Memoirs of Ron Bromley

7 Back at work

I can not remember how long I was at Aldershot, just one night I think. I went off towards home carrying a large parcel containing my issue of civilian clothing, we were given a hat, a raincoat or similar, a suit and a pair of shoes. I can not remember if we were given shirts and underclothing, I can not recall wearing any. The raincoat and suit I found useful, but the last I saw of the trilby was the father of a girl friend wearing it. On the way home, I decided to call at Esher to test the water with Christine. Everyone was pleased to see me, but I could see the whole lifestyle of Elsa and Christine had changed in the year since the war finished. They had joined the set that, as they had enough to live on, did nothing useful. This was not my scene, as I was going back to what I was seven years earlier, and had a lot of hard work ahead of me to catch up.

There were no flags out at Church Farm, in fact on occasions I got the impression that dear mother wished I was still in the army. Chiz had the room previously occupied by Frank and I (nothing wrong here), but in the front of the house our parents had one room and the remaining two were designated by mum as Ella's and Mary's. I could understand Ella, but why Mary should want a room I could not imagine as she was married and living in RAF married quarters. In my absence in Germany both Frank and Mary had got married. Frank married a local girl, Hazel. She and I were inseparable for some time when we first started school at the age of 5, but come 18 I was pleased that Frank had picked up with her. Stan was my bosom pal at school. Mary said she could not stand him, and blamed me every time (and it was quite often) that he showed up at the farm. Stan joined the RAF in 1936 and when in 1940 he arranged via his aunt for Harrods to send Mary an expensive 21st birthday present, she stormed into Harrods and demanded that the shop either send him the present or refund his money. Imagine my surprise when mother wrote to me in Germany asking if she should get a wedding present from me to give to them. She chose a fire screen that converted to an occasional table. When I first saw it, not realising it was my present, I commented to Mother what a terrible thing it was. I was not very popular.

I realised something had to be done about accommodation, so I set about making the second rear bedroom habitable. It was the old apple room made larger when the middle room was made into a bathroom. It was a veritable junk room, but I dumped the larger stuff in the carpenter's shop, by this time itself full of junk, and the smaller items into a large cabinet, about six foot long, which I pushed into one corner. Where the sparse furniture came from I cannot remember, but mother was considerate enough to provide the bedclothes. I noted later when the house was sold that the lampshade I made to brighten the place up was still hanging from the ceiling light. Peace was restored and I was happy in my little den, which was not dissimilar to the normal army quarters.

There was nothing like family to bring one down to earth, but if I had any pretensions this was further dispelled by an electrician who was installing electric wiring into the farmhouse. There was no electricity in the village until 1946, and this was the only brought to the village on account of the Rural District Council planning to build council houses. Power was brought in and I think that Dad had to make a contribution towards the cost. The electrician was a quiet little man going about his business with no fuss and as he said he was in the army we got talking and I learnt that he knew quite a lot of detail about the invasion of Normandy. So much so that I ventured the remark, "You must have landed very soon after D-day?" "No," he replied, "I landed four days before by parachute." Completely deflated, I retired to the local for my midday pint.

During my leave I thought I might risk another girlfriend, one who I met when in Scotland and had kept in touch by post. She was the receptionist at a hotel in Killen, situated at the south end of Loch Tay. I found her to be even more charming than my memory of her, and we had a wonderful time together. The only fly in the ointment was her mother who had a vehement hatred of the English. How she tolerated me in her home I will never know. On my part, on catching a glimpse of her poking a black-looking fire with a cigarette drooping from her lips, I thought how much like a witch she looked. When Betty and I visited Edinburgh, she ostensibly arranged for her son who lived in the capital to have a day off to show the two of us round the city, but in truth I felt it was to stop us legging it over the border. As much as I tried I could not get Betty to agree to come into England to spend a holiday some time, so I reluctantly struck another girlfriend from my list.

