Oral history of British science
Bridle, Ron (Part 1 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's home, Gwent
Bridle, Ron, 1930- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 1: Remarks on: birth in Talywain, Wales, and move to Manor Road; attending West Mon school; 1930 birth meaning he missed fighting in both wars and benefitted from post 1945 welfare state; father Ray Bridle, a working class conservative, rugby injury, rugby playing family, roller in a steel mill, bookmaker, interested in horse racing and politics; grandfather's interest in politics, war experience and birth in Guernsey; anecdote about prosperous uncle Tom in USA; father's conservative mindset; grandfathers' cooperative political mindsets; [05:00] tolerant mother; anecdote about grandfather's service as Abersychan school governor; mother Dorothy, kept books, previously work in Cooperative, death from lung cancer; father's purchase of home from grandfather; full household life with aunts living in home and family tensions; anecdote about misbehaving as a child; anecdote about having to fight against bullies; RB upbringing leaving him ready to debate things; 1930s austerity and charity, soup kitchen in school; birth on 27 January 1930. [10:40] Remarks on school: favourite subjects, arithmetic, art and English; encouragement of practice; attending Victoria elementary and West Monmouth grammar schools; reasonable results; RB enjoying school; physics master [George] Bicknell; anecdote about trying to teach grandson mathematics, need to visualise problems; interest in building and architects drawings, later building two houses; [14:40] appeal of building in leaving something behind that has helped people; imagination needed in drainage schemes, such as impounding lakes in Cwmbran; watching building and digging ponds as a child; [18:15] anecdote about riding pit ponies atop of Lasgarn Wood; background of mining in area, Senghenydd Colliery Disaster; grandfather's job as colliery blacksmith, description of steel bowly toy made by grandfather; cycling to Porthcawl and Usk; depressed surrounding area, swimming in Colliery pond instead of paying for swimming pool; playing football for Abersychan until taking up rugby at West Mon; bullying, stealing and cheating at school; appeal of physics at school, new ideas and explanations; anecdote about recently making a slide to demonstrate Newton's laws to granddaughter; [25:20] desire to do something like building; anecdote about national service; winning a county major scholarship, missing out on state scholarship due to distraction of rugby, later working hard at university; parent's desire for him to find a well paid job. [28:00] Remarks on national service from 1948: training at Padgate and West Kirby; posting as clerk to RAF 16 Maintenance Unit [MU] Stafford; playing rugby with Wing Commander White, who assigned him to paint murals with Grant across base; anecdote about skipping Sunday school as a child, finding it hard to believe in religion; [31:25] enjoying explanations for things, reading 'New Scientist', theoretical physics and RB preferring applied engineering; spending much time later in career giving conference papers. [33:20] Further remarks on national service: seeing at as good solution to solution problems, similar to Scout movement; communal living; playing rugby; anecdote about rugby [35:42]; taking to RAF life; anecdote about friend Glyn Phillips failing driving test, RB and wing commander White rescuing him from punishment to play rugby. [37:50] Remarks on: starting University of Bristol; RB interest in Brunel, anecdote about Brunel's sovereign, anecdote about broad gauge railways, family connection to Brunel's Clifton bridge, Brunel's ships. [43:05] Remarks on studying civil engineering: subjects studied; study of structures; strength of materials; surveying, description of drawing plans from real life ground, mass haul diagrams, digital terrain models; surveying Blaise Castle as a student; RB enjoying structures, doing a design of a road with bridges on his own; geology and economics components of course; [48:35] anecdote about Lancashire country surveyor Sir James Drake and his soil laboratory; importance of knowing about soil, story about later work on slag tips and flooding in Monmouthshire, comparison with slip which caused Aberfan disaster. [53:40] Remarks on later use of reinforced earth: designed by Henri Vidal; story about later issues with Vidal's patents, RB role in dispute; anecdote about Vidal's wine-growing retirement. [57:10] Remarks on: university meetings of the Institution of Civil Engineers [ICE]; anecdote about RB later role as an examiner for the ICE, anecdote about Ken Jenkins becoming stuck during an exam; RB later pride in his junior staff winning Miller Prizes for Llanfrecfa bridge; importance of involvement in ICE for learning more and meeting people. [1:01:05] Remarks on various points of career: university lectures followed by drinks at the Admiral Benbow; RB desire to become a structural engineer, using roads as a way in; RB building later career on analysing failures and developing standards, such as on concrete cancer; learning about safety after failures; later establishment of European standards on scaffold tubes, to the disadvantage of British manufacturers; later project on junctions in Buenos Aires.
Interview with civil engineer Ron Bridle