Junior Aircraft Design Draughtsman .
After being accepted as a draughtsman for Blackburn Aircraft Company, in early 1961, I was brought in initially to work on the TSR 2 aircraft and joined a group of young lads in the Leeds Design Office. Not just ordinary draughtsmen but Junior Aircraft Design draughtsmen. We were quite happy to be offered a job with such a grand title. Nice for chatting up the girls - without lying. "What do you do?". "I'm in Aircraft Design".
This was a dream come true for an ex Brat, getting paid for drawing aeroplanes, having been turned down by the RAF for flying aeroplanes. Next best thing.
Leeds was quite a small design office almost in the centre of the city with about a dozen design staff. We had two professional Aeronautical Designers, a Stress Engineer, a number of Senior Design Draughtsmen, three lads like myself and a very experienced Engineer who checked all designs and drawings produced by the office. Although the senior people seemed really old to us juniors I suppose non would be over forty years old. We also had three very nice print room girls - but that's another story.
Norman and Victorian Values.
The Design Office Manager in the Leeds Office was Norman. One hundred years old or so it seemed to us lads (must have been in his mid fifties). One of the old school. He always wore a smart dark suit, white shirt and sombre tie and held very traditional views about everything. To us lads he seemed to lack a sense of humour although he was always fair and friendly enough, at a distance. So he was the butt of many jokes in the office even with the senior staff, " I bet the only aircraft design Norman was involved in was the R100 Airship". Well in actual fact this is true!
Norman and the R100 Airship.
Norman, it later came to light, had indeed worked on the design of the R100 airship. It had been designed and constructed by a private subsidiary of Vickers where Norman had started his career in aviation. He must have been in his twenties when the R100 was completed in 1930.
We joked in the office (bad taste?) about the R100 airship because we thought it had been the one involved in the historic tragic crash of an airship with heavy loss of life. Wrong! That was a different airship. It was the R101 airship that crashed (a government job in all respects). But although of a proven better design and a successful commercial flight to Canada the Vickers Airship R100 was scrapped in 1931.
No the wonder the R100 was such a good airship as it was built at Hull in
Yorkshire under the supervision and design skills of Barnes Wallis, the person
famed for his Dam Busting Bouncing Bomb in the Second World War. Interesting
fact: the Stress Engineer was Neville Shute Norway who later became the well known author Neville Shute.
From Vickers, Norman must have joined Blackburn Aircraft Company, who were based at Brough near Hull his home town, to end up with us comedians in the Leeds Office.
Norman Joins the Tufty Club.
The Tufty (full name Tufty Fluffytail) Club for
kids was very popular at this time and for a bit of fun we sent off the
application to the Tufty
Club on behalf of Norman. Jim the Senior Designer, who was probably the
only person in the office that Norman would confide in, showed us the
membership letter Norman had received.
"Look Jim, it's a mystery, this letter's addressed to Master Norman Balmer" Jim had tried not to snigger as Norman related his mystery to him. Later Jim showed us the certificate that Norman had let him have. In the envelope there was also a membership card in the name of master Norman Balmer and a colourful Tufty Club badge. These were then tossed in the waste bin as we all rolled about with laughter.
What would these items be worth on Ebay today?
Remember the Ovaltinies?
The lads in the office had suggested enrolling Norman in the Ovaltinies but I think they had ended by this time. Pity!
But do you remember Radio Luxembourg on a Sunday afternoon and the Ovaltinies
We are the Ovaltinies, little girls and boys
Make your request we'll not refuse you
We are there just to amuse you
Would you like a song or story?
Will you share our joys?
At work and play were more than keen
Because we all drink Ovaltine
We're happy girls and boys.
Throughout my RAF days, I well remember, I listened to Dan Dare pilot
of the future, Top Twenty - not to be missed- with Jimmy Saville on Radio Luxembourg.
Another most vivid memory was an Advert for Horace Bachelor's Infra-Draw
method for winning the football pools, in the days when everyone could spell KEYNSHAM.
All gone and sadly missed. What's the world coming to?
If I've missed your favourite - Feedback please!
The Canadian Caper.
Following the success of the Tufty Club we enrolled Norman in a number of
other organisation. I don't really know if he suspected where these pranks
originated but he didn't confide to Jim any suspicions he had of our
involvement. The final prank was supposed to be a hint to our Design Office
Canada was opening up to immigrants from Britain. Virtually anyone welcome. So we sent an enquiry on behalf of Norman using the Office address.
Not many days later a huge parcel was delivered to the office post room. There were British postal stamps but the giveaway was a sticker praising the wonderful opportunities awaiting anyone who would go to Canada to help build that great new country (or words to that effect). It was delivered to Norman's desk in his office.
We watched, through the glass panel, as Norman undid the parcel and started to read the literature it contained. He looked puzzled - to put it mildly. Jim was away and we had to wait until Norman went to lunch to examine the package.
Canada: Land of Opportunity?
There was a tremendous amount of information about Canada and it's many opportunities, with dozens of full size maps covering every region. There were booklets, probably thousands of pages. There were lists of vacancies for all trades and professions. What a wonderful place. But Norman didn't go. I don't think any of the lads were tempted but I wonder how many of us later regretted missing out on the chance. I know that many ex Brats, including at least one 74th Entry, settled in Canada to follow very successful careers. If you were one of them please get in touch - tell me your story.
Joe Bosher (74th).