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Westwood Works 1903-2003

Trainees in Action


The full story of the development of the Baker Perkins Apprenticeship Scheme can be found in Training at Westwood Works, but it is worth taking a look, as part of this revue of apprentices at work, at the different grades of Apprenticeship that were available after WW2.

Opportunities open to Baker Perkins Apprentices.

Grades of Apprenticeship


A year of basic instruction enabling the candidate to be sure that he had chosen the correct vocation - and giving the company an opportunity to assess the candidate.

Craft Apprenticeship

Boys who had completed pre-apprenticeship or selected boys leaving school were apprenticed to any one of the following trades - machine tool setters and operators (turners, millers, borers, grinders, gear-cutters), tool makers, engravers, plate workers, sheet metal workers, electricians, pattern-makers, moulders, millwrights and fitters.

Drawing Office Apprenticeship

Of two years duration, candidates were selected from among craft apprentices who had completed three years apprenticeship and had achieved the required standard in technical studies.

Student Apprenticeship

A five-year course that provided a wide training for designers, planning, methods and work study engineers, production engineers, service engineers and technical sales representatives for home and overseas service. It is believed that Student Apprenticeships were first introduced in 1943.

Graduate Apprenticeship

A number of university graduates were accepted each year for two years' formal training, normally sponsored by a departmental manager with a view to a specific appointment after satisfactorily completing the training.

What was it like to be an apprentice at Baker Perkins?

Some recollections of ex-apprentices (More can be found in "Reminiscences").

Gordon Steels
Gordon Steels

“As the WWII war was drawing to its close at the beginning of 1945, a number of craft apprentices who were attending the Peterborough technical night school in Broadway, were selected to be interviewed as suitable candidates for transferring to the newly formed Drawing Office Apprenticeship Scheme. I was interviewed by Claude Dumbleton and was one of the lucky twelve craft apprentices selected for further training at the GTC, Leicester.

We were split up into three groups and the first group, Roland Maycock, Brian Savage, Derrick Stanton and David Thompson, were sent to the GTC in May 1945 for a twelve week course. The second group, Sidney Stafford, Ken Betts, Hubert Holmes and I were sent to Leicester in July 1945, after VE Day and before VK Day.

The third group, which, I am fairly certain was composed of Ben Blacklock, Jim Rawlett, Ivor Powers and Jim Deboo, followed in November 1945.

Roland Maycock, who was in the first group, tells me that the course level was set far too low for the Baker Perkins group, who were at third year level in engineering drawing, and on the first day the course had to be immediately upgraded to a much higher level.

After returning from Leicester, we were allocated to different Drawing Office sections to become Improver Draughtsmen until the age of 25, when we were promoted to Draughtsman level. So, in effect, we had a nine year apprenticeship!

In or around 1957, I became a member of the Drawing Office Apprenticeship Committee, a sub-committee of the Apprenticeship Advisory Committee. Stephen Hargreaves was the Chairman, with David Ogilvie and me as members, and with Cyril Downing, who was in charge of the Drawing Office School, as Secretary.

The purpose of the Committee was to interview a number of craft apprentices selected by Cyril Downing as potential candidates for further training to become Draughtsmen. They were usually around 19 to 20 years old, and if successful at the interview were then given a broader craft training, together with a short stay in the apprentice school drawing office. At the end of this training period they spent about one month with Cyril Downing before entering the main drawing office.

The interviews were carried out mostly once per year and at the beginning around 20 candidates were interviewed and on average, the committee judged about 12 were suitable for further training. Many of the craft apprentices who came through this scheme went on to fill senior positions and contributed to the continuing success of the business.

As the years passed by there were fewer and fewer potential craft apprentices considered as being suitable for training for the drawing office, partly because of the change in education by the raising of the school leaving age, coupled with more opportunities for sixth form education and then on to University.

