Mr Edgar Sainty was born in 1910. He was interviewed on 20 September 1991, when he lived at 58 Maldon Road, Witham.
He also appears on tape 143.
For more information about him, see Sainty family including Edgar in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
[at first, chat about photos, not noted]
Mr S: That’s when I used to be in business, the amplifying equipment. That’s taken outside the house, that’s taken outside Albert Road. [JG’s photo M307]
Q: In the road, isn’t it. So what did you have in it?
Mr S: Oh, there was an amplifier and a loud speaker at the back. That was taken at Boreham [JG’s photo M306]. That was taken at Boreham, I took that one at Boreham.
Q: What did you use the loud speaker and that for then?
Mr S: Well I used to do a lot of public address work.
Q: Oh did you? You’d sort of go round to shows and things.
Mr S: Yes, I done Maldon carnival once.
Q: And this was before the War?
Mr S: Oh yes, yes, yes, before the War.
Q: And you rigged this all up yourself did you.
Mr S: Yes, I built all that, I built everything.
Q: How long, when did you get the van? Were you quite young still then.
Mr S: I should think I was about twenty-four years, twenty-three, twenty-four years old.
Q: Did you have to take a driving test in those days?
Mr S: No. I’ve still go a licence. Goods, heavy goods. [???] All groups. Still go one. So has my cousin, he’s got one all groups. He’s never driven a motor in his life.
Q: Did you actually do the announcements yourself.
Mr S: Yes, a lot of it I did. [???] [???] I used to have five or six microphones in my van [???] I made all my own microphones.
Q: Incredible, I don’t understand how you did all that.
[sound breaks up as he examines my microphone, not noted!]
Q: What would you have had to get to make it?
Mr S: Oh, used to get carbon microphones.
Q: That’s what you had yourself. If you’d had to make this sort, what would you have had to get?
Mr S: Rochelles[?] salt [???]
Q: From a brewery[?] you said?
Mr S: Well you can get. [???] residue what they scrape off. I believe the brewers do scrape it off and sell it to the manufacturers.
Q: What function does that perform in the microphone then? What does it do when it’s in the microphone? When you’ve got this salt in the microphone what does it do, why do you need that?
Mr S: Oh, well that’s between two plates, you put the stuff between two plates, generate a, just generate a current according to what you …
Q: It’s all Greek to me.
Mr S: I had some but the wife she give a lot of the stuff away I think.
[more photos, details not noted, see database of JG’s M photos M300 to M307]
Q: Did you have your name on the van or anything?
Mr S: Yes. Yes. That van was a Ford, I bought second hand from Fords, that was a demonstration model, the engine, when I bought it the engine and all the parts were all nickel plated. I paid eighty pounds for it.
Q: Where was Ford’s then?
Mr S: Rainham. Where it is now.
Q: How did you hear about that then?
Mr S: I said to the traveller [?], said we’ve got a van if you want it, only that’s second hand, it’s been to the shows. All they’d done was driven to the show, and turned over the electric motor in the show.
Q: So it was pretty good value then.
Mr S: [???]
Q: What happened to it in the end?
Mr S: I don’t know.
Q: You kept it a good while did you.
Mr S: Oh yes, I kept it a long time.
[more about photos, not noted]
Q: When you lived in Braintree Road was it the same house as your grandfather or did you have a house of your own?
Mr S: We used to rent it off old Mrs Amos, Fleuty. Fleuty used to be a wheelwright down there where the RAF place is now. Used to be a wheelwright’s place.
Q: Was it the same house as your grandfather lived in?
Mr S: No, he lived next door but one. We lived in Rose Cottage. Then there was Fleuty[?] There was two together. They belonged to Richards.
Q: Is that where those are?
Mr S: Yes, I think that’s where he’s taken them. Yes I think that’s where he’s taken them. At Portland Villa.
Q: Is that you and your mum as well.
Mr S: No I think that’s my aunt.
Q: Did your mum come from round here then? Did your mum come from round Witham way?
Mr S: No. Colchester. She was at Colchester when she married. She was born in London.
[more re photos etc., not very clear, noted]
Q: He was living in Witham then, was he?
