Oral history of British science
Scott-Scott, John (Part 9 of 18). An Oral History of British Science.
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Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering
Interviewee’s home, Bulkington.
Scott-Scott, John, 1934- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 9: Comments on Fred, politically inclined physicist in group: putting him in a waste paper bin when he continued to talk about politics and disrupt engineers calculations; Fred moving to become a shopkeeper and mayor in Radlet. [03:40] Detailed comments on use of silver catalysts in hydrogen peroxide reactions; problems with catalysts; use of hydrogen peroxide engines in submarines; physicist Fred's job testing catalysts; problems with catalysts for Black Arrow. [11:50] Remarks on politics being little discussed in the office, further details of putting Fred into bin. Comments on working on Blue Steel: interaction with other group running project; blaming chemists when catalysts failed. [15:00] Comments on interaction with different groups through managers. Anecdote about site superintendent falling down a drain. Anecdote about first Blue Steel test failing due to nylon lanyard freezing and snapping instead of the triggering rocket motor. [21:30] Comments on not being bothered by working on a nuclear missile: concern for family; disagreements with physicist Fred. Comments on politics and engineering: story about refusing to brief a group of MP's, including Michael Heseltine, on HOTOL unless they signed the OSA. [26:05] Story about being recorded as being unruly for refusing to brief a sleeping company director. [29:20] Comments on: expected behaviour early in career; patronising nature of managers making it hard to build teams. Comments on section leader Tony Motram: bad for staff moral, patronising; poor manager but competent engineer; veritable personality. [33:50] Comments on Sid the fierce chief engineer: hungover and grumpy in mornings, drunk and angry by afternoon; anecdote about JSS and Tony Motram visiting his office for a dressing down and nearly getting fired; different character after giving up alcohol; intuitive manager; insisted on being called sir. [39:20] Remarks on: limited contact with managers at first; Tony Motram realising value of JSS practical skills. Story about almost being fired for an unauthorised water jet project, before threatening to take his work with him. Description of water jet system, isothermal expansion. [43:15] Comments on daily activities: testing prototypes; writing reports. Description of testing pump jets. [46:40] Remarks on borrowing skilled fitters and technicians to help with projects. Remarks on other members of section: girls to read films; colleague David and his subsequent career at Cranfield; colleague who worked on pipeline pumps; getting on well with other members; flying model aeroplanes on company football pitch. [52:15] Comments on: promotion to section leader; JSS development of a more efficient pump; anecdote about falling out with a German scientist Dr Barsker [??] at Westcott over pump design; working with Rocket Propulsion Establishment at Westcott; secrecy of work in 1950s, largely concerned with performance data but catching other matters too; story about secrecy causing problems whilst working on torpedoes at Weymouth [58:50] Comments on enjoying working in Rocket department: all new work, technical challenge; happy department; challenging other departments to skittle matches, for a toilet shaped trophy; so interested he never considered working elsewhere, except for an offer to manage a test facility in San Diego; JSS's patented scheme for a hovercraft underwater propulsion system for British Hovercraft Corporation [BHC] in East Cowes, reference to 'Project Cancelled' book.
Interview with aeronautical engineer John Scott-Scott.