Interview with Stanley Clegg


Interview with Stanley Clegg


Stanley Clegg was born in 1923 in Shaw, a small town near Oldham and started working at the Fern Cotton Spinning Company as an apprentice in the office at the age of 14.
He signed up for the Royal Air Force at the age of 18 in December 1941 and was called up in April 192 and posted to RAF Padgate to train as a Wireless Operator.
Stanley tells of his training at Padgate, including learning to use Morse Code, where he was unable to make 12 words a minute and was then posted to an RAF Radio Station in Elfin in Scotland.
He worked at offloading bombs and his job was to prepare them for distribution to units that they were to be used, however he then tells of his experiences there and what lead to his application to become the company typist.
Stanley tells of his interview to work for Bletchley Park, where he was based for six to seven weeks, and his posting to a radio station at Great Witcombe before being sent on embarkation leave. He tells of boarding a ship to Algiers and his experiences there and he also recalls his work in Algiers and Tunisia, passing messages along and learning of the Normandy invasion on D-Day.
He worked with British, French and American Army units as part of a signals unit. Once Bletchley Park closed, he returned to the RAF, using his later service life to study Economics, Mathematics and Physics.
After the war, Stanley returned to the mills where he worked in the office, studying textiles, taking his accountancy exams and working at various companies and after being made redundant at the age of 64, started his own driving school.








02:10:35 audio recording


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ACleggS160706, PCleggS1602


CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 6th of July 2016. We’re in Maidenhead with Stanley Clegg to talk about his career in the RAF. So, Stanley, what are your earliest recollections?
SC: Well, I was born in 1923 in to a working-class family in the small town of Shaw, near Oldham. My father worked in the cotton industry as did everyone else in the cotton town, and my mother worked in a laundry from six in the morning till six in the evening. We lived in a small four roomed house and of course, the cotton industry was beginning to see that it was disappearing as an industrial base in Britain. And of course, as a baby, I don’t remember very, very much of this time, but I grew up in to working class society and I went to a small church school, which was initially called the Wesleyans, and it ultimately changed to St Paul’s, and this was a junior school, so I attended from the age of four to the age of eleven. In those days, at the age of eleven, you sat an examination to see if you were grammar school material, and unfortunately, I was never even asked to sit the paper, and so I went to what was known as a central school which educationally was half way between a grammar school and an ordinary school. I went, I was fourteen when I left the central school and I was in the top class all the way through my three years there. Work wasn’t easy to find. If your father was in a trade, you could become an apprentice, but my father had been unemployed for quite some years and unfortunately, I didn’t know anyone who could get me as an apprentice, but one day I heard of a job vacancy in a cotton mill office. I was still at school at this time but leaving on the following Friday, and this would be Thursday afternoon. My father took me down to this cotton mill, which was called the Fern Cotton Spinning Company Limited, and the, secretary said, ‘Come back for a test after you’ve been to school and we’ll see whether you’re suitable’. So after school, I went back to the mill and I was given an arithmetic test and an English test and he said he would let me know how I’d gone on, on the Saturday morning. On the Saturday morning, I was told to go back to the Fern Mill because I’d got the job out of the candidates that they’d had, and so on the following Monday morning I started work at 8 o’clock in the cotton mill office, and the first job I did was to fill inkwells and put new blotting paper out for the staff of which, in the office, there were only four of us. There were two hundred in the factory and four in the office. Today we have two hundred in the office and four in the factory. All right so far?
CB: Absolutely.
SC: Bit by bit, I got into the office work and I became the company typist, so each day I probably prepared thirty or forty invoices for the sale of our cotton yarn, and I also typed the letters that the company was sending and also calculated the wages. There were no calculation, calculating machines in the factory in those days so it was all done in our head, so I’m a very quick arithmetician, today even. And I had to improve my handwriting because all the account books, the sales ledgers, the purchase ledgers and the share ledgers were all hand written. After two years, the chief clerk, who was sixteen, got another job and I was promoted with an increase in pay of 2’6 pence, so my salary went up from ten shillings to twelve shillings and sixpence, and I did the job of the chief clerk. Unfortunately, they didn’t replace the junior clerk, which I was previously, and I had to do the two jobs for the extra two and sixpence a week. After about three months in my new job, the company decided that the trading situation wasn’t good and it went into voluntary liquidation. The managing director of the Fern Cotton Spinning Company was the cousin of a famous musician, Sir William Walton. On leaving that, the mill at the age of sixteen, the first time I was redundant, with no redundancy pay in those days, I managed to get another job as an office boy in a company just outside Oldham called Thomas Mellowdew and Company, and they were famous worldwide for the manufacture of velvets and velveteens so it was quite a big company. It had both cotton spinning machinery and weaving machinery - looms. So at the age of sixteen, I began work at Thomas Mellowdew and I used to have a long walk to work through the country, about two miles each there and two miles back, and I actually started there on the day that the war began. And so we tramped through the countryside with flashlights in the winter months and whatever, and bit by bit I, again in the mill office which had few staff, about three hundred in this factory and I did the wages and the general work that was done in an office, writing up the account books and ledgers and so on and so forth. At this time I began to study textile manufacture at the local night school for three or four nights a week, and I continued to do that until I was called up at the age of eighteen into the RAF, and that was at Oldham Technical College as it was then. At the age of eighteen, a national order came out that everybody who was eighteen had to sign up, so prior to being informed that I had to go for an Army, an Army recruitment, one of my pals said to me, ‘slip down to the Air Force and you’ll get in the Air Force’. So, the recruiting agency was in Dover Street, Manchester and of course, in those days, Manchester was a long way from Oldham, so I went down on a bus to Manchester, found Dover Street and offered to become a volunteer in the Royal Air Force, for which I was accepted, given a number and that would be December 1941. I went back to my job in the textile industry, and in April 1942, I was called up to go to RAF Padgate. Alright so far? RAF Padgate. I had been put down to train as a wireless operator, I had two weeks at Padgate and then I was transferred to Blackpool where the wireless operating schools were based in the Winter Gardens. I began my training. The day used to be split into an afternoon and a morning session and they changed them about, so one week you were on mornings and one week you were afternoons, and you went into the place and the, there were these long tables each with about ten or fifteen students around them, all learning Morse, and we each had a different instructor and we either did a morning session or an afternoon session. The alternate sessions that you did were spent in drilling on the promenade. The morning session, the instructor I had would always do, when we got used to taking Morse a little bit easier, he used to do the first page of the Daily Telegraph, so I can remember quite well the Morse for the Daily Telegraph which was - de de de de da da da da de de de da de da de de de de de di dit - and so we learned Morse. If you did the afternoon session with my particular instructor, he improved my education by introducing us to this ship, the Beagle, which went out as a research ship around about 1800 I would think, so the adventures of the Beagle was a book that had been written about that time and so we did the adventures of the Beagle in the afternoon. Unfortunately, one of the RAF sayings comes from this source. Each Friday, you had to go for an examination to see how your speed was going on the Morse and it was held in the upper storey, which had previously been a billiard hall above Burtons, and so the saying, ‘We went for a Burton’, originated in the Blackpool School of Morse. Now then, I managed this business of improving my speed until the very final, when we were tested to see if we could do twelve words a minute, and unfortunately I couldn’t, so I was taken off the course, where my friends would be sent to Compton Bassett or somewhere like that and I went to the very north of Scotland in Sutherland, via Inverness, to become a general dogsbody on a small RAF radio station in a little place called Elfin. Now this would be June 1942, and I arrived first in Inverness to this RAF station, which was a big headquarters, and I always remember looking at the Moray Firth for the first time, thinking