Interview by Michael Thompson, with Eric Dale

Introduction by interviewer, Michael Thompson.

Eric Dale was born in Cadishead, Lancashire, on 6th July 1924.

He was 15 years old when war broke out in 1939.

He joined the Fleet Air Arm in November 1942.

This interview records his memories as a child before the war, his time in the Fleet Air Arm and his life after the War.

The transcript and the video are in one part just about 55 minutes long.

Recorded in Hollins Green, Rixton on 21st March 2017.

[Pauses indicated by ….]

Time codes on film indicated by Hour:Minute:Second for ease of reference between transcript and film on YouTube.

Wartime Memories of Eric Dale

Transcript

Eric: My name is Eric Dale …. I was born in Cadishead in 1924. I went to St Mary’s School which is across the road …. Junior school until I was 11 years of age …. then I went to Cadishead Senior School till I was 14.

I was always interested in sport, cricket and football, that was all I ever thought about. When I was 13½ at school, I managed to get a cap at cricket for South Lancashire Schoolboys against North Lancashire Schoolboys which was played at Todmorden.

When I left school, I started at the Soap Works in Irlam …. CWS Soap Works in Irlam and when I was 17 years of age, I volunteered to go, what I thought, was in the Navy ….

Michael: Before we get on to that …. if we may, Eric, tell us a little bit about your childhood itself because you were not old enough to go into the forces for perhaps a couple of years after war started. Tell us a little bit about your childhood itself, if you can, and also what you remember about the start of the War ….

Eric: Well …. well, as I said, I was always interested in sport, played a lot of football as a kid and cricket. I had a good childhood, you know, and …. What I can remember of the War starting was the blitz mostly …. and also, we had a bomb dropped in Cadishead in the middle of the road …. in Cadishead …. that was what I remember most.

I remember the blitz in Manchester, you know, but …. other than that, you know …. I didn’t remember much about it, really …. I remember D-Day and things like that ….

But, I just had a normal childhood …. you know …. I suppose I had Chickenpox when I was younger …. but I never ailed at all ….

I was always interested in sport, and I am saying it myself, I was always pretty good at sport, cricket and football …. I played for the school team at football and cricket, and I also played for the …. the town team which was Irlam and Cadishead and …. I played for the town team as well …. at sport …. and as I say, I got a cap for Lancashire Schoolboys, when I was 13½, that was …. which was before …. I left school at 14, and I went working for the Soapworks ….

Michael: What was it like at the Soap Works? [Actually said Salt Works]

Eric: Pardon?

Michael: What was it like at the Soap works?

Eric: Well …. they didn’t have many boys working at the Soap Works …. It was mostly men at 18 …. they only had about 4 lads under the age of 18 …. what was …. working on what we called the box machines …. right …. making boxes for the soap.

My parents, my Dad worked there and my uncles worked there …. my sister worked there, 2 sisters worked there …. right …. and …. I went for an interview there with a view to starting …. which everybody in Cadishead and Irlam used to go for an interview at the Soap Works ….

There was a Steel Works as well, a big Steel Works …. In actual fact, there were 7 workplaces in Cadishead and Irlam ….

When the War started, right, the lads who was already on the box machines …. when they reached the age of 18 …. they got called up into the Forces …. so, that’s when I got a job on the box machines, there …. And when I was 17, as I said, I volunteered. I wanted to go in the Navy …. all right ….

Anyhow, I went for the medical …. I went to the medical, to Manchester …. to Dover Street in Manchester which is adjacent to Manchester Royal Infirmary …. and whilst I was there …. they persuaded me to go into the Fleet Air Arm …. I think they wanted to build the Fleet Air Arm up at the time because 2 or 3 of my friends who also went …. to join the Navy at 17 like I went …. right …. they was persuaded to join, and it was …. it was building up to …. you know …. so, anyhow ….

I passed my medical and that, and they said “You want to be a mechanic?” I says “Well, I’m not a mechanic ….” “Oh, we’ll teach you all about that!” …. So I says “Oh well, fair enough ….” So, anyhow, that was that.

