Tape 197. Mr Cecil Joslin, sides 1 and 2

Tape 197

Mr Cecil Joslin was born c 1914. He was interviewed on 13 August 2004, when he lived at Cerine, Braintree Road, Witham.

For more information about him, see Joslin, Cecil, 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 ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk 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.]

See also photos in JG’s collection M2092-2114, M2145-M2152.

Continued from tape 197

Side 1

[Preliminary chat, also how he knew John Thorogood who had put me in touch with CJ about Crittall’s, not noted]

Q:    You came [to Witham] when you were eleven, you say?

Mr J:    I came to Witham when I was eleven, see, my dad, he was made foreman, and they started making their cottage windows at Witham. (Q: Oh, I see.) And they built a row of six houses up Manor Road, that’s how it come to be Manor Road, because Crittall’s at Braintree was called Manor works at the time. (Q: Of course, yes. Keep going.) [more chat about taping, not noted].

Q:    I see, so where was he before that then? Where was your dad before that, in Braintree? You came from Braintree?

Mr J:    Yes, I came from Braintree. And when I come to Witham, when I used to live at Braintree, that was fields all, well, there was a dairy farm opposite us, lovely fields, and there was a spinney there, you know, and early in the morning if you walked down, if you walked down the valley to the spinney, because there was a tree, and birds, I found it beautiful, morning callers it was, all the different birds whistling, it was lovely. And I used to play in the field there, you know, and they built that stream up so we could paddle.

Q:    I know, yes. And that was at Braintree when you were quite little then?

Mr J:    That was at Braintree, yes. And then course, coming to Witham, I was lost. (Q: Ah, yes.) See, I didn’t know what to do with myself, really. (Q: No, no.) I’d got a young brother, and that, and [???] mum got us into the Church of England school, where, that’s where the car park is now [Guithavon Street], (Q: Oh, yes, yes.) And Mr Crosby and Mr Rowles, Mr Rowles was head teacher, and his wife used to teach the [???] the young generation (Q: Oh, I see.) and I mean, Mr Crosby used to teach three, four, five, and Mr Rowles used to have six, seven and seven A. He was a clever man. Wonderful man, he was, yes, he [???] X7. And the chaps who’d like to learn. Course me, I wasn’t a [???] so it didn’t worry me. And they had the chance of learning algebra and everything there. He told the boys, he told us, he said ‘If you like to learn’, he said, ‘you’ll learn as much as my daughters do’, and they were at Braintree High School, he said you’ll learn much, and that’s true that was. Some one of them jumped into wonderful jobs.

And anyway, I was dull[?] and didn’t know what to do with myself and that, you know. And then one of the chaps come along and he asked me if I’d like to join the Boy Scouts. (Q: Ah. Yes?) So I did, but mind you, you know, you had to buy your own clothes and that, and that time of day, money was scarce really. So anyway, I joined the Boy Scouts, and that was the best part of my life. (Q: Really?) We had some wonderful times. And, well I’ve just been in that now, I reckon [???]. Yes, we had wonderful times. And course, we, first started to go the Boy Scouts, you know, where Borno the chemist’s is [124 Newland Street]. Well, behind there, behind that used to be a school at one time, in days gone by. (Q: I see, yes.) And they had a lovely big room in there, so of course we hired that, you know. And we had horizontal bars, and a gym horse, and of course we used to do gym and that, you know, exercises and that. And then of course, opposite the Labour Hall [Collingwood Road], they had a big hut there, an old army hut from the 1914 War. And that belonged to the YMCA. And they give up, so they offered us if we’d to go in as the YMCA troop, we could have it. Now, that’s how we come to have the hut on our own, and that (Q: Great, yes.) and they had two billiard tables in, they had a kitchen, and a lovely big room, and that’s where we used to go, down there, it made our life, you know. And behind there was a lovely piece of ground, so we used to play different games and that outside. And that of course, where the scouts were and that.

Q:    So who ran that, then? Who organised it? Who was the chief man, who was the leader?

Mr J:    When we first joined the scouts, we, that was First Witham Boy Scouts, and our scout master was Billy Evitt/Evett, they lived at the Lounds at, er, (Q: Oh, Maldon Road way?) Yes, off Maldon Road. His father was a Captain, you know, in the army, and I think he had a fruit farm there. And course, his son, he worked up at London, and he was our scout master. We had our own bugle band. (Q: Really?) Lovely band.

Q:    Were you in the band?

Mr J:    Yes, I had, and I went in the band when I got older, but first of all I was a happy boy, I played the cymbals. [laugh] (Q: Oh, lovely.) And then I got higher, the bugle, you know. Anyway, as time went on, oh, we went camping, and we used to go down, we went down to Felixstowe in 1925, there’s a plane down there, was practising for the race, [???] race, and that plane was originated from the Spitfire, the Spitfire was originated from that one. And that used to be lovely to see that, touring round, you know, thought that was wonderful, cause planes interest people.

Q:    What race was it in for? What race was it going for?

Mr J:    Oh, the Snow [???] race of the different countries. They all went in it, they one it with this. Cause we had the best one. And they were sea planes, they’d got floats on them, you know.

Cause at Felixstowe was the sea plane base, air planes, Air Force planes. {Q: Was it, oh I didn’t know that.) Yes. Yes, so …

Q:    Was this mostly at weekends, or did you go in the, was it mostly at weekends that you did the scouts things, or did you go in the evening as well. With the scouts, did you go in the evenings after school? How often did you, how many times a week?