Mr S: No, he lived at, Colchester when he married then he moved to Ipswich and worked for Burton, Son and Sanders.
Q: So he moved away from, was he born in Witham?
Mr S: No, born in Ipswich [means himself] I was born in Ipswich.
Q: Your father was born in Nayland or somewhere was he,
Mr S: No, Needham Market.
Q: Needham Market, that’s right, yes
Q: But then they came to Witham after that, but then your father moved off to Colchester on his own did he.
Mr S: [???] He lived in Colchester. When he married he was living in Colchester. And he went to work I think for Burton Son and Sanders.
Q: So he’s moved about quite a bit then.
Mr S: Oh he’s moved about a bit.
Q: I suppose you could easier then, couldn’t you because you could rent houses.
Mr S: [???] Well that, that house we had in Albert Road, number 23 Albert Road, we used to pay to Richards, seven and six a week, that was sold for £64,000, and we used to rent that for seven and six a week. This house [Maldon Road] was built in 1892 I think. There used to be a dairy next door. So they tell me. [???]
[more about photos, not noted]
Q: Were there many other people doing this sort of thing? (Mr S: No.) It was quite a novelty for them? So it was quite a novelty then to have a loudspeaker was it?
Mr S: Yes. I built the whole thing myself. Built the amplifier and all the rest of it. (Q: Clever fellow aren’t they.). I tell you all the parts, all this part here I took it all to pieces and all these parts are out in the shed now. And the loudspeaker. And the [???] I don’t suppose they’re any good now. All the parts are out there, I took the whole lot to pieces.
Q: So you could do it again if you wanted to then?
Mr S: Oh it’s take a long time.
[Mr S goes off to get transmitting licence, silence]
Mr S: That’s my transmitting licence. Here it is. That’s when I transferred it to this address.
Q: I see. This was 1937, but you started long before that, didn’t you. Is this the first time you had to get a licence. (Mr S: Yes.) They just introduced this as a new thing.
Mr S: Yes, that’s the first one. They issued the second one after the War.
Q: But when you were doing it before this (Mr S: Yes I was doing it before the War.) You didn’t need a licence?
Mr S: [???]
Q: Thirty shillings, quite a lot.
Mr S: Course you had to pass a Morse test. Don’t have to pass the Morse test now.Had to pass an examination and a Morse test.
Q: Its pretty restrictive isn’t it? All this stuff about what you could and couldn’t do. Was that so that you couldn’t interfere with other things was it?
Mr S: I shouldn’t try it now because they’ve altered the restrictions said, when I had that, I could ask you there, and you could speak to anybody, same as abroad, or Australia or wherever it was I was in contact with, and I dare not do it now, you’re not allowed to. You’re only allowed to use it yourself, you mustn’t let anybody else speak.
Q: It says about the sending of news or messages of third parties is forbidden.
Mr S: Oh yes, well you see, you were sworn to secrecy. Because I mean you picked up [???] and all government messages and everything else. One you’ve got on that morse code you could pick up naval messages and everything. Oh, used to pick up, during the War I used to pick up old German subs. (Q: Really?) Yes. I used to write down what they were saying. Of course they were speaking in German used to come through on the Morse. I would take it down the police station. Cause was there was no end of subs [???] off Harwich during the War.
Q: Well what did the police …?
Mr S: Well they passed it on to the military authorities you see.
Q: Did they ever thank you for it or anything?
Mr S: No, they collared all the transmitting stuff. Impounded all that. Hadn’t got anything of that.
Q; Oh I see so you just had the receiver?
Mr S: Just had the receiver. I’ve got the receiver upstairs now, all the bits.
Q: When you’d got it in the Morse, then you’d put it out into German then?
Mr S: No, well, you see A B C and D in Morse is the same in German as it is in English.
Q: So you just write down the letters?
Mr S; Write whatever the German was.
Q: I see. They were probably pretty pleased, I’m surprised you didn’t get …
Mr S: A lot of it used to be in code (Q: Did it?) The code, they’d got numbers for them. Used to take down the numbers down. And they had they had a little tracking thing[?]
Q: What was that for, a tracking thing?
Mr S: Tracking where they were.