And when I was 18, I got called up …. right? I didn’t need to go for a medical as I had already had one …. and I got the first posting, was to HMS Gosling …. which is in Warrington, actually …. it’s at Glaze…. it’s at …. Culcheth way …. right …. which is only up the road …. that’s near where we live now …. as a matter of fact, I went to …. Gosling 2 ….

There was 3 camps in …. round Glazebury …. and Culcheth …. and Risley …. There’s one …. Camp 1, Camp 2 and Camp 3 …. I was at Camp 2 for 10 weeks …. it was all marching and …. lectures and …. arms drill and all that …. getting you fit, I suppose …. that’s what it was, right …. as a matter of fact, the camp where I was, now, is Risley Prison …. right ….. where Risley Prison is, that’s where I went ….

Anyhow, from there …. we got sent …. not just me …. about 4 to 5 of us …. we went to Hednesford in Staffordshire …. which was an RAF establishment …. but part of it was for Fleet Air Arm …. and we got taught a little bit about being a mechanic …. all about drills and …. and I was there for a few months …. and then I went back to our Headquarters which is at …. which was at Lee-on-Solent, were the Headquarters.

So, I went there and …. after we had finished at Hednesford …. and then I got a posting, my first squadron …. It was HMS Tern …. now all Fleet Air Arm bases are called after birds …. so it was HMS Tern …. and me and a couple of more lads …. what was going there …. says “Where’s Tern?” …. we didn’t know where it was …. anyhow, it was in the Orkneys ….

So, we travelled …. we travelled from …. Lee-on-Solent …. right up to Scotland …. right up to the …. and then we went over to …. we landed … we went to Thurso in Scotland …. were there one night, then the next day, we went over to join HMS Tern …. and it was a Seafire [sea plane] squadron …. it had …. it could land on water …. like …. it was a Seafire at Tern …. and that ….

Anyhow, I was there a few months and that …. I was an Air Mechanic …. Oh, I’ve gone on a bit farther than I should do really …. while I was at Hednesford …. we got put into different things. I was an ‘A’ which was airframes …. Air Mechanic Airframes …. and there was an Air Mechanic ‘E’ which was Engines …. that’s what we passed out as …. that’s what they give us anyhow ….

Anyhow, I was there for a while and …. then, I had to go back then to Lee-on-Solent …. From there, I was posted again to Dunfermline …. HMS Waxwing in Dunfermline …. and …. it wasn’t an airfield at all, it was just a camp …. right …. and …. and that was there a few weeks, and then I got an overseas posting then ….

Along with three more lads, there was four of us …. and we got transferred to Liverpool to pick a boat up …. So, we pick this boat up, it was called the Orontes ….

We sailed out into the Atlantic into …. other ships …. and for a con…. we was all in a convoy …. right? And from there on, we didn’t know where we was going to …. where we was going to …. all we needed …. all we knew it was abroad somewhere warm because they issued us with clothing for …. for where it was warm, you see ….

Anyhow, we went …. we went through the Med …. stopped at the Suez …. Port Suez …. one or two got off, it was a troop ship we went on …. it wasn’t just sailors …. it was Army and Air Force …. some of them got off at Port Suez …. or Port Said …. I get mixed up which is one end of the Suez and which is the other end ….

We went through the Suez …. and we went into the Red Sea and then into the Indian Ocean …. and we docked at Colombo …. right?

We got off at Colombo and then …. we was …. I was posted then …. about 20 men, up country to HMS Rajaliya …. which was a Fleet Air Arm base …. where I joined …. 512 [757] Squadron, I think it was called, anyhow …. which was …. all sorts of aeroplanes …. different ones …. and the Wal…. they had the 2 Walruses there, so, I was on Walruses because I had been on Walruses before …. and from there …. we …. we was there must have been about 6 months …. something like that and then …. all the …. all the squadron got moved …. and they moved us to India …. to near Madras …. and it was called …. the company was called NOTU (N.O.T.U.) which means Naval Operational Training Unit …. and …. well, from there …. where did I go from there …. I was still there at …. for about 12 months …. and what it was, they were training pilots …. instructors were training pilots …. right?

00:13:57

VE Day came, and some of the pilots who was in the RAF …. came to the Fleet Air Arm and they had to be shown and taught how to land on an aircraft carrier …. and every so often, we used to go onto an aircraft carrier …. right …. for these pilots to land on HMS Unicorn ….