how wonderful this is. Of course, being a working-class lad from the middle of Lancashire. Anyway, from there, I was put on a train that went further north towards Lairg and it was, I remember the name of the station I got off at was Invershin, and I had to walk the next distance with my pack which would be about two miles I suppose to the headquarters of this radio system, and the house was called Altnagar - A L T N A G A R - Altnagar. And it had been the shooting lodge of Sir, of Andrew, was he called Andrew Carnegie? The man who provided the libraries, and I remember we had just a small run of part of the house and we could sit in the kitchen, and at that time I’d never even heard of Carnegie, my education was a bit lacking although we had a Carnegie Library in my town, and I remember the electro magnet signals in the kitchen to tell you who you were required by either in Mr Carnegie’s bathroom or Mr Carnegie’s sitting room or Miss Carnegie’s bathroom or sitting room or whatever. A little moving flag. And I was there about a week and I was sent off to near the west coast, to a very small unit of thirteen members, called RAF Elfin, and it was a little radio station. So with thirteen members, wherein a corporal was in charge. I can’t remember his name but I remember he came from Kettering, and there was another chappy from Middlesbrough and one or two, obviously a variation of people from different places. So there were thirteen of us on the unit and our job was, the whole of Scotland had been divided up into squares - A, B, C, D, E - and each square had a radio station like us in, and our job was to report on German aircraft going over to bomb convoys coming in from the North Atlantic, and moving down The Minch. A, each unit had three teams so we had a corporal, two dogsbodies like me and we had three teams of three, a wireless operator, an observer and a sort of a runner, and so they worked shifts, and we used to wait till we were wakened up or whatever to German aircraft going over, which we reported, and of course we were able to follow their path. Sorry, the dogsbody was an observer, yeah, and we were able to report the path of the aircraft.
Other: Hello. You’re still here obviously.
SC: Saying it was going, said which way the planes were going, east or west or northeast or northwest, and they would be picked up by successive squares that were in the system. I can’t remember the exact month but it’s well known that the Canadian forces were preparing a raid on Dieppe, and I think it must have been about July when ten, sorry, nine of our thirteen, sorry, ten of our thirteen were sent to White Waltham near Maidenhead which was then a dispersal centre, and of course that left just three of us up on this little radio station and all the others disappeared. I had taken the address of two of the chaps who I was very friendly with, about my age, and I, I, after some time I wrote to the mother of one, and I got a rather upsetting letter back that they had been the signals contact on the Dieppe raid and they’d all been lost. So to some extent, I was a bit lucky. Now when the, just three of us left, I thought I’ve got to do something, and on the daily routine orders they said anybody who was good at arithmetic could apply as a trainee wireless mechanic, so I applied. Came down to Cardington for a test to see if my background was adequate and I did exams in science and arithmetic, basic maths. And so I was taken on and they said, ‘Yes, we’ll send for you when we need you’. So a couple of weeks went past and I was posted to the radio training college at Rotherham, near Sheffield. So I left the little radio unit and went down to Rotherham, and I started a rather long course to become a wireless mechanic and I got an exceptionally good basic training in electronics and radio signals, and how to repair radios, but unfortunately, when it came to the exams at the end, I wasn’t good enough. So that would be probably, I can’t say now, February 1943. So I was posted out to a bomb dump, at a place called Escrick, just outside York, and I became a member of a team of men offloading bombs in this bomb storage area, which of course was in the middle of a lot of airfields, and our job was to prepare these bombs to go to the units, that were going to be used in the raids in the evening or night I suppose. Anyway, after two days of lifting bombs, and particularly the big thousand pound ones which I wasn’t keen on, but I was told they were quite safe. I didn’t believe them. I thought, I’ve had enough of this, so I walked up to the adjutant’s office and said, ‘Do you want a typist?’ To which they said, ‘Why? Can you type?’ I said, ‘Yeah’. So they said, ‘Oh well we might, we don’t know. We’ll keep you informed’. So the following morning, at 7 o’clock, when I was on work parade, I was called out to go and take a typing exam, so I went to the adjutant’s office, took a typing exam and they said, ‘We’ll let you know if we need you’. So the following morning, which was rather quick, they sent for me and I became the company typist and I remember they had the stock control system, and each week we had to type out this huge thing telling us which sort of bombs we had in store, and the man who had previously been the typist had gone off on a course to become a cypher operator in the RAF and he was on a course in Oxford. So I thought, well I could do that job, it’s just right. Anyhow, I carried on and about a month later, they put up another order to, for cypher people, so I went along and I applied and about two weeks later I came to Oxford, to St John’s College for a week, where they kept us fairly confined, and we chatted and talked with various people and did little exams, which mathematically were easy for me, and they sent me back to my unit, and about three weeks after that, I found myself on the code and cypher course in Oxford, which lasted for probably four or five weeks. It so happened that I came out fourth of the top, from the top in this exam. Not the bottom as I had been previously and -
Other: [unclear]
SC: And I, the top ten people were sent on leave. The remaining people, the remaining people went to various RAF bases, and I remember the conversation amongst we top ten was, ‘I reckon we we’re off for overseas straightaway’, and we were told that we’d be told to come back after two weeks leave. So off we go home, during which time I broke my finger but that didn’t make any difference. After two weeks exactly, I got a telegram saying to report to an address in Baker Street, London, the following day. So off I go to Baker Street, and now I’ve been in the RAF so I’ve got used to titles like squadron leader and flight lieutenant and flight sergeant and corporal, and I get down for the first time in my life to London. People didn’t travel in those days, and I was surprised to find it looked like being part of Marks and Spencer’s, and it had a big green door, and I remember knocking on these closed doors and a ATS, ATS officer arrived and I handed her the telegram, and I was amazed because I’d only been, in the services, known as Clegg or Airman, and now the lady said, ‘Oh hello, Stanley. How delighted I am to meet you. Do come in and go into that little room on your right and there are several of your ex-colleagues in there, and I’ll make you some tea and biscuits’, and I thought, ‘What am I getting into?’ And she came in shortly afterwards and there were four others in there whose names I remember and largely where they came from. There was a man called Pike, who came from London, there was myself, there was a man called Earnshaw from Huddersfield. And so we’ve now got Clegg, Pike, Earnshaw, Barlow, who I mustn’t forget because that’s a story in itself, Barlow and there was another man from Sheffield called, I’ve just forgotten his name but it will come back, and we’d been in there eating, having these biscuits and coffee, and she said, ‘Lieutenant Colonel Gore-Browne will now see you individually’. So number one went in to see Gore-Browne, and number two, and I happened to be the last one and sitting in front of me there, in fact he stood up when I went in, and he had all red tabs around his neck, and it’s the first time I’d ever met a lieutenant colonel, and, ‘Oh hello Stanley’, he said, ‘Do take a seat old chap’, and I sat down and he said, ‘Now, I’m going to ask you a question or two’, he said, ‘And all I need is yes and no’. He said, ‘Now, you’ve probably noticed that some of the five, some of the ten friends that you left Oxford with aren’t now with you’. To which I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Well the reason is’, he said, ‘Whilst you’ve been on leave, we’ve been making enquiries right around your home town’, he said, ‘And for instance, we know Mr Ridley, the postmaster. We know your old school headmaster, and we’ve made one or two enquiries about your family. We know that your father was in the First World War’, he said, ‘And we’ve considered you’re alright for the purpose’. He said, ‘The five friends who are missing are what we call security risks’. He said, ‘Now the next thing’, he said, ‘Do you want to stay with us or not?’ He said, ‘I cannot tell you what the work is, but you are invited to stay with us if you so wish’. He said, ‘If you say no’, he said, ‘You can go through that door and back into the RAF’. So either in my ignorance or in, yeah probably ignorance I did in fact quickly weigh it up. I had about three seconds. So I said, ‘Yes’. ‘Ah good’, he said, and he shook my hand again and said, ‘Welcome’, to which I now thought, ‘Where am I going from here?’ So I went out from his office, having now become part of this whatever it was, and I went back to see that four of my friends, the name that I’d forgotten, by the way, is Kirton. The man from Sheffield. Ivor Kirton.
