Jack T McDonnell

Further Memories

I have just managed to borrow a copy of "Firm Friends" from Crawley Library courtesy of Barnet library and after reading "The War Years" add the following:-p.72, Bill Garfield's comments on Pat Sullivan are so right. He would defend his Inspectors against any criticism until you were alone with him and than blast you to hell... Many years later when working at K.B. Footscray I heard that he had died.

As for Bill Garfield, I must have joined at almost the same time, we were both hourly rated but in a very short time he was made staff. He often left early on Fridays to spend the weekend with his wife who was living in Petersfield, nobody seemed to care. He was always willing to pass on any information about radio or amplifiers but had a habit of breaking off in the middle of a discussion to go down to the canteen open the Grand Piano, which was always kept locked, so he must have had a key, sitting down and playing for 10 or 20 minutes and then returning to his place of work and continuing the discussion as if nothing had happened. He was Concert standard. Also a very good table tennis and tennis player despite his bulk.

When it was decided to form the Recorded Music Society the amplifier was built in the model shop under some development number, the output consisted of a pair of PX4 triodes in push pull. We used to perform in the evening in the canteen, each of us presenting our favourite classics, I still have the 78's that I presented one evening whilst the Ack Ack guns tried to blank out the music, inappropriately "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" we just turned the volume up.
Bill told us on one occasion that after a tennis party near his house he woke all the area in the middle of the night because he had forgotten to turn the volume down on his baby alarm, which had been set high during the tennis to alert them if baby cried.
Other notable names in the radio test department apart from Bill Hartley, were Les Worringham, Slightham, Wilkinson. I used to shoot on the rifle range under the eye of Wilf Fuller .There was so much social activity on site.

I was very friendly with all the Radio apprentices, in fact many thought I was one, we often got up a party to go to town to a theatre or concert or ice skating at Queen's ice rink or roller skating at Ally Pally. I was also a member of the apprentice fire team, consisting of Tony Brasher, Jimmy Litterick, Eddy ??, Teddy Outten, who was a good friend of mine, we often stayed at each other's homes. Teddy had a withered left leg, due to polio as a child but this did not stop him playing a very good game of table tennis. In fact the last time I met Teddy was at a inter location match at North Woolwich when I was persuaded to turn out for North Woolwich by my future wife Alma Ainger who worked in the chemical labs, he still beat me.

Norman Coyston who married Ida after she had won a court case against her Mother, the Magistrate ruling that Norman was a responsible person and that he could see no reason why they should not marry… We gave them a big send off after the service at a large church in Oakleigh Road, with lots of tin cans tied to the back of the car. They rented a first floor flat in Tottenham and gradually made it a home. I remember Ida inviting me to tea and we cooked on a single gas ring standing on an orange box. For some reason Norman was called up, but we had some enjoyable evenings at the flat. I kept in touch for some time after the war, when they moved to a new house in Hertford we were amused to see a list on the garage wall of jobs to be done. The next time we visited them the list was longer, I often wonder if it was ever cleared?
"Bubs Allen" was also around at this time. The Radio apprentices were very enterprising, one time they started making and selling telegraph keys, beautifully made of solid brass with ebonite bases, the project foundered when the model shop foreman asked to see the drawings and works ticket.

When I joined the Inspection Department I was put on sub assembly work, mainly parts for TR 1082/83 also tank set no.9,in fact the last of these sets went out at this time with many cards of good wishes, including "We don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go. "They were as heavy as tanks and needed a lot of muscle to move them around. I was then put onto testing tuning coils in a room on the first floor of bldg.4 absolutely freezing as the conveyor system came up from the ground floor through an open ended tunnel. On night shift the charge hand spent many hours tuned into ships broadcasts, he had been a merchant telegraphist. I then returned to Bldg.8 on testing low power transmitters. on the first floor of bldg.8

About this time my Father was offered the manager's position at the Neasden Bata shop so we moved to Neasden and I bussed along the North Circular Road to Arnos Grove & then to the factory. I very nearly ran foul of the lateness to work tribunal, but cheekily suggested that either I started at a later time or that the first bus ran earlier. After a year my Father obtained the position of housekeeper at Pinner's Hall in the City so again we moved. I had then been moved to high power transmitters, with Bill Hartley & Wilkinson among others, on the first floor of bldg.8. Suddenly Pat Sullivan called me into his office & told me to report to a shadow factory at Ealing on the Great West Road near the Dome Garage, and was honest enough to tell me I had been chosen because I lived nearer to Ealing than any of the other testers thus saving time & money. Wilkinson was put in charge and his nephew Geoff taken on as a junior inspector. The factory was Scientific & Projections Ltd. who had been bombed out in Clerkenwell and relocated to Ealing, in a site previously making cosmetics immediately next to BOAC tower.

We set up a new test site for GL. coaxial units which were highly polished brass tubes and castings with polythene spacers, we had to test for sparking when rotating the aerial unit under VHF power, also vibration when aerial was spinning, but for this we needed a vibration table only obtainable from Germany this duly arrived via Switzerland.

It was at the end of the contract that we heard of the V1 on Bldg 8 and were told not to go back to Southgate for the time being. Eventually we returned to Standards and I realised how lucky I was to have been sent to Ealing as the spot which sustained the most damage was where I had been working in the measurements laboratory on the ground floor, with Jean Morris and Fred Tuttle. I was also very friendly with one of the tracers in the Radio drawing office, Joyce Blackmore.


I came across this photo in Oct 2003 in an old album, taken 1944 at Joyce Blackmore's 21st birthday. Somebody must have got hold of a film. Joyce is centre front, her elder sister Vee (Violet) 3rd.row 2nd from right. I am at back. Have no idea who the others are but suspect were all Radio draughtsmen and tracers.

I then spent some time in the building across Brunswick Park Road testing units for temperature stability which meant taking reading every 30mins, day and night, two of us were the only people on that site, very boring.

I eventually moved back to top floor Bldg.4 testing Admiralty and airborne units, TR1154/55 units, until end of war when I applied for release which was granted. Thus ending 7 years with STC. I did however return to the company at K.B. Foots Cray for a further 4 years in 1954.

End of Memories!!

PS. If any one has a copy of "Firm Friends" I would be pleased to purchase same.

[Received Friday 22nd August 2003]


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