions and three doors in the middle of the gables and a central concrete runway through the building and earth at the sides. What they did was took the cars through the middle, through the bundles of hoses off onto the earth at the sides so they would obviously dry out but it was basically just a store building because they’d harvest the hosiers presumably at one time of the year and then they’d want them for continuing the production. Whether Elmores were making the actual basketwork I don’t know or whether that was in those buildings that became Crowthers.
Sybill
I wouldn’t be surprised, there used to be a big sign up Elmores.
Interviewer
So to get to the actual Taylorcraft aeroplane you went through the archway and right down the back and it was in the centre of the brick buildings.
Trevor
That’s it, yes. I went down there a few times. I was tagging along, put it like that.
Interviewer
Do you ever remember seeing ((?)) as an identifiable person do you remember?
Sybill
I was very friendly with Margo, I went to their house at ((?)), they lived at ((Barrow Brook?)) but was he Lance or was he the other one? I’d have to ring up and ask her which was her dad.
Interviewer
Well Margo’s dad was Lance.
Sybill
Oh he was Lance, I thought it was. I met him at their home but we were both friends at school at Barrow, Barrow on Soar and she lived at Barrow and we were friends so sometimes I’d be back at her house.
Trevor
I don’t know where Uncle Percy lived.
Sybill
It’s not possible it was Rothley?
Trevor
And I don’t know whether he was a bachelor or whether he was married.
Sybill
Could it have been Rothley?
Interviewer
It could have been, yes. When you were living in Syston there must have been a lot of aerial activity over that during the war.
Sybill
I suppose there was but I suppose we took it for granted when you’re quite young. I was 11 when war broke out. I used to go on the train to school at Barrow because we lived in ((?)) so it was very convenient.
Interviewer
Well yeah that was when you could make local journeys or long distance journeys on a train, I mean you can do the local journey again now but. The firm then was doing transport right up to nationalisation and then what happened at nationalisation? You were given contracts to work or?
Sybill
All the lorries were transferred to Claytons weren’t they?
Trevor
Eventually. It carried on, literally the business was taken so it carried on but you had a new boss. That’s basically what it was.
Interviewer
So you carried on with the contract work you had?
Trevor
Yes.
Sybill
How long for though? It wasn’t very long. It doesn’t seem to be very long.
Trevor
Well as I say we got nationalised, ((?)) they came to us and then the BRS, that’s the Road Haulage Executive, kept closing smaller depots so our stuff got moved to Claytons, St Michael’s Avenue and then you see the lorries were being painted red so they lost identity. For a time Clayton men put the haulier’s name on as well, for a while, then he moved to ((?)) didn’t he.
Interviewer
So basically when it was nationalised, you say your father was a sole owner by then, he was simply paid for the firm.
Trevor
Yes he became like depot manager at his own place.
Interviewer
And did he carry on to retirement?
Trevor
Yes.
Interviewer
In BRS?
Sybill
He eventually ended up in the offices at ((?)) didn’t he, where the ((?))
Trevor
BRS was second in command to ((?)). Bob Lay was boss.
Sybill
He stayed on I think because he would have retired but our mother died very suddenly in 1954 and I think he could have retired but he decided to stay on because it was a terrible shock for him and he wanted something to do. They’d moved out to Peatling Magna the year before so it was quite convenient so he carried on working in the offices.
Interviewer
That place at Blaby Wharf, wasn’t that to do with BRS as well, the aircraft hangers were? That was a maintenance unit during the war. Did BRS have a connection there?
Trevor
That was Pickfords, Blaby Wharf. So Pickfords was basically BRS anyway, it was a nationalised company, owned by the railways, we all worked together.
Interviewer
They retained the name Pickfords didn’t they.
Trevor
Yes still today. I think there’s one haulier’s that I’m 99% certain didn’t get nationalised, Easingwood at Blaby, that’s gone now.
Sybill
Because Martha got nationalised didn’t she.
Trevor
A M Walkers. Yes that’s why it became BRS Blaby. Lady Hall she became.
Interviewer
The whole thing was held together by the, was it the Road Haulage Association? Did that have area groups?