Other: A good name.
SC: K I R T O N.
Other: [unclear]
SC: And I met them, up with them again and we had another coffee and another biscuit, and then we were taken to our billet which was in Hallam Street in London, and we’d no idea what was happening to us but we were taken to our billet in Hallam Street, which was rather a posh part, I think, of London, ‘cause they were all very big houses and the first thing, the first man I spoke to in Hallam Street, I’d never seen him before and he said to me, ‘If ever you see any of us in the street, don’t recognise us’. Now, to a lad who is just gone nineteen, this is all very odd, but I thought, well I’m here now, I’ll stick with it, and the food was good and there were probably about twenty of us in this place, including my four pals, and we kept noticing that these blokes, who didn’t have a uniform on, kept disappearing and of course we didn’t know where they disappeared to, and then they might reappear or maybe not and we were there, but the following morning, we were taken to, I think it was number 57 or 56 Broadway, and it was opposite St James’ Park Station, just across the road, and we were now taken down in to the bottom of the building, which I will tell you we’ve been back to see, and we were introduced to a young lady who now said, ‘I’m going to teach you another type of cypher’. So we learned this other type of cypher and we then went from there to Bletchley Park. I was at Bletchley Park probably six or seven weeks when I was then transferred to quite a big radio station at Great Witcombe, near, near a very famous spot called Birdlip Hill and a pub called The Air Balloon, and I was there for probably five weeks when I went back to Bletchley, and from Bletchley, I was sent on leave for two weeks and that was embarkation leave.
Other: Keep going.
CB: Keep going. Right, so we’ve left Birdlip.
SC: So we’ve left, we’ve left Great Witcombe and I’m sent home on two weeks leave, which is embarkation leave, and after two weeks I’m told to report to a PDC in Morecambe. We stayed in billets for about a week when the ship that we were going on abroad would be ready to load passengers at Liverpool. Now, being with Bletchley Park and now having knowledge of a very secret system, we five, Kirton, myself, Barlow, we’re now told that we’re going on a ship called The Monarch of Bermuda to Algiers. Now, the rest of the troops on board this ship didn’t know where they were going, all they had was their rifles and their kit and topees. Topees. So we were privileged in knowing this, and when we boarded ship, we, at Liverpool, I remember walking down from Lime Street Station with a rifle on my back and my topee hanging from my backpack and people looking out of offices and cheering us as we marched down to join the ship at the quayside opposite the Liver Buildings.
CB: Yeah.
SC: We boarded the ship, quite a number of Army troops and we five chaps out of the RAF. There was only a small contingent of RAF people on there and mainly Army. They then moved to the middle of the River Mersey where they anchored again for a short period, and I remember the jokes that we couldn’t now escape and about, in the evening a battalion of the Black Watch were moved out in tenders to join the ship. We lay there for about a day when we began to set sail. I remember us going up the Mersey and we sailed out at the Mersey Bar and we sailed for about a day, and at 6 o’clock in the morning, I remember Barlow coming in and said, ‘We’re in Iceland’, which seemed sensible because we had topees (laughs), and I thought, ‘Oh dear’, so I went out on the after deck and saw these small houses here and there, and we all decided that we were now in Iceland, until about 9 o’clock when a tug went past us that said “John Brown and Company, Glasgow”. So we now knew we were up the Clyde. And we -
Other: Oh dear.
SC: We anchored at Greenock and this was apparently called, ‘Joining convoy’. We stayed there for a couple of days and my only memories of Greenock was looking across at a pavilion that had a clock on. I couldn’t read the clock, we were too far away but I remember it well and I’m told it’s still there.
Other: Right.
SC: The Monday evening, we were all invited to a little concert that was going on, so obviously we didn’t all go down but some of us did, and the chief entertainer was Peter Ustinov, who was going out, he was in the Royal Signals apparently, and he was going out to Algiers and he gave us a little concert. I can’t remember what it was about but there we were. We, on the, whilst the concert was going on, which, if I remember correctly, was at about 9 o’clock on a Monday evening, we heard the engines start and we moved out. We knew we were going to Algiers but not many in the boat did, and we were billeted, sorry, we were housed in a cabin and the ship had been a cruise ship previously, out, I presume, in the Caribbean, and the Monarch of Bermuda and it had a bathroom in. A lovely pink bathroom and proper wash basins and a shower, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh lovely, I can have a good wash here’, because we didn’t have a bathroom in my house, or a shower, and I found out that the soap didn’t work. So I made an enquiry, the man in charge of our set of cabins was called Ivan, and, ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘You’ll have to buy some soap’. Seaweed soap or something, I wouldn’t know, that did, in fact, give a bit of lather in sea water and where did we get the soap from? Obviously from Ivan at, I presume, an inflated price. So anyhow I bought a bar of soap from Ivan and I had my first bath that I’d had for a long time I think, and we set off on our sail, not knowing where we were going and obviously, we went north, up The Minch, past Iceland and Greenland, and we were told that we’d now get into heavy fog, which we did, and we just saw one or two small icebergs and then we hit, I presume, the American coast, and we sailed down it because of difficulties with submarines. This journey lasted fourteen or fifteen days, and I remember every now and again we’d hear depth chargers going off, and we slept in our clothes. We never took our clothes off apart from that once when I had a bath, and we wore our lifebelts all the time, and we ultimately hit the, I suppose, the Bahamas or whatever, and we turned east past the Canaries ultimately, the Canary Isles, and then we’d hit the West African coast where we turned left, north and came up to the straights of Gibraltar. Now we were waiting to go through, we couldn’t go through the straits until it went dark, because there were apparently, so they said, foreign agents on the North African coast and the Spanish coast, and we were rather surprised to see that they put the masts down on the ship because apparently, these people were shining either radio signals or whatever or light, and as the ships went past, they could identify what they were roughly from the mast situation and the height of the funnels and various other things, so we went through when it was dark and some hours later, I wouldn’t know how long, we called, we pulled in at Algiers. We lined up at Algiers. There’s a fifth member of our party that I haven’t mentioned called Alf Parrock. Now, he came from Battle in Sussex and we hadn’t seen much of Alf since leaving Liverpool because the poor chap was seasick even watching, having a glass of water and -
Other: Oh dear.
