Newsletter 15
? Winter 2006
Updated on 9Dec2006
Aviation Heritage Project
Dunsfold Wings & Wheels
Female Angle
Flight Test from a Desk
Harrier News
Hawk News
Graduate Apprentices
Hawker People News
Hugh Merewether
  1924 - 2006, Test Pilot
  Flight Development
  Faster, Higher, Further
  Spinning With Hugh
JSF Progress
Sea Furies at Reno
Sea Harrier ZA195
Sea Hawk Recovered
Sir Sydney & Sir George
Sopwith & Bradshaw
Summer's Day at Dunsfold
Vulcan to the Skies
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

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.

The Female Angle

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He 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 personal secretaries.

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 day.

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.

Editor's note.
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.