Trevor
Yes we were group 41, ((?)) division. Different divisions and so many groups made a division, a group consisted of a number of depots.
Sybill
Lots of bureaucracy, as always happens when you get nationalisation.
Trevor
Well I’ll tell you what my father said at one time. He said I’ve got 7 vehicles and 1 man runs it, that BRS is 7 people to every line at one time, at the height of it. The yard foreman, the depot foreman, that’s what he said.
Sybill
Not financially efficient of course.
Interviewer
Well no. The trouble is bigger is supposed to be better but you still can’t have bigger without some form of organisation.
Sybill
It gives more employment doesn’t it.
Interviewer
Yeah, whether there is a perfect way of organising any of it. It’s all really eventually down to the individuals in it and what their attitude is to their bit but I mean that applies in private or nationalised industry doesn’t it.
Sybill
Yes, are big schools better than small schools? And they are.
Interviewer
Well when I was working in the Museum Education Service and my impression was that the best education you could get, best broad education you could get was in a village school where there might be only one or two teachers but where there was a mixture of ages and the older kids got responsibilities related to the younger children and so on and they were developing a lot of worldly skills as part of their education without being taught it. But they are the ones, of course, that they want to shut. What I’ve done is I have brought one or two photos, including I think the ones that you have already got. I wondered whether these might stimulate any memories. There’s one inside the factory. When I was at Ken Sharp’s the pictures you’ve already seen they were all little tiny snapshots, I don’t really know who took them, in his album.
Sybill
Do you know who this person was or were they able to identify them?
Interviewer
I’ve no idea. The only person I can identify in there I think is Wykes, if he’s on that picture. No he’s not on that picture.
Sybill
It’s a good photograph. We are very sorry that there are no photographs at the garage at Syston, nobody ever thought to take photographs.
Interviewer
Well they were busy getting on with the job weren’t they. I mean I fancy that a lot of these photographs were taken by one of the staff who thought it would be nice to have some record of this. These are not professional photos, they are all snapshots. That was the factory, that is a professional photo take by KNS, who still exist.
Trevor
I’ve been there.
Interviewer
Well that was it, it was just one open building wasn’t it and it had these three aisle, there was a big door at that end, there was a big as I understand it at this end and what they did when they took it over they had to put concrete at the sides, it had been dirt so I understand. I think they had got involved in putting in certainly heating and things like that.
Trevor
It was advanced when you look at it wasn’t it, for the time.
Interviewer
Yeah I mean they had all the proper gear. There was a thing called a draw bench, which I think is that, with that long chain and what they did there, to make the wing ribs they were made out of a t-section of aluminium but the t-section was folded, it went up and round and then back down and what they had was a dye and they had flat aluminium and they hooked it on and this chain pulled it through the dye I think and that performed the section for the wing ribs and then the ribs were made by, you can see here, they’re made by riveting ((?)) together. But bits like that you see may have been made at Britannia Works and then you were shipping those about, but you don’t remember ever remember seeing the goods that you were moving about, were they all packed up?
Sybill
Would they have been contained somehow, because they might have been quite delicate some of them?
Interviewer
Well yeah, well ribs would have been.
Sybill
So I mean probably they were packed.
Trevor
I’ve got an idea it was some crates, I’m not sure.
Sybill
Crates?
Trevor
Mm. I’m sure there’s some parts in crates, that’s what they was. To be honest I didn’t know what they were, ((?)) to help load.
Interviewer
I was going to say when you went along for the ride they did use you to help with humping.
Trevor
They’re interesting these are.
Interviewer
Now that’s one with some personalities and I think that is Wykes, now I don’t know whether you remember seeing him.
Sybill
I don’t remember what he looked like to be honest. Margo could tell you.
Interviewer
Well we have got other photos of him but I’m assuming that’s him having seen the other photos. We have got the 39 club photograph which does show some of these people but what you’ve got here, this is the jig that the fuselages were made in and that came from America I think, the jig, and then you’ve got the fuselages here at various stages. First of all it was tack welding so all the tubes were linked together with a little weld and then somebody had to literally do a proper weld right round the joint. Then this one that’s tipped over, I don’t know whether that’s still being welded, possibly, and this one’s having some of the wooden stringers and fittings put on, this one’s already got the covering.