SC: He, he lost about two stone I remember. And we got off at Algiers. The contingent of the Black Watch were marched off in full marching order, and we were left on the quayside until a senior officer came along, and he said, ‘Sergeant Parrock, step forward’. So Sergeant Parrock stepped forward and the poor chap, they said, ‘Just go there to that gangway and join that boat there’. He said, ‘You’re going to Corsica’. So poor old Parrock, who’d just got off a boat having been sick for a fortnight, now goes back on another boat for another sea trip. So there was Alf Parrock’s story, and we were whisked off and I was taken, we were taken to an RAF camp called Fort De Lowe, Fort De Lowe, and there was another RAF base there called Maison Blanche. Can’t remember what happened there but anyhow, the five of us now arrive at Fort De Lowe, and a very nice flight sergeant took us around and he said, ‘I’ll find you a bed space now’. So they were all in tents, and the first tent he went to, he said, ‘Oh that’s full’, and the second he went in, he says, ‘One of you in there’, so I looked in and I could see there were no beds in there so I thought, I’m smart. I didn’t realise that this was the start of me sleeping on the floor for a long time, and ultimately, three of us went on to the final tent but there was a bed space but sadly no bed. So we were there for probably about four days when we were transferred, if I’ve got the name correctly, it was the George Hotel in Algiers, which was the headquarters of the Army in North Africa. Not Egypt. Just Algiers, Morocco, Tunisia and I worked there for probably two or three weeks when they decided the war, the war in North Africa was then over. It ended at Cap, sorry, it ended in Tunis in May 1943, the North African campaign at Cap Bon. Cap Bon. And we moved down, the remaining four of us, Parrock having gone to Corsica, and we moved down to Tunis and we landed at Tunis Airport, El Aouina, which is still there ‘cause I’ve been twice since, and we moved out to a little town, a very small town called La Marsa, which is near Carthage. La Marsa. And there were just about probably about fifteen of us on the unit under a Squadron Leader Payne. Payne. P A Y N E, I presume and we had this little radio station and it was part of the Special Liaison Unit outfit. I think it were, I can’t remember its number, I think it was probably LSU8, and we were, the office was right down on the beach because you don’t get many tides in the Med, and we were billeted on the top of a cliff, and just some distance away, Air Marshall Tedder, as he then was, lived with his partner or wife, who I believe had been an actress, and we both had, he and, we chaps in our billet we had the same laundryman who washed our laundry, we had to pay him of course, and he hung it out to dry in the little hall that we had to pass through, so many times I walked into the underpants of Air Chief Marshall Tedder, in the dark you see, hanging up to dry. So, we, we were there, I was there until February 1943 when we were joined, and this is a bit of an interesting bit of the story which I mustn’t forget, I got a message through from Malta saying that, ‘Howard is going to join you awaiting his commission’. He was a sergeant in Malta and he was awaiting commission. So he was part of the Bletchley Park outfit and the following day Howard arrived, and prior to that, I believe they used to call him Shooter, Shooter Howard. He said, ‘Oh he’s a townie of yours’. So I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well’, he said, ‘He lives in Liverpool’, which is a fair distance from Oldham but that’s by the way. Anyhow, if you met Shooter, he was an amazing man. You’d say, ‘Do you ever, have you ever been anything with football, Bernard?’ ‘Oh yeah. I was with Liverpool reserves for three seasons but I never made it’, but then again, you’ve got to remember, he was only about twenty years of age. And then he got on to cricket. Apart from having played for the Lancashire second eleven, he’d never really made it and I think he’d done the cross bay swim at Morecambe about three times so they used to call him Shooter. But now I will tell you that when life got a bit easier I played football with him, and I’m sure the ball was laced to his feet, and at cricket, his bat was a barn door, and in Naples one day, some children were in trouble in the sea and Bernard pulled them out, and the very last man I spoke to on my demob, demobilisation in Lancashire, the last man I spoke to when I picked up my civilian suit, and I was going out through an RAF door for the last time after my service, there was a man putting some papers in a filing drawer and I looked, and it was now Flight Lieutenant Bernard Howard. So I shook his hand. He said, ‘Cleggy’, and I hadn’t seen him since Naples. Anyway, coming back to being in Tunis. So I was in Tunis until February doing the work of Bletchley Park and the work of Air Marshall Tedder, and I have a photograph somewhere of Air Marshall Tedder kicking off a football match on the 1st of January 1943. I’ve got it somewhere, love.
Other: I’m not looking.
SC: And in February I was waiting for a plane to go to Naples. The plane obviously arrived and I remember flying over Mount Vesuvius, which was still smoking a little, and on the 1st of February 1943, I touched down at Naples Airport. A name which I’ve temporarily forgotten and I was picked up and taken about fifteen miles to north between Naples and Casino, to a palace called Caserta Palace, and our headquarters were in this palace and I worked and slept in the top storey of this palace and we ate out meals in the mess, which was in the basement, and of course, it was the headquarters of Field Marshall Alexander and General Mark Clark. Field Marshall Alexander was the top man and of course, the British 8th Army was moving up the east coast, the eastern side of Italy and the, on the western side was the American 5th Army under General Mark Clark. We’ve also been back there to have a look at it. We worked on a three shift basis and so every third night was working through the night, which I believe upset my stomach for life but that’s by the way, and the work was interesting and I remember, which I’ve already mentioned, that each day we got a fodder report from Bletchley pertaining to the horse units that were held by the Germans confronting us across, I can’t remember the name of the German line now, but it went from Casino eastwards across Italy.
CB: Gustav was it?
SC: The Gustav Line, yeah, I think it was, and there was only one way past, of course, Monte Casino. I think it was called Highway 7 and so we were stuck at this time, the Army was stuck at Casino. We weren’t doing anything and in fact, we didn’t move for quite a long time. So we’re now in to February, and this fodder report helped the intelligence people to work out how many horses were in front of us. So from the number of horses, they were able to work out roughly the size of the unit, and that was that bit of intelligence information that I can remember. The [pause] front was fairly static. We didn’t move anywhere much for quite some time, and I carried on working up in the top room of this lovely palace. It is still there. And on the night of the invasion of Normandy, which was the 6th June, I was on night duty, and the wireless operator came in and said, ‘you’d better make clear the machine, Cleggy’. He said, ‘We have a 5Z message coming in’. 5Z meant you dropped everything and worked on it. So the wireless operator took the message down and quickly brought it in to me to be decoded.
