Ralph Denning: working at Bristol Engines around 1950

Ralph Denning describes working at Bristol Aero Engines in the 1950s.

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When I joined Bristol Engines, or the engine division of Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1949, the technical office was in a factory and the – that there were offices around the outside of the factory but no windows except in the roof for the technical office.  And in the warm weather it used to get unbearable, people used to just nod off after lunch, they couldn’t – they couldn’t keep awake.  I was very glad when they built a new factory called Whittle House in another part of the site, and we had palatial offices then.

And what’s it actually like in one of those technical offices?

It was split into about four different sections, you’ve got stress office, you’ve got the technical office, you know, the aerodynamic design, the gas turbine design and all that sort of thing.  And then there was a big drawing office, and then there were other offices for installation engineers and so on.  I was in the technical office then and that led off onto the front corridor and the front corridor was occupied by all the big chief engineers, a lot of whom at the time when I went there were old piston engine men, too old to learn new tricks I think most of them.  It was quite a while before the people running the place were well versed in gas turbine technology.  That was one reason why Hooker was looking for people like me.

If I was to go into the technical office what would I actually see in the –

Well you’d see a lot of desks, piled high with paper, where – there used to be one of two guys who you couldn’t see them, they – they had such big piles of paper on their desks that they were hidden from sight.  And you’d go along to them and say, ‘Have you got that report that was issued last year?’ and he’d delve down into the pile on his desk and produce a report.  I mean there were – the idea of [laughs] properly indexing and – and compartmentising your work wasn’t at all the norm in those days.
  • Interviewee Ralph Denning
  • Duration 00:02:23
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 2/21/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/68

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