the fifties part one 1950 - 1954

Introduction to National Service (R.A.F.)

I reached 18 on January 7th 1950 and whilst that was not such a significant age then as it is now, it did have one major significance. You now became liable for National Service or Conscription as it is perhaps better known. Shortly after my 18th birthday I received my call-up papers and was summoned to a medical examination and some sort of IQ test. I obviously passed both of these test because I was drafted in what was at that time, His Majesties Royal Air Force. In April 1950 I was sent a railway warrant to Warrington in Lancashire from whence I went on to Royal Air Force Padgate.Padgate Air Force Camp
Basic Training
Royal Air Force Padgate was situated just outside Warrington in Lancashire and I spent 6 weeks there doing what they called basic training. The prime object of such training seemed to be to submit you to as much physical and mental torture as they could devise. We were equipped with a uniform and a pair of boots that were quite unlike anything that my poor feet had previously experienced. We also got a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle to be used primarily for drill practice. We were taught how to march and swing that rifle which initially seemed to weigh a ton but ultimately became as light as a feather. Our muscles protested violently and we used all manner of unguents to soothe them. I remember that Sloans Liniment was a favourite.

Padgate Hut.A Typical Padgate billet.

I learnt how to swear properly, what girls were really for, how to smoke and drink and all those good things. We also got extremely fit. They put saltpetre in our tea to subdue our sexual urges. We didn’t realise this until and old lag who was married tipped us off and told us to avoid the tea if we were planning any sexual exploits in the foreseeable future.
We learnt how to fire a rifle. We were each given 50 rounds of ammunition to fire at various targets on the firing range. I handed one of my targets back to the Sergeant in charge without a blemish on it. He was not amused. We learnt how to fire a Bren gun and a Sten gun. We were subjected to a G.V.K. test. This stood for General Vocational Knowledge. It took most of the day and involved a series of intelligence tests and interviews. I did quite well on the tests scoring around 94% overall. You were given a long list of possible trades for which the Air Force would train you. You were asked to select 5 trades in order of preference. I chose five that were associated with electronics since this was a hobby of mine. During the interview that followed this selection of trades, the officer in charge questioned me as to why I had chosen such a list when in "civvy" street I was a Timber Agent. I pointed out to him that if I had to be in this mob for 18 months (it was later extended to 2 years) I was going to try and get something out of it. He thought that was an excellent attitude and at the same time asked if I would be willing to go abroad. Naturally I gave the same answer and was eventually sent to Egypt, more about this later.
In due course the basic training was over and we got 1 or 2 weeks leave. During the leave we got our postings in the mail and I was posted to No.3 S. of R. T. (School of Radio Training) at Compton Bassett near Calne in Wiltshire. Here I was to be trained as a G.W.M.I.C. (Ground Wireless Mechanic, Inter Command) This grandiose title meant that I was to be given the equivalent of a 3 year university course in telecommunications, however it was to be "crammed" into a period of just 6 months.
Compton Bassett.
RAF Compton Bassett Main GateI spent the rest of 1950 stationed here. Compton Bassett was a tiny village just outside Calne in Wiltshire. Calne’s claim to fame was that it was the home of the then popular Harris sausages and pork pies. I have no idea if they still exist. The closest town of any size was Chippenham. You got from Calne to Chippenham via a single railway line with a "Push Pull" train. This was a great novelty to me since they were becoming an increasing rarity even in 1950. The only other such train I had encountered was the "Stanmore Rattler" that ran between Harrow and Wealdstone station and Stanmore via Belmont.
R.A.F Compton Bassett, or No.3 S of R T to give it it’s official title was a large sprawling camp that housed around 500 persons. A large part of the camp was devoted to classrooms and laboratories. They had working examples of the then current hi tech communications devices. Receivers and transmitters were available for training. We were taught all about inter-command communications which at that time used radio transmitted signals that drove teleprinters. The system was extremely sophisticated for that era and considered to be "state of the art". The course included basic electronics and all the principles of how M.C.V.F. (Multi Channel Voice Frequency) and F.S (Frequency Shift) transmissions worked. Naturally I’ve forgotten a large amount of the technical aspects but I still recall the general principals. The teleprinters were, again bang up to date, and I recall that they were Creed 7b models. These were still in use right up into the mid 70’s but have been almost totally replaced by facsimile machines.
John "Blossom" Bloom