Another was the daughter of the headmaster of the school at Eythorne (or was it Elvington). Somehow he had my address and got in touch asking if I wanted to sell my uniform. He had a part-time job as gardening advisor to the troops in the area, and as he held an honorary officer rank he thought it appropriate to dress in uniform. When I delivered to his house, the daughter was much in evidence, but there was not a vestige of a spark within me, so for a time I gave Eythorne a wide berth.

I should explain that in my last few months at Eythorne, Harry Meigl was the commanding officer and as a headmaster made friends with the local headmaster and played snooker with him in the Tilmanstone Colliery Officials Club which was part of the complex of which we were a part. I was encouraged and invited to spend evenings with the daughter and his wife whilst the teachers endulged their pleasure at the club.

Thus I thought all my past amours were over, but it was not to be as I was soon to find out. I think I started back at Canterbury about the 1st of May [1946]. On my first journey it seemed that 7 years (almost) had not changed anything. Dover Priory station was just the same, all the wayside stations looked as time had not passed. At Canterbury East the same porter said "Good Morning!" and did not ask to see my season ticket. The only difference was that I was half-an-hour late for work, as the hours had changed and the starting time was 9:00 AM. As to staff, we had collected our first lady, a typist, and the architects had formed their own department. My friend Ken was back and there were four pupils who had served their time during the war, or perhaps Ray Brownjohn had already gone to Whitstable.

On my return journey in the evening I found things had changed a little, there were strange faces on the platform. Not surprising, as almost 7 years had elapsed. I did spy one familiar face, a young lady I had known before the war. I approached her thinking that she would now be married, I remembered her as a bit forward, one who wore her skirts an inch shorter than anyone else. I found Claire however much changed, very serious and grown-up. She was not married and did not appear to have a boyfriend, so we teamed up. She worked at the GPO telephone headquarters and although she travelled to work on an earlier train we always caught the 5.13 home, so it was a convenient meeting point. Things went quite well, I became a regular at her parents' supper table, and Claire was sometimes entertained to tea at Church Farm. Things however were soon to change.

Every morning I travelled with two colleagues, Bill, who managed an ironmonger's shop in Canterbury, and a gentleman who worked in a bank in Faversham. He never told us what his exact position was, but vaguely gave the impression of being a manager. I suspected not. It was a slow train stopping at all the village stations, pulling up at the same position on each platform each day. Looking out at one I could just see the "well" of "Shepherdswell". Few people got on, but one day standing in front of "well" was a vision in a white raincoat, and she climbed into our compartment and settled in the corner seat opposite me. The pseudo-bank manager opened the conversation, but after a few introductory remarks all round I returned to my book. I always carried a text book as on the journey I did most of my studying. The next day exactly the same, same position on the platform and the vision was there. It went on for some days; sometimes I walked with her and Bill for part of the way to work. She also travelled home on the 5.13, but I was always with Claire.

It was Canterbury Cricket Week, the highlight of the Kent CC year. Hospitality tents surrounded the St Lawrence ground. Thursday was Ladies Day, when the Mayor entertained both the two cricket teams to lunch in his tent, and he generally entertained the ladies. Council staff were granted a half day leave on this day provided they attended the cricket.

In conversation Bill said that he hated Cricket Week as he did no business; the pseudo-bank manager just said he hated cricket. The vision said she loved cricket and often went to watch her brothers play. At this I pricked up my ears and took my eyes from my book and asked her if she would like to accompany me on the Thursday afternoon to the game. Lena - you must have guessed - readily agreed, and my fate for the next 40 years was sealed.

lena in WRNS Lena Bartlett in WRNS uniform

We had a wonderful afternoon. I was not embarrassed as most men are when they take their girlfriends to watch cricket: "Why are some men carrying sticks?" and "Why is that man in a white coat waving his arms around?" Lena knew all the terms, runs, wickets, wides, byes, etc, and recognised most of the Kent team, but no-one from the Somerset team although she was Somerset born. We had tea and drinks. I can not remember if we did anything in Canterbury after the game but I remember finding myself on Shepherdswell station. We spend some time on the platform and I am not certain whether on this occasion I walked to Eythorne and then caught the bus to Dover or whether I continued by train leaving Lena to cycle home. We arranged to meet again. I was in seventh heaven, but I had a problem. The morning train was OK, just Lena and I, but on the 5.13 there would be the three of us. [1]

