Full text of Allan's interview
pdf version - 53k
On the shop floor ... mp3 sound clip - 679k
Wartime food... mp3 sound clip - 543k
On the shop floor..
When I was doing work study, when I was in training later, there was one company, and these companies weren't on piece rates, you were paid by the hour, which after Dunkirk worked 70 hours every week. Then they dropped the working week to 60 hours and production increased. You really have no idea what it was like. I mean I was 16 when I started. I was working on a large lathe as everybody else did and you got the skill but you were at it the whole time. You'd no real time; you couldn't go wandering off or anything like that. It wasn't a severe way, you just kept on, you couldn't just wander off and do what you wanted, you were running a machine and you had to keep at it. I worked on all sorts of machines, but we'd two of us on shift and we'd compete with each other as to who would do the most, and there was no payment for it. I'd do 300 of them a night which meant you were going all the time and it was unpleasant because the coolant, what they called mystic, a soluble oil in water, used to go green with the copper and if you got a little cut or anything your hands weren't very clever. On some of them like the forged wheels for the tank, Churchill's was an infantry tank and it would only do about 12 miles an hour, when we doing these and there was no coolant used, chips used to come off red hot and they'd come out. I've had them on my arm, across my eye, and finally we got some pieces for over our face and if you had leather shoes it burned through the soles, and they were rationed. So we bought clogs and on the inside of the iron we used to cut a shape just to fit inside and then nailed it into the wood and then when you stood on these hot things they didn't burn the wood away. I mean that was alright, the company wouldn't complain about you doing that, it was OK but you daren't make cigarette lighters. If you got caught making cigarette lighters you were in the trouble. De Havilland was the place for them, they used to make model aeroplanes, and they made Spitfires.
Down Crescent Road there used to be an engine shed, and that engine shed had a canteen and it was Joan, Joan Smith who was running it and she was doing really first rate meals and they were coming up from Hick Hargreaves on the bus to dine there and she never turned them away of course, but then the shop at the corner told on them, because he wanted the dinners. During the War, it was the standard of cooking, on one occasion, midnight, we had our break from 12 till 12.30 and the foreman used to put out the dinner that had been left, and it was mutton, what was it called ‘haricot mutton' and it had been kept just nice and warm, but not hot, not cold you know what I mean, and it was completely bad, awful, but you'd no choice, you couldn't go and buy any food. I remember we were working on an engine, the little tiny bowery engine, the wheel on its bearing, it had worn about that much gap in it and he'd never been looking at it, putting oil on it or anything so they came and remonstrated with him, he was lucky he wasn't fired. Anyway, when it came to working on on Sunday he went out and got somebody, it wasn't summer, but somebody with a greenhouse got some tomatoes and of course bread was never rationed, so we got a tomato sandwich. The shops couldn't care less, you were treated like a nuisance value, they weren't anxious at all, you'd see, they'd all got allocations of the foods and they were laughing, weren't they? But during the War he had a business and he got fats and he actually supplied most of the co-operative bakeries, the point really is that you couldn't go along and buy it anyway other than these people.