[Phone ringing. Machine paused]
On duty at midnight. Actually, it would be about twenty minutes past two or maybe half past two, and I decoded this message from Bletchley Park, and it was from, it had been picked up in England and it was a message from a German intelligence source in Normandy, saying that allied troops were landing on the Point of Barfleur. So I applied myself and probably beginning to think that I was the first man in Italy to know that the landings had started, and of course the message was so important, it had to be delivered immediately to General Alexander and General Mark Clark, so I had the honour of waking up these two gentlemen at the small hours of the morning, probably half past two, 3 o’clock, and handing over the message to them. I obviously then went back to my work and that was that. Now, a few days later, the front in Italy started moving, because I imagine some German troops had been moved up into France, although I don’t know and I, we pushed on from Casino. Now I’m still obviously in Caserta, and I just went up for a couple of days to Casino because they were wanting just temporary staff at the unit there, we had a unit at Casino and then I went back to Caserta. June arrived. Sorry, June had arrived. About the middle of June, I got posted to Bastia in Corsica and there we were with a naval unit. I can’t remember its name but I do remember it had E-Boats, or whatever we called them, and whatever and they used to, from my memory there were a lot of French, there were some French troops there as well. I forget what they called them. Le Gore? Gore something? Doesn’t matter. And we were there. There weren’t a lot of troops there in Bastia and we worked again for Bletchley whilst I was there and on the, I was there quite a long time and, and on the 15th, sorry, the 14th of August, we moved out from of Bastia to the east side, sorry, the west side of Corsica to a little harbour then, which now is a big town called L’ile Rousse. L’ile Rousse. R O U S S E. And we were taken on to a landing craft and we waited till about midnight when we set sail, and we were part of the invasion of the South of France, and I landed at a beach a little town called Saint Raphael. At Saint Raphael, which in those days I remember was a lovely little place with houses built around a small harbour and we made our base in a hotel that had the odd name, I’m sure it was called Latitude 49. It had an odd name. And we made our headquarters there for probably about a week or a fortnight, I’m not sure. When we moved out and started moving north, and we’d now of course got into moving up with the American 5th Army and the French 1st Army. If I remember rightly, the American Army general was General Devers, and I can’t remember the name of the French Army general, and it was the American 7th Army, sorry, the American 7th Army that we landed with that had been held back in North Africa since the African campaign. I remember going through towns. The Army moved on very quickly from the southern landings, and I remember going through towns like Avignon, Orange, and we ultimately came up to Lyon, where again, although we’d been using mobile equipment at Lyon, we decided we’d stop for a short period and we made our headquarters in what had been a German Air Force training base, ‘cause I remember finding a pair of German officer’s gloves which I even used on my marriage and -
Other: Very posh.
SC: And we were there several weeks and I was going over, I think there are twenty six bridges. The main town of Lyon is a small, is an island and there are two rivers run around Lyon, the Saone and the Rhone, the River Rhone, and we’d already met with the American Army coming down from Normandy. So General Patton was now part of our remit and we made our headquarters just for a short period in Lyon, in this exhibition hall which, the Germans were very fond of making murals on walls and I remember looking at pictures of Messerschmitts shooting down Spitfires. And I must say the place was overridden with mice. You daren’t leave anything about, chocolate or anything, if you had any and so that was that. After a couple of weeks, we had now divided our headquarters into two. We had the forward headquarters which followed the Army up, and we had the rear section which, which stayed behind until it was clear to leapfrog over us to become the forward unit. So now I go into the, after two or three weeks, the Army had moved pretty quickly and that at Dijon, obviously, we’d met the American Army and they’d moved east towards Vienna, and the French Army had taken the more Alp side of France and made for Strasbourg, and so after Dijon, we come to a place called Vittel, which if any of you drink mineral water, you’ll know about Vittel water and Vittel had several big hotels being a Spa, and I’ve just momentary forgotten where we made our headquarters there and I was billeted in an hotel called Hotel Splendide. I must say it was worse than any boarding house I’d ever been in but there we go. Hotel Splendide. It was just taken over by the military as a resting place because we didn’t eat there. We ate somewhere else. We worked at the Hotel Spendide or, sorry, the headquarters there and -
Other: Do either of you want a biscuit?
SC: Sometime later, sometime later, I can’t remember exactly when, probably September time. Well, no, it would be later. October time we moved out and we followed the 7th and American 3rd Armies eastwards and we came ultimately to a place called Felsberg. I remember us going through Nancy, Metz, Trier and then a little way up into what was probably the Rhineland, where if you were eighty years old, you didn’t know whether you were French or German, and made our headquarters at this small town, then called Felsberg, and I’ve recently met someone in Yorkshire who came from Felsberg. Alright? Are we alright?
CB: Yes. Stop for a mo.
SC: Stop for a minute.
[machine paused]
CB: So you’ve been moving pretty briskly here, but all the time you’ve had a specialist role that is very confidential, secret. What were you actually doing?
SC: Well, we were a signals system between Bletchley Park and whatever was relevant for the units to know. So that I can honestly say, I knew more about the German Army than the British Army, and some of the information was very hot. If it was hot, it was what we called a 5Z. If it was something you could leave until tomorrow, it was a 1Z. So the number of zeds at the start of the message told you the importance of them.
CB: Ok.
SC: Does that fix it?
CB: Yeah. So here we are.
SC: Right.
CB: In to the Rhineland.
SC: So we’re now into the Rhineland, and can I tell a personal story?
CB: Sure.
SC: Of the Rhineland?
CB: Absolutely.
SC: Right.
CB: We haven’t crossed the Rhine yet.
SC: We haven’t crossed the Rhine.
CB: No.