If I was ever asked to write an article for Reader’s Digest under their heading "The most interesting person I’ve met" it would probably be about John Bloom or "Blossom" as we nicknamed him.
John was a east end London Jew whose father was a tailor.  Since the work at Compton Bassett was very intensive, 8 hours a day, five days a week for 6 months, the RAF granted us a 36 hour pass every weekend and a 48 hour pass every 4 weeks. This meant that we could go home every weekend if we could manage to get there and back between Saturday morning and midnight Sunday. For those of us living in the Greater London Area the RAF provided a coach service that ran from Compton Bassett parade ground to Kings Cross station each Saturday at noon or thereabouts. The fare for this trip was 17/6d return. (87.5p) Since we were only paid about £2.00 a week this was a bit steep. I used it a couple of times but most of the time I hitch-hiked to Pinner. We found that vehicles would usually pick us up if we were in uniform and I was always luck enough to get pretty near home. Sometimes even got right to the corner of Woodhall Drive. Since it was too chancy to hitch hike back, we had to be in camp before midnight Sunday or face being charged, we always returned by train late Sunday afternoon. The fare was about 7/6d (37.5p) and you went from Paddington to Chippenham and then on by the "push pull" train to Calne.
Now back to "Bloss". Through a friend he was able to investigate the economics of running a coach from Wiltshire to Kings Cross. He found that not only could he considerably reduce the fare but also offer a better service. His initial price for a return trip was 12/6 (62.5p) against the RAF’s 17/6(87.5), This eventually fell to 9/6 (47.5p) when the volume increased. "Blossoms Pirate Coaches" as they were known started from outside the camp gate. The RAF would not allow them inside. Being enterprising Bloss ran some variations, for example, instead of just running a service on Saturdays, departing at lunchtime, he initiated a service that left early Saturday morning, around 7:30 I believe. There was also the "skivers specials" which left Friday evening. These specials were for those who felt they could get away with "skiving off" on Friday evening instead of waiting for the official time of Saturday morning. Discipline was fairly slack at Compton Bassett and I don’t think anyone ever got caught or charged for skiving off. Blossoms Pirate Coaches boomed. At one time he was running up to 17 coaches each weekend. Each coach seated 35 airmen. He had various of us acting as booking clerks and sort of couriers. I was one of these privileged persons. We couriers eventually got to travel free of charge in return for our services.
The RAF were livid! The profit from their service had been used to supplement the SSAFA funds (Soldiers Sailors and Air Force Association) Since they were down to just one half filled coach per week the whole thing started to fall apart. The RAF sought and obtained an injunction in Hounslow court. This injunction banned Bloss from running a regular fare paying bus service without a license. He obtained a stay of execution pending his application for such a license. His application was turned down! No doubt the RAF’s lawyers were better than Bloss’s, that’s assuming he even had one which I doubt. Nothing daunted, Bloss formed a club. It was known as the "Compton Bassett Road Travellers Association". The aims and objectives of the club, set out in the constitution, were " To travel by bus between Compton Bassett and London". The membership fee was the same as the fare and entitled you to a "free" trip to and from London. They, the authorities, couldn’t touch him. Bloss’s Pirate Coaches continued for the remainder of my time at Compton Bassett and for all I know may well have gone on for a long time after I left. Bloss obviously made a profit out of the whole operation. Enough to buy himself a beat up old car which he then used to travel in "style" whilst supervising his coach service... oops sorry "club".
There is an extremely interesting corollary the this story. I totally lost touch with Bloss even though we became quite close friends during our concurrent stay at Compton. He was on a different course to me and was posted somewhere in the UK whilst I went to the Middle East. Many years later, sometime in the late fifties or even early sixties there were a series of press stories and advertisements about this new washing machine company, The Rolls Electromatic Co. Ltd. They produced a twin tub washing machine for considerably less than the competition, Hoover, Hotpoint and so on. They also offered very competitive financing and extensive after sales service. The ads got larger and larger until they were appearing in all the dailies and Sundays on a regular basis. And guess who started and owned Rolls Electromatic, that’s right dear old Bloss. I don’t think the story has ever been chronicled fully but it would make fascinating reading. John Bloom, he was now known by his proper name, became a multi millionaire, lost it all, started again, went to America and was always in the news. What happened to him I have no idea, I wonder if he’s still alive. No reason why he shouldn’t’ be. We are contemporaries so he would be in his early sixties at the time of writing (1994).
Off to fight the Wogs (Sorry! - Egyptians)

