Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It Was a Good Life Working at ICI' A Job at the 'Synthetic'

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It Was a Good Life Working at ICI' A Job at the 'Synthetic'

Article excerpt

FORMER ICI worker Ron Knott, now living near Bristol, was all set to send his book, The War And All That, to the printers.

Then he received a copy of Life At The ICI (Issue 76) and realised he would have to write an addendum to his own book.

He writes: Let me first praise all concerned with the making of Life At The ICI - it was a good read, well put together on superb glossy paper.

I had just started at Middlesbrough Technical School in September, 1939, at the age of 13 and soon afterwards I was evacuated to Scarborough on a train with a small case and a cardboard box with a string carrying loop which held the gas mask.

We all returned before Christmas and at the start of 1940 we moved into that grand building the Constantine Technical College.

After three quite successful years the chemistry master, I think he was called Earnshaw and was a sort of a job-seeker, said to me: "You are good at chemistry, I will get you into the 'Synthetic' at Billingham."

There was no interview and I was designated as a laboratory boy and directed to the chemical laboratory in G building in the research department in August, 1942, where I met a young lady who was sieving sulphate fertiliser.

My job was to wash and dry the empty bottles, but this was not for me so I went to see the labour officer and told him I did not come here to wash bottles.

He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him that I wanted to go to my mate in F building, which housed the metallurgical section, as he was doing interesting things.

To my delight I was moved into the metallurgical section and stayed in the same field for the next 40 years, apart from a four-year stint OHMS, and the other half of my working life at the Severnside factory near Bristol.

It was during the two years in F building that I had on the job training and remember hardness testing sten gun breech blocks and testing PIAT gun springs by lifting 30lb weights on and off, one at a time. The Black A Bombard anti-aircraft gun was mentioned but I do not recall working on any bit of it.

We had a secret room which was known only as Tube Alloys research and Life At The ICI told me what it was for but, being an untrained 'Lab Boy' with no qualifications, I was not allowed to enter this secure room.

I became an ARP messenger and a short spell in the Home Guard so with the work at ICI I believed that I was in a reserved occupation, but when I reached the age of 18 call up came.

After four years as an instrument mechanic in the Royal Signals, three of which were spent abroad, when the war had ended there was time to spare which allowed me to learn and obtain a Civil Service Certificate.

On my return to ICI, at the age of 22, I was made laboratory assistant, albeit still weekly staff, but I was able to skip two years off the Higher National Certificate course. …

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