Brenda Bainbridge gives us some
"scribblings over 17 years from a very lowly member of Hawkers"...
I was lucky enough to join Hawkers at, I think, a very
exciting time in our history - the War was just over, no more loss of
life, we were young and free to go forward. So, I was sent by the then
Labour Exchange as a secretarial 'temp' filling in for holidays and
sickness, which gave me good and varied experience. I recall several
managers: Mr Heasman the Chief Accountant, Mr Humberstone the Buyer, Mr
Judge, and there were others whose names have slipped my memory.
A short time after this, Mr Lidbury, who to me was the epitome of a
Managing Director - square build, black overcoat, heavy horn rimmed
glasses - introduced Eric Rubython, who eventually became Chief
Executive, to the Company. With, I think, excellent judgement he
concluded that many junior secretaries working for managers at middle
level were not fully occupied.
offered me the task of forming a Secretarial/Typing Department where
these girls would be under one roof, so to speak, and all work from
certain managers, together with work from many departments, would be
ferried through me. I could engage staff that I needed. It was quite
daunting; I was twenty-five and can clearly recall Eric Rubython's
words, "I do not wish to know how you go about it but at the end of the
year I expect you to have an up and running department."
You could 'hire and fire' in those days so in time I was able
to sort the wheat from the chaff. It was a good training ground with
the idea that when a secretarial vacancy occurred a girl, who would
already have some working knowledge of the Company, could seek
promotion. Financially, too, it was a sound idea saving possible agency
fees. I had difficult girls, naturally, who thought they had been
demoted and, of course, some managers did not like losing their
The volume of work was horrendous, remembering that the country was
practically broke in the aftermath of the War, and Hawkers were
endeavouring to sell aircraft throughout the world. Dates and deadlines
had to be kept and, although we were at the lowly end of the ladder, it
was my job to keep the pace of turning out work on schedule if humanly
possible. Sometimes this was at the cost of upsets and tears, and
several girls were unable to stand the pace or the discipline. How many
people today can remember ORMIG or stencilling machines? But generally
we were a happy band with many laughs. There were several romances with
girls marrying members of the Company and I recall going to at least
three weddings. I am still in touch with several 'old girls' to this
Throughout the years there were so many amusing incidents; but I will
recount just one. A very elderly lady implored me to engage her; she
had worked for the Diplomatic Corps but had retired and fallen on very
hard times. She was totally eccentric in her manner and appearance but
a brilliant worker and a great asset, especially with translations,
work she shared with a Dutch girl. There were some fifteen typing and
checking desks in front of me and one morning, as this lady walked up
to me with a query, her 'bloomers', yes, 'bloomers', fell to the
ground. The girls were convulsed with laughter but imagine how
difficult it was for me to keep a straight face!
Being an all female office we naturally attracted a good deal of
interest at Christmas time and one particular Christmas Eve morning my
office became stacked with crates of drink. At 12.30, when work
stopped, the fun began. On returning after the holiday break I was
summoned to the 'Golden Mile' by Eric Rubython who said, in a chilling
voice that I can hear to this day, "I understand your office was awash
with drink on Christmas Eve. Please see that it does not happen again."
Then I was dismissed with a stern reprimand, but responsibility taken.
I reminded him of this incident when he kindly invited me to stay with
him and Joan in America a few years ago. Eric Rubython was a superb
boss. He would always listen to my views and agree or disagree as the
case might be, and in the sixteen years I worked for him my respect for
and my opinion of him did not alter.
I worked for and with many managers, section leaders and engineers
during the years, brilliantly clever men for whom I had respect and
liking, and can honestly say with my hand on my heart that I could not
have stayed the course, because my job was pressurised and demanding,
if I had not had the feeling that we were all pulling together. They
were great and memorable times. From those years I could name just two
managers who gave me a hard time, both pompous and arrogant little men.
Hawker Aircraft, British Aerospace, call it what you will, gave me the
very best seventeen years of my forty years business life.
Beryl has asked me to correct an error I made in the Camm Headstone
article in NL 14. As is clear from the above piece, although Eric
Rubython was her boss, she was not actually his secretary; apologies.