I was posted to HQ, MEAF, TCM, CCS... Pretty impressive eh? It stood for...Headquarters Middle East Air Force, Telecommunications Centre Mideast, Circuit Control Centre.
HQMEAF - Ismalia - Egypt
Before you can go abroad with the services you have to be prepared with various bits of special kit and the mandatory jabs for such unpleasant sounding things like yellow fever, typhoid and tetanus. We were first sent to RAF Hednesford in Staffordshire between Cannock and Rugely.. The camp is built on what appears to be a small plateau and since we were there in early January it was extremely cold and nasty. We got all our jabs and our tropical kit as well as some lectures on how to behave whilst overseas on His Majesties Service. King George the VI was still alive and on the throne at this time. We were also told that we were to be sent out via the MEDLOC route. I’m not sure I ever new what to particular acronym stood for. Actually thanks to Google, it stands for "Mediterranean Line of Communication". In actual fact what it meant was that we were to travel part by boat and part by train to Port Said. The journey started with a train from Hednesford or thereabouts to Harwich. Thence by steamer across to the Hook of Holland. A pretty rough crossing as I remember it. Then onto a train which took us across Holland, France Austria and into Northern Italy to Trieste. He we boarded another boat for the four day voyage down the Adriatic to Port Said in Egypt. Somehow I got lumbered with kitchen duty on the later part of the journey and spent a large part of the sea voyage trying not to be sick whilst working in the hot and smelly kitchens. At Port Said we again got on a train and travelled down alongside the Suez canal to Ismailia.
H.Q.M.E.A.F. had no airfield attached to the camp and its main function was as an administrative centre for the activities of the R.A.F. in the Middle East. For this reason telecommunications were a vital part of its activities. The Circuit Control Centre formed part of the entire telecommunications centre which had several divisions. These included the maintenance workshop, the signals room and a NAAFI of which more later.
HQ MEAF was just across the Sweet Water Canal from downtown Ismailia. We arrived around lunchtime and the temperature was up in the 70’s. We found this delightful but the residents were complaining of the cold! We found out why the following year after we had become acclimatised.
After lunch we were taken to our final sections, I was sent to the Control Centre, two of my friends were sent to the Receiving Station about 2 miles up the road. We were shown the equipment and told to forget everything we had learnt at Compton Bassett as we would now find out how things were really done. We were also warned about a certain Corporal Ken Sterritt who was a right bastard, and whose "watch" you should avoid at all costs. Later that day, whilst having tea in the mess, I was conveying this gem of information to my colleagues, when there was a tap on my shoulder. "I heard that" a voice said, "Let me introduce myself". "I’m Corporal Sterritt and I will personally see to it that you, laddie, are on my watch". He was as good as his word and made my life absolute hell for the next few weeks. Eventually we got quite friendly and it turned out he’d had a pretty lousy life, he was a regular airman by the way. We actually became a really good team and ran the CCS like clockwork when we were on watch.

The Main equipment racks in TCM CCSCircuit Control centre - RAF Ismailia

The Circuit Control Centre was the "nerve centre" of all RAF telecommunications for the Middle East. We were only answerable to the UK and all the other RAF stations with whom we had communications were under our control. We decided which circuits would be operating, when and who would use them and so on. We controlled both the transmitting station and the receiving station. These were both located away from us so as to prevent electrical interference with our delicate equipment. We were connected to both by heavy underground cables. Every so often the Egyptians would cut these cables and we would lose contact for a few hours. Since the cables were the Army’s domain we had to wait until they repaired them before transmissions could begin again. All communications with our satellite RAF stations were by teleprinter. We had a potential six channels to the UK although in practice only two were used regularly, one for traffic the other we used for engineering messages. We also used our engineering channel to get messages to our family and friends back home and to get the football results on a Saturday afternoon. We also had circuits to Aden, Cyprus, Malta and Mozambique. circuits was mostly posting information, in other words troop movements. They were also used for the ordering of materials, food, spare parts etc. It was our job to make sure that all the circuits were working to the best of their ability at all time. This sometimes proved tricky for various reasons. Whilst our equipment was "state of the art" it was not that reliable. For one thing all of it was valve (tube) driven. With the high temperatures in Egypt, electronic failure was pretty common. The dust and sand were also factors. We were constantly cleaning switch contacts and relays to keep them operating. The actual teleprinters, autoheads and perforators were not entirely reliable and needed constant maintenance. We had separate engineers who maintained this part of the hardware although we had to understand when the problem was being caused by our electronics or the more mechanical part of the chain.
We lived in a six unit billet block This unit had three floors each with two complete 30 bed billets separated by a central landing off which were the bathrooms and showers. Down each side of the billet were balconies out on which we slept at the height of the summer. Down the centre of each room there was a row of ceiling fans. This was our only form of air conditioning. Temperatures got up around 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer and only fell to the 70’s in the so called winter. The first summer it was pretty tough, however you got used to it and so did your body. It was a very dry heat, no humidity at all. In fact in the 15 months I was there it only rained once and that for just about 20 minutes. But I digress, this section is about Ali. He was our billet boy. We each paid him the equivalent of 3/- a week for his services. In return he did all our washing, made our beds, cleaned our shoes and buttons. He cleaned the billet and did the ironing. He had a wonderful way of dampening your shirts before ironing them. He had a bottle of tap water from which he took large swigs. Then he sprayed it our from his mouth onto your shirt. Nor particularly hygienic but effective. If you wanted your collars starched he just substituted liquid starch for the water and applied it in the same way. Ali was a wealthy man by comparison with his contemporaries. He received the equivalent of £4.10 (£4.50) a week from our billet and this was more than many of his fellow Arabs earned in a year. If you happened to see him downtown on his day off, he’d be drinking in the best bars, very smartly dressed in an expensive hand tailored jelaba.
R and R in Egypt