We went on …. I didn’t always go, they took a certain amount of crew to look after what was …. There was Spitfires which …. or there was Seafires which are Spitfires with a hook on …. and there was Hellcats which American …. Corsairs which was American … All these was …. on the …. on the Squadron, I was on, kind of thing, you know, and that, so ….

From there, the war in Europe finished …. but we couldn’t come home …. because the war in Japan was still on and we was out there …. anyhow …. when the war finished in Japan …. we …. well some of us got sent home.

We got …. went to Bombay to pick a ship up …. right? So, anyhow, we …. we went …. we boarded a ship which was called the Île de France. It was France’s biggest liner …. it was a troop ship, right ….

So, when we went out through the Med and that, in a convoy, it took a month …. When we came back …. we didn’t go through the Suez canal …. they thought we was too big …. so, we went round the Cape and that took a month ….

I landed in Southampton …. right …. and …. We got all our papers for going on leave, we didn’t go anywhere, we just …. when we left, we went on leave then, month’s leave …. So, I got a train from Southampton, right, to Manchester …. right …. changed …. everybody had to change at Crewe them days …. you know and then I got another but …. so I landed in Manchester in the middle of the night …. ok ….

So, I went in a buffet, stopped there for a couple of hours, and then …. I got …. I went to get a bus then …. because the No. 10 bus ran from Warrington to Manchester, and Manchester to Warrington …. and it always, when it went into Manchester …. it was …. it went under Greengate Arches, if you know where that is …. Greengate Arches ….

So, I walked it to the Greengate Arches …. and it must have been about …. half past 6 …. the first bus …. Anyhow, the first bus was there and I got on it …. the conductor …. they had conductors then …. and he …. he says where are you from? What have you done? And where have you come from? I told him, so, I was sat on the side seat then …. he wouldn’t take any money off me for the bus fare …. right …. but in actual fact, the bus was going through Manchest…. through Irlam and Cadishead …. at the time when some of them was going to the Soapworks, working ….

Of course, people what knew me “Hiya, Eric ….” …. The first thing they used to say to anybody when they went on leave …. “When are you going back?” …. used to say when you had only just landed like, you know …. anyhow …

I got off …. off the bus in Cadishead, we lived up Devon Road then …. So, I walked up Devon Road …. and it was dark, and it was about 7 o’clock …. and my mother was up, with my Dad and my sister …. they were getting ready to go to work …. at the Soapworks on their bikes.

And my mother said …. “Arthur ….” which was my Dad’s name …. “Arthur, here’s our Eric!” …. So, my Dad says “Susan ….” …. that was her name …. “Your romancing again, it’s not ….” She says “It is, I can tell his steps …. I can tell his walk …. it’s our Eric!” And …. it was.

I tried the back door and it wouldn’t op…. it was closed …. and our Grace comes, my sister, two years younger than me …. “It’s our Eric ….” she shouts “Mum, it is our Eric ….” and then she said straight away, just like our Grace …. “What have you fetched me back?”

Now her son comes here, my nephew …. which is Bobby [actually Stephen], you know ….

Anyhow, that’s how I come to … you know …. come back from abroad, there …. And then …. after a month …. I …. I had leave and …. whilst I was on leave, I went back to the Soapworks where I worked …. and …. told the Foreman what I was doing and that …. and then I started back at the Soapworks.

And I worked at the Soapworks there …. I didn’t go on the box machines then because I was [over] 18 …. I went in what they called the Loading Bay, what used to load …. wagons, what used to come as a Co-op …. gadget in boxes ….

Anyhow, when I was …. 29 years of age, I left the Soapworks and joined the Lancashire County Fire Brigade which …. and I was stationed at Eccles. Right? And I was there for …. 12 years …. and I left again …. and I went to the Atomic Energy Authority which is at Risley …. right …. Atomic Energy …. to join the Fire Brigade there. Right? And I was there at Risley …. I was in the Fire Brigade …. and I was there at Risley until I retired at 65 …. right …. and that’s when I retired, at 65 then.

So, after that, I just used to play …. I used to play a lot of Bowls, Crown Green Bowls …. as well …. but I missed something out, when …. when I was at the Soapworks …. when I came back, and I started back at the Soapworks ….