I used to arrive late and hang about outside until the train was about to move off, then I would dash in and scramble into the last carriage, or more often than not the guard's van. The guard (always the same man) was very good about it, knowing what was going on. I think he deliberately planned my downfall. One night he held the last carriage door open until I jumped in and the train was away. When I got seated I found to my horror that both Lena and Claire were in the compartment. Never before or since has the Evening News been read so assiduously. The carriage emptied at Shepherdswell leaving just Claire and I. It was awful explaining to Claire, but I think she understood and took it without fuss. I sometimes think she must have found herself in the same situation before. I was very pleased to hear (from Lena I think) that she went to a young farmers' dance, got fixed up and became a farmer's wife, with family before Lena and I were enagaged. In fact we never did get engaged.

Lena got on with all the family, even Mother which was somewhat remarkable. Dad would normally address any girl I took home with the name of the previous one, but it was Lena from the start. They used to enjoy partnering each other at darts in the Plough Inn.

Meanwhile at work things went smoothly along. The Chief Assistant Mr Mills found difficulty in providing me with enough work, he said I finished everything he gave me so quickly. I think it was the difference between my army life and local government. In local government one took life quite comfortably, In think it was the result of the war, having little to do except the odd bit of clearing up of bomb damage. In the army it was always a race to get things done as soon as orders were given.

One of the continuing jobs I had was restoring the playing fields and recreation grounds. At the beginning of hostilities, or even before, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Ashford were designated Nodal Points that had to hold out in the event of an invasion by Hitler. Fight to the last man, no surrender. In view of this, trench shelters were provided for 100% of the population, and these were to be pulled out and the ground reinstated. To do this we were using prisoner of war labour and the troops that we were given were a very Bolshie lot, commanded by someone who I think was SS. Very little work was done, constant supervision I could not provide, and I suspected also that they had bribed or threatened the civilian driver to pick them up early each day. One day I dressed in my army trousers with a khaki shirt (without badges of rank) and caught them packed up and awaiting transport. I really gave them a going over. It did not seem to have much effect, and there was a lot of mumbling in German at the back. I did not understand a word, but I pointed to them and said, "If I hear another word like that I will have you shot." The message got home. Then the lorry driver turned up a full hour early. I threatened that I would get him the sack if it happened again. Productivity did increase but not a lot. All the costs involved were reimbursed by the Government as war damage, and the costing for the reinstatement was very detailed, time for ploughing, harrowing, seeding, rolling, etc, and cost of fertiliser and seed. I priced one job and agreed with the garrison major to cost it on a standard rate at so much an acre. The same procedure was used in knocking down concrete blockhouses at so much per blockhouse. I was very conservative in my pricing and made enough money to buy a new compressor out of revenue rather than capital, in short buckshee.

To keep me more fully employed, Mills put me with one of the more recent pupils who was engaged in laying out the roads and sewers for a new council housing estate. Here again we also used German PoW labour, but they were a much better crew. They were not trained people and before each task ie laying pipes or laying bricks we had to teach them. Some were office workers, but they all joined in willingly. All except one, he was so ill he ought to have been in hospital, but his illness was concealed as he did not want to be parted from his friends. Gary put him in charge of their cookhouse as such it was. He heated up what food they brought with them and made the tea. In their time in camp they made wooden toys - typically German - and we broke the rules and allowed them to go off the site and sell them in the town. With the money they bought beer and cigarettes and what food they could buy off ration. They were really grateful and did not abuse our trust. Heaven knows what would have happened if they had taken the opportunity to escape.

