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“ DEAR MR.CHALMERS”.

I have often heard it said by persons whose opinions I have valued, that the best stories
they have read or films they have seen, originated from situations that were true.
For that reason I have decided to share one of my many memories that are rusted on to
my ageing brain in it’s 80th year, with anyone that may be interested.
To do so, I would need to turn back the clock to the year 1965 where I held a senior
position in the quality control department of an aircraft factory and responsible for the
protective treatment and finishing of the company’s products. The company was
internationally known as “Hawker Siddely Aviation” and I had been an employee since
leaving school in 1941 during World War Two. I started work there as an apprentice
aircraft fitter and was conscripted for national service when I reached the age of eighteen
years. At that time, the company’s name was Blackburn Aircraft and specialised in the
production of naval aircraft. Four years later, with the ending of World War Two,
I was conscripted for National Service and I served my time overseas with the
occupational forces to relieve the service men and women who had served their country
during the war.
With the war over and production of aircraft drastically reduced, the company was
unable to maintain the level of employment and subsequently retrenchments became
necessary. The company was obligated to re-employ its apprentices returning from
National service but wages, which had always been supplemented with a bonus scheme,
were no longer attractive enough and I, along with most of those returned employees,
sought other work. The company was taken over by an overseas company named
General Aircraft with plans to build, what at that time, was considered to be a giant
transport aircraft. The company contacted lots of its ex-employees including myself and
in 1953 I was selected to be part of its inspection department. The aircraft turned out to be
a huge success and was in demand worldwide because of its size and the massive
payloads it could carry. It was named after a nearby small historic market town called
“Beverley.” The factory and it’s airfield, was and still is, located twelve miles from the
City of Hull and alongside the River Humber in East Yorkshire where my wife and I were
born and resided. My brother- in –law, Robert, like myself, had been with the company
for the same length of time and he also occupied a senior position as a supervisor. We
both loved our work. The financial rewards allowed us to live a comfortable standard of
living but production requirements meant putting in a lot of overtime. In the late “fifties”
the company was taken over by “Hawker Siddley Aviation” and its designers had created
a super naval bomber which had pushed the boundaries to be the first aircraft in the
world, that could break the sound barrier at a then, unbelievable height of only fifty feet
above sea level. This meant that it was the only aircraft in the world that could fly below
the radar screens of any nation and was equipped to deliver an atomic bomb. At such a
low height and speed it had to be built “like a battleship.” The first prototype was started
in a heavily protected experimental hanger that allowed only a limited number of
employees from all areas of trades and the inspection department. In previous years fuel
tanks were located in the wings of aircraft with “drop in” rubber tanks but with this new
aircraft, it had what were called “integral tanks,” which meant that the bulkhead
structures of the fuselage formed eight compartments where the inside skin was treated
with a synthetic rubber, applied by brush over all joints and rivets, and a piped layer of