SC: No. I think one unit had but we hadn’t. So we’re going up the Rhineland, and in the town of Felsberg, there was a big ex-French Army barracks, or German Army barracks, which it could have been and I always remember it had the term Casern written above it, and the town hall and the church were the main buildings, but I’ll quickly mention the church. Next to the church, when I got there, it was called Kirkstrasse and overnight it changed its name to Rue De Glis, and several days later, it was back to Kirkstrasse, and I suppose a few days later it was Rue De Glis again, and the town hall had a big sign up that said hotel du vis, and I noticed the sign went and it said Ratthaus. And so this went on, on and off because the nature of the people in the area, they didn’t know whether they were English, sorry, French or German, and at Cassern 99, we ate our food, and one morning with a member of the Royal Corps of Signals. Our outfit was very odd, our telegraphists were naval people, I, the cypher bloke was an RAF man and we also had an odd one in the Royal Corps of Signals, who also did the driving of the caravans that we moved in, and one morning, the sergeant I was with, we were going down for breakfast through this, what had been a parade ground of either the German or the French Army and the church, and it was a beautiful sunny day. Beautiful, although it was wintertime, it was early December. We noticed a light flashing from the church tower. Now of course, when you’re close to the front, you have people coming over called line crossers, who pick up information and they put explosives in people’s bits of coal, and they chuck them into coal heaps, so that when you put it on the fire, it goes up, and it was very useful for blowing up ammunition trains. And the, we saw this light flashing so he and I decided we’d better go and check it out, although he couldn’t pick it up because it looked like an Aldis lamp that was flashing, and so I remember us going into this church and I, at that time, I’d been with the American Army, I had a tommy gun and he had a revolver, and so I can remember opening the church door and I can hear it now, it went [mimics the sound of the door screeching] and we looked around and we saw a way up in to the tower, a circular staircase that was stone. And we crept up very quietly and I put my machine gun off the catch and he got his revolver out, and we ultimately came to a wooden staircase that ended on a wooden platform, with a door in front with an ordinary latch on, and we got on to the platform and inside we could hear the – click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. Not a lot of pattern to it, but click-clicking it was, and ultimately we decided we’d best go in and so I remember my partner lifted this latch with his revolver in his hand, and I rushed in to this little compartment in the tower with my machine gun ready. That’s it, yeah, and I felt like Al Capone and there was nobody in, and so we thought, that’s odd, and we looked around and it had leaded windows, and there was a loose window that was catching the sun in the draught. So I was rather pleased that I didn’t have to shoot anyone or get shot. So that was a little story in Felsberg and about two or three days later the, we moved up from there and we were using now the caravans for our equipment and everything, and we got held back in, I remember near a wood. I can’t remember the name of this place now and this is a story again in itself. I was on night duty, sorry, on evening duty which was an eight till twelve shift and I got in, I got relieved rather late, I was on my own in this caravan and I got relieved. My pals had gone back to get into bed and we had to walk a short distance through this wood and the, it was awful really, it was quite frightening. There’d obviously been some battle in this wood because there were chip marks on all the trees, I remember, and it was moonlight and I have a Lancashire dialect and I’m with the American Army, and every twig you trod on snapped like a rifle shot, so ultimately I came out in to this slight clearing on my way back to go to bed and a voice rang out, ‘Halt. Who goes there?’ So as I’d been taught, I replied, ‘Friend’, in a Lancashire dialect, and the American voice said, ‘What the hell do you mean, friend?’ So I sat there thinking, I’m going to get shot, and I said, ‘Well, friend’. So after a few minutes, which felt like hours, he said, ‘Advance, friend, to be recognised’. So I advanced with my tommy gun and there were two Americans there, and the one who’d spoken previously said, ‘What’s the password?’ because you have passwords up in the front areas. I can’t remember exactly but let’s say it was ‘frogs’. So I said, ‘Frogs’. So he turned to his pal, he said, ‘Herman, what’s the bleeding password?’ and Herman replied, ‘How the hell should I know?’ So now I get stuck with two Americans, and what had happened is an armoured unit had moved up and these two were looking after the tanks that had moved up. I hadn’t, they weren’t there when I went on duty, so after about two hours, the duty officer came around and approved my identity and they let me go. So that was, that was in a wood going north, now, towards Luxemburg. Now, at this particular stage, I get at odds with what I hear and read about the Battle of the Bulge. I always read that the Battle of the Bulge was done, it was the German Army trying to get to Antwerp by the way, to cut, to cut our supplies off from shipping, and they say it was done very quickly. They didn’t know anything about the German Army forming up beforehand. Now, I’ll tell you now, for a week I was putting buttons into a map, telling me that there was a big build-up of German forces in the Ardennes, and some of the messages coming from Bletchley were telling me trains were leaving from places like Leipzig and even off the Russian front. All being, pulling up to the area of Bastogne and I must have put several dozen of these pins in saying what German units were being brought together. Now, opposite them, in the Ardennes, was not a battle wise American Army and I can’t remember whether it was the 9th or the 10th American Army, but they weren’t battle trained troops. They were new troops from the USA and I watched this, and in my ignorance, I thought, ‘Oh dear. Well, somebody makes decisions above me’, but I certainly would have been bringing battle troops down, but anyhow I’ve always thought there was a serious plan that had been thought of by the upper echelons and I think that it was clever if it was so. So on the 17th of December, the German Army made its move towards Antwerp to cut our supplies off, and of course, as we all know, it was very successful, but of course, another thing you learn is that the longer, the quicker and the further you go, let’s say you have an armoured spearhead, the supply situation of ammunition and the fuel and the food and the medical supplies and even of water, become more difficult, so I like to think that it wasn’t an error that they made when I was pushing buttons in, but it was a real Army tactic to let them increase the supply lines, the length of the supply lines till ultimately, and actually what did happen, they ran out of fuel. And then all we had to do was pincer off little bits along this line of advancement, so if I recall, we moved in the British 2nd Army and the New Zealand 1st Army. We moved them in from the north to cut the first bit off of this line of Germans, and we moved up from the south with the 7th and 3rd Armies to meet the pincer movement, and then we went further back and did a bit more and a bit more until ultimately it was rather a disaster for the German Army. Are you with it? From there, I moved up to Narmer, which had been occupied, and from there I was one of the first to come on leave on the very first ship that sailed from Dieppe to Newhaven since the war started, where we were met by numerous paper reporters and given a bit of a welcome like a cup of tea. And -
Other: Oh dear.
And I had a fortnight’s leave. Went back to Narmer, which of course now was getting a bit more like normality, and about two weeks later, I moved to Versailles where I worked again for a Bletchley Park crew, and we were the main signals group for the German, sorry, the English and the American commanders, Eisenhower and Montgomery, and so we were involved with passing quite important information between even Winston Churchill and the other top people. In other words, we were the very, very secret signal system. So I was at Versailles until the war ended. Sorry, I’m telling lies, I was at Versailles for a couple of weeks and we worked in one of the palaces, and I then moved up on what was known as SHAEF Forward, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force Forward. I moved up to Rheims or Rheims as the French would call it. Rheims, and I worked there, still of course part of the secret, secret signals unit. SLU8 if I remember rightly and we remember, I remember passing information that would more or less got Germany down to its knees, and I remember the German generals coming in to sign the peace, which they did, and I was part of a team that put some of the peace terms which wanted ratifying, putting them into code to come over to England so they could be ratified, and made absolutely clear what was wanting to happen. Coming to an end now. In, I suppose, probably whilst I’m still at Rheims, the war had ended on the 8th of May and a few days later, probably about two or three weeks, two weeks, I moved to Frankfurt to the supreme headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force and it was largely at that point, American. So I moved to Frankfurt and I remember standing at the Hauptbahnhof, the railway station in the middle of Frankfurt and looking around at the devastation, and there wasn’t a building standing, from my memory. I could see the countryside miles away, from the middle of Frankfurt. Now, we established another unit there at Frankfurt, in the headquarters of what had been the IG Farben Chemical Company, and we had our headquarters there and we were billeted just outside in an ex-German barracks, and of course the war now had only been over a week or ten days. We were told not to do much around the place, there wasn’t anything to do anyway. We were laid on our beds most of the time when we weren’t on duty, and then one night we were told we could move around a bit more, and I remember we got in a waggon, about five of us, and we went down the road a couple of mile, and we came to a small German hamlet. I think the name was Kubach and people actually came out and shook our hand and we gave the children, being with an American unit, we didn’t suffer from chocolate, or cigarettes or biscuits, we had them all the time, and I remember we gave the children chocolate and sweets, and the men we gave cigarettes to. It was a farming community and there was only, there was a bar and all they sold was apfelwein, which is cider, and I remember a Saturday night about two weeks after the war had ended, I was in this bar on a Saturday night and quite a number of locals were in, and I remember holding hands and singing songs and thinking to myself, what the hell did we have wars for when the ordinary public generally are friendly? And so twenty four years of age, twenty three years of age was I then? Twenty two, sorry. At twenty two years of age, there I was thinking what a waste of human life. All this. Through political misleading and I’m sorry to say it the Blair. In, I’m still in Frankfurt and after about a month the operation at Bletchley was closed and so I’m posted back to the RAF, and I’m told to report at a PDC in St John’s Wood, London, to wait to be called for a Far East draft, and I met up with a chap I hadn’t seen since North Africa by the name of Webb, who was a journalist in profession. Geoffrey Webb and he too was going on the Far East draft as was the rest of the draft. Draft number 998. So we all wrote because some had come back from East Africa and some had come back from Egypt. We’d all been overseas by then at least a couple of years, so we all wrote to the commanding officer, saying it was a bit thick that we were now going out to some do in the Far East because now Bletchley Park was finished, and so we went on leave and we were told to go back to St John’s Wood, where we were told the draft had been cancelled and we were all going to go to the continent. So I spent about five weeks in Hornchurch and then I moved out to Ghent in Belgium, when I was now back in the RAF as such. From Ghent I went to Hamburg, and I met up in Hamburg with a man who was now a wing commander, who I had been with in Versailles, and he too had worked for Bletchley, and we met up again and he had seen that I was taking several courses that were available to us. One was physics, one was mathematics and one was economics and he’d seen I’d been enrolled on these courses and we talked occasionally when I met him, and he was the education officer for 85 Group RAF. And after a few weeks with 85 Group, working on RAF cyphers, now he came to me, he said, ‘We have a technical college at a place called Buckeburg, down towards Hamelin and we have month courses there’, he said, ‘And I’ve fixed up for you to go on three courses, economics, mathematics and physics’. So I moved down to Buckeburg and for three or four months, the latter part of my service life, I studied economics, mathematics and physics.