Mr J:    Oh, we went once a week to Scouts, we had boxing, gymnasium and that in the sports, and other things, and we went different competitions with other Scouts, you know. Yes. We went to the jamboree down at Southend. We didn’t go camping there, but our scout master hired a taxi and drop us down there for the day, but, we saw the Lord Baden Powell. [Q: Did you really?) Yes, and we went to a church and there were so many of us we couldn’t go it, get in the church, we had to stay outside, cause that was packed. And then we went to some, it must have been a cinema, I reckon, it must have been, and we had a, listen to Lord Baden Powell. (Q: That was an honour wasn’t it?) And then of course, I gradually got older, and to get some pocket money and that, cause you were lucky if you got a penny a week, you know. So we, I used to go doing little jobs, like, there was an old fish shop down Church Street, and that was a fruiterers and all, and cause the fruit used to come round, he asked my mum if his boy, her boy, would like a job. So I went round there, and I used to, I didn’t peel them, I scraped the potatoes for the fish, you know, for the chips. (Q: I see, it was a chip shop was it, yes.) Yes. And that was a round thing, well you know what a nutmeg grater is like, well we used to put all the potatoes in there, and there was a pipe run over the top with water, and you had to turn a handle like a gramophone record player, you know. And [???] till you ‘d cleaned all the skin off the potatoes. (Q: Better than doing it with a knife). And anyway, fact is, I used to go out with the fruiterer, you know, used to go round selling things at the houses and that, I used to have my own basket, used to place, you know, your best pieces of fruit and what nots in the basket and take round, and ask if they’d like anything. Course today that’s all these big monopoly things.

Q:    So, how old were you then, about?

Mr J:    Oh, about twelve.

Q:    Is that all?

Mr J:    Yes, and thirteen. Thirteen yes, and fourteen. There was a, thirteen, there was a shop near the railway station, a little shop, right near where the Labour Hall is [Collingwood Road]. That used to be a market there. Yes. And this little hut was there, the chap used to make tea for the, you know, the drivers and whatnot. And he used to sell cigarettes, sweets, and fruit and that.
And I used to go round the different houses on a Saturday morning, collecting orders, then I used to go to the shelf and he’d get these orders up, and I had an old barrow, you know, I used to have to push round the different places where I’d been, to, you know, (Q: Take the stuff?) fruit and that.

Q:    So that was from the shop on the bridge, you mean?

Mr J:    Yes. That was on part of the railway …, well in the market grounds. (Q: So they did fruit as well, did they?). Where that big building is, that office. (Q: I know, the red one.) [c 71 Collingwood Road] Yes, that was built on the edge of that, you know, with the rail[?], like.

Q:    I think I remember seeing that little white building, with wooden boards on.

Mr J:    There was a [???] building.

Q:    So did he do fruit as well? Did the man there, did he do fruit as well? When you were working for him, what did you do there? Still delivering?

Mr J:    Well, odd jobs for him, you know. Making ice cream, he used to make ice cream and …
(Q: Oh really, wow!) [laughter]

Q:     So what was his name?

Mr J:    Mr Burton. But he went bankrupt and moved to Braintree. Cause he was a Braintree man, like [???].

Q:    And what was the name of the man at the fruit shop and the fish shop?

Mr J:    Oh, I couldn’t tell you, Allen I think. One was married to the other. You wouldn’t believe it, but used to come back there Saturday nights about six, when we stopped work, and they used to give me a tea. I used to have a banana and that, fish, smell the fishing oil, that was quite good, you know, fish and a banana together was … [laugh].

Q:    Do you remember how much money you got for that?

Mr J:    Oh, weren’t much more that half a crown.

Q:    Really? So when, when you left school, how old would you be then?

Mr J:    I was fourteen when I left school. (Q: I see, mm.) And I stayed at, with Burton for a little while, after I left school, and my dad, course, he got me in, a job in the factory. So I started in the factory, just at fourteen. And I done fifty years there, I done me time there. I won it. I knew nearly every job in the factory, I done nearly every job. Yes. And they had a band, Crittall’s band, and I said to Dad, I’d like to join the band, so he said, he spoke to Mr Knight, our bandmaster, got a photo of … (Q: Oh really, how lovely? Oh yes.) [JG’s photos M2093, M2094, M2095]  That’s Mr Knight, he was a lovely man, he come from … (Q: I’ll write that one down, the band. What was his name. Mr ?) A M[?] Knight. (Q: Oh Knight, yes, oh I’ve heard about him, yes. Oh, isn’t that lovely.) That’s him, coming along there, look … (Q: That’s him, you?) Our bandmaster. (Q: Oh I see. Where’s this one?) That’s Witham High Street. (Q: Is it really? Well, I didn’t recognise it. Oh, Bellamy’s yes, I’m with you. So that’s Mr Knight there as well.) Yes, this is Mr Knight here, that was when we went, that’s the British Legion band. Cause Crittall’s band fell through, so the Legion bought the instruments, and …

Q:    So which one’s he, which is Mr Knight on here, is Mr Knight on this one. (Q: Yes, Mr Knight. He’s conducting. Are you on them?