Sybill
Different stages.
Interviewer
The trouble is that it’s a confusion of tubes. There’s this one and there’s that one and that one, all three of them.
Sybill
So it all looks as if they’re all mixed together but it’s just how you see it.
Interviewer
Well there’s one here, which again I think is a flight photo, it’s not one of the ones that’s come from the firm, it’s come from the magazine archives but I think that’s still in the works.
Trevor
That’s ((Walthole?)) definitely.
Interviewer
The lady’s doing the fabric work. Well that’s one of the Auster 1’s I think, they used to use spring pegs to hold the fabric while they were doping it. You won’t remember the names I suppose. Albert Codling he was the chief inspector but that I think is Albert Codling and he’s actually been Lindsay Everard’s engineer.
Trevor
I didn’t know, to know the name.
Sybill
I’ve heard the name Codling but it doesn’t mean anything to me.
Trevor
No it doesn’t to me.
Interviewer
Well he was an RAF trained engineer, he’d been in the service. An interesting thing in quite a lot of these photos, well you find it in photos generally, people in the 30s would be photographed with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth because smoking was an in thing and wearing a hat of course. Well Ken Sharp always had a cigarette in his hand. Whether they’re smoked in these dope-laden atmospheres or not I don’t know, it’s not really advisable. I think that’s one of the ones you’ve got isn’t it?
Sybill
Yes that’s the one.
Interviewer
So it shows the lorry.
Sybill
Is it the same plane as that one you’ve got somewhere?
Interviewer
Well that is the first one, FNW was the first one.
Sybill
The one we’ve got with planes showing is that it then?
Interviewer
Yeah it’s the same one. It’s not the same occasion because the cowlings aren’t on but I think it was one of the members of staff, one of the directors was taking happy snaps while this was all happening.
Sybill
For the record, which is great.
Interviewer
Well in sequence that’s the first one, that’s coming through the arch.
Trevor
Well I’m told is was my uncle John driving the lorry, so I’ve always been told.
Interviewer
I mean the chap sitting in the back of the lorry I presume is a Taylorcraft person
Trevor
I think it would be, yes.
Interviewer
I don’t know quite who this is. He’s got this very neat little parcel he’s carrying, whether that’s some vital bit that’s got to be put on when they get to the airfield.
Trevor
Has he got something tucked under his elbow.
Interviewer
Yes he has I think. Do you remember transporting any wings?
Trevor
I think we did. Actually in the back of the ((?))
Interviewer
Yes you’d have to lay them flat.
Sybill
There’s something in there but you can’t tell what it is but it’s not a wing.
Trevor
That’s the cab that is.
Interviewer
You’d have to have the tail board down.
Trevor
We used to have a rag on the end.
Interviewer
Yes because it would be hanging out the back.
Sybill
Especially with the school being on it, it really sites it in the right place.
Trevor
It’s authentic isn’t it.
Interviewer
And that was the aeroplane when it got there, that was actually at Ratcliffe.
Trevor
Ratcliffe Airfield.
Sybill
Having been reassembled. There’s someone in there, I wonder who that was?
Interviewer
Well that’s Percy. I think that’s Percy. He was a rather long faced chap, very sort of long faced.
Sybill
It’s so good that someone took the photos.
Trevor
It didn’t have a rear wheel, is it a skid.
Interviewer
It’s a skid, yeah. Well it was the common practice. You see this is an aeroplane of the 30’s and in those days every airfield was grass and the thing about a tail skid was it was a brake as much as anything because aeroplanes like Tiger Moths didn’t have brakes. The Taylorcraft did have brakes but the tail skid was something that applied drag once you’d landed and that was one reason for perpetuating them but all the Austers did was they took the spring and instead of having a big shoe on the end that wore away and you put a new one on, they had a casting which would hold a caster wheel and it was literally like a caster and they put that on.
Trevor
There’s a cast on one of those photographs somewhere, I forget which one it was, in the middle.
Interviewer
What you saw it lying on a bench or something did you? I don’t think there’s one on the actual aeroplanes.
Trevor
No it went on an aeroplane. I noticed the cast, I can’t remember which one it was on though. Oh this is it.