Q: Oh you could do could you. I should think that was pretty useful.
Mr S: Line it up. A lot of people think you line it up for the maximum signal which you don’t, you lined up till for the minimum, and line it up till it fades right out. When it fades right out you take your reading, say 90 degrees, but you know that that way, it’s either there or there, if someone else takes a reading somewhere else, on the same thing, well, where that meets that where that is.
Q: So where it fades out is that at right angles to where they are is it.
Mr S: A lot of people see they do it with this animal[?] tracking that sort of thing but if you want accurate you do it with the minimum signal.
Q: So a maximum wouldn’t show you it.
Mr S: [???] [???]Well you’re perhaps facing that way well you know that that’s way. It’s either there or there. But if somebody else tracks them. They draw a line from there and you’ve got it.
Q: Very useful. I think you should have had had a bit of congratulations for that don’t you?
Mr S: [???] If she was pointing off Harwich or the North Sea, you knew that weren’t the other way, you knew they were on the North Sea somewhere, and knew what degrees, where they were. They were along that line somewhere.
Q: I mean did you know what frequency they were going to use or did you just have to look for them?
Mr S: Oh, used to have to look for them. You didn’t know but some of them, some of them might have been British, I don’t know, they never told you, it was all secret, what they picked up. Some times they had to unscramble it. [???] [???]
Q: What does it do when they scramble it then?
Mr S: Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard any of it, its more of a squeaky thing. (Q: I see.) Somebody’s speaking but when they’re speaking that’s squeaky, so that you can’t understand it.
Q: But you could get rid of that could you?
Mr S: But then all you’ve got to do is take something down on the oscillator, what they call an oscillator, stick that down and that come out. But that Sky television is done like that. That’s the reason they have to have, feed into a special thing.
Q: I see, to stop people picking it up who haven’t paid.
Mr S: So ordinary people that don’t know anything about it, they can’t get at it.
Q: But you reckon you could get it if you knew what to do?
Mr S: Yes [???] Those valves that we used to buy, they used to be about eighteen pence but they are about eight or nine pounds each now. Used to get American valves, seconds they used to call them. Used to get them.
Q: Where did you used to buy all the stuff like that then?
Mr S: Used to advertise, or see adverts.
Q: They were in special magazines and things were there?
Mr S: Of course the Yanks always were [shows a magazine?] There’s a diagram there of a transmitter.
Mr S: American.
Q: A thousand watt transmitter?
Mr S: American stuff.
Q: This is a sort of catalogue?
Mr S: They used to send them but you can’t get nothing like that now. Everything’s cagey.
Q: There are people who do this sort of thing still are they?
Mr S: Oh yes, one or two in Witham.
Q: I remember reading something, they were starting a club. But aren’t there a lot of restrictions now, you can’t …? You can still receive what you like, can you, you’re still allowed to receive.
Mr S: Well, you can receive messages and that sort of thing. But you’re not suppose to divulge. During the War I used to take down the news, and the news used to come through that Leningrad and Stalingrad, unless our glorious Red Army can break through, they would have to surrender within twenty-four hours. But the next night I had the news on and the Cossacks had routed the Germans, and when poor old Jerry tried to use their guns and that sort of thing they were all froze up, they couldn’t use them, so the Cossacks went and wiped them all out..
Q: Where was that news coming from then?
Mr S: That was coming from Reuter Press Association, Reuters. They used to be on every night but that was never published in the paper. The news came through, well it came through I suppose from these war correspondents. That was never in the paper. I used to get news that was never in the paper.
Q: I suppose it was all censored was it. They put in the paper what they wanted people to hear.
Mr S: I heard about 184 planes they brought down in one day.
Q: Who brought down?
Mr S: They put a one in front, didn’t they, they brought 84 down, they said there was 184. Bad for morale.
Q: But you got the real stuff. This news then that you heard was it being?
Mr S: Oh I daren’t say. I’d have had the police after me.
Q: But was it being transmitted from the correspondent to the Agency or something and you picked it up?
Mr S: Yes, Well what the Germans knew as well as we did [???].[???]
Q: Who was transmitting it? The Reuters? (Mr S: Yes.) Who were they intending to listen to it then?