AM: German?
SC: Sorry.
AM: German?
SC: Yes. And our, one of our instructors had been an ex-rocket scientist by the name of Herb Shabinsky, and I don’t know how you spell it but Shabinsky, it was, and the mathematics teacher was an RAF flight sergeant and the economics teacher was an RAF economics man. So I spent most of my final years, after I’d finished the three courses, I was posted about five miles away from the technical colleges I’d been at, to a place called Bad Eilsen, a small spa town, and the RAF headquarters, which was British [BAFO] British Air Force of occupation. Sorry, no it wasn’t, it was BAFO, BAFO Ops. BAFO Ops. British Air Force of Occupation Operations and we held it, it was held at a big hotel complex there. Being a spa, it did have these hotel complexes and I was there till, I think it was, late October 1946 when I left to get demobilised at an RAF station near Blackpool, back near my home town, and the last RAF officer I spoke to was Flight Lieutenant Bernard Howard, who I’d met in Africa. Shooter Howard.
CB: Full circle.
[Machine pause]
SC: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Thank you. Now, just, so, when you, so you come to the end of your service time because you’re demobbed and then what did you do?
SC: I went back to the mill where I’d worked in the office, and remember I was studying textiles and we made velvets and velveteens and fustians, which won’t mean much to you, and it was a big company called Thomas Mellodew and Company and my wife, who was fourteen, had just started work in the office and I, at that time, was twenty three. I didn’t ask my wife out for some years and I continued working there until 1951 when I had reached the, sorry, I carried on there and because I was studying textiles, I got made assistant manager in the weaving section, and in 1949 I was offered to go to college to train as a school teacher. Now, looking at the state of the cotton industry, which was closing down rather than building up, I thought maybe a school teacher’s the best thing so I went to college for twelve months to train as, to train as a mathematics and physics, general science teacher and I finished the course, but by this time I’d asked my wife out and we were courting. She was now eighteen. I was now twenty four, twenty five and I’d already reached the position of assistant manager of the textile industry and I was applying for jobs as a school teacher. The last one was in the Lake District and I thought what am I going to do because marriage was on the cards then and whatever and I decided I preferred the textile industry to teaching so I went back in to the textile industry, to a company that’s now long since gone called Fine Spinners and Doublers Limited, that owned a hundred, owned a hundred cotton mills.
[Phone ringing]
SC: So –
CB: Fine Spinners and Doublers.
SC: Sorry.
CB: Fine Spinners and Doublers.
SC: Doublers, yeah. A very big company and I was, the government at that time was trying to keep the textile industry going so they were paying for new machinery to go into these mills. Now although I was part trained and certainly qualified textile man, I had what was called a higher national certificate, I was also a part qualified accountant so I joined the company on those two qualifications to work on getting money back from the government to pay for this new machinery. So I went into mills. We decided what new machinery we wanted and as the installation went on, I applied to the government to get the money back, or some of the money back and so I was involved with thirteen of the one hundred mills which were all being reshaped with new machinery like we were talking about earlier, things were moved on and you didn’t need so much equipment.
CB: Yeah.
SC: And I worked there, I got married, and that was that.
CB: So that’s 1951.