Interviewer
Ah no I’ll tell you what that is, I think that’s a pulley for a cable. Oh no it isn’t, it’s a caster, it’s a caster on a stand. Is there a stand at the back there. That’s the trouble when you’ve got all this tube work.
Trevor
Could that be part of a tail wheel or not.
Interviewer
Well I wouldn’t have thought so at this stage. The first aeroplane that had the tail wheel really was the Auster 4 which was 1944. That was stapled to a dinner menu which was for a Christmas dinner for the firm, in the early days. What happened was that Wykes formed a 39 club which was all the original employees and they all got a little badge. That’s the 39 club, that’s actually the original photo, in 1941.
Sybill
It’s a very good photograph.
Trevor
I tell you what, they employed some people didn’t they.
Interviewer
Well this was just the core original employees.
Sybill
Where would this be taken?
Interviewer
On Rearsby Airfield and it’s one of the pre-war aeroplanes which were impressed. The military impressed them. Most of the pre-war civil aeroplanes that were any use in any role were impressed and taken over by the military. It’s like nationalising your transport firm later on you see. That’s why it’s got round wheels on and because of Wykes’ push they eventually, and another chap who’s an artillery officer, they wanted planes they could fly and arrange their guns. They didn’t want to have to use the RAF in cumbersome Lysanders and things so that’s Percy and that’s AL and I don’t know, which is Bates.
Sybill
I don’t know that we’d recognise him now, we used to know him didn’t we?
Trevor
He was fairly thick set, like that in his build.
Interviewer
I don’t know whether Bates – he should be on there. Is that him, at the back there?
Sybill
It could possibly be.
Interviewer
Just flop the thing over because we’ve got them identified. Frank Bates, there look.
Sybill
The one with the hat?
Interviewer
With the hat, yeah, at the back. I mean he carried on with the firm right through into the 60’s but one of his son’s was killed.
Trevor
Tony got killed.
Interviewer
Yeah he was killed at Otterburn by post-war military Austers and I’ve always been told that sort of knock the aeroplane wind right out of Frank Bates, he wasn’t very interested after.
Trevor
Yeah because his brother was Roger, he was the same age as me, we were at school together. Tony was your age if I remember right.
Sybill
Probably.
Trevor
Tony was the eldest brother, then Roger, there were just two. Would there be Harrison on there?
Interviewer
Yes.
Trevor
He was a test pilot for them.
Sybill
Eric Harrison ((?)). We knew him very well.
Interviewer
Jim Harrison, there’s a EC Jim Harrison.
Sybill
No.
Trevor
EC Jim, would that be?
Sybill
Oh yeah, that’d be, Eric Harrison, yeah.
Interviewer
Hang on a minute.
Sybill
I think we should recognise him.
Trevor
He had flat hair ((?)) in those days.
Interviewer
Yeah, that chap.
Trevor
That would be him then wouldn’t it.
Sybill
Yeah I think so. Gosh. It was because of him I went to Switzerland wasn’t it.
Trevor
Yes and
Sybill
’s transported him from the airfield, well to the airfield, did you not?
Sybill
No I had to fetch him back.
Interviewer
So he was a test flyer for them.
Sybill
That’s right and he wanted to, he was stuck at the airfield one day, and he’d got a little Morris didn’t he and his wife didn’t drive, I mean she never did drive, but being involved with our firm you couldn’t not drive really. He rang up and said could I get his car out the garage and go and fetch him so I went up to the airfield. That would have been Rearsby in latter days.
Trevor
I didn’t know of him at Ratcliffe anyway, because he lived opposite.
Sybill
I associated him always with Rearsby.
Interviewer
It’s interesting that you were going to school together with the sons and/or daughters and then you were all living close together as well.
Sybill
Yes it is interesting.
Interviewer
Presumably quite a lot of the employees lived very close, in the area.
Sybill
I think it would be, just like Eric Harrison, I mean and the Wykes.
Trevor
I have an idea some of them came off the Foss.
Sybill
Yes I think they would, the Foss, you know it goes through Syston.
Trevor
A46.
Interviewer
Did they have bus transport out of Leicester during the war because they did after the war didn’t they?