In local government changes were taking place, particularly as regards conditions of service, etc. Rather than each local authority having its own conditions there were to be rules etc common to all. The first move was to have a common wage structure, salary scales were compiled for the various disciplines. Engineers, architects, etc, were all to be on APT (admin, professional and technical) grades, and one was put on a certain number (say ATP4), this grade to be such as to reflect his position and experience, juniors on APT1 and Chief Assisstants on perhaps APT10. Committees composed of councillors and staff examined the qualifications (examinations, experience, position) of every person. This person was then placed on a grade. In our department they were reaching to lower grades when Gary Brownjohn and I obtained jobs in London as senior assistants on APT grade 5. Mills our representative on the committee told its members and said there was no need to worry about grading us two. It was to be a choice of grade 1 or 2. One member then asked what grade Mr Mills as Chief Assistant had been given. When he replied grade 5 the chairman said, "I think perhaps it might be better if we placed Mr Mills on grade 6." It was not the only time in my career that my advancement led to improvement in salary for someone else.

It was quite a break going off to London but I could see it could be a short cut to a higher grade. The interview was a bit of a farce, as there were two people being interviewed for the four posts advertised. I think it was a full council - it was certainly in the Council Chamber with the mayor and chief officers raised up on a platform. Each candidate had to speak for, I think, 5 minutes, after which you were subject to questioning. A lady councillor who sat knitting told me I would find accommodation very difficult in Willesden. The Borough Engineer answered for me saying that as I was single it would not be a problem. She then came back with "Do you think you will find a young woman in Willesden?" "Yes," said the BE speaking up again for me, "but none he would want to marry." Interview concluded, post offered. I found a senior member of staff was at one time my house captain at Dover County School and he said he would get digs for me, so when I started I had no worry about getting my head down. It was alright for starters, but it was too commercial with 6 of us, the table at every meal reminded me of my time when I first started in the army. I also found that the son-in-law was using my room as a dark room when I went home at the weekend. I could not work out how my towel got brown patches on it - it must have been the developer. A change was indicated. I went for bed and breakfast with a retired doctor who had a large house and a small income, so his wife let out two rooms. It was very nice and I was very well cared for. I had great difficulty declining the use of a hot water bottle. I had lunch every day with a number of staff. Two of us were studying in the office at night and my companion worked his charm on the managers of the staff canteen who provided us with a meal when the office closed. The place was kept open for councillors and staff working late. The pub which we used at lunchtime was not a very nice place, at night it was said to be the London HQ of the IRA - pamphlets were circulated freely.

Willesden was a large borough with a huge drainage problem. I have seen after heavy rain heavy manhole covers dancing two feet in the air on water jetting out of the sewer. There were 5 engineers, two trainees and a draughtswoman working full time on the problem.

I did one small scheme and was then given the job of culverting the River Brent in the Stonebridge area. I designed it as a twin box concrete culvert, each box I seem to remember being 8ft wide and 6ft deep, leaving room for some earth cover.

My time on engineering was soon drawn to a conclusion. On the 1947 Town Planning Act coming into force there was little work for the boroughs, most of the power being with the counties, so Middlesex took all of our planners into County Hall. We still had certain things to do, however, and one day Frankie Cave, the number 3 in the department, walked into the drawing office and approached Alan Masters the head engineer on the drainage and said "Masters, you have a planning qualification, you can take over the planning for the Borough." Alan protested at this pointing out that not only was he the head of the drainage section he also held classes for four assistants 3 afternoons a week. Owing to shortage of qualified staff after the war the Borough Engineer had taken on the four to train to become civil engineers. Masters said "Give Bromley the job, he knows all about planning." Admittedly at Canterbury we had administered the 1933 Act and I had assisted the City Engineer when he paraded his reconstruction plan for Canterbury following the damage during the hostilities.

I had no defence so I was saddled with the job. The two main tasks were the Willesden Report and the redevelopment of South Kilburn. The Willesden Report was basically a statement of the Borough as it existed, schedules of industry, office, residential areas, population, journeys to work, type of transport and distances, etc. We had a good start as the Ministry of Information, hard pressed during the war, now had little to do and had sent a team to Willesden to do all the leg work etc and collected a lot of statistics. When the Ministry dissolved the information was just dumped in a room in the Engineers' department. This I had to dig out and write up the report section by section, drawing innumerable pie charts and compiling complicated tables. The idea was that when completed it would form the basis for the Town Plan when it was drawn up. When I had completed each chapter, Frankie Cave would take them home, make a few adjustments and get his wife to re-type them with his and her references at the foot of each one. Needless to say when published Frankie got the acknowledgment and me nothing. I suppose it helped him get his chief's job at Northampton.