I was, what, 22 then …. ok …. I started playing football locally …. the first team was in the Steelworks …. and they were in the Manchester League …. and while I was there, playing, a friend of mine who had gone to Shrewsbury Town …. right …. asked me if I would like to go to Shrewsbury Town …. So, anyhow, I says “Yea, OK”. So, I went to Shrewsbury Town ….

They was in the Midland League …. which was similar to the Manchester League …. you know, they’ve got to have professionals playing for them, part time …. and after a couple of months …. they asked me if I would sign professional forms for them …. Well, so I says “Yes, OK” …. right …. but what it was, you see, if you were an amateur and you was playing well, somebody could come and poach you …. but if you were a professional, they couldn’t because you was on their books ….

00:22:13

So, them days, there was in the football league, there was the First Division, Second Division and Third Division …. right …. So, whilst I was there, the first season …. for the season afterwards, they changed it …. Instead of having a Third Division, they had a Fourth Division North and a Fourth Division South ….

So, they wanted 2 teams, one to make the team up in the South Division and one to make the team in the North Division ….

So, Shrewsbury Town got in the North Division …. and Peterborough got in the Southern Division …. right ….

Anyhow, I got retained and I didn’t play a lot in the first team because they had a had a player playing who worked at Shrewsbury …. he was from Swinton …. and he worked in this factory, they got him a job there, so …. and he was a very good player …. he was …. I did play for the first team when he wasn’t fit …. but if he had a blinding game, I wouldn’t …. I wouldn’t be on the next week …. right …. so, so anyhow, I played, I got a telegram, we used to get a telegram every Friday to say where I was going to play …. if I was playing away somewhere …. in Birmingham or Hereford, or anywhere like that …. they would pick me up, not just me, a couple more blokes who were …. who played there from …. who lived in Manchester …. they used to call at the station …. railway station and pick us up, instead of going to Shrewsbury first …. and I got this …. I used to get a telegram every Friday ….

And this Friday, I got one …. and I played at Stockport County …. right …. So, anyhow, after that …. I got …. after that, I …. I left them …. and, then, I went playing in North Wales …. right …. and I played in North Wales …. I played for Colwyn Bay and I played for Flint Town and I played for Llanrwst …. then I came back and I was 29 years of age then.

And that’s when I joined the Fire Brigade …. right …. so, I was on shifts then …. so, I couldn’t play then …. Anyhow, that’s me ….

Michael: Now, that’s a fascinating story, Eric. What I would like to do is to go back now to some of the memories you might have whilst you were in the Fleet Air Arm. And, the place you probably stayed the longest would have been in …. I think it was Rajaliya in Ceylon.

And …. you’ve lent me quite a number of photographs from your album and I suspect most of those were probably taken whilst you were there …. I mean, it looks as though you were playing football there…. Maybe, you had a little time for the war as well, but …. but …. tell me a little bit about your life whilst you were there …. what camp life was like and that sort of thing, what you were doing …. any sort of funny things that might have happened whilst you were, and that sort of thing ….

Eric: No …. the …. the …. there wasn’t a lot, really, because it was next to a little village called Puttalam …. you know …. We used to play the …. we used to play a team from Puttalam every now and again …. next to the camp, where they was …. but …. an Italian prisoner of war camp …. and next to that was a Fleet Air Arm Camp …. not the Fleet Air Arm …. a Marine Camp ….

And one of the incidents what I remember was …. I was …. we was billeted in …. in HMS Rajaliya, but there was …. there was ordinary Naval personnel in it, we only had a part of the …. part of it …. and I was on my bed, one day …. and I heard a voice “Is Eric Dale in here?” And somebody said “Yea, he is over on that bed ….” and when I …. and I looked up …. and there was a lad I knew from Cadishead and he was in …. and I said “How did you know I was here?” …. He was in Marines, so ….. yea ….

So, it was …. his name was Frank Astal …. he’s dead now, poor Frank …. He was in the Marines, and we used to play the Marines at football …. right …. So, this day, we was playing …. going to play Marines …. Marine team …. and I went up to Frank, and I said “Frank, watch what you are doing to me” because he could be a dirty player …. you know, I said …. “Watch it …. because” I said, “I’ve had a bit of an injury ….” “All right, Eric ….” he said …. “I won’t, no, it all right …. I won’t, no ….”