Sybill
I think they probably did but on the other hand people used to cycle everywhere. Everybody cycled and the distances, if you had to cycle out from the middle of Leicester out to Rearsby it wouldn’t bother them.
Interviewer
Cycle jams as opposed to car jams. Right this is a photograph of the workforce at the end of the war, but that’s just for no.6 Works.
Sybill
Wow, what a lot of people. This is at the end of the war? Oh yes, March 1945.
Trevor
I didn’t realise it was as big as that.
Sybill
And the tower. Are they all named or just some of them?
Interviewer
No.
Sybill
No, not all of them.
Interviewer
I’ve done a numbered overlay.
Trevor
244 people. Did you look at ((?)) in St Peter’s Street, whether she went up there, Berry or Marjorie Marshall, that was John’s daughters, he had four daughters. Sheila, Audrey…
Sybill
Peggy, Betty and Margery.
Trevor
That’s it, but one of them, if not two, I can remember seeing her coming out there when I was coming home from school.
Interviewer
The name Ena Stone doesn’t mean anything to you does it?
Sybill
Not to me.
Interviewer
I think she lives ((?)) and she was a fabric worker during the war.
Trevor
I’m just looking through these for Margery. I can’t. No good saying when you’re not sure is it.
Interviewer
Well No.6 Works was the airfield side. There were the other buildings on the off airfield side and they had a different number. As I say there were ten sites. There were the two at the Britannia Works, they had a ((R2 cap?)) somewhere off that lane to Barleythorpe, that was to do with them, they had Alan’s Garage in Mount Sorrell.
Trevor
The bus people? They owned buses.
Interviewer
I think it was Alan’s Garage during the war. I thought it was one of the buildings that was involved later with Rolls Royce but apparently it wasn’t and they had two numbers for the Rearsby site, I’m not adding them up but I think there were at least three in Syston. There was one of them which was where the Riddingtons were, with an engineering company, a precision engineering, near that cinema, Victoria Street was it? By the brook, the factory actually ran by the brook, as you’re coming out of Syston towards Thurmaston, you cross the brook and a bit further along you went into like a t-shaped road and you came back to the factory, which was by the brook.
Sybill
On the left or the right?
Interviewer
On the left going towards Leicester.
Sybill
There were a lot of factories around that site.
Trevor
Was it going towards ((Wellington?)) Street and Albert--
Sybill
Before you get there obviously, before the park, on the left.
Trevor
Near the cinema did you say?
Interviewer
Yeah that’s where the cinema was, or is.
Sybill
Yes there was one there.
Interviewer
I think Riddington was an employee and then, I mean he was in the machining side and I think it must have been a machine shop and presumably when the firm went ((foot?)) or at an earlier stage when they were gathering everything together at Rearsby rather than doing it off site, he may have set up his own business doing the same sort of thing. His son has only just given that up. What they did at ((?)) I don’t know because that was up a lane off the road from where the Co-Op is, you went back towards Leicester. In fact it’s interesting because where that was is probably actually the head end of Silverdale Drive. I think because where Roger Blakes has got an operation, I don’t know whether it’s still there, it was still Crowthers but Roger, because he donated us a big album of photos which was to do with Crowthers and Auster, I mean there were some super pictures in there. I went to a factory in Silverdale Drive for that but Ronny Neel up at the airfield who is also ex-Auster, now he said that there was a factory up there that had the name Auster, Auster House or something like that and it was right up at the top end. You know, you’re going from Humber-stone Lane northwards or your going from the road to Barkbythorpe southwards and you’re more or less coming to the same place.
Trevor
We used to go to a firm up there, took up those lorries, I can’t think now whether it was ((?)) but we used to go up, that’s the only reason I know it, it was off my route that is but we used to go up there. I think we went up there to ((?)), I’m not sure.
Interviewer
Because ((?)) they had a lot of airfields you know and they were the contractors for ((Bronston?))
Sybill
Oh here’s Silverdale Drive. That’s Humberstone Lane, that’s Silverdale Drive, Churchill Road Thurmaston, so--
Interviewer
Oh we’re quite a way, no we’re quite a way south I think.
Sybill
We’re quite a long way aren’t we.