Mr J:    Yes, up here somewhere. That’s Stan Champ, I’m there, somewhere, you can’t see me properly. (Q: So that’s Stan Champ in the middle?) Yes, Stan Champ, he was our soloist, he played lovely.
[more about names, not noted here, I went back later with copies of the photos and got more, see Access database of JG’s series of M photos]

Mr J:    We had our uniforms, always used to wear a white cap in the summer time, a proper naval sort of do, and on the band of the hat, was Crittall’s colours, that was orange, orange colour band, and they were grey, light grey uniforms with orange stripe down the trousers. (Q: Very smart, yes.) And we had a dicky bow, you know, a collar, you know, proper white collar like, with a dicky bow. Oh I was proud to have that, when I first had that put on.

[more about names, not noted here, I went back later with copies of the photos and got more, see Access database of JG’s series of M photos]

Q:    So when did the Crittall’s, about how old were you when the Crittall’s one folded up and you went to the British Legion one, do you know?

Mr J:    About twenty, I reckon. [so about 1934?]

Q:    Oh, I see, yes.

Mr J:    And then, what did they call him, he was president of the Legion (Q: I see.) He worked at our factory, and he heard that we was packing up, so he spoke about it in the Legion, about us buying the instruments, which they did, and we paid for the instruments and bought our own uniform, the same year as we joined the Legion. All our uniforms come to about a hundred pounds [laugh]. And we went up to the Albert and had them all measured up [???] [???], there were some lovely photos, they was about but I just I didn’t get them.

Q:    So was that a blue, was it a blue uniform, the Legion one?

Mr J:    That was a navy uniform with a gold stripe down the side, and gold braid round the uniform, and of course that was [???].

Q:    Oh, aren’t you clever. Was your father musical?

Mr J:    My dad started as a boy, boy, you know, at the, I think it must have Braintree band, you know. (Q: Yes, yes.) But he didn’t carry it on, you know. But I love music, you know, I do. My schoolmaster, you know, I never got on very well, you know, but, he was surprised, cause he loved music, he used to play the organ in the Church and that. (Q: Really?) And he was doing with the Council, and we had a band concert in the Public Hall, and he was there, and he spoke to Mr Knight and asked whether it was me what was in the band. [laugh] (Q: Oh, I see. Yes, that’s wonderful.) We had such lovely times. Used to go out to British Legion rallies. We went to one at Clacton and the [???] got wives and that, they had a bus to there, and the band had a bus to ourselves, and come, it was a Sunday, and course, everybody said they’d be there at eight o’clock, [probably in the evening, to come home] everybody was there on time, and the ladies’ bus got away, and ours wouldn’t go. (Q: Oh no!) [laugh]

So they got us to push it round the bus park, and time kept going on, you could hear the clock striking, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and about twelve o’clock we managed to get it going, and so our bus driver, he’d got to take Clark, I think his name was, he’d got to take him up to Chelmsford, and he’d got to go to Silver End, and drop Mr Knight and some others, so what time they got home I don’t know. That was a laugh, that was. That was a lovely parade. And then we went to Southend, that was a beautiful parade there, course we had the Guards bands, they march in front. Our bandmaster was a man what took a steady pace, you know, because they were all old soldiers and that, you know, and they used to take a steady pace, but when we got to the march past, like, we, the Guards band were ‘Bang, bang, bang’, you know, so everybody was up like the [???], and marching past, and we’d been a marching steady, you know, that was a hot day. That was lovely that was. They were all pleasant times, you know, and you met other bandsmen and that, and they were like brothers and that, you know. Some, one band, what come from Boxted, they’d got some young girls in that, and of course we used to play for the hymns and that, you know, and our band was, wasn’t a full band, so they used to come and help us out, you know, playing with us, and that. Yes, really lovely. (Q: Would be, yes.)

Q:    So how long, oh, you’ve got some more pictures, you’ve got lots of pictures.

Mr J:    Yes, these are when we was at the camp, washing our feet. [photos M2102-M2108, Boy Scouts] (Q: Oh I see.) [???] We used to be in a foursome, my brother and his mate, and myself, and my mate took the photo. Oh, we used to travel, cycle round all over the place, you know, and always together.

Q:    What was your brother’s name?

Mr J:    Herbert.

Q:    Herbert. But he was, he was younger, you said.

Mr J:    Yes, four years younger. I was born at the beginning of the War [First] and he was born after the War.

Q:    So you were born in 19, 1914?

Mr J:    [???] 1918.

Q:     Course, yes, 1918. That’s a lovely one. [M2103]

Mr J:    Yes. That fellow [Basil Quantrill of Silver End], he went the Royal Marines Band, he could play any instrument, that doesn’t matter what instrument you give him, he make some sound out of. Oh he was a wonderful player and that used to sound lovely [???], he used to be a playing that, and of course they’re all singing.

Q:    What was his name, or don’t you remember?

Mr J:    Yes, Basil, oh dear.

Q:     Never mind, we’ll do that another time. I’ll come back some time, and we’ll go through the names, perhaps, when you’ve had time to think about it. It’s a lovely picture.

Mr J:    I ought to know, because he’d got a brother and all, he went in the Navy during the War [Second], and of course, he joined up as a musician, and he’d have come out as the bandmaster, I know he would, but his ship got bombed in harbour at one of the islands out there [???]. Memory won’t get the names. (Q: So was he killed then, when his ship got bombed?) Oh, they got sunk, you know, and of course they all got drowned.
Quantrill. Basil Quantrill. His father was in the 1914 War in the submarines, he was an officer.

Q:    I wonder where this is [same photo]?

Mr J:     Felixstowe.