I recall clearly the last time the committee met and interviewed three craft apprentices selected by Cyril Downing, none of them met the standard we had set, and we judged that it would be better for them to remain good craftsmen rather than risk them not meeting the grade in the drawing office. I do not remember the actual year, but it is likely to be in the late 1960s”

Always inquisitive, I would try to sneak up and watch what he would do to get these fragile and complex cores out of the box and into the oven. Not once did I get the chance, he would religiously guard the way he wrapped the wax vent wire around the core irons and how he rammed and stripped the core onto a core dryer before going into the oven. About all we did get to see was Joe blocking one core vent exit with his finger and blowing cigarette smoke through the opposite end. He would repeat this until he was satisfied that all vents worked and that all of the wax was burnt away – if not then he would either return the core to the oven or break up the core and dump the sand in a nearby (and rarely used) waste bin. Perhaps this use of cigarette smoke would be unacceptable these days – even though it still remains a most practical way of providing a successful quality control check.

Our visitors from the Far East

We worked in gangs in those days - a senior charge hand, a few tradesmen and an apprentice. My recollection was one apprentice for every five tradesmen. Malcolm Farley was with Fred French and I was moulding alongside Stan Brown, a beer drinking and fun loving Geordie who took great pride in making his daily bonus before lunchtime. Anyway, Arthur Grey our foreman, resplendent in his statutory white coat informed us that we had to tidy up the area in preparation for some international visitors who were coming around later that day.

“No problem” said Stan and promptly sent me to the cloakroom for as many old clothes that I could find and a pair of safety boots – “On the way back pick up a tin of iron oxide paint from the paint shop as well, would you?”, and I dutifully did. When we had all these, Stan and I went about making a life sized rag doll in overalls and quick release safety boots. Right behind us, the night shift had left large moulding boxes, probably around 8’x10’, scattered around the sand floor and, to the uninitiated, it might have seemed that they had simply fallen into place when dropped from a crane. The combination of sand floor and these boxes was too much for Stan, so we then dug a hole under one side of a box and placed the rag dummy under the large moulding box. With a judicious amount of iron oxide scattered over the legs and waist it did appear that there was a large amount of dried blood and a real person trapped there.

Needless to say both Stan and I were hauled over the coals as soon as Arthur saw this – and if my memory is correct, I was only allowed to continue my time as an apprentice because I was indentured for the next few years.

Getting our bonus

Not everything was fun but we certainly had our fair share of laughter. I was lucky enough to work in Bill Toulsen’s gang where an apprentice’s job was to come in early and get as much moulding “tackle” as we could scrounge. This included core grids and mould “gaggers” which held pockets of sand in place. We also had to retrieve our moulding boxes left in the knock out area after casting.

We worked on a bonus scheme with Bill Airey, allocating a fixed time to complete the process up to casting. If we kept to this time then we were paid an hourly day rate, but if we completed it under the time allowed then we were paid an hourly bonus payment as well - therefore the job of the charge hand was to get good timed jobs and mine was to get all the tackle - but not until Bill had assessed the job.. like this one which came from my logbook in March 1969.

Occasionally there were rush jobs coming through and if there was no time allocated, then Bill had to measure our actual time and charge accordingly.

If this happened, then all our cost cutting exercises were on hold until well after Bill had set a time allowed – but immediately after this “odd sides” came into view, all the tackle needed came out from under workbenches, and the actual time was halved.

I apologise for not mentioning all the others that helped us grow up – from Pat Walpole to Jimmy Farmer – from Michael Breeze to Tommy Badger. When I received my City & Guilds moulding certificate, I made the mistake of telling Ron Smith that - “I now have a piece of paper which allows me to use a trowel”. “That’s a clever piece of paper”, was the reply, “since you couldn’t use one last week”.

Thanks Ron”.

As training progressed, all the jobs and exercises were carefully logged and signed off as satisfactory by the relevant Instructor.

Record of Apprentice’s progress through the Training Exercise

"We were undoubtedly given fairly easy work to start with. I remember earning a few shillings extra with the bonus which was a great help at the time. I took home £3 15s then, £3 5s was for lodging, 5s to get home on the train to Boston and 5s spending money for the week!