South Kilburn was a large area at the south east of the Borough, spilling over into Paddington. The estimated population was 25,000 and the plan was to reduce this to 15,000 with overspill to Harlow and Stevenage (I think - a New Town). Previously two people had had a go at it but neither were too practical. For example no account was taken of existing large high-pressure water mains or gas. Also there were many lengths of important main electricity cables and telephone lines. The first requirement was to plot all these with the drainage pipes and then draw up a Street Alteration Map, preserving those larger routes which housed important services and showing those which could be dispensed with. One early plan showed the Kilburn Underground station moved. My scheme showed minor alteration to the entrance. A start was made before I left but progress was slow as it was being done using direct labour, ie Council workers.

Although I found work very interesting and instructive, I was never entirely happy with working in London. It made for a very poor social life. I could not play Rugby as if I joined a London club I would finish maybe in time to catch the last train to Dover, leaving time at home limited to the time of the last train on Sunday which got me in my digs well after midnight or catching the 6.08 am train on Monday morning just in time to get my name recorded in the "time book." Actually by courtesy of old man Simmington who recorded us in his copperplate handwriting. One day the Chief came round with the Chairman and demanded to see the signing-in book - it could not be found and we were told to start signing in. This resulted in "Simmie" signing us in as outlined above. Six months later the visiting pair asked to see the book. On seeing the same hand involved in all entries the Chief passed it off, saying "Look sir, this lot have learnt to write and they all went to the same school." The Council then agreed that signing in was old hat and the practice was discontinued. At this time I also had some thoughts regarding my relations with Lena. I can't recall why, but it meant that I think it was for two or three weekends I made some sort of excuse and remained in London. Another five shillings on the rent. Lena was not on the phone at home and communications ceased. Fortunately I soon came to my senses, but how was I to get back in touch? Stupidly I did not think of meeting her when she boarded her train at Canterbury East, she worked all day Saturday. Instead I gambled on the fact that once she thought everything was over she would resume her pastime that she practised before meeting me and attend the dance at the Town Hall. I stationed myself at the bus stop in Ladywell at the side of the Town Hall and waited. Imagine my relief when she alighted from I think the second bus. My approach was met with not exactly warmth but not outright hostility. I crawled so low my chin must have been on the pavement. Gradually she softened up and joy oh joy we were back together again.

The problem still remained that it was still only meeting at weekends but this was soon to be resolved. The Borough Engineer of Dover (Mr Marchant) approached brother Frank who worked in the Public Health Dept and asked after me - we had met at Kent Surveyors meetings and I had accompanied Enderby when he showed off his redevelopment scheme at Canterbury to the Dover councillors and officials - and enquired if I would like to work for him. I met him one Saturday morning and he had a wonderful job lined up, the reconstruction of the sewage system from the town centre to the pumping station at the Western Docks. Here there was to be a partial treatment works and a long sea outfall off Shakespeare Cliff. It was nice to be head-hunted and with a good job, but the snag was the salary offered was one grade below what I was on at Willesden. I summed it all up and thought that salary was not so critical as living would be cheaper as would travelling, so I accepted. The Borough Engineer at Willesden was not at all happy, and said I wanted my head examined, but it seemed to me at that time that all chiefs in the London area thought their job was the only one worth having. There was one big snag, before I took up the job, or at about the same time, there was a council election and the Tories regained control and with their penny-pinching policy suspended all work on the improved drainage. After getting over the shock I was not as disappointed as I should have been (the job would have set me up for my career) as I found the office most agreeable. Apart from the BE, deputy BE and the Chief Assistant I was the only qualified person, so I could lord it over the drawing office picking what work I chose to do and what to hand on.