Interviewer
Yeah. All I remember was that it was, I think I looked it up on an old map, this ((R3 car?)) place was down a very long lane off that road to Barleythorpe.
Trevor
Yes before you went over the bridge or something.
Interviewer
Oh yeah before you got to the railway.
Trevor
I can remember it. I can’t remember the name of --
Sybill
We used to walk around there a lot didn’t we.
Trevor
Yeah but we went up the Bartley Road and back down the lane with the dogs.
Interviewer
All those houses up there were some of those built just before the war or were they all after the war?
Trevor
I think some were there before the war, I think so. Yeah because I went to the school right to the end of the war and there was people from up there so presumably they were before the war.
Interviewer
There’s sort of semis and so on up there or they might have started developing that area before the war. That’s the Tiger Moth at Rearsby I’m talking about. When that building was new.
Sybill
It’s just on the corner.
Interviewer
That was at the back of the Taylorcraft bit of Britannia works, some of the ladies bringing out a Tiger Moth.
Sybill
So where did you say this was? I wasn’t listening.
Interviewer
That’s ((overlapping speech?)) airfield, that was the first new building put up, that big hanger and I mean that’s still there. It’s still going the automotive business but it’s now run by Adwest. Joe Eames he was one of the founders and he was involved right to the end, he was part of the management buyout because when British Leyland ceased interest in that business there, he was one of the people who bought it out, the management, and they ran it as Rearsby Automotive. There’s a picture here with Jack Hunter, I don’t know whether you ever recall his name but that’s taken on Ratcliffe aerodrome. It’s actually a press picture.
Sybill
It looks like it.
Interviewer
Yeah well I think it say proof on it on a stamp.
Sybill
1939, it’s got the date on.
Trevor
Would that be the first one again or not?
Interviewer
Yeah it’s NW isn’t it? Yeah FNW.
Sybill
It’s a good photo. You said this was?
Interviewer
It’s Jack Hunter.
Sybill
Jack Hunter, that doesn’t ring a bell.
Trevor
No.
Interviewer
He was an engineer as well and I think he was with Lindsay Everard. That’s an ad for the original aeroplane out of flight magazine. I don’t know when we identified him but that’s John Keeping, looking by the background that might have been in the work.
Sybill
Yes there are windows there.
Interviewer
Well there’s like a screen isn’t there. See those pictures are in the works.
Sybill
The man with the hat again.
Trevor
They’ve got cigarettes haven’t they.
Sybill
16th of May on the calendar.
Interviewer
Ah that’s sharp eyed, I hadn’t noticed that.
Sybill
Well it could be wrong.
Interviewer
You can’t see the year as well can you?
Sybill
Well you might be able to if you’ve got a magnifying glass. Underneath the 16 there’s probably the year but I can’t see it.
Interviewer
Tuesday or something or whatever the date.
Trevor
If you found the date your could practically get the year.
Interviewer
Yeah I think this series they’ve all got cigarettes. I think this is the founding year, 39 I think. I think that’s very likely, the chap with the Trilby was in one of the other pictures because he’s wearing a coat as well you see.
Sybill
Do you think he might be inspecting something?
Interviewer
I don’t know. I think some of those photographs appear mounted, larger prints rather than just snapshots appear mounted on sheets of black paper, which I think had been in an album and they are in some of the material that’s come round with the drawing archive and I think as well as the sort of quick snaps of what was going on, I think somebody decided to take one or two stages pictures as well because they did produce the embryo of a sort of brochure.
Sybill
So it could be a posed picture.
Interviewer
I don’t know whether they went very far with this. It’s a series of sheets which includes a plan of the factory, a sketch plan of the factory, and some figures about production but it was basically a photo album with real photographs in and the originals of these drawings so unless they drew the drawings several times they couldn’t have produced more than the one you see. It wasn’t printed but they may have been gearing up for publicity. They got the adverts out and it was what? £550.
Sybill
£500.
Trevor
It’s a good advert that is.
Interviewer
I think that line up might have the American aeroplane in as well, which is certainly different. Perhaps not. That’s some people with Hurricanes later on and you’ve got Percy and you’ve got Ken Sharp, Ken Sharp with his hands in his pocket.