Copies of Bonus Sheets

The bonus sheet in the manual was a log of all the production jobs I machined. We also put our name, number and time on the reverse of the production card which came with each job. The card would then be passed back to the CPO once the job had been inspected and moved to its next destination. Later, when we went to work in the main factory on the bonus system everyone kept a log of all the jobs you did so that you could check them off against the bonus sheet that you were given each week.

To get the work we used to take a barrow to the CPO (see - The CPO - The Heart of the Matter) in the machine shop where Mario Storti used to sort us all the good jobs - well, according to him anyway - and usually for the price of a cigarette!, load up the barrow and trundle back to the school to machine the relevant jobs. Mostly we would have a day's work or more but on occasions when work was short we would have to make the trip two or three times a day. On one of these occasions I remember Ted Thain asking why we were spending so much time that day pulling a barrow around the shop when we should have been working. Being a bit green we blamed Mario for not giving us enough work to do, so off he went and promptly gave poor Mario a good telling-off. Needless to say, we ended up a bit out of favour with Mario and got some of the most awful jobs going for the next few days, losing most of the bonus we had earned previously. Those days you could actually end up owing the company money if you did not perform on the bonus system. When I eventually left the Apprentice School to work in the main machine shop I was actually in deficit on the bonus scheme but this was wiped clean and a fresh start made.

Looking back, the bonus sheets are quite revealing in how quickly we progressed in training. By September 1968 I was doing full milling production work in the Apprentice School just like anyone in the main machine shop. That is only a year after leaving school which I find quite remarkable now.

After your second year of training and reaching the age of eighteen you were moved out into the main factory and put under the guidance of the foremen and chargehands of the relevant section with Jim Adcock in overall charge of all apprentices. I went to the light milling section where there were some great characters, Dick Winters, Don Edmunds, George Parrot where chargehands and Ron Coltman was foreman. Once you were eighteen you were expected to work shifts. I quite liked working nightshifts because living away from home it gave me the chance to save money as I was not out during the week and making a longer weekend at home. Attending Peterborough Technical College was a bit hard when doing nights as you did that in the early evening then had to go to work after".

End of 3rd year Craftsman Tests End of 4th Year Craftsman Tests

Even after an apprentice moved into the main factory, the formal competence testing did not end. At the end of each year the apprentice was given test pieces to complete to specification and time, performance being signed-off by both management and Union representatives.

Dennis Crouch was transferred onto the Works Technician Apprenticeship scheme (see also here)- in October 1967, about a month before his 21st birthday. He recalls:

I still received my craft indentures as a fitter/turner but most of my time was spent on the light mills. I would have gained my Ordinary National Certificate in engineering by then hence the transfer.

I spent time in a number of other departments - plate/sheet metal, fitting, heat treatment, foundry/fettling etc. and some of the offices. This lasted about 9 months after which I was offered a job as a machine shop inspector which I had for about a year.

After gaining my Higher National Certificate, I became a methods engineer in Technical Services under Bob Roberts – the department manager was Eddie Steele. After two years, that department was then disbanded and Stewart Slack and I were transferred as information engineers to Purchasing as mechanical technical advisers to the design offices on bought out equipment.

I think the Works Technician Apprenticeship was designed for training of what I would describe as works staff - such as inspectors, foremen etc. This dovetailed with the technician course at Technical College, T1 to T6. I believe it was thought that a T6 was the more practical version of an Higher National Certificate but more academic than the City & Guilds qualification for craft apprentices”.

Trainees both in the Apprentice School and in the Works.