My first job was on the sea front which had been badly damaged by bombs and shells. The western half was handed over to the Harbour (they were a quasi local authority) and they decided to repair their buildings providing their offices, a hotel and flats. The Borough on the eastern half agreed to raze their part to the ground and rebuild with modern blocks of flats. My task was to reconstruct as it was on paper then cost out what it would be to reconstruct, and this figure would be the war damage claim to be met by Central Government. It meant a lot of detailed survey work being carried out on site, and on one occasion I was arrested by a young policeman on suspicion of recording items to be stolen during the hours of darkness. At the police station I was immediately recognised by an old copper, in fact a friend of mine who played in our cricket team at Hougham. My accusor was given a rough time and made to look a fool in front of his colleagues. I felt sorry for him. We had little to do with the site after my efforts as it was handed over to private architects to carry out the scheme.

I went on to do the first planning development scheme in the town, the Stembrook redevelopment adjacent to the Market Square. Not a large area but most interesting as it contained shops, a little industry, a site for a new telephone exchange and a prestige block of flats to be designed and built by the Borough. It was at this time I turned into a whistle-blower. The council flats were to be sited alongside the river Dour and facing Pencester Gardens, an excellent site. I did not have much to do on this part, but found some dodgy ground and suggested to the architect that some investigation should be done. He ignored my remarks as did his chief. I approached my chief Basil Goodman the Chief Assistant Engineer and his attitude was: "That's their bad luck, let them get on with it." I knew it would be fatal to build on the ground and if it was done without strengthening measures there would be trouble in the future. So I approached the Borough Engineer Mr Marchant who instructed me to carry out a site investigation. I engaged Le Grande, Sutcliffe and Gel (I think that was how it was spelt). I also dug around and excavated some ancient timbers. The museum people investigated and declared them to be Roman. We were digging in what had been the harbour used by the Romans during their invasion. Le Grande, Sutcliffe and Gel confirmed we were in silt and it was necessary to drive piles to a depth of I think 15 or 20 feet into the chalk below. It was Saturday when this report came in and it caused a little chaos. The Chief Architect's Assistant and my boss the Chief Engineering Assistant were sent for and Mr Marchant said he had intended to go to Committee on Friday next and say he was going out to tender for this long-awaited prestige block of flats and he had no intention of changing his mind. He would merely add that some bad ground had been found but progress would not be held up as we would be going out to tender for piled foundations at the same time. Basil came to me not best pleased and said "You got us into this, you'd better get us out." I said it would require help from him. I was prepared to start on Sunday but not Saturday afternoon as I was due to play cricket and we had no reserve. He looked out of the window and said it looked a good day for a sail (most people in the office had boats) and he would see me on Sunday. I spent the rest of the morning getting all the drawings, and had time to fix the pile positions and determine the beam sizes. Having secured a key to the office I went off to cricket. By the time Basil arrived on Sunday morning I had worked out most of the beam loadings. Basil said he would work out the amount of steel in each beam and then hand over to me to determine the rod sizes and detail position, bendings, etc. When I got the first calculation I could not fit the steel into my beam sizes which I knew from experience were about right, I questioned Basil about what constants he was using (steel and concrete strength). He replied that he did not know, as he used graphs. When questioned he said he used the graphs when he was a pupil studying for his exams. I told him steel had improved immensely since those days and we should calculate using the new figures. Basil did not know, or had forgotten, what to do so I said I would work out a few and compare the results with his figures. This I did and said to Basil "You go on as you were and I will reduce your figure by one third before detailing" - this we did. Sometimes I wonder what an enquiry would have made of that if later for whatever reason the building became unsafe. "The Chief Assistant calculated the amount of steel required and then his assistant reduced the answers by a third." The flats are still there.