Anyhow …. we’d only been playing a quarter of an hour and I whipped round him twice and scored 2 goals …. ! So …. when he wrote home …. he wrote home to his Dad and said …. “We played football against …. and Eric Dale played and he done me in ….”

So, when I came home, we both got demobbed and …. Frank …. and every time we used to …. we used to go dancing and all that …. Frank passed me and used to say “Swine!” …. Yes, I will never forget it ….

But the point was with …. you know, when my mother knew …. could tell me steps …. could tell me walking …. Eh, that was a funny one ….

And one of the …. we were going on leave once …. me and the captain of the team, really …. and we was going to ….. oh, word block now …. [Kandi] …. We was going on leave anyhow …. and this place we was going to …. the Commander, Commander Parish, his name was …. he wasn’t going to let us go because he was playing a match in Colombo …. against a ship team what had come and …. so ….

He said “You’ll have to …. you’ll have to come from where you are going on leave to ….. You’ll have to come back to play, or else you are not going on leave ….”

So we had to hitch hike back to …. to Colombo to play football against the team …. right …. so … anyhow ….

00:29:40

Michael: Whilst you were at Rajaliya, you told me a story earlier about the link between the River Kwai …. and Rajaliya …. can you tell me a little bit about that?

Eric: Well, outside Colombo is Mount Lavinia …. is Mount Lavinia …. and we used to go walking there …. and when I was in Colombo, sometimes, we used to stop in Colombo ….

We used to walk down to the beaches there and above the beach was this camp …. and the man what escaped from …. the River Kwai …. he went …. and he went to Mount Lavinia …. and he went …. over the top of Mount Lavinia was a camp …. and that’s where this …. the captain of Mount Lavinia wanted him to go back …. to show them the way, and how to get to the River Kwai to …. to at least get them ….

Anyhow …. on the …. One of the things there was …. he went on the …. this man went on the sands …. with a nurse …. and they were sat on the sands, and I says “I have been there …. that’s Mount …. I’ve been there!” So, that’s all that I was saying like …. I’d been there, where it was, you know ….

Michael: But that was when you were watching the film …. yes ….

Eric: When I was watching the film, oh yes …. nothing else, I didn’t know anything then …. It was only when the film was on, because the camp, it wasn’t a camp really, but they made it a camp above Mount Lavinia, a camp instead …. you know where the sands was …. above it, they made that a camp …. and that’s where the Commander or whoever it was, wanted him to take them back …. to the River Kwai, yes …

Michael: Now, a number of the photographs you showed me, show you with groups of people …. There is one enormous on of the entire Squadron, I suspect …. and there are others of you in the football team …. others of you …. there was even one of you perched …. on …. actually on top of a Seafire ….

Eric: A Seafire, yes ….

Michael: What was …. I mean that was a …. was that a sort of daredevil thing sitting up there?

Eric: No, no, it was just me going up there …. but another thing …. I should say, I tell you about …. the Captain …. or the Commander was called Commander Parish …. big fellow, and he used to walk about and he had a wristwatch on he was always dangling …. and I was always …. with the Walruses …. right …. so, this …. one day he came …. right …. get …. see that everything is all right inside because …. because …. it had a space inside with all tools in …. in case it had to go searching or rescuing anything on the water ….

So, he says “Get sat in there, come on, get in there …. ” …. So, he made me sit in, next to him …. because there were 2 seats, he had …. and I had to go with him flying over the Indian Ocean …. looking for …. I don’t know whether it was just a kid in a whatnot …. but he said “Look out, we are looking for somebody ….” Whether he was or not …. or whether he wasn’t …. but I was sat under, and he said to me, he said “Do you want to drive it?”

He says “Get hold of it”, so I go like that ….and he had hold of it. but …. and I’m like that …. so, that’s what I can remember …. yea ….

Michael: I mean, that must have been quite an enjoyable thing doing that ….

Eric: Oh, right, yes …. because he said “Go to the Right” …. so, or port …. “Go to the Left” …. and so on …. and so, I just …. like that or like that …. but he had hold of them, I was just …. Yes, he said “There you are ….”