Q:     This is Felixstowe, ah. So are you on this one?

Mr J:    Oh that’s, I was on fatigue that day, getting all the food ready for them.

Q:    Oh, so you weren’t actually on the picture?

Mr J:    I wasn’t on that picture, no. I was in the camp, you know. [Boy Scouts]

Q:    Yes. Somebody had to do the work.

Mr J:    It was just one day, one day in the holiday, you know, was on fatigue, so you used to have to clean up and cook. (Q: Yes. That’s lovely.) That’s taken in the Recreation ground at Witham [M2108]. That’s my, that’s myself, that’s me, that’s my brother, that’s Doug Rudkin, and that’s Jim Reed, he got killed during the War, got a trailer and a tractor at Dunmow, and the trailer broke away, and go into him and killed him, and he’d got three other brothers. That was a beautiful funeral, these boys were in the army, their father was an army man, he was the Black Watch. And one of the brothers was in the Black Watch and George, who used to be my pal, he was in the Scots Guards, and the other one joined the Essex Regiment.

Q:    Was it Reed, did you say? Was it Reed, their surname?

Mr J:    Reed. That’s in about 1925, there was a fire at Crittall’s [photos M2096-M2101]. (Q: Oh?) Terrific fire. (Q: Goodness, looks very drastic.) That was the paint dip, paint caught alight.

Q:     Goodness. Looks very drastic. Was that when you, were you working there then?

Mr J:    No, I was only just a boy. (Q: Of course, yes.) About thirteen then.
[chat about borrowing photos, not noted]
That was the finish of the band. (Q: Isn’t that lovely) [???] the instruments there, that was the same, I went down to the, cause I used to do night work at the factory, and I used to go on a Monday night to practise, and when I got down there, there was only me, and I used to get all the, you know, the stands out, and the music out, for them, and … [pause] Yes, that little boy, [M2093] that, now, that was Rowley Butler, I think that was him, Rowley Butler, he was the one come down, cause he played the cornet, and we were the only two down there, and I told him wrong[?].

If I say we’re going on, I said, that’s worse that [???] at home, cause I used to go down there, you see, and I only spent about an hour with them, cause I had to get back by nine-o’clock, I had to start work. We used to go to the British Legion hut you see, practise, and so that broke up, the band because … (Q: Not enough people coming?) the trouble is, with a lot of these bandsmen and that, they get a band, they always think they’re going to get something out on it, you know, they went in it to get some extra money, if you know what I mean. Well, to go out and pay for your bus to go out to different functions, and then make a claim for money, you know, for playing for them, and that, well of course, that stopped all the bands going you see, because people went and got these radios and whatnot, and they done away with the bands, you know, because that cost more for a band, you see. (Q: Of course, yes.) And then there was the travelling expenses. Of course you had to buy music and that.

Q:    So when, when about would this be? Roughly. How old would you be when that happened?

Mr J:    Oh, I was getting on. I must have been twenty-six.

Q:    That was, you were twenty-six, yes. So that would be about 1940?

Mr J:    Yes, that would be round about that time.

Q:    Well I suppose, if it was, would it be in the War time?

Mr J:    No, it wasn’t in the War time, no. Before the War.

Q:    Yes. It’s a lovely picture. Which is you on here? (Mr J: That.) Oh right, I ought to recognise you by now cause I’ve seen – I’ve seen so many pictures I ought to recognise you, but I’ve never sure, people look different with a hat on, don’t they.

Mr J:    One of these, there was nearly a whole family on them. There was one, two, three …, oh, one, two, three, four, they were all brothers. (Q: Really?) Willshers the name were. (Q: Ah.) Yes. He still plays in a band. (Q: Really?) Yes, he’s secretary of one band. Yes. His old man was over eighty. I got to think of these names. (Q: Oh don’t worry, don’t worry about that at the moment. It’s a beautiful picture.) That was taken at Hatfield, some church fete. (Q: I’ll put that with the others.) That was when I was in the Home Guard [M2092]. (Q: Oh, wow.) We were in Crittall’s Home Guard. (Q: Oh, I see, yes.) Yes, the fact-, you know. (Q: The factory. You’re going to have to tell me which is you again. Which one is you?) Down here, somewhere. There I am.

Q:     Oh yes. So did you, did you stay in Crittall’s in the War time?

Mr J:    Yes, I was, I was lucky really, but I wouldn’t have been, but I had a perforated ear, so that stopped me, I volunteered to be air gunner, you know, and I had my call-up papers come, and cancellation papers come the same day. And I read my cancellation papers first. (Q: I see.) Well, I went down for my medical, down at Colchester, at Culver Street, that was the Methodist church there, and coming home, there were soldiers and that were coming back from, you know, that disaster, when we first went over to France [Dunkirk?] and that, and oh dear, that was a pitiful sight, you know, saw these chaps come back, and they’d got hardly uniform and nothing on, they were so distressed and that, you know. And I had a packet of fags in my pocket, so I give it to them. That hurt me ever so much, you know. Cause my brother, he had to go in the army, see. Actually, before the War started, they had, they called up young boys and that, and they were going to do a training, and that sounded nice, and I was thinking, ‘Cor’, I said to my brother, ‘That’d be nice, I’m looking forward to getting there and all, you know.’ And, I mean, he’d got to go up to Warley barracks, on the Thursday, and on the Sunday they declared War, so of course, he went in the army right away.

Side 2

Q:    Was he all right? He come back, did he?