The most interesting job I did however was not one of civil engineering but structural engineering and architectural: the restoration and furnishing of the Maison Dieu House as a public library. The building, built in 1665, was used by the Agent Victualler to the navy until 1815, used by the Ordnance Dept until 1834, and after a spell as a private residence it was bought by the Borough Council and used as offices. Badly war damaged and ravaged by death watch beetle it was abandonned in 1949. It was listed as an Ancient Monument and the Council were under pressure from Central Government to repair it, but decided not to do so until it was agreed it could be put to useful work as a replacement for the public library destroyed by enemy action. It was a long and complicated job which was carried out by direct labour. Fortunately we had a first-class foreman, a Mr Hubbard, who was my right-hand man (more details of the work are described in an appendix).

Two further interesting points are worthy of recording in connection with the rebuilding. I tried all over the country to find bricks to match the 2-inch ones in which the north wall was built, without success. Then someone said to me, "Have you tried Hawkinge?" My reply was "I have never heard of Hawkinge bricks." "You should do, Hawkinge is almost the next village to you." I went to Hawkinge and not far from the RAF station I found a little brickworks making handmade 2-inch bricks which you could hardly tell from the originals. I also obtained a small quantity with which I built a fireplace at Church Farm to fill up the space in the living room when the kitchener was taken out. Also at the time we stripped the rear roof of the house to repair the roof timbers. The tiles were antique Kent peg tiles which Dad sold to Dover Corporation to be used in repairing the roof of Maison Dieu House, again an excellent match. The price obtained paid for the new roof at Church Farm on which we used new concrete tiles. I did not fix the price to be paid.

For the official opening of Maison Dieu House we needed a silver key which the person performing the ceremony would keep as a souvenir. We removed the wooden bound lock from the antique front door for the locksmith to make a key. On refitting the lock it would not work with the silver key. After several attempts we gave up. On the day of the opening I set the lock at open and stationed a man behind the door with a piece of string tied to his wrist. This was threaded through the window next to the door. When the wife of the Lord Lieutenant of the County said "I declare this Library open" I jerked the string and the man opened the door and concealed himself behind it until there were sufficient people in the room for him to mingle.

Another job that I was pleased with was one of sea defence. The littoral drift of shingle in the English Channel is from west to east, but when a block ship was sunk in the western entrance during World War I this was reversed within the harbour and the shingle moved from east to west. The eastern jetty at the entrance to the Eastern Docks lost all its protecting shingle and got into a very bad state. An attempt had been made to bring shingle from the Western, Clock Tower end. A railway line ran along the sea front and it was used amongst other things to bring shingle to be dumped at the Castle jetty. A man used to walk in front of the train carrying a red flag. It was all in vain, and a length of sea wall also collapsed. Supervision was at odd times as the work was "tidal". At night I used my car and charged 9d each trip expenses: 6d return into town and 1.5d each way on the town service. The pay department did not want to pay, saying, "You have to come to work anyway." "Not at 3 o'clock in the morning you block heads." So I received the princely sum of 9d for having my beauty sleep disturbed for 2-3 hours. Today I would think it would be £50 to £100 per visit. At about the time the work was completed the block ship was lifted and the drift reversed and today shingle almost reaches the tips of the sea wall.