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that same material was applied to the flanges that came in contact with the outside skin.
This also was a world “first.” The synthetic rubber was then given a special coating to
protect it from the aviation jet fuel. This work was carried out by operators dressed like
space men in protective suits and using spray guns. I was one of the employees who was
allowed access to the first five prototypes and was supplied with a special pass that would
allow entry. Each separate tank was pressure tested to 6 pounds per square inch and part
of my responsibilities was to sign the certificate of compliance to the government
aeronautical inspection department. This aircraft was called the Buccaneer and was in
full production for many years. It even saw service during the Gulf War. Another feature
that was a world’s first, was the external paint protection on that aircraft. For the very
first time, the paint scheme was listed as an essential inclusion on the government’s
defence secrets list. Based on epoxy resins and special pigments as a filler coating, and
given a white finish based on thermoplastic acrylic, it, in later years, became the acrylic
lacquer used on General Motor’s cars in America, England and Australia. This paint
scheme played a very important role that allowed the aircraft to execute the delivery of an
atomic bomb to a target. In a bombing mission, when the aircraft was ten miles away
from the target, the pilot would be obliged to put the controls into “automatic” and the
aircraft would perform a manoeuvre in the form of a loop, during which, the bomb would
be released. It could be described as throwing the bomb. It had been calculated by the
designers of the aircraft, that at a distance of ten miles away from the “flash,” the heat
would be enough to “anneal” the aluminium alloys that the aircraft was constructed from,
if not protected, and the aircraft would fall out of the sky. Most people would not be
aware that the alloys used in the production of aircraft would be subjected to heat
treatment and instant cooling that would strengthen the metal to cope with all the stresses
and strains that it would be subjected to in service. The heat from the “flash,” then, would
in effect, reverse the strengthening process. The white paint scheme would help to reflect
the heat and would actually soften following those critical moments and by the time the
flash took place, the aircraft would have travelled far enough to be out of danger. The
cooling effect on the white acrylic paint would allow it to harden.
Having supplied the reader with all the above information, I can now return to that year
of 1965. I had enjoyed a very good relationship with the chief inspector and his deputy
over the years, and they had both maintained an important interest in standards of quality
in the area of protective treatments and paint finishing.
Most employees were aware that the contracts for the Buccaneer were getting to that
stage when, unless more contracts were forthcoming the future was uncertain. With
government contracts, there was always a big demand on families with the need to work
long hours and then, as the contracts diminished, people started to bite their nails.
First signs to me was the deputy chief inspector who invited me into his office for a chat.
I was surprised to hear him tell me that he was moving on to a new job in the south of
England. He told me that if I was interested, he could get me a job as an assistant.
I asked him how much work did he anticipate that the future held for people employed
currently and was told that despite an expected period of 10 years of work involving the
supply of spares, the prospect of further contracts wasn’t as good. I thanked him for his
decency and candour but I doubted that a move of that nature was in our family’s best
interest. The cost of houses in the area , mentioned by my employer, were very expensive
and I doubted that the sale of my own home would have covered the amount involved in
the cost of a relocation.

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Our two sons were now teenagers and job prospects for their age group were not good
and my wife and I were equally as concerned for their future as we were for ourselves.
Australia was very prominent in the news with advertisements on the television and in
most newspapers canvassing the opportunities for people interested in migration. It was
experiencing an economic boom coupled with a shortage of workers to fill the vacancies.
We made lots of enquiries and were pleased to discover that new houses were affordable
for people like us. We gathered, as much information as we could from the library and
representatives giving informational lectures, about the different states, climate and where
job prospects would most likely provide for our needs. Melbourne, Victoria became our
chosen destination. The biggest incentive and the icing on the very tempting offers, was
the cost of travel. It was an almost unbelievable cost of only 10 pounds sterling each for
my dear wife and myself, with our two sons travelling free. Another attraction to my
family was the access to lovely beaches and lots of sunshine.
We made the most important decision that any family would be likely to make in a
lifetime, and duly applied for acceptance into the scheme. The conditions of acceptance
were that we would be required to stay for a minimum of 2 years for the costs of travel to
be paid by the Australian Government. Failing to satisfy this requirement would result in
having to repay the full fare for each of our family members.
Things moved very quickly and within six months we were supplied with details of
acceptance and possible dates of flights that would later be confirmed.
I informed my employer and gave lots of notice to be able to find a replacement for my
job. There was so much to be done. We had to find a buyer for our home and contents
that we would not be able to include in our move. We were lucky enough to find a buyer
despite a situation where houses were not easy to sell and my dear mother accommodated
us in her home for the last month prior to the expected date of departure. We had
promised we would send for her to follow us once we had found suitable accommodation.
Ten days before we were due to leave our home town and fly to start a new life in
Australia, was my last day at work It was a Friday and the working hours for that day
were only four and a half hours (7.30 to12.00 p.m.) It was an emotional time for me as I
spent most of that morning with workmates wishing my family and I a wonderful future.
I have to admit, I was close to tears. I spent some time clearing out a lot of documents
and other things that I had accumulated to make space for the person who I had trained to
take over my responsibilities. A system had been set up to streamline the disposal of
refuse by the installation in all departments, of metal racks which would hold large paper
sacks. They were spaced at about 15 feet apart along the walls of every department. The
items that I disposed of from my desk and filing cabinets, ended up in a couple of these
sacks.
At 11.30 a.m. I decided to pick up all what was due to me from the paymaster’s office.
I entered the large office block and tapped on the window for attention. One of the pay
clerks opened the window and I told him that I was leaving the company and had come to
collect salary that was due to me, and the payout cheque for my superannuation. These
would be accompanied with a healthcard and employment stamps, which employers were
obliged by law, to contribute for all employees every week. He duly obliged and returned
with a large packet that he placed to one side of the window and slightly out of my reach.
He then bent down below the level of the counter and lifted a very large, dust-covered
ledger that he placed on the counter. I stood there, wondering “what the hell he was
doing?”