Most of the time I spent working at CCS I was on shift work. We had two types of shift sequence. A four watch system and a three watch system. The former was the preferred type but we were sometimes short of people and so had to revert to the three watch system. They worked like this:
Day 1 On 06:00 to 12:00 (Mornings) On 18:00 to 23:59 (Evenings)
Day 2 On 12:00 to 18:00 (Afternoons) On 23:59 to 06:00 (Middles)
Day 3 Off from 06:00 for rest of day
Day 4 Off all day
Day 5 Same as Day 1 and so on.
In practice we varied the hours slightly to suit ourselves. For example we didn’t usually start the morning watch until 07:00. This made the middle watch an hour longer but gave us an extra hour in bed in the morning. We also tried to start the middle watch around 23:00 or 23:30 to give the evening guys a reasonably early night. As there were always two of us on watch we could take it in turns to sleep during the middle watch. The sleeping we did in an old aircraft seat which reclined. That is until we found it was riddled with bed bugs. After we had been nearly bitten to death we ceremoniously burnt the bloody thing. Middle watch was never particularly busy, several of the circuits closed down during the night and so we had little to do. Around 3.00 am we would have a light snack in our small section NAAFI. This was run by another Arab called Ali. His baked beans on fried bread had to be tasted to be believed, especially at 3:00 in the morning!
When we worked on the above 4 watch system we had virtually two whole days off. When you came off Middle watch you were supposed to sleep at least for the morning. Frequently we skipped this mandatory sleep and went straight to the beach.
The Beach
 Blue Lagoon - Lake Timsah - Egypt
We took the camp bus to the local beach. The bus was actually an air force truck with some seats in the back. I’ve forgotten what the fare was, if there was one. The beach was on lake Timsah and was organized by the RAF for RAF personnel and their families. Lake Timsah is one of the chain of salt water lakes that form parts of the Suez canal. The water was extremely salty. Its here that I learnt to swim. you could hardly fail. Because of the salinity you could literally sit cross legged and with your arms folded in the water and not sink.
We beach itself was beautiful and sandy the only problem was that the sand got so hot it was difficult to cross it with bare feet. You may recall the scene in the movie "10" where Dudley Moore jumps from towel to towel to get to the water’s edge. Then the beach boy carries him. In case you thought that was an exaggeration, it wasn’t, the sand in Egypt got just as hot. There was some kind of snack bar down at the beach and we used to spend whole days there when we were off watch. Our life was really quite pleasant and unstressful.
Outdoor Cinemas

Outdoor Cinema
Because of the latitude and the relatively high ambient temperatures we had access to two outdoor cinemas. One the "Astra" was inside our camp. The other "The ABC" was in Moascar Garrison, the Army camp just down the road. These outdoor cinemas had very good sound systems and rows of wicker chairs arranged just like a normal cinema. The only difference was that there was no roof. In a way they were like the North American ‘Drive ins" but with chairs instead of parking places. I was quite delightful to sit under the stars and watch a movie. I don’t remember a single movie that I saw there !




