I started my career in aviation as a De Havilland Aircraft Company Ltd apprentice in May 1960 at Hatfield , looking back it was the best schooling I could have had but those were not quite my thoughts at the time. On the 22 July 1963 I was informed that I was now employed by a firm called Hawker Siddeley Aviation! Can’t win them all.
Reviewing my indentures I see that my pay was : Year 1 £3.5.10 per week ;Year 2 £3.18.11 per week; Year 3 £5.9.02 per week; Year 4 £6.9.0 per week ; Year 5 £7.12.10 per week. And upon reaching my 21st birthday I would receive £9.0.1 per week as a skilled man. This apprentice pay could, in theory, be increased by earning bonus on the “piecework “ scheme but nearly all the lucrative jobs were kept for the skilled men.
I shall just cover the first 18 months of my
apprenticeship which was spent at the De Havilland Apprentice Training
School, Astwick Manor. This was located on the far side of Hatfield
airfield and consisted of an old Manor House that accommodated some of
the apprentices and the canteen, and a hangar which contained the
workshops and technical drawing training office.
The time was divided into three months each of basic fitting, basic machining, sheet metal work, advanced fitting and advanced machining, plus six weeks of woodwork and six weeks of technical drawing. There were eight or ten apprentices on each section with an Instructor.
Typical content for basic fitting was making squares in squares,
stars in stars, making a couple of spanners and scraping a steel plate
flat. Basic machining was learning to operate a centre lathe, vertical
and horizontal milling machines, surface grinders and power saws. Sheet
metalwork involved making a propeller’s spinner, a tundish (funnel) and
a Castrol style oil can. Woodwork involved making an oak toolbox with
dovetail joints, including the two internal drawers, all with a French
Polish finish. If the dovetails were not up to standard they were sawn
off by the instructor - this could be done twice (in the factory when a
fresh apprentice arrived his woodworking skills were measured) The
drawing office brought you up to Higher National Certificate standard
in the six weeks or you did it again; after that it was goodbye!
Here are some Training School memories. The caretaker had to go into hospital during winter and volunteers were ask for to keep the boiler running, nobody was interested other than myself and my mate Mick. After a couple of days the others realised they had missed the opportunity to sit in the boiler room with a brew of tea and some toast. I worked on the Puffin Manpowered aircraft. An instructor, working on a “homer”, removed the guard from a guillotine to facilitate the metal strip he was about to cut and yes you’ve guessed it, cut the top of his thumb off. We all lined up to see it in the scrap box!