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I soon found out when he asked me to supply him with “my” pass. My response was “I
haven’t got a bloody pass, what are you talking about?” He proceeded to tell me that I
was in possession of a pass that I had signed for in 1959 and under the instructions of the
new security chief, he could not give me what I was requesting unless I produced the
pass. I said, “Hang on there, I know lots of people at all levels who have moved on to
different employment and I have never heard about this rule”. He then confessed that it
was a new ruling brought in by the new Chief of security, Mr. Chalmers and as I would
have observed by the dust on the ledger, I was the first person to receive that honour. He
then advised me that I should approach Mr. Chalmers and explain that the pass was no
longer in my possession.
As I made my way to this Mr. Chalmers, I found myself wondering what sort of character
I was about to meet. I knocked on the door of his secretary and explained that I needed to
talk with her boss. She spoke with him on the intercom and told me he would see me. I
entered his office to behold this big portly fellow sprawled out in this great luxurious
chair with a massive cigar held aggressively between his lips. He had a long waxed
moustache that he twisted between thumb and forefinger before, in a superior voice, and
patronising tone, asked me my reason for this interview. I was to learn later that he was
an ex –army officer, a major or similar rank. I told him that I was leaving the company
that very same day and had been asked by the pay office to provide a pass which had
been issued to me in 1959 but had not been required since the early experimental work
and secrecy was dropped when the aircraft went into full production.
I went on to tell him that I had no idea where the pass could be and couldn’t understand
why I was the first person to be made an example of. He then opened a drawer and
showed me a pass.
“This, young man”, he said “is government property and until you return your pass, you
will not be able to start in a new place of employment.” By this time I was losing my
patience and in a defiant voice replied, “you can stuff your jobs up your arse because in
ten days time, my family and I will be winging our way to a new life in Australia” and
with my hands on my hips, took two paces back.. I thought, “you great big slob, beat
that!” He did beat me when he, with a triumphant look on his face, replied, “Oh! will
you?” and picked up his telephone to tell me that I was a security risk and all he needed
to do was to phone the authorities at Heathrow Airport and we would not be allowed to
leave the country. I knew then that I was wasting my time with this clown and
stomped out of the room.

Sweat poured off my forehead as I raced back to my empty work area just in time to see
the foreman of the paint shop about to mount his motor bike ready to go home. He
“froze” with a look of amazement when he saw me and a look of disbelief crossed his
face as he listened to my horror story. He assured me that he also hadn’t a clue as to what
had happened to his pass after such a long period of not being required.
As I was talking, I glanced along the walls of the department and noticed all the empty
racks that only an hour ago were holding all the rubbish bags. “Len,” I said, “what
happens to all the rubbish bags when they leave here,” “Why do you ask,” he replied.
I went on to tell him that there was a remote possibility that my pass could have ended
up in one, as I used to keep it attached to the inside of a note book during that period of
requirement. I then learned from Len that if I hurried, I might just catch the truck drivers