Mr J:    Yes, he come back, but it was a long time before we heard from him. Course, everything that, you know, when they were driven back and that, and plus he applied for the REME, you know. And he managed to get in the REME, and course they used to go out and mend the tanks and that, you see, cars, lorries and that, if they got stuck anywhere. They used to go out with all their equipment, and everything on the lorry. And, course they got mixed up with this retreat, you know, Rommel pushed us back, you know, so they were all got back to Alexandria, and that’s where he stayed for the rest of the year, you know, time, and [???] the REME, they had a workshop there, he stayed there. He had toothache, and he had to go and see a dentist, and the dentist got talking to him, and he was in, this dentist was in the First Fourth Essex, and they were stationed at Witham, just, during the War, and they used to go up to some old ladies up Rickstones Road, used to invite them, you know, there, they were old spinsters, they were, and they used to invite them there for … you know, for something to do, and that. Course he was one on them what was there, so my brother knew them, knew of these old ladies, Ottleys, they were, and (Q: I know, yes.) so that was that, and his mate used to be a lorry driver and that, you know, in that, he never did run across them, but he run across one of the boys of Witham, and he was in the Medical part. See, that was wonderful, you know, they used to run up against each other, and course, mother used to worry about him and that. Well, we all did, and, because we wondered how he was, and course we never used to hear from him and that. When he did write a letter like, they used to censor, so they crossed things out. But anyway, he come home on leave. Well actually, he could have died before he went abroad, because he was on leave one weekend, and they went home, and that was wet, you know, and course they got hobnailed boots and that, and somebody electrocuted the knob on the door, and before he got there, there’s a chap went down, he got killed, he got electrocuted. Well, then my brother was the next one, so he’d have been the one what’d got it. But he was lucky to get away. Well, on his way home, oh he got on the banana boat, like coming home, and that, there was one of the workers on the boat and that, he got stabbed, and of course they accused everybody you see, and the soldiers and that, of doing that, you know. So he had some rough times, really.

Q:    What did he do when he came back, did he work at Crittall’s as well? When he came back, did he work at Crittall’s as well?

Mr J:    Yes, he worked at Crittall’s, he went away from Crittall’s, you know, and he was a smart boy really, he always used to keep himself smart and that, you know, and when they were on parade, like at Warley barracks, the old sergeant major used to get him out and stand him in front, and say ‘This is how I want to see you look’, you know.

Cause my brother used to polish his shoes and so he was like, smart. Well, I think the idea was to try and look peculiar[?] (Q: Really?) That was my idea of it, you know, they didn’t think much on him because, you know, he was praised for what he’d done. Anyway, he was a runner, round Warley barracks and Billericay and that, when the bombers come over, and they had a German prisoner, you know, officer[?]. And he was put in the stable, what was a stable, and this old German said ‘[???] in there.” [laugh] He thought they was going to be treated properly [???].

But, yes, they were, oh dear, I must say I was starting to worry. I was in Crittall’s, and I was working in the galvanise, and I was near the door. We had a roller door, where you had chains to pull it up, and I was always told as soon as the alarm went, to do that, so I did, and just as I stepped out and had a look, there was this bomber come over, German bomber. So one of them come strolling along there, he was [???] ‘Oh, he said, that’s one of ours.’ I said ‘Is it?’ I said ‘It’s got the swastika on it, anyway.’ So he stood up the top of the dugout, and that, all of a sudden there was a bang. He comes tearing down there, I thought ‘Now you know what that was.’ And that hit our power house, and that. Well, we still kept going and that, and, well, they, some of the machines and that got burned out. They were all blown to pieces, we never did see them no more [the machines]. And the girders, there were holes in the girders where the shrapnel went through. We got bombed twice there. Yes. So we had a little bit of a War.

Q:    So what happened the other time? Were you at work the other time, as well? You say you were bombed twice?

Mr J:    Yes I was at work there. I was put on welding during the War, and they needed some workers down at Wivehoe, welders, they were building something down there. And they wanted some, so they took so many men from the individual factories around the district, you know. And we went down there, welding. And, that was early spring, you know, there was snow and frost on the ground when we went. And they built, we didn’t know what they were, but in the end, I put it down that they parts of a Mulberry harbour. Because they were like egg boxes, you know, in departments, what we were doing, on a big flat platform[?], you know. And they got a piece hanging over, and they’d got places where they were fixed, you know, other parts on, so they were away at sea and that, so they was [???]. And they had some men testing them, so we went to put, blow air into the compartments, or water, you know, which the Germans couldn’t make out, what they were. And they had lots all round the country, you know. And while they were waiting to go for Dunkirk, they used to sink them you see, in the bay like, so the Germans didn’t know … and of course, however they pulled them all out of France and that, marvellous to me.

