On the 29th. February 1940 at the age of 17 years I was interviewed in the Bluebell Hotel in Leicester by a Mr. Vyral for the position of Assistant Pattern Cutter & Designer and was offered a starting wage £2.10s per week (exactly double the wage I was receiving ).
On March 17th.1940 I went by trains to East Tilbury (accompanied by a Mr. H. Darlow of the Last Making Dept.) My first night spent in Community House sharing a room with five other men, made me wonder if I had made a mistake, to say the least I was not impressed.
Next morning I reported to the Personnel Manager Mr. Scheele, and after all details had been entered, I was introduced to Mr. Henry Overton, Manager of the Design Dept. Never had I ever been in such a large complex of factories and as a small town boy, I was more than overwhelmed.
Mr. Overton was working on a Suedette model designed with 150 small punch holes and I had to punch each one by hand. The lasting tests were over three sizes, in all I punched over 1800 holes that day.
Meals in the canteen with what seemed to be thousands of other employees all in a hurry, clock on through the gates, with big "Bill" Cooper watching with his eagle eyes. I was homesick beyond belief and ready to throw in the towel.
I must have communicated this to my parents as they found a long lost Aunt living in Stanford -le-Hope where I could lodge. The first night that I slept there, my uncle died during the night.
During my stay with my Great Aunt I took my turn of patrolling the streets, rostered hours throughout the night, watching for any incendiary bombs that might pierce the roofs of houses whilst their owners sheltered in the Anderson Shelters.
With the blackout fully in force, we would watch the distant searchlights lock on to the raiders and as the raiders progressed, they were 'handed' over from one searchlight battery to the next.
During this period when I was waiting for the train to take me to Stanford Le Hope, a group of German bombers flying very low, and directly above us presumably returning from a raid on London when a squadron of Hurricane fighters came into them like a shoal of minnows.. Three were shot down in flames. The last German aircraft trailing smoke flew off in the direction of Southend and seemingly getting lower and lower in the sky. Arriving in Stanford-Le-Hope the population was busily picking up spent cartridge cases by the bucketful.