Newsletter 2011

Memories of the Marconi tool box

In an exchange of reminiscences about the Apprentice Training Centre which started up in August last year on the Marconi Old Geezers Society (MOGS) forum see last issue page 14, and this issue page 12) Doug Field commented:

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the Marconi tool box. Made from steel and riveted with copper rivets made in the ‘pit’, I still have mine – the Marconi paint job has lasted although it sits on my wet garage floor.

From this comment the following sub-thread started. It was first taken up by Sam Woolard.

I realise that this is an old thread but I have been out of the country for the past 6 weeks and have only just caught up with all the posts, but I did just want to add that I still have and still use my Marconi tool box lovingly crafted during the 16 weeks I spent in the ATC in the autumn and winter of 1957. And what’s more I also have a set of screwdrivers, with handles turned by me on a capstan and blades tempered to the right shade of blue – plus my scriber, my very poorly made but still useable G clamp and toolmaker’s clamp, a round brass box with lid and green baize lining for cigarettes and a rectangular brass box with lid designed to hold my set of BA spanners – how sad is that! Mike Plant and I started as Student Apprentices taking HND but didn’t make the cut when the first set of results came out so we were demoted onto the HNC course. Somewhere in a box in my attic is the little blue book issued to all apprentices passing through the ATC that was checked and marked regularly – I rarely got more than 6/10 in any of the groups except for effort and up there in the attic with my little blue book are my signed indentures when I completed my apprenticeship in 1961 and joined Dennis Byatt’s staff for the princely sum of £457 per annum.

Then from John Lancaster:

I threw out my tool box when I moved house three years ago, but I am sure they were made of aluminium in 1948/49. We made the boxes under the watchful eye of Jack Whitaker, but the corners of the lid needed welding, and he was the only one who could weld aluminium!
Mike Plant:

That sounds quite advanced for 1948/49. Certainly in ‘57 they were in mild steel!

Unlike Sam, I can’t claim to have mine, it was stolen from my car about 1963 by a lad who had absconded from the ‘Borstal’ off Rainsford Road. I know that many of these tool boxes are still with their owners/makers in many parts of the world!

But I have no recollection of the little book that Sam mentioned! One of the strong points of these boxes that has assisted their long term survival is the high quality ‘hammer finish’ paint, process number 1426 (suffix A I think), that was baked on and rarely if ever cracked or peeled. In fact the New Street paint shop and plating shop had a reputation as the best in Southern England, almost certainly well deserved.

And finally Colin Drake:

This piece of nostalgia got me thinking, where did I put MY box?

I had removed it from my ‘digs’ in Chelmsford in January 1959 prior to joining the Royal Air Force under conscription, and taken it to my father’s house in Tollesbury. Now, some 51 years on I have found it in his shed!

Made from steel and painted in Marconi Blue/Grey stoved enamel, the interior, including retained drawer, is raw (but surprisingly, with little corrosion ).  The lid contains a Marconi roundel badge, also the legend ‘September 1954’ and my name stamped upon it.  Despite it being neglected all that time, after washing, it looks in prime condition.

Within were the following items –

– a robust clear plastic envelope held in position in the lower compartment by two slim brass brackets. Inside this envelope was the Apprentice Record Card. This had the names of the departments in which I had gained my experience during the 5 years training, together with the names/signatures of the chargehand and foremen involved with the training and a record of the types of work undertaken. All data on the card is still fully readable

– a ‘G’ clamp

– an instrument makers clamp

– a brass square box, again with name stamped upon the lid, inside of which was a diamond grinding wheel dressing stone, doubtless a ‘spoil’ of some time spent on the cutter grinding section of the Milling Machine Shop,

– but alas, no sign of those home-made screwdrivers.

This find has brought to mind the names of several fellow apprentices passing through the Centre during my time there and the thought – where are they now?

Happy days. Thanks MOGS, for bringing back the past!