SC: And that brings me to 1951 when I saw an advert in the paper by a company in London who wanted a manager for a carpet factory, and the carpet factory was in Kendal and I thought that would be rather nice, living up in the Lake District, and by now I’m married so I apply, and the company happened to be, the main headquarters in London. In Custom House which is now Canary Wharf area. So I applied and I got the job, and a month after I got married, I moved down to Barking in Essex and cycled each day through East Ham and West Ham, bits of Bow and whatever and into Custom House and I was, they wanted me there so I could learn a little about their industry because I was a velvet man, but note the similarity with what we call pile fabrics. Carpet has pile and velvet has pile and I was, it was at the time that, as you know from my previous statement, of Fine Spinners and Doublers for getting money back from the government to modernise. So this company which was called William Goodacre and Sons Limited. William Goodacre and Sons Limited had factories all over and several of them were in the Lake District and their main business initially was coir fibre fabrics. Coconut matting and they had their own coconut plantations on the west coast of India, which is probably part of it now is Bangladesh and up near Islamabad, and so I was there learning a little about coir fibre matting and carpets and whatever, when they were also opening a factory in Aylesbury, and very sadly the manager dropped down dead on the factory floor. So, me also being a manager of a mill they thought, oh whilst we’re waiting for the new machinery to go in Kendal, he can go up to Aylesbury. So I’d been married a month and I was told I was coming down to Aylesbury, so my wife and I lived in a bed and breakfast place, if that’s what it was. Somebody let us a room and we lived in this room and whilst I’m at Aylesbury, the chairman of the company dropped down dead and so at that point my life changed, because the company was taken over by others and I never ever got anywhere near the Lake District. I remained in Aylesbury, starting this new type of carpet and anyway, after about five years the industry, the carpet industry, was going down and they decided that I’d helped to get the company going and they didn’t need me anymore. I’d put the wages systems in and trained some of the operatives and got the company going, and after about five years, they made me redundant and it was rather sad. It was done in a bad way. I went to work and my wife rang me about 9 o’clock and said, ‘Your employment cards are in the post. You’ve been sacked. You’ve been made redundant’. So for the second time in my life, at the age of twenty nine, thirty, I’d been made redundant. So I just walked out of the factory. I didn’t go and see anybody or whatever, and about a week later, a man rang me up and he said, ‘I’ve heard you’ve lost your job there’. I said, ‘Yeah’. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘We’ve a job here for you’. And I’d only ever met the man when I went to meetings of local industrial people and his name was Pat Sage and he was a member of the Amateur Athletics Association. A very big member actually. He was very well known internationally and he was the personnel director at Air Trainers Link Limited. He said, ‘We’ve a job for you’. So I took the job, initially to try to govern the amount of labour making flight simulators. So I had an assistant and the two of us used to work together on a bit of equipment we devised to move labour about on different contracts, because obviously all these contracts, in the case of the flight simulator, lasted two or three years because just thinking, of a think like the Lightning fighter, which I remember it all starts off with one man whose known as the project leader, and then as the development gets on, we build up with technicians and people who are engineers and different types of engineers. Ophthalmic engineers and whatever, and so when the, when you get to the middle of the contract, you’ve probably an awful lot of people working for you but on that particular project, but as time goes on you start dropping them off. Well you can’t just pay them for doing nothing so you put them on other projects that are going at the same time. So my job was to balance the labour in these various projects, which I won’t bore you with, it is very clever and I partly designed it and the, I did that and at this time I start studying accountancy, because I thought, I don’t want to be dealing here all the time and I’m a part qualified accountant I might as well carry on, but my father-in-law, who’d come to live near us, he said, ‘Hey there’s some money in this’. And I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Driving schools’. I had, he said, ‘Yeah, you can do it in your spare time’, because in those days, you didn’t have to have a qualification so my weekends and evenings now and, my early mornings are quite difficult. I used to get up at 5 o’clock. Until 7 o’clock, I studied accountancy. At 7 o’clock I would have my breakfast and make sure I always had a walk of about a mile or two miles and motor cars weren’t quite as popular in those days, but I worked in, lived in a place called Wendover, near Halton, and where -
CB: We know it well.
SC: Come from.
CB: Yeah.
SC: And I used to be picked up probably around about Stoke Mandeville with a pal of mine in his car, and he took me in to Aylesbury, down the Bicester Road, and at 6 o’clock in the evening, I came back to have my meal and I used to say to my wife, ‘What’s my first pick up?’ To go out teaching driving and she very often said Mainpoint at Halton, so I used to go up to Halton, and until 9 o’clock, I taught driving. Then I came home, went to bed and at 6 o’clock in the morning I got up and studied accountancy, then went to work, then came home, then went teaching driving and that went on. As I got a bit more advanced, I passed more exams in accounting side and that went on for probably a couple of years ,1951. And so, I’m now a three part qualified accountant, a driving instructor, which you didn’t have any qualifications for in those days other than RAC registered, and if I was to tell you I took the exams in London and became an RAC registered instructor and I have the certificate in my car to this day. So in 1961, I saw an advert in the Telegraph that said management consultants required for the industry.
Other: [unclear]
CB: Sorry.
Other: That’s alright.
SC: Management consultants required in the woollen industry.
Other: This isn’t being recorded.
CB: Yes.
SC: So I thought, I could do that. Blimey, my textile background and this background, I’m on a winner, so I wrote them, and at this time I was now, believe it or not, in charge of the cost office of the flight simulator company. So I had people under me. We were working out the cost of flight simulators, which at that time would be about half a million to a million pounds, so I’d had fairly good promotion. Well now I get an interview in Bradford, in a lovely big house called Piedmont up what was known as Toller Lane. It’s still there. And some days later they wrote to me, and said you can come, you can join us, this team of consultants, that was again partly paid for by the government for modernisation of the woollen industry, and at this point I may tell you, that in my life on assignments and employed fully, I have worked for seventy six companies. From, I joined the Bradford office of the Wool and Allied Textile Fibres I think it was called. Wool and Allied Textile Fibres. Yeah, I can’t remember the full name. Doesn’t matter but it’s now gone as has all the woollen industry and the, I first went on a course for three months to learn time and motion study and this I did. I did a three month course so now I’m also a qualified driving instructor, a three part qualified accountant, a Higher National Certificate holder of the Textile Institute and there we go, and at that point, I start going into mills to see if we could improve them and I went through quite a different number of woollen mills and whatever, and you’ll have to come back again if you’re really interested. I got involved in the Moors Murders in Saddleworth. All part of working for the woollen industry, and I worked with them for five years, four years when a pal of mine who was working with me said, ‘We’re mugs aren’t we?’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Well you know what your salary is?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah’. He said, ‘Do you know what they charge for your work?’ ‘I haven’t a clue’, I said. ‘Well’, he said, ‘It’s something like five hundred pound a week’, which was a lot of money in those days. He said, ‘We’re better off starting on our own’. So we gave our notices in to our company and we started on our own, and I worked at about five places. He was the bloke going out to look for business and I was the bloke doing the work, and we were slowly building up and I was at one mill one day, he said, ‘What does your pal do?’ I said, ‘Well he’s out finding business’. He said, ‘Rubbish’. I said, ‘Why? What do you mean?’ He said, ‘He’s always on the bloody golf course’. So I tackled him with it and sure enough, I found out I was the money earner and he was doing the dip, so we had a big argument and I left him. I had no job. I just said, ‘Right that’s it. I’ll finish the job I’m doing’, and there we go, and believe it or not, a man rang me up from Slough, from Langley, and he said, ‘We’re wanting somebody like you Stanley’. I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘Well, we’ve got the job that would be just your job’. He said, ‘We want you to come and join the management services offices at Ladybird Children’s Wear’. So I was offered a good job with what was then a good salary, and I moved down here to Ladybird where I worked for fifteen years till it closed down. Story of my life, and I’m then fifty nine so I thought, what the hell do I do at the age of fifty nine, nobody’d want me. And believe it or not, I got two jobs in a week. Sorry, for about three months I worked for an accountancy firm in Maidenhead doing shop books and then I was offered two jobs in a week. One was at Hammersmith Town Hall, which I remember sitting an exam for, and luckily one of them was an arithmetic exam. I could do it in my head, you know, and I took, I went up to the other one which was in Maidenhead. Vandervells if you know them, or heard of them.
CB: Absolutely.
SC: Made bearings.
CB: Engineering. Yeah.
SC: Engineering. So for five years I went into engineering and I could see that the end was coming in the engineering, and in fact, when I was sixty four, I was made redundant for the last time and I thought, well what the hell am I going to do, and what did I do? I started a driving school. Took the government exams and I ran a successful driving school for the next ten years till I was seventy four, and I now get people coming up to me saying, ‘Do you remember me?’ And I say, ‘No, but where did you live?’ ‘ Oh such and such’. ‘I remember you now’. And so there we go, that finishes my life.
CB: Quite extraordinary. Thank you very much indeed. Very good Stanley.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Stanley Clegg,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 15, 2024,

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