I was thinking it was time to move on for promotion to Chief Assistant. I could not see Basil getting a Deputy's job, and as to Mr Hill, the Deputy, moving, no. We had already got a new chief, Mr Bevan, replacing Mr Marchant who went on to Wandsworth. I was quite happy at Dover and Lena seemed content. She was spoiled at home, her mother doing everything for her. Every morning after preparing her breakfast she would hand Lena a clean handkerchief as she walked out of the door. We did give some consideration to trying to get rented accommodation (housing was very critical after the war) but when she inspected a flat in Folkestone Road she was so disgusted she gave up. I converted a house at the water pumping works into flats and Mr Marchant said he thought he could get me one, but when the Town Clerk got to hear of it he proclaimed that he had more important members of his staff, and the Clerk's work was law, so no joy for Lena and me. Before applying for a more senior post I really needed to complete my exams and become a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. I was a Chartered Engineer having passed the examination of the Institute of Municipal Engineers, "Civils" was in my view a "snobbish" qualification but one that gave you an advantage when applying for top posts. The third and final part C comprised submission of plans, specifications, etc of your own work. This was followed by an interview mostly to discuss your work and this was followed in the afternoon with a three-hour essay on any subject the examiner chose to give you. I had a very nice examiner, the Borough Engineer of Southend-on-Sea. He was very interested in sea defence, more particularly as his Superintendent on this work had just been given time for using timber from the firm to make beach huts for sale. It was quite easy to write-off supplies with work of this nature: lost due to storm, high tides, etc. One man I knew started his own civil engineering business with plant that had been lost during sea defence work at Sandgate during the war. The interview did not start well. Firstly he pointed out that I had not strictly complied with the regulations. My reply was to the effect that the rules must have changed as I had complied with the instructions given to me when I was notified as having passed part B, four years previously. The rules had been changed. Next my drawings had not been signed by my boss Mr Marchant. He had had them in his office for weeks and it was at the last moment before the closing date that I got his secretary to retrieve them and I hastily posted them off without checking. All seemed to be forgiven and my selected essay was of a general nature on coast defence works. I had just read "Winds, Waves and Maritime Structures" by the man who built Dover Harbour so I had plenty of material. The next day Phillip Marchant asked me how I had fared. I said I thought I would fail as my drawings had not been signed by him. He immediately phoned the Secretary of Civils apologising and stressed that he hoped he had not prejudiced my chances of success. The next day the Secretary phoned to say that I had passed, thus I got my result 6 weeks in advance of the normal time. Phillip was always one to go to the top with his personal charm.

Returning to moving, I applied for three or four Chief Assistant's jobs, all offering housing accommodation. At Barnes I had to talk my out of it, as the job was just nothing, no work worth wasting time on. Shrewsbury got down to two of us and we each had a second interview. Not much more could be said and I was asked what sport I played. "Cricket and Rugby," I replied. "No fishing?". Came my reply, "I have no interest in fishing whatsoever." "He would do if he pulled a 5lb trout from the Severn," the BE said to the Chairman. End of interview. At Lowestoft, Harold Wilson, the Secretary of the Board of Trade, was paying a visit which caused our interviews to be delayed until the afternoon. Being a "B" for Bromley I was first in and members, some quite merry, were taking their places as I spoke, and one entered the room as I went out. One member, a butcher, was furious about the procedure as be favoured me (apparently I was runner-up). He drove me down to the station which enabled me to get home that evening.

I was going by car to Esher and Lena had the day off to come with me. There were to be three interviews, one in the morning with the Engineer and Surveyor (Esher was not a Borough with a Borough Engineer), another in the afternoon with a committee, and the finalists with full Council in the evening. Lena and I teamed up with another candidate who knew me, but I could not recall where we had been together, and over lunch I had to ask him. "We were in the same class during the whole time we were at Dover County School," was his reply, and he did not seem too pleased.

He and I were doing quite well and got through to the full Council. He was quite confident the job was his, but he had one question too many. Charles Alderton the Engineer asked him when he passed his final exam (the Testamer) for the Municipal Engineers. He had not sat the exam, getting his membership by virtue of passing the exam for Civils. Alderton was of the opinion (with which I agree) that the Testamer was the only appropriate exam for a Municipal Engineer, and I was offered the job. When "any questions" came up, I asked about the promised accommodation. The Chairman laughed and said "We do not offer accommodation for single people." My reply was to the effect that I would be married before taking up the appointment. Fortunately they did not ask the date, but promised me a flat "of some description". Mr Alderton took me to his office at the end of the meeting and when we emerged into the car park in front of the office, Lena, who had been left alone as the unsuccessful candidates departed, approached and I introduced her as Miss Bartlett. "But you will be Mrs Bromley before coming to Esher," Charles Alderton said. I kicked Lena on the leg and she made a noise that could be interpreted as "Yes", and that was my proposal. A good deal of the time on the way home was spent on two wheels, we were both so delighted with events.

[1] 1946-08-08

©2003 Ron Bromley