Mr S: Yes, this come through in Morse.
Q: Who were they sending it to?
Mr S: Well I suppose they were sending it to the newspaper people here.
Q: I see. But they didn’t publish it?
Mr S: Well, of course they were censored you see in what they published. They had their War Correspondents and that sort of thing out there and that was transmitted well they were not allowed to publish that in the paper. Or give it on the BBC. There’s lots and lots of stuff there they never told you.
Q: Were there very many people like you that were picking it up then?
Mr S: Oh several of them were doing out. Of course you never knew who they were or what. They daren’t speak. Well there were so many spies about. Riddled, this country was riddled with blooming spies.
Q: Were there any in Witham do you think? Or did people think there were?
Mr S: Well, old Pinkham, they were, he was a blackshirt. Then there was the one that used to be down there at the garage. He was a blackshirt. They collared him.
Q: Which one was that then?
Mr S: East. His name was East. They collared him and put him away. A blackshire. I don’t expect you remember nothing about, do you remember the blackshirts?
Q: I’ve heard about them really, I was born in the War. But I was too small to understand what they were at that time.
Mr S: They used to walk around ‘Hitler’, ‘Heil Hitler’.
Q: What even in the, here?.
Mr S: Yes, even in the street, were before the War.
Q: In the street even?
Mr S: We were too soft, we ought have took them, done them away didn’t we. While they had those blackshirts.
Q: Which Pinkham was it?
Mr S: I couldn’t say which one it was, I know there was one of the, he was in it.
Q: Did you used to see them about then, in their uniforms and things then?
Mr S: Yes, they used to have black shirts, black trousers, black belt.
Q: I’m just wondering how they got away with really, because when the War … Well you say this Mr East, they caught him?
Mr S: When the War finished of course they all got let out, I don’t know if there’s any of them alive now.
Q: But this Mr Pinkham what happened to him then?
Mr S: I couldn’t tell you what happened there, because they used to own the glove factory didn’t they?
Q: But nothing happened to him on account of being a blackshirt as far as you know?
Mr S: There was only one of them, not the whole family were not, I think it was only one of them. Whether he was taken away during the War or not I couldn’t tell you.
Q: How did you know that Mr East was taken away then?
Mr S: Oh that was common knowledge. A man named Ball[?] was in the town had to take him away. Military. (Q: I see.)
Q: Which garage was it he was at then?
Mr S: That one down the road there bottom of the town, what used to be Hurrell and Beardwell’s, opposite the old Catholic church [corner of Avenue Road and Newland Street]
Q: What did people think of that before the War?
Mr S: They didn’t think much to it. They thought he was a fool being in business as well. His father was in business. He wasn’t. His father was in business.
Q: So he was a young chap was he?
Mr S: His father was in business. He would have got the petrol rations, but they wouldn’t entertain him for petrol and that with his son in that would they. They used to dab swastikas all over the place. You’d wake up one morning and find a swastika painted on your fence.
Q: It was a strange time wasn’t it. Did people complain to them do you think?
Mr S: A lot of people were up in arms about it. There were several fights over it.
Q: Did you get involved in any arguments?
Mr S: No, I kept clear of it. I always said I don’t know.
Q: Were they involved in politics in any other ways, these people? Were they in any of the parties or anything?
Mr S: No, no, just Hitlerites that’s all they were.
Q: Were there mainly just those two or were there lots of others?
Mr S: Oh, there were all over the country. Well old Sir Oswald Mosley was head of affairs wasn’t he. He got put in clink all through the War. He lost his livelihood and everything else.
Q: I mean in Witham were there others as well as those two?
Mr S: Oh yes, several of them in Witham, Kelvedon, Maldon, Braintree. They were all over the place. All over England. (Q: Yes.) They were in the minority, there wasn’t a lot of them in Witham, but there could have been twenty or thirty. They used to link up with the others.
Q: Were they mainly young people or older?
Mr S: No, most all youngsters.
Q: I suppose they thought they were backing the right side. Some people like uniforms don’t they, and the glamour.
Mr S: I suppose there was the glamour of the uniform.