Because when were they were launched in the river, like, that was a rare do, that was something like launching a ship. An old Admiral come along and that, and this one, you see it was all flat like that, with a piece hanging over, and when that hit the water, there was a chap over the other side the river, he was going to take a photo of it, and that made a big tidal wave, so I don’t think he ever took the photo [laugh]. Cause that pushed it way, took it when that was [???]. Ever such a big old tug had to come along and pull it. Fact we made two parts of it, I suppose they made two parts of all on it, in case they did get bombed. Yes, so that was what we done. And then [???] we were on shift work, we was going to work on nights, but the people in Wivenhoe wouldn’t have us working on nights, cause of the flashing of the electric welder, and so we worked shifts, six till two and two till ten. Of course I used to, I think when I started off I cycled to Kelvedon and used to pick a bus up there to go to Colchester, and then I’d pick another bus up to go to Wivenhoe. So, well they brought another firm in from [???], and the foreman, he, must have hired a flat or something at Coggeshall, so he said ‘How are you getting there?’ I said ‘Well, when I’m six o’clock in the morning, I have that cycle, cause there was two from, three from Coggeshall used to cycle. And he said ‘You don’t want to cycle’ he said ‘I’ll come round and pick me up’, you see. So he used to pick me up in the morning, and course we kept on early shift all the time, you see, cause his men and that, they lodged there, and so they, they done the nights.

Q:    So were you there quite a long time? Were you at Wivenhoe for quite a long time?

Mr J:    About two months.

Q:    Oh, you were then. Cause when you were at, so in the War at Crittall’s in Witham, did they make special things for the War?

Mr J:    We made Bailey bridges, we made landing grids, you know, they were like a, a mattress, a [???] mattress, like a single bed. And they were welded. There was, the Bailey bridges, that was surprising the different parts they had, a Bailey bridge. There were little pieces, where perhaps the bridge was on the slant and that, and having to build it up like, and that. And they had, made canisters for the ships, they used to blow these parachutes up in the air when they were dive bombed and that, and they used to blow these parachutes up in the air, and of course they used to float down, and of course that stopped the bomber from coming down. And …

Q:    Did you work on those? Did you work on those things?

Mr J:    Yes. Bailey bridges, I done a lot, there was lots of parts, as I say, there was long pieces of girder and they used to have, the girder was, you know, hollow, that was hollow, like it and that. We used to have to put plates in there for, I suppose for bolting together and that in different places, you see, that was all welded on, they were {???]. There used to be a man [???] [???].

Q:    So you had a turn at all the different things, then? You worked on all the different things, you weren’t just on the one.

Mr J:    Yes, all sorts of things.

Q:    Did they make shells. Did somebody say they made shells?

Mr J:    Yes, they made shells, that was the first thing they done. (Q: Was it?) They had these big lathes come in, and the girls used to, they used to have a man.
They had like a crane that lifted the, I forget what they call them now, [???], and that laid it into the lathe. That was a rough, like a flask it was, like, and the girls used to machine it, and the men used to have to take it out. That was so heavy, and …

Q:    So were there quite a lot of girls working there, were there? Were there quite a lot of women there in the War?

Mr J:    Yes. There were a lot of women, in their, different jobs. Some of the jobs you couldn’t tell what they were making, really, cause you didn’t know what they were. (Q: No.) Yes, so we welded. There was piece of aeroplane tail parts, we used to weld up and that. And, oh, there was lots of things. I can’t think of all on them. I had a book once, and I lent it to one of the girls, and I never did see it no more, they kept it. I had it with all the different parts what we had. I had to get me by, one of the inspectors give it to me, after the War. And I kept myself [???] and I never did see it no more.

Used to, there was trucks what were damaged, and that, you know, rail trucks, they used to bring them in, and the chaps used to build them up, make the trucks on them again. Used to have big containers where they put the shells in, and they used to have rubber shock absorbers like, inside these, they had to stick them in. The other part I reckon were made at Braintree, the shell cases like, and then they used to send them to Witham for somebody to put the, stick the rubber and that on, to stop the shock of the bombs.

Q:    So all this time, were you living in Manor Road still?

Mr J:    Yes. I lived in Manor Road till I was twenty-eight, and I married then. I never thought I’d ever get married, because all my mates had got married and that, and I slept on my own, cause there weren’t many of my boys about, you see, during the War, I was a loner. And course we had the Home Guard, like, we used to practise once a week there, and then we used to have to do night work, and night shifts, we used, once a week when we was on days, we used to have to go and guard the works, every two hours, like in the night. And then go to work the next morning. (Q: Mmm.) They had a three storey building, and they had spotters on the top, and course they had German planes used to come over during the day, so they would, Home Guard used to put me up there on the gun, but the spotters didn’t like it, because they said ‘Oh, he won’t know the planes.’ Well you knew which was a, got a swastika on and which had got the Union Jack, you know, red white and blue. [laugh] So I think they [???] anyway, a good job, because that come over one Monday morning, one on them had to use the gun on this plane, that come over and dropped bombs and that. So, house, like, the ceiling, that put all the, break all the ceiling and that.

And of course, Mum had got the table, breakfast table on, A chap was going to plop it, and I said ‘Oi, steady on’, I said, ‘we got the things on the table’, cause they come to see what damage has been done, you see.

Q:    So was there quite a big, big hole in the roof, then? Was there quite a big hole in the roof?

Mr J:    No, no, no it, just, that shook the ceilings, you know, it weren’t … There was in Crittall’s, they had some …

Q:    Cause, somebody did tell me this story about one time, with the bombs, that the spotters sent everybody to the shelters, and if they hadn’t, people would have got killed.

Mr J:    When they first started the sirens used to start first, nothing seemed to happen, so people used to dawdle to the dugouts and that. And one chap, when the first bomb dropped, he had to go, just round near the paint dip, so he got away from it, but he weren’t far away from some of the damage that was done. But that frightened him, he didn’t stop in the factory, he went out to the dugouts, cause you all were located to different dugouts, where you’d got to go. On the outside, where Safeway’s [later Morrison’s] have got their bit of garden there [probably by Braintree Road], where you walk round the path and that, well they had a big dugout there, high as a building. And then course they were all round the yard, and different … Yes.

