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Friday, 1 April 2011

Engineering as it used to be. Part 1.

Woman on a raft suggested that I write on what us old time Engineers were put through to gain a qualification.

A bit of back ground, to begin this saga, that you’ll soon start to be bored to tears with.

I came from a fairly affluent middle class family (The Teddy bear factory will be featured in a  separate post). Anyhoo, I was educated in a prep school and passed the common entrance exam and was accepted by a good public school. The bugbear, however, was that my twin did not pass. This posed a bit of a quandary, and the long and short of it all is that my parents decided to send us both to a fee paying, Prison camp Naval training school.

My education there was abysmal, but finally I left and applied for a career with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

That first day at Poplar technical college was a real eye opener. Not only was I in the environment of the East End of London where the dockers spent a large amount of their time in the pub, but I was pitted against others who had so many more O levels than me.

What surprised me that I was accepted with O levels in maths, english, seamanship, and navigation. Not an engineering bent at all.

From then started my enlightenment into the world of Applied mechanics, Thermodynamics, Naval Architecture, and everything else needed to make a good Marine Engineer.

The one thing that I noticed straight away was that I was in a minority. Most of all accepted had come from technical schools which were abundant in that Era. They’d learnt technical drawing, metalwork, etc. This was to me, equivalent to learning to how to walk five years too late.

Too be continued………………………………(Maybe)


  1. "Too be continued………………………………(Maybe)"

    C'mon, you've whetted your reader(s)' appetite now, you have to post Part 2 sometime soon.

  2. Well I'm interested. But then I'm an engineer.

  3. It sounds to me as if there's a very good book in there somewhere.

  4. The one thing that I noticed straight away was that I was in a minority.

    You simply cannot put "teddy bear factory" and "Naval training school" in a blog post without immediately opening a crack in to a world where Arthur Ransome gets bonged out of his skull and raves "Paddington Bear, I'll show the hairy little runt how to sail to Peru on a suitcase."

    I am, I assure you, interested in the technical briefing about engineering or I wouldn't have asked, but I have to know a story about twins inadvertently sent time-travelling by their loving but eccentric teddy-bear magnate papa and what happened when they found themselves at a school which would have been familiar to Lord Nelson himself.

    I further suggest you use the bears you took with you (you know you did) to tell the story from their point of view.

  5. WOAR

    "I further suggest you use the bears you took with you (you know you did) to tell the story from their point of view."

    Now that would be silly.

  6. I look forward to reading more of this - it could make a decent book the way it's going.

    Interesting stuff - thank you.

  7. Look forward to reading further updates, should you choose to post them that is.

  8. I'll be writing the sequel(s)over the next few days. However this weekend is tied up with parties. Blogging will be light till after the weekend.

  9. Captain Haddock2 April 2011 at 19:01

    Ahhh ...'twas as a sad day in the Naval Service when "Stokers" became "MEM's" .. just not the same ..

    The old Mess Deck ditty "Stokers in black tights" (to the tune of "Strangers in the Night") just didn't rhyme any longer .. ;)

  10. Not sure where this is going, but sounds interesting. I hope it ain't a 'get the fundamentals right' schtick. Pythagoras and Euclid were pretty boring chaps, many a good engineer found them useful later on - when they wanted to cast off the oily rag and get their ticket.

    For myself, I was an idle pupil and Dad made me quit school early and get a job - toughen the sinews etc. Climbing poles and digging holes was fun for a while and teleprinters were interesting but grimy. Day release taught technical drawing and basic machine shop work and the elements of mathematics. The Chief told me 'do the minimum and you'll get the minimum, this will sort you lads into the hewers of wood, the drawers of water and the scribes and the pharisees'.

    Didn't take long to decide scribe and pharisee was better and I needed to pull my finger out. Later on another old hand advised 'be a on-off, the pay scale doesn't apply to one-offs'. I am very grateful to all those old hands who gave little hints and tips to help along the way.


  11. You've brought back some not too happy memories now FE.

    I always think that education is wasted on the young.

  12. Having all the right qualifications doesn't automatically make you a better engineer. As in many walks of life some of the best people are either self taught, or started out doing something else.

    I always like the challenge of taking on a project deemed a waste of time by "experts", and subsequently proving them wrong...

    I'm secretly hoping that such skills will prove useful in a couple of years when the lights start going out, and all the computer controlled automated things we have come to rely on fall over!

    I'm sure I am regarded as something of an eccentric by other family members, but it's me they call when an older bit of kit needs repairing.


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