Q: They had big rallies and things. I suppose they’d go up to London and things like that.
Mr S: That’s when the trouble used to start.
Q: Do you remember much about when War was declared? What were you doing then, do you remember what you felt like?
Mr S: Oh well Just everything just stopped.
Q: What sort of things?
Mr S: They were camouflaging factories and camouflaging this and everything else. They were calling up the reserves. Still it wasn’t like the First World War. [???].[???]
[Mr S looks for papers]
Q: You didn’t stop your business when the War started then?
Mr S: No, we kept going.
Q: What was it about then?
Mr S: It was about the Somme.
[Mr S looks for papers etc.,]
[general chat about World War Two, not noted]
Q: But in the Second War you weren’t allowed to transmit yourself at all?
Mr S: No, no no no.
Q: I mean did you ever. I know you spoke to all these people all over the world that you showed me, bit did you ever transmit things locally that people could pick up locally?
Mr S: Oh anybody could pick me up at all, several of them did.
Q: You didn’t ever have a pirate radio station or anything? [laugh]
Mr S: No, that was all perfectly legal. The police did come around when I started, the police did come around. They got a shock when they saw my licence and I said you’d better have a look at this. [???] [???] Never said they were sorry or anything like that. Police inspector there used to be, he was a funny sort of chap. I never liked the man.
Q: How did they hear about it that you were doing it then?
Mr S: I suppose they picked it up. Somebody complained. Some people if they can get one in with you they will.
Q: This 1937 was this when you started doing it? Had you not done it before that? (Mr S: No.) But you’d had the business then? But you said you used to make sets and things then didn’t you?
Mr S: Yes, made them all.
Q: Very clever.
Mr S: I wish I’d got one of them now, they’d be worth a fortune.
Q: I bet they would. What? You’d sell them did you.
Mr S: Yes, but they’d be worth a fortune now if I’d kept them.
Q: You got on generally all right with the neighbours? They didn’t all complain about it or anything?
Mr S: No, no complaints.
Q: This Mrs, the Pavelins were next door you said?
Mr S: Yes, they used to be next door neighbours. They was 25, I don’t know if it was 25, it could have been the other way round, 23. I’m not certain. I think, I am wrong there, next door to us was 21.
Q: You said you had a horse and cart when you did …? Oh yes, because you said to me on the phone that they actually lived in …
Mr S: Yes they all used to live in Spurge’s, yes, old man Spurge, he used to be there. He used to dress in a tail coat and walk the floor and if you spent ten bob, or something like that, with Mr Spurge, he’d take you upstairs and used to have a drop of cheap port, with Mr Spurge.
Q: Really? Just because you’d bought something? (Mr S: Yes.) Did you ever do that, or your mother?
Mr S: No, I was too young. Spurges that used to be where Boots is. I remember that being knocked down, that was knocked down and Liptons was built there. Then Boots took over Liptons place. [42 Newland Street]
Q: Did your mother used to go shopping there? (Mr S: Yes.) Did she ever get the glass of port then?
Mr S: No, I don’t think so [laugh] They used to have those things on wires [???]
Q: I know, that you pulled. So did Mr Pavelin himself live at the shop some time?
Mr S: Yes, he used to live in with them. He used to live at the shop and so did she, she was the to cook and a lot of the assistants used to live with him. Used to live over the top of the store.
Q: Oh yes, couldn’t get far away then. So he just moved to Albert Road when he retired sort of thing, did he?
Mr S: No, he lived in Albert Road long time before we did.
Q: I see, so it was when he was younger that he was at the shop. (Mr S: Yes.) You said he died when he was in his eighties? And you were little then.
Mr S: Round about. I was about twelve years old when he died.
Q: And she lived until after the War did she? (Mr S: Yes.) It would nice to borrow that if that’s OK and get it copied.
Mr S: I think I’m right in saying they lived in the shop even when I was a kid. Of course she wasn’t cook then, because they’d retired.
Q: And Mr Spurge lived there as well did he? Did Mr Spurge live there too.
Mr S: I don’t know whether he did or not I couldn’t say.
[chat about Q having to get back for American visitors, and about Q borrowing Mr S’s photos, and general chat, not noted]