Sybill
It’s a very good idea to number them and name them when you can.
Interviewer
Well one of the things that the archive was hoping to do was to have a get together in Rearsby village hall to try and get people together and my idea was to have these available so people could put names down.
Sybill
They do that when they do the Syston. Once a year they have a sort of local history exhibition and they put loads of photos out. I took the photo with me to that and people were very interested in it and people are asked if you know who this is write down on a bit of paper.
Interviewer
The trouble is now that people were actually old enough to be employed at that time, you know were getting very thin on the ground.
Sybill
That’s the trouble, if you don’t hurry up and do it they’ll all be gone.
Interviewer
Well that’s one of the reason why there’s pressure to do it. There’s some people on here. This came from another source, Win Slack, the name was Win Platts originally. The first female employee at Rearsby, which is what she was, with greetings to Tom Warren, well he was an engineer that had come from Lindsay Everard as well.
Trevor
I know who that name, Tom Warren but I don’t know why that I do.
Interviewer
Well yes. He isn’t actually on this photo. It says Win was in flight control not at no.6. This is a Tiger Moth repair gang, yeah but they’re actually at Rearsby. All the names are actually on the back.
Sybill
Two Platts, Simpson, Warren, that’s Warren, Clayton, Mason and Cobley.
Trevor
Lewin.
Sybill
Well there were a lot of Lewins weren’t there, masses of Lewins. There still are quite a lot. None of them ring a bell.
Interviewer
Do you remember actually many of your school colleagues being children of ((?)) parents?
Trevor
That’s what I was looking for to see if I recognised the names of those I went to school with. I’m just wondering on the Mason but I can’t remember about anyone called Mason at school.
Sybill
I don’t think there’s anyone except ((?))
Trevor
That J Simpson, a shot in the dark, that might be, they’re a Syston family or Thurmaston and that’s 20 years younger than me and Tony Simpson became the boxer. I wonder if it’s--, it’s the right area. He trained in the gym at Victoria Pub in Syston so I wonder whether that’s his father or grandfather.
Interviewer
Or is it a very common name or not?
Trevor
No the only Simpson know of, don’t really know, is this Tony Simpson because of his bill in the papers, Leicester based now a fighter for the world championship. ((?))
Interviewer
I’m not from this area at all so my earliest contact was 1963 and he was on his last legs by then ((?)) Beagles. ((rustling bleeds over recording))
Sybill
Well they’re very interesting aren’t they those photographs.
Interviewer
Yes this Syston exhibition, what time of year is that?
Sybill
It’s about September.
Interviewer
Ah I’ve just missed one then.
Sybill
Yes because I went to the last one and not the one before. I went to get a cup of tea, because once you got there and absorbed you were there and the lady serving my cup of tea said ‘Hello
Sybill
, I went to school with you’ and we sorted out who we were, it was one of the twins – they were more your age than mine. It was very, very interesting and they were asking for more and more stuff and they’d just put out the Syston Past book then and they were doing another one. Have you see the Syston Past?
Interviewer
No, I might have it at the record office.
Sybill
You probably have it at the record office, I’ve got a copy.
Interviewer
It’s the Local History Society is it?
Sybill
Yes.
Interviewer
I mean we were talking about doing fairly regular things at Rearsby village hall but I mean these things don’t happen without somebody putting some input into them. I don’t think people were rushing forward. It needs somebody on the ground in Rearsby.
Sybill
Yes who’s had a connection with it.
Interviewer
Who’s got the connection with the authorities running the village hall at the village hall I imagine but I think we still ought to do it. It’s interesting because if there is already a local history exhibition once a year we ought to be represented there because you may well draw people.
Sybill
That’s why I took my photo, it’s a small one, it’s framed and I just stood it on a table amongst where it seemed to be relevant.
Interviewer
Did you get any contact?
Sybill
Yes one or two people did talk to me, sort more of a ‘I remember that’ sort of thing but nothing in great detail but I think if there was more on it, contributing to the next exhibition you might get more feedback.
Interviewer
It was one thing to be towing these—((audio suddenly stops here))

All of these transcripts are available in a single file in several formats.


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