Michael: Were there other highlights during your time with the Fleet Air Arm? Other things or funny moments you can think of?

Eric: Well, I don’t want …. I never flew actually. The only time I did fly is when I was in the Orkneys and I was going on leave …. right …. and well, we had to catch a train from Thurso, and there was only one, it went at a quarter to 8 at night, and it went from there to London …. just one a day …. right …. so, when I went …. going on leave …. instead of going …. instead of going by boat across to Thurso, catching it, they used to fly anybody …. used to get in a Walrus …. and one of the pilots used to fly you over to Thurso airport …. and I was at home more or less before I actually started leave at …. you know …. in the Orkneys, and then going back. You know, I went back and then I had to get this fishing smack over there and …. anyhow …. it weren’t that much ….

Michael: What about …. we have talked about the happier things and so on …. were there any sort of sad or difficult moments that you can remember?

Eric: None whatsoever …. none whatsoever …. no …. I never was in any action at all, you see …. you know, it was a shore base and things …. that’s all …. yes ….

Michael: But your responsibilities were for the outsides of the aircraft, weren’t they?

Eric: Yes, for the outside of the aircraft …. yes …. and …. and …. the controls and pneumatics and hydraulics ….

Michael: So, what did you do with those? Checking out ….

Eric: We’d always check them …. I don’t think I ever had to do any repairs at all …. We used …. the pilot used to go out …. he used to go flying …. and then when he’d come back, he used to say “Right, everything all right?” “Yes ….” You know you thought generally say “Yes ….”

They were all all right there because you didn’t get much, because they were only for training. They didn’t go in any action at all, it was just a training ….

Michael: In your service record, which you very kindly showed me, one of the places that I think you visited which you have not really mentioned, but I think it was only for a couple of months, and that was Bombay ….

Eric: Bombay ….

Michael: Yes …. Bherunda, I think it was ….

Eric: Well …. Valluru ….

Michael: Oh right …. I probably spelt it …. I probably got it wrong ….

Eric: Well …. when …. when we landed at Bombay …. [Eric was actually talking about Colombo] …. we was only …. we got …. no …. no …. we landed in Colombo …. Then when we …. when we moved to Madras …. I was coming home …. we came to Bombay …. But the ship wasn’t there, it was to board this ship …. the Île de France, and it wasn’t there …. so they moved us just above Bombay …. right …. and that was the name of the camp …. and it was at Doolally [Deolali] ….

You know when anybody goes doolally, right …. there’s such a place called Doolally …. I remember a programme “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum ….” and it was at Doolally …. It was …. you were supposed to Doolally Tap …. if you are doolally, you’re tapped, aren’t you? There’s something wrong with you, but there was a place …. and we were just waiting there may be a couple of weeks or something like that until the boat …. but we used to go out there …. there was nothing to do but …. we used to go killing a rat …. because on the rat was the flea …. what carried the plague …. and we used to go looking for rats …. right …. and throw petrol on them, and set them alight …. right …. then we killed them …. so we would kill …. the flea …. that’s right, yes …. so that’s all we did really, but not every day that, you know …. we had it in turns …. but we just idled about until we had to get ….

Michael: Going right back to the beginning, you mentioned your parents. What did your Dad do? I think he was at the Soapworks?

Eric: He was a labourer at the Soapworks …. yes ….

Michael: Was he involved at all in the First World War?

Eric: Yes, he …. he was in the First World War. He was the youngest of 5 …. there was 5 of them …. 5 brothers …. He was the youngest one …. he never went …. he was still in training in England when the war was over …. right …. but the others all served in the war and they all came back ….

My uncle …. one uncle got the Military Medal …. my Grandma had …. there were 5 sons, they all came back …. Not many do that, you know ….

Michael: No, very lucky ….

Eric: Yea, and he was …. In actual fact, he died …. me Dad …. he died in 1948 on St Patrick’s Day which has just gone …. right …. he was only forty …. no, 48 in 1947 ….

00:40:34

Michael: So, he was born in 1899 ….