Q:    So which, you the spotters didn’t want you helping, were they always the same people doing the spotting?

Mr J:    Yes. Yes, they were, some on them were in the Home Guard. Yes, there’s [looking at photo M2092] he was a spotter.

Q:    So they thought they were something special, did they?

Mr J:    Yes, they, just it. One on them, during the night, we had a dugout in Cut Throat Lane, you know where the car park is round there. (Q: I know, yes.) Well there was a dugout there, and he used to go round to this dugout, every night, and he could probably hear a plane coming, so he used to notify them up on the building, cause that was a three-storey building, what they had there. Rex Griggs, his name was. He did lovely paintings. (Q: I know, he was Elfreda’s brother.) Yes. [???] There’s another one, Ager.

Q:    Which Ager is that, I wonder? I wonder which Ager …, there was a, now, was there a Cyril, was it Cyril?

Mr J:    No, Cyril Ager was a brother there. (Q: I see.) They all look different here. Another one, Frank Parker. Another one there, oh dear. (Q: He’s got more stripes on his arm.)

They all had stripes then. Another Ager there, he was one of them. I can’t bring him to mind, his first name to mind. Yes, he’s pulling his shirt so he can show his stripes off. (Q: Oh I see [laugh].) He was in the army but he got out on it, for some reason or other.

Q:    Maybe they’ll come to you another time. Is that indoors?

Mr J:    No, that’s outside, the wall outside the, as you went round the factory, from Braintree Road. The factory was along there, and then this part was where they used to unload the steel and that, to make the windows and that.

Q:    Yes, it was a big place, wasn’t it. A big place, Crittall’s, enormous.

Mr J:    I remember them building the, that part, of Crittall’s, near Braintree Road, no doubt you know, you remember something of Crittall’s, along the front. Well all that wasn’t there when I first went there, that was just a bit of waste ground. So they wanted a canteen there, so what they done, they had that built, so they made a loading shed underneath, and then on the top, they had a canteen and a social club. (Q: Oh, I see.) Do you know, the canteen floor was all maple wood, lovely and polished, the chaps used to drink their tea and pour the things down on the floor, they’d got no thought or nothing. All dead. All dead bar that boy [self]. Dick Chapman, he used to be a runner, in the Essex, he was a lovely runner too. He run up to Wickham Bishops to their carnival once, and there’s another fellow, that was our school, he was a, he could do anything in running. And they had a race and they wanted to join in with them, cause I was in the Boy Scouts. There was me trying to catch up [laugh]. They were miles in front of me. Yes.

Q:    So you had to work hard there, then.

Mr J:    They were a lovely crowd, they were. They used to go out on a Sunday morning, training. And in the week, one day in the week they used to go out training and that.

Q:    Am I keeping you too long? (Mr J: You got something?) I’m fine, are you all right for time? (Mr J: I’m fine, my time is my own here.)

[pause, getting out photos etc.]

Mr J:    Ah here it is. That’s the card. (Q: Wow.) Fifty million windows. [photos M2109-M2114, in 1978] And the place we’re going up [???] [???], in the factory, and this is where we were presented [???] and that was presented to him, for the steel people, whatever his name is, (Q: Oh yes, Chairman of the British Steel.) That’s it. They presented it to him, and he presented to us. Presented it to him, that’s got some of our windows behind there, had all the different people worked for [???] Crittall’s and that. And this is the one where that was presented to the men up our canteen.

Q:    So you accepted it on their behalf, sort of thing? That’s lovely.

Mr J:    Yes, fifty million windows, that was on there. Course they all cheered because I said, I had a card, you know, written, what I’d got to say. My manager helped me put it together. And I said to the manager, I said, ‘I don’t know what to say’. And I said ‘I don’t know’, I said ‘Do you want his job?’. If they do, so, different places like that, cause there’s always drink and that, you know. They’d got a big punch bowl there, you know, so you went up to the lady, if you wanted some more, they’d fill it up for you, see, and that’s how it kept on. And, course, that suited the chaps, cause they, they altered the different types of windows, and I preferred these windows what we got here, see. But they had them, just one open vent and the other [???] open or close, with one big pane of glass. And that didn’t suit me, so I told them I’d prefer the old cottage windows what were made first. And they, I told them I’d have a job, like the manager, [???] I said ‘I don’t think I should like this job’, you know. So anyway they all cheered. And they, afterwards they said ‘You shouldn’t have said that’, you see. [this part not very clear, probably transcribed wrong]

Q:     Oh, that’s a great picture, isn’t it.

[chat about who is on it etc., not noted here, see access database re photos for info.]

Mr J:    They’re all Witham people. Cause that was the Witham firm what done that, the windows, what, well, they used to send sashes and that to Braintree, but they used to make sashes for big buildings and that, you know, but we made windows for smaller places.

Q:    I’ve got it, yes. That’s lovely. Oh, there’s some more here, yes.

[more chat about people on photos, not noted here.]

Q:    So you were there longer than anybody else, were you? You were the oldest person there, longest serving?