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before they delivered the rubbish to the tip. I was aware that the truck drivers usually
assembled in a parking area close to the company’s canteen and like greased lightning,
I headed in that direction. I was just in time and desperately, out of breath, told them of
my plight. They were very understanding and sympathetic as they had also experienced
problems with, as they described, “a bloody lunatic,” He, apparently, had interfered at
some stage. Dear readers, believe me, this story gets worse!
One of the drivers explained to me that he was willing to let me accompany him to the tip
but I would have to make my own way back as he would then be finished for the day.
“You know mate” he said, “it’s not going to be an easy task , as it’s a real shit heap out
there. What size shoes do you wear?” When I told him that I was a size seven he replied
that he had a spare pair of wellington boots but they were a size ten.
The tip was located at the far end of the flying field and was created by a landmine that
the enemy dropped in world war two. The runway itself, by international standards,
wasn’t considered to be a really long one and in fact , could not be used for take off and
landing purposes for the Buccaneer. All those aircraft had to be transported by road to the
small country town of Holme on Spalding Moor which had a bigger runway suitable for
jets. For me though, as I stood there looking towards the tip, it was a long, long way.
I glanced at my watch. It was 1.00. p.m. and I knew my dear wife would be worrying sick
about me as we had arranged to meet each other at the railway station in Hull.
She, with our two sons, had planned to do some shopping.
As I sat with the driver and the truck trundled along the road beside the runway, I just
prayed that this nightmare of a ride wouldn’t be in vain and wondered what odds a
bookmaker would give against being successful. I would soon know the answer to that
question. The truck came to a halt and we both stepped down from the cab. As I stood
surveying the circular shaped tip, the driver operated the mechanism that discharged it’s
load of those brown paper sacks and I watched intently as the sacks tumbled over the
edge to mix with the smelly, rotten, decaying mass of rubbish already in the tip. The
empathy on the driver’s face was obvious as he wished me all the best of luck with my
task and with his last words of, “you won’t forget to leave my gum boots with the
security bloke at the main gate, will you?” I assured him I would do so and as the truck
moved off, I turned to face westwards in the direction of the factory and specifically
towards the office where Chalmers would be reclining in his comfortable chair.
I raised my arms to the sky and shouted, “you bastard, Chalmers, I will live to see you
regret this.” At that same moment, I perceived threatening clouds beginning to form
overhead and felt a few drops of rain on my face. “Oh, no,” I thought, “please don’t rain.”
I then jumped into action! Like a madman wildly grabbing sacks and tipping out the
contents, the first of which happened to be smelly cabbage leaves and potato peelings
from the canteen, I realised how futile this task was going to be without a plan and told
myself that I would need to calm down and just pick out one sack at a time from different
areas. I was at least conserving some of my energy. My hopes were raised when I was
able to identify waste from the machine shop by the metal drillings that fell out. By this
time I had to watch that I didn’t venture too far down the steep slopes as the slime and
mud was already getting closer to the top of my gum boots than I was comfortable with.
In my search, I encountered plastic off-cuts, fabric off-cuts, rubber off-cuts, metal
turnings from the machine shop and even woodcuttings. One thing was evident. The sack
that I was searching for hadn’t been among the load of rubbish that I had watched being