Trouble with the Egyptians

In late summer 1950 General Neguib led a revolution to depose King Farouk. This was successful and the new military government decided that they no longer wanted the British to be in Egypt. In a series of riots and minor battles there was some quite serious fighting in Ismalia and the surrounding countryside. All our Arab staff left the camp. This left us without any NAAFI facilities, cleaning, billet boys, hot water and many other functions that the Arabs normally handled. Most of them did not want to leave, remember Ali and his monumental income, but of course pressure was brought to bear on them by family and friends and fear of reprisals was uppermost in their minds.
We had to fend for ourselves and this came quite hard after being pampered for so long. However we managed and improvised wherever possible.
Instant Hot Water

For whatever reason there was no longer any hot water for shaving, washing or making tea. Being a high tech billet our engineers soon came up with a solution.
The recipe comprised:
One galvanised fire Bucket
One empty tin can
One piece of 1" x 2’ wood about 18"" long
Length of cable with crocodile clips on one end and a suitable plug on the other
A quantity of water
Method: Remove both ends of the tin can with tin opener. Cut can lengthwise from top to bottom and flatten to form a single sheet of tin approximately 10" x 6". Bend tin at right angles along short edge to make flange about 1/2" wide. Nail to the 1’ x 2" so that tin can hang down into bucket when 1 x 2 is placed across the top. Fill bucket with water. Connect one crocodile clip to the tin and the other to the top edge of the bucket. Appoint someone to watch bucket to ensure that it doesn’t boil. Plug cable into outlet. Watch as lights dim and ceiling fans slow down. The 220 volt current flowed through the tin via the water to the bucket. The resistance thus generated heated the water very rapidly. A 2 gallon bucket of cold water was brought to the boil in just a few minutes. You needed to make sure the water didn’t actually boil since the agitation of the boiling water caused the tin to "flap" about and eventually hit the side of the bucket causing an instant explosion and blowing a hole in the bucket. We managed to ruin every fire bucket in the entire complex over the ensuing weeks! We had to replace all the fuses with heavy duty copper wire to stop them blowing. This was no problem until one night a particularly bad accident blew out one phase of the 3 phase supply. This resulted in 440 volts being applied to the entire billet’s electrical system. We watched fascinated as one by one the light bulbs became extremely bright and then exploded. The ceiling fans started to rev up like aero engines causing enormous down draughts. Needless to say all the evidence was quickly hidden whilst the camp’s electrical engineers tried to fathom out what had happened. We were without electricity for the remainder of that night.
Back to Civvy Street

I was "demobbed" in April 1952 and rejoined Churchill & Sim the same month. When I contacted C & S to tell them I was once again available I was summoned to bt interviewed by the then new chairman , John Sim. Old Chatterton had died and his younger son John Chatterton Coysgarne Sim had taken over as chairman. His elder brother Alex Sim was passed over since he was considered to be something of a playboy.
The interview was interesting since it had been decided that I was to be put in charge of the duplicating and photocopying department. However I had had two years to consider what I wanted to do when I "got out". Having weighed up the best chances for the future I had decided that the Plywood department was to be my career. There were several reasons for this decision. Firstly the person who had originally got me into C & S, the friend of Brenda’s father, was at the time of my joining, the head of the plywood department. He was Joe West a central European Jew who was an extremely successful businessman. Unfortunately he had died around 1949 and had been succeeded by Charles Tross. Secondly as far as I knew the plywood department was a "one man band" and one therefore stood the best chance of promotion. Thirdly the idea of plywood and ancillary products seemed to me to be more interesting that just plain old timber.
When John Sim told me of their plans for me and asked if that was OK I replied , no. He was somewhat taken aback since you didn’t normally argue with such dignitaries as the chairman of the board. I stood my ground and explained my reasons for wanting to join the plywood department. He said he would talk to Charles Tross and see if they needed a junior. By the way the department had now increased by 100% to two persons. Charles Tross had been joined by Wilfred Wild who had previously been with the Timber Control (BOT SW1 mentioned earlier.). After a few days I got a phone call to say that they would be pleased to see me back the next Monday as the junior clerk in the plywood department. Needless to say I was delighted.
First lessons in commerce.