Mr J:    The oldest there, yes. I was just on the verge of being retired. Oh yes, I went to Sheffield for a retirement course. They used to run, when the different chaps in the factory retired, before they retired, they used to get a chance of going up to Sheffield to some fellow used to explain things, you know, you mustn’t do this and you mustn’t do that in the house, and you’ve got to make sure you’re going to help your wife and all this and that, you know. And, couple of days, I think they had. And, that was lovely, that was one of the tallest buildings there was up there, Sheffield, yes, a hotel. We were all up the top, and looking down, the buses didn’t look much bigger, well, they weren’t much bigger than this chair. And we had our own room, you know. And course there was the bathroom and all combined and that, and everything was free, and the firm give you so much to spend. (Q: A treat, wasn’t it?) That was lovely, but in the end they said they ought to be able to take the wives and all, that put the tin hat on it. They went to different places after that, and they all weren’t[?] so far away, they went other places.

Q:    So did you enjoy being retired?

Mr J:    No, I was lonely. (Q: Yes.) When I first retired … do you know Mrs Bellchambers? )Q: I know her name, but I’m not sure which one she is.) She used to live next door. (Q: Oh yes.) And she worked over the factory. And we was out the back there one day, and she said ‘Cecil, how’re you getting on, retirement.’ I said ‘I miss my mates.’ You know what I mean. You want the people round you, like, you know, you weren’t always talking to them and that, you know, but they were working near you and that, you miss them. (Q: Quite, yes.) You know, because you was lonely, you was lost. I know I’d got my wife and that, but there was just that part what was missing. So, Braintree and Silver End, they run a club there, old, pensioners’ club, you know, Crittall’s pensioners. And so I said, ‘It’d be nice if we could start up a club of our own in Witham’, I said. So she said ‘Yes’, she said, ‘I don’t see why’, she said, because she was getting in retirement and so on. So of course she knew some of the top notchers cause she worked in the office, and, so she got approach to them and that. They said refer to so and so.

And she got talking to them. So we had a meeting at the Social Club one afternoon, about four of us went, you know, cause there was another one, another chap, well he used to be a Union secretary and that, we got involved with him, so he joined and that, and we spoke to him about it. Of course, being a lady, like, she wouldn’t be in it, you see, that was just for men. So she asked if there was any chances of the spouses joining and all. Well they said they don’t see why, so that’s how we come to our club, Braintree club and that they just had the men, but Witham we had the spouses and all come in with us, it made a happy afternoon together, you see. So anyway, there was so much money in the kitty at, when Blake, I forget the name of the people what took over Crittall’s first. (Q: Oh, I know who you mean, I can’t remember either.) Anyway, they bought Silver End up and all, and, well at Silver End, they went, when old man Crittall died, they all decided to put so much to a club there, for old pensioners to go to. So anyway, they were going to buy that up and all, but the Union stepped in, they said, they were wrong, they said ‘That belongs to the men’, you see. They bought that. So anyway, that was sold, so that money, what they got for that, went into a big kitty, and Braintree, Witham and Silver End, they all shared so much of it for the clubs, which, every now and again we used to get a hundred pounds for sports and different things during the year, and outings, and we had a chap there who was quite good at finance work and that, he used to, if the shares went down one way, it used to go into another one what was making [???], and that’s how he kept on, so, kept the money going. So in the end Silver End seemed to fall out, and, nothing to do with the club afterwards, so the money was shared between Braintree and Witham, but anyway, in the end, that more or less collapsed altogether, cause money went down, there weren’t a lot in the [???] so our secretary got talking to them, and asked them if we could split the money up. That’s still classed as Crittall’s money, you know, and there was so much issued out each year, you know, to help to pay for the club. Otherwise we shouldn’t be around, because they have [???]. We don’t seem to be able to get any new members and, there ain’t about twenty-five on us now.

Q:    Oh well, that’s still a good thing, isn’t it? You get to meet the others. It’s still quite a good club to be in.

Mr J:    Yes, well, there’s just ourselves, and we go on outings once a month, but if it weren’t for outsiders coming in and joining in, we should never be able to do it. Cause that costs quite a bit, to belong to Spring Lodge [where the Crittall’s retirement club meets].

Q:    So that was all really because of you, that they started the club. It was because of you that they started the club then?

Mr J:    Yes. [???]Yes, well I suggested more or less, why can’t we start a club up, which was something to look forward to once a week. Well that’s only once a week we went.

Q:    Oh, that’s good. So that was soon after you retired, then? That was quite soon after you retired? So when you were still working, did you get promoted at all, what did they call you?

Mr J:    [???] I’d got a manager there, he hated me like poison. (Q: Oh no, really?) I’d done something what didn’t suit him. We had a manager there, and the job I was on, he told me to, that was a roller for straightening the bars, and the bars were all cut on the slant, so they got points[?] on them, and to put it through these rollers, he wanted me to keep putting it through. Well, I started doing that when I first went on the job, and the chaps the other end used to pick them up and look at them, you see, to straighten the bars, they used to hit them on the bar, the thing, and that. Oh, he said [???]they didn’t want me doing that, because I was, they’d got to work harder than what I, see, so, he’d been up the club and drinking, which was against the firm’s, anybody drinking on the work, he smelt of whisky, and he wanted me to keep putting them through, and I [???] I just kept putting them through steady, so, otherwise when they went like that they, they’d be moaning at me for doing it. So I just done that. Well, I reckon he told this under-manager you see, and of course he didn’t like me after that, you see. So anyway, he used to put me on the worst jobs he could put me on. He thought he was going to try and break me, so I say, oh, pack up, go out. But I still …

Continued on tape 198

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