Eric: Yes, he was, yes …. something like that, yes …. but the others …. they all died, like, you know …. some of them died before my Dad …. they were all older than my dad, you know …. but three of them …. my Dad …. and two of his brothers all played in Cadishead Public Prize Band. They were all bandsmen and my Uncle Norris, who got the …. he was the Housing Manager of Cadishead and Irlam …. and he got killed in his 65th year going home for his dinner …. and …. yes …. he was …. he was Secretary of the Band …. he was …. all three of them all played in the band ….

Michael: Very sad when that happens ….

Eric: One of them who went in the First World War …. I think it was my Uncle Jim …. he actually played in the band …. right …. in the war, but I had another uncle who was a prisoner of war in …. in the First World War …. but my Grand Ma …. no, my Grand Dad …. had a Grand Ma in Cadishead …. he had 9 lads and 1 girl …. and …. on my mother’s side …. she had 10 girls and 1 lad …. which she lives across there …. just across there at my Grand Ma’s house …. right ….

So, I’ve been coming to Hollins Green, here, since I was young, since I were born. I got christened here in Hollins Green Church …. got married here [in 1955] …. and …. my wife goes to Church here …. you know ….

Michael: Tell me a little about …. you’ve just mentioned your wife, and your marriage …. You have family, I know you mentioned your sons as well …. so how did all that come about? It must have been after the war obviously ….

Eric: Yes, well I have two lads …. Our Philip …. who is the eldest …. he lives at Gosport now. He joined the Navy when he was 16 years if age …. after the war …. right …. and he served 22 years, and he was in submarines …. and he was a marine engineer …. and he finished up as a Chief Petty Officer …. Chief Petty Officer Artificer …. now he wanted to be an artificer …. when he first joined up …. and he …. he went …. and it was in Cornwall where they went to at first, and there was 2 camps, on one side of the road was for artificers, on the other side of the road was just for the …. for the navy …. right …. and he was in the …. because he wanted to be an artificer.

I didn’t even know what an artificer means, but it means …. a specialist …. that’s what it means, isn’t it?

So, he had to pass exams every …. every month or so …. and he had to …. maybe 3 exams …. and he had to pass them all …. didn’t pass them all but he was of that class then …. then he passed them all, so eventually, he passed them all, then he went on submarines …. then …. and that …. yes, he did 22 years …. right ….

That’s his daughter there …. right …. who married the captain which he’s French …. and …. he now …. he lives at Gosport …. he came …. when he’d done his service …. in the Navy ….

He came out …. he worked on yachts …. oh, for about 4 or 5 years [actually 15 years] he worked on these millionaire yachts as their engineer …. you know …. and it is only like probably 2 years ago that he stopped working on the yachts and he’s now …. he’s now 58 …. so, what he works now …. he works for an engineering company now …. at Gosport …. because he got married …. he got married at Gosport which is HMS Dolphin …. like, it’s …. it’s diesel electric, diesel electric, but the first one he was on was the Conqueror …. the one that …. but he didn’t actually serve …. a lot of the Falklands …. because the Conqueror was the one that sank the Belgrano …. right …. but he was ashore …. those …. they had to do so many months on board, then they swapped over …. and he was ashore there at Faslane in Scotland …. so, he didn’t go there …. he’d been to the Falklands ….

The other lad, our Austin, he …. he works for British Nuclear Fuels and is a Chartered Electrical Engineer …. He’s wrote that on the back of that, actually …. because I said “he’ll be asking about ….” I says “What’s your rank?” He’s well up …. you know, he goes to meetings and he goes abroad a lot …. you know, but I think he is into safety as well …. so, he is …. he works for BNFL which my wife worked for BNFL …. she worked there in Standards ….

And when my lad came off …. the one who was in the submarines …. when he came off, that’s the boat he went on …. it’s a training ship for young lads …. but other than that, you know, I mean …. he’s got a boy and a girl, our Philip …. he’s …. the lad …. he’s …. he works in a Care Home in Gosport. He’s married, his wife is the boss …. he’s next …. so he works in this Care Home …. old folks home, it is …. right …. and that’s his sister there, what got married …. she works on boats …. now …. and that, and married the captain.

Michael: I can’t think of a better thing to do!