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unloaded As I progressed around the perimeter of the tip, my hopes were suddenly raised
when I was able to identify waste products from my own working area.
I had “struck gold”. As I emptied the sack, I saw masking tape and lots of “wet and dry
paper” used for sanding down paint. I was getting, “warmer.” Not long after that
startling discovery, I began to see evidence that really lifted my spirits. I had found sheets
of documentation relevant to quality control records and then that moment when my little
green notebook slid to the ground. With trembling fingers, I opened the page where my
photo was displayed and attached to the inside of the cover. I have never been so happy to
behold my countenance. With the volume of sound that could almost be heard from
within the office of that great buffoon, Chalmers, I yelled “EUREKA”. Visualise if you
can, this grubby, smelly individual, staggering down that rough road in gumboots 3 sizes
too big, with his own shoes tied together by the laces and hanging around his neck.
Well, that would be what I looked like.
As I left the flying field area and approached the factory area, would you believe, I came
upon a group of the five most important men that represented the company. They were
the managing director, C.E.O. of quality control (my boss), production manager, and two
assistant managers. As they watched me come staggering towards them, they, almost in
unison, and with looks of astonishment, glanced at their watches.
“Where the hell have you been John?,” asked my boss. “I would have thought you would
be home by now. What’s happened?” With a voice bordering on being hysterical, I told
them the whole story. I could see they were lost for words. Chalmers had gone home, I
was told but I could rest assured that I would receive an apology from the company and
come Monday, Chalmers would be asked to “please explain”.
The words that really warmed my heart was when each member of that group of
high profiled people stood there and all confessed that they, like me, had no idea
what had happened to their passes.
I then made my way to the pay office and this time I spoke with the paymaster who
already had been told about what had taken place. He was so pleased when I told him I
had found my pass but he was totally unprepared for what he was about to hear me say. I
told him that I wasn’t going to hand it over because if it was as important as Chalmers
claimed it to be, then I was going to send it by registered post to Mr. Harold Wilson, the
prime minister at that time. The next thing was that I had four office assistants trying to
persuade me to change my mind. “Surrender the pass, John” they said, “and go home to
your family with your entitlements and try to put this experience out of your mind” Over
a cup of tea and a biscuit in the company of decent people who demonstrated that they
understood my predicament, I did calm down and with that bulky envelope safely in my
briefcase, made my way to the railway station.
I didn’t occupy a seat on the train, going home. I was too conscious of having picked up
the smells from the tip, even though I had made an attempt in the men’s room to make
myself respectable. I preferred to stand in the corridor. It was close to 4.30. p.m. when I
finally arrived home. Kathleen, my wife had been worried sick when the train she was
expecting to see me on arrived, and I wasn’t on it. After doing some shopping with our
two sons, a decision was made to return to my mother’s place where we were staying.
When she heard the story of my experiences, Kathleen, as expected, was furious.
That evening, my sister Joan and brother-in- law, Bob, came round to see us.
Bob had left work at 12.30 p.m. and it came as a complete surprise to hear my story.

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His immediate reaction was to say, “The man is just a pompous, unscrupulous and
insensitive bully who would, no doubt, squeal like a pig if someone did that to him.
His actions just don’t make sense, I mean, the aircraft was taken off the secrets list at
least four years ago. Why didn’t the company call all the passes in then”?
I asked Bob if he would do something for me and without hesitation, he agreed.
I told him I intended to write Chalmers a letter and Bob, with his many contacts, would
arrange for a number of copies to be made and placed in prominent positions in the
factory, the canteen and the offices. Bob, was all for the idea. On the 10 th of October
1965, most of our family congregated at the Paragon railway station in Hull, for a send
off. As one would expect it was a very moving occasion. After all the goodbyes had been
made and the train slowly began to move, brother –in-law Bob stood there on the
platform with a huge grin all over his face, one hand waving the envelope that contained
my letter to Chalmers and the other hand holding a fistful of copies.
I can remember, vividly, that evening a few days before we were due to depart, when I sat
down with the greatest of satisfaction, pen in hand, to give Chalmers a piece of my mind
and with Kathleen sitting behind me, almost doubled up with hysterical laughter at every
word I wrote, that followed my opening words,“ DEAR MR. CHARMERS,”

THIS IS A COMPLETELY TRUE STORY BY


JOHN FRANCIS KENNY. RESIDENT IN AUSTRALIA, APRIL 3RD.2008.

DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MY DEAREST WIFE KATHLEEN, MY


DEAR SISTER JOAN AND DEAR BROTHER-IN-LAW, BOB.

ALL PASSED AWAY WITHIN THE LAST THREE YEARS.

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