Industry: water, steel & energy
Gronow, Colin (3 of 9). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
2014-10-22, 2014-10-18, 2014-12-16, 2015-01-30
Gronow, Colin, 1929- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 3: Comments on National Service 8 weeks basic training: 20 man barracks; drilling; menial tasks; anecdote about whole squad slipping over during drill on a frosty morning; CG support for retaining national service, training instilling discipline in recruits, high level of unemployment amongst young people recently; anecdote about corporal shouting at CG after a mistake in drill; [05:10] CG selected for RAF after interview; CG deciding against commission in RAF regiment; story about CG turning down opportunity to spend National Service learning Russian at Cambridge and gain a commission due to suspicions over being recruited as a spy; [08:00] recruits getting on well and supporting each other. [08:45] Comments on posting to RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough: CG a junior technician; unit including medical or scientifically trained RAF officers and civilians; CG interview with Dr [Geoffrey] Morant; CG work analysing numbers connected with various projects, such as data from test flights; CG playing tennis with test pilot; unit work including climate laboratory for testing clothing, G-suits for jet pilots, decompression chambers for breathing equipment, centrifuge for g-force; commander, Group Captain Bill Stewart, rule that scientists had to test potentially dangerous equipment on themselves before test pilots; Dr Morant specialism in dimensions of people, work on ensuring match of cockpit design and size of pilots; previous accidents with pilots losing legs whilst ejecting from aircraft they were ill-sized for; anecdote about CG being largely legs in appearance; [14:35] Morant analysis of data to ensure fighter pilots were the right size requiring comparisons of quantifiable data; CG role discovering significant differences in Morant's data. [16:45] Story about CG analysing Air Ministry data on Dakota and Hermes crashes to ascertain whether forwards or backwards facing seats were safer: research revealing that rear facing seats were safer; CG writing report up for journal and receiving inquires from around the world; anecdote about letter about car seat belts; general improvements in aircraft safety meaning rearwards seats were not widely adopted; need for different structures in aircraft to support rear facing seats. [22:10] Remarks on Farnborough: dominated by RAE; stimulating place to work; stimulating intelligent colleagues; CG working in a small group; CG greatly enjoying work; anecdote about test pilots' fascination with work and disregard for risks; new equipment and techniques tested on designers before others; Institution of Aviation Medicine an RAF research unit separate from RAE but requiring its facilities; CG limited interaction with RAE; [27:00] CG not flying at Farnborough, unlike his assistant who tested equipment on flights; CG sharing office with two others; CG sometimes analysing data for psychologists in office next door; mentions work of biochemist; mentions climate laboratory staffed by civilians; CG wearing uniform but Christian names commonly used in informal environment; [30:10] anecdote about CG sharing a bed with a sergeant in lodgings; CG spending his national service working regular office hours for two years; CG leaving National Service on Friday and returning to work on Monday as a civilian. [32:30] [cont' from 32:30] Remarks on work as a civilian for Air Ministry at Institution of Aviation Medicine: CG rank of scientific officer, but later promoted to senior scientific officer; limited promotion prospects leading CG to apply for work elsewhere; similarity of CG work at Farnborough as a National Serviceman and civilian; £40 monthly wage; CG marrying on leaving RAF; CG and wife evicted from lodgings when first son was born; CG purchasing house with help of father; mentions birth of daughter; CG move to Capenhurst to join UK Atomic Energy Authority [UKAEA], but disliking role leaving to him leaving after a few months; anecdote about returning to live in same house near Farnborough and commuting to London. [36:30] Remarks on UKAEA Capenhurst: CG move to find a job with better prospects; novel nature of atomic energy at time; Capenhurst production of enriched uranium fuel rods for nuclear power stations; CG role analysing factory plant performance data; use of electric calculators at Farnborough and Capenhurst; Capenhurst a secretive site at time; Capenhurst later also the site for the Electricity Council's research establishment, run by Dr Trevor Churchman to explore applications of electricity such as electric cars, batteries and plant growth; Capenhurst essentially a uranium factory at time; secrecy of working in UKAEA, CG signing Official Secrets Act; transport to work by bus; [42:25] many people in village also working at Capenhurst; mentions first nuclear power station at Calder Hall; CG feelings on nuclear power at time, expensive to build but cheap to run; scientific identity of scientific civil service outweighing civil service aspects of role; feeling of more working in science than working for the public; CG reasons for leaving Capenhurst, limited range of work, CG not getting on with his boss, limited prospects for advancement. [47:00] Remarks on CG joining CEGB: job advert for statistician in London; short interview; easy move back to home in Farnborough; CG disliking Capenhurst; good salary; CG replacing an existing staff member. [48:35] Story about CG interview for a job at Mars as a statistician: Mars offering bonus for punctuality; tests; anecdote about observed group exercise; interview with directors; CG not offered job. [51:30] Remarks on: CG knowing little about electricity industry before joining CEGB; CG later job analysing performance of systems operations regional control centres; mentions chief operations engineer Arthur Hawkins; CG assigned to Operational Research [OR] Unit to improve workplace efficiency; anecdote about CG observing control centres but finding it impossible to find ways to increase efficiency; examples of efficiencies found at power stations by others in OR.