Eric: Now, the other one …. our Austin …. who lives at Birchwood, Oakland. His daughter works for …. British Nuclear …. British …. British Medical Corporation [British Medical Association] at Manchester. When anybody has any complaints against …. doctors or anything like that …. that’s where they’re coming to …. and the other lad, he works in an engineering factory. He’s due to retire anytime. He says “I’m going to retire ….” So, he went there as an apprentice …. When he was an apprentice there at 16 …. when he came …. he was at Grammar School …. and that’s all …. He …. at Urmston Grammar School, he was at …. and, he …. He went there as an apprentice, so he must have been there 40 odd years, so …. he’ll be due for a good pension and that …. So, he is ready to pack in anytime when he is 60 …. that’s what he is on about anyhow …. so …. anyhow …. he lives at …. he lives in Warrington but at Oakwood …. near Birchwood ….

Michael: I think we are probably coming towards the end of the interview now, Eric …. but I always like to ask the question …. If …. you …. what would be your advice to someone growing up in the new world …. if you like …. Do you have any sort of philosophy on life at all …. I mean, it is quite a tricky question, this one, but …. sometimes people come up with quite interesting ideas ….

Eric: Well, I ….

Michael: What would your advice be?

Eric: Well, if I was a young lad now …. I would …. and couldn’t get a job …. which …. and they are fed up with a job …. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to join the forces …. because they can join the Air Force, they could join the Navy, they could join the Fleet Air Arm …. They could learn a trade in there …. and when they come out after doing a certain length of time, you know, they got their qualifications to get another job ….

I wouldn’t hesitate with that …. I wouldn’t hesitate anybody to join the Fire Brigade …. you know …. I wouldn’t, I’d just, you know, I’d say “You join the Fire Brigade”, you know …. It’s a pensionable job, and you know, make a man of you!

You go fighting a fire, or go searching for somebody in darkened places with breathing apparatus on …. I had to do all that …. You know, I have done all that …. so …. anyhow …. you see at 29 …. that was the earliest …. that was …. I couldn’t …. I couldn’t …. you see, you had to sign on for it …. to be a fireman at 29, because you had to get 25 years’ service in, so you had to finish at 55 ….

Well, after 20, well 30, you could do …. because you could get the 25 in …. but after that, you couldn’t …. What it’s like now, I don’t know ….

But, I …. when I left the Soapworks, to join the fire …. I was actually in a team there, part time …. with the Fire Brigade at the Soapworks …. you know …. we never were anywhere, or anything like that ….

The last years of my working at Risley …. right …. Atomic Energy …. I came off the Fire Section at …. when I was 60, and I was in the …. what did you call …. RD2 Workshop …. in the Engineers’ then, as a mate … RD2 …. Research and Development 2 …. because they had testing things in, for the nuclear and all that …. and …. and then I …. after I were there 6 months, I got …. Progress …. I was in Progress until I was 65 …. then I came off …. but I …. when I came off work …. finished at 65 ….

I used to play bowls, a lot of bowls …. I used to play for a team in Cadishead and I used to play for a team near Warrington …. my Dad was a good bowler and he taught me when I was at the Soapworks …. because at the Soapworks, they had a big …. it’s where Tescos is now ….

Down now …. they’d had a big playing field …. a football pitch on it …. and a cricket pitch …. and they had tennis courts, 2 bowling greens …. And of a dinner time, when I was …. when I was on my dinner hour …. used to have my dinner …. and then have a game of bowls …. because it was, you know, on the green …. it was into works …. and my Dad used to teach me …. so, I was pretty good actually …. at bowls, it was all right ….

And I used to play snooker, any sport, I’d play it, but I wouldn’t play it unless I could master it …. do you know what I mean? I’ve played John Spencer, who was the world champion at one time, I played him at snooker when I was a member of Cadishead Conservative Club …. and he …. He used to come every so often …. to the clubs …. and he come to Cadishead Cons, and so …. about 2 or 3 of us played him …. and then he used to …. have a raffle …. it was for charity …. it was for ….It was a charity thing, it was …. and we used to raffle a cue …. and that was it …. so, I played then, but ….

Michael: I think we’re probably at the end …. and I really do appreciate …. thank you very much, Eric, for your ….

Eric: I talked your head off?

Michael: Not at all, you’ve done very well indeed and a very interesting interview as well, thank you very much ….

Recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester.

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