My duties in the Churchill & Sim Plywood department started off with me reorganising the filing system. At that time the company was largely dealing with a government controlled timber control and this involved a series of contracts for plywood, mostly from Russia. I created neat files for each contract and each morning I did all the filing from the previous day’s work. My bosses, Charles Tross and Wilfred Wild frequently had long and boozy lunches and returned around 3:30 in the afternoon somewhat the worse for wear. Charles on occasions disappeared into the Director’s toilet, where he promptly fell asleep on the pan, much to the annoyance of his co-directors who wanted to pee ! He would also frequently decide that now would be a good time to dictate a letter or two and would call down one of his secretaries (he always had two for some reason). The poor girl would have a hard time interpreting his drunken ramblings and she would also do her best to suppress her inevitable gigglings as his elbow kept slipping off the edge of his desk. For all his faults he was an extremely nice man, and very kind and helpful to me. He married very late in life, around 48 I believe. He and his wife Priscilla moved to some where in Essex and seemed to have an idyllic life. Wilfred, who had been in the secret service during the war, was married to a Russian girl. He spoke absolutely fluent Russian, so much so that he frequently would be carrying on a telephone conversation with a Russian from their agency in London, in Russian of course, and would hang up and continue talking to Charles in the same language. He didn’t realise that he was still speaking Russian. He was also a great man, unfortunately the effects of his wartime experiences caught up with him and he suffered a serious nervous breakdown and had to retire early.

It is now 1952 and Brenda and I were now going very steadily. She was working at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge and we used to travel up to London together each morning. This meant that I had to leave much earlier than was really necessary and consequently arrived at C & S before the official opening hour of 9:00. This enabled me to get the filing done before my bosses came in and this impressed them no end. Impressed that is until one morning I was late!. I forget why, but you would think that I had committed some cardinal sin. The endless times that I had arrived way before I needed to were immediately forgotten. I didn’t get in early again ever after. I used to go to the ABC Tea Rooms on Cannon Street and wait until 9:00. The filing got done during the morning whilst my bosses were present!
John Mann

I was still heavily into Model Railways and by some miracle the son of one of Churchill & Sim's directors was also an enthusiast. His father Charles Mann was a senior director and John was something of a black sheep. He was technically a softwood salesman but spent most of his time in the office reading Model Railway magazines. Anyway he was a good friend and we went to lunch together just about every working day. These lunches usually included a visit to one or more of the various model railway shops that were within lunch-hour travelling distance. I recall that our favourites were A.B.C. Railways at London Bridge station, City Models in the Liverpool Street arcade and another just round the corner from City Models the exact name of which escapes me. If we felt we had a chance to extend our lunch hour by a few minutes we would take the inner circle line to Charing Cross and visit Hamblings in Cecil Court just off Charing Cross Road.
John was always ready with a quick solution to any problem, his favourite comment being "You know the trick for that". Frequently he didn't know it either but would make something up as he went along. He eventually got married and I believe had a couple of children. I lost touch with him during the early 70's when I finally quit C & S, but more of that later.
An opportunity of a lifetime (or was it?)

In late 1954 my boss, Charles Tross, asked me to stay late one evening saying that he had something serious to tell me. Of course I thought the worst and felt uneasy all day. It turned out that they had been discussing my future with company and offered me the chance to move to the Liverpool office and start a Plywood department up there. At the time it seemed like a great honour and although it would mean leaving home and branching out on my own it was too good to miss. Naturally Brenda was not overjoyed but in those days you more or less did as your employer told you. It was decided that I would go up for a couple of weeks and try it out.

Tom Polglas - Churchill & Sim LiverpoolHugh Naylor - Churchill & Sim Liverpool
Tom Polglase - 1955  & Hugh Naylor - 1955 

I travelled up in early December and on the first night was met at Lime Street station by the then Liverpool office manager, Tom Polglase. Unknown to me he was an alcoholic, but nevertheless absolutely charming and very well thought of in the timber trade. He had booked me into the Adelphi in Liverpool for the first night and we immediately went into the lounge where we met a few of his drinking pals and proceeded to imbibe liberally. Although I was not unfamiliar with "the demon drink" I had nothing like the capacity that Tom had. I did my best to keep up but ended up staggering up to bed and feeling awful next day. Tom introduced me around the Liverpool trade and was extremely kind to me. The penalty I paid for this kindness was having to accompany him to an endless series of boozy lunches and dinners. This is where I learnt to drink and soon increased my capacity to several double gins before lunch, a bottle of wine with lunch and liqueurs after lunch. During this period of initiation I also found that I could sell. I gradually started to build up a list of faithful customers and actually started to sell some stuff. Christmas ‘54 passed uneventfully except that now I was engaged and officially living up in Liverpool. One of my other Liverpool colleagues was Hugh Naylor, his father was a director of Churchill & Sim and ran the Hull office. Hugh was a great guy and we got on famously.
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