Search billions of records on

Banburyshire Family History

A site designed for you to share your family history with others from the Banbury area

skip to links

go back to the last page you were on Memories of the 50s : Score One For Apprentices


An essential element of the five-year engineering apprenticeship was assimilation of shopfloor culture and tradition. Every new apprentice attached to the metrology department was despatched to consumable stores to ask for a long weight. The storekeeper, straight-faced, would tell the lad to hang on for a moment, and disappear.

Each section had its own methods of assessing the nous of its apprentice. This was warm-hearted humour, most engineers having sons the same age as the apprentices they fostered. Indeed, it was not unknown for three generations of a family to be working on the same shop floor.

Programme-controlled machinery was a distant dream; dimensions and quality of finish depended entirely on the skill of each operator/setter. They would die rather than admit it, but most craftsmen took a pride in their skills. During a long machining cut or cycling operation, an operator could often be heard singing at the top of his voice. This produced either a cacophony of noise, as surrounding operators hammered on their benches in criticism, or an outbreak of choral singing in unusual keys.

Behind my small centre-lathe stood a girder, helping to hold the roof in position. Over one weekend the base of all such girders was sprayed to a height of four feet with a thick coating of fire-resistant foam, which slowly solidified.

A short length of industrial cabling was obtained, and with various large nuts and bolts attached, inserted into the soft foam such that three bare wires protruded from the top surface. A week was allowed to elapse during which the foam hardened to a concrete constituency.

The safety committee was then advised of my fears; working in close proximity to such naked wires. The monotony of my days was subsequently alleviated by frequent visits of white-coated technicians with electrical meters, various large-scale wiring diagrams, and much scratching of heads. The centre-lathe was relocated, several feet away. Eventually, Authority accepted defeat.

A terminal box was fitted to the cabling and firmly attached to the girder.

Score one for apprentices.

Smokey's apprenticeship continues: A New And Exciting Sensation!

Written by Smokey