At work in the Apprentice School Fitting section Drilling and Fitting The Machine Shop with Sheet Metal Section in the background Machine Tool Training in the Apprentice School The Sheet Metal Training Section Using Acetylene Testing Gears
Drawing Office School Discussion Session In the Machine Shop Pattern Making Commercial Trainees Surface Grinding Model Making
Testing Electrics 1956: The Apprentice School Machining Section 1958: Fitting Training in the Apprentice School 1958: Jim Deboo keeps an eye on things 1958: The School at Work 1960: Dick Reedman at work on the "Individual Apprentice Bench" - see below 1967: Apprentices make wicket covers for Alma Road
1968: Mick Lord working a lathe in the Apprentice School 1968: Turning in the Apprentice School 1974: Training in the Gear Cutting Shop 1977: Apprentice Plater receives instruction in the Apprentice School 1977: Hospital bed made by Apprentices 1977: Turning instruction in the Apprentice School 1978: Renovation of Perkins Steam Engines
1979: Fitting Shop training 1979: Traction Bed for Manor House 1979: Foundry Skills training 1979: Learning Turning skills 1979: Learning Gear-cutting 1982: Apprentice continues training in the Works 1984: Model Presented to Charles Swift
1986: Training on CNC Controlled Machines in the Apprentice School

Apprentice Outings

It was Jim Deboo's practice to organise day visits for apprentices to other engineering companies as part of their training. This shows a group of Westwood apprentices outside the Bedewell factory in 1949, prior to visiting the Swan Hunter shipyard at Wallsend to see the launching (sideways into the river), of Companhia Nacional de Navegacao, Lisbon's twin-screw passenger and cargo liner, Mocambique.

Apprentice Test Pieces

As part of their training, apprentices had to produce test pieces to demonstrate that they had achieved the required level of skill. Some of these were merely a demonstration of the achievement of a particular level of craftsmanship - a piece of " plate in which a square hole had to be cut into which another piece of metal had to be filed to fit (and it had to fit exactly - no daylight showing - in all the four possible orientations!). Any complacency soon disappeared with the next exercise - a similar task but this time based on a hexagon!

We are grateful to John Gilbert (August 1955 intake) for sending in what appears to be a complete set of these exercises. John recalls:

"I found the articles by former apprentices very nostalgic and accurate. I recently took out my work pieces , scribing block, vee blocks etc, and looking at them wondered how Jack Hurst and his colleagues managed to train us in the initial 12 months in the apprentice school to the high level of skill required to make these items. Starting with the very first exercise, which taught us how to use a hacksaw accurately on a piece of black plate, through the chiselling and filing of blocks of rough cast iron which eventually became our vee blocks and the very accurate test pieces shown in the photo's and finally to making all of the components for our own scribing blocks.

I can remember standing nervously in front of Mr Hurst whilst he measured my test pieces and held the two part pieces up to the light to check for uneven gaps between the mating edges. Then to be taught the basic skills required for fitting, marking out, turning , milling and grinding before we were transferred to the works."

The accuracy we were trained to achieve with hand tools was, I believe, remarkable and yet the vast majority of us achieved it. I have just been into my workshop to check the dimensions of the work piece that is a 1" square piece fitting into a 1" square hole. The square piece is accurate to within 1 thou in each direction and I cannot get a 1 thou feeler gauge into the gap between the square block and the hole it fits. Also the block can be turned in any of it's 4 planes and still fits with the same accuracy. I remember we had to chain drill the hole then chisel it out before setting to with the files. Remarkable when you consider that all of the skilled part was done just using a range of files, scrapers and emery cloth. I know I was pretty average but satisfactory, where as the most skilled lads went on to become toolmakers.

The Apprentice then made some of the tools that he/she would use in the workshops later in his/her Apprenticeship - set square, "Vee" blocks, scribing block, etc. These introduced the Apprentice to machining work - planning, milling, turning, thread cutting, etc. Both Student and Craft Apprentices had to tackle these exercises.

Click here to see John Gilbert's Apprentice test pieces.

Similar exercises were undertaken by Plater and Foundry Apprentices.

Foundry Apprentice test pieces

If any ex-Apprentice still has any test pieces or tools we would very much like to photograph them.

Cut- away model of a Compresssor made in the Apprentice School by Brian Rush and Keith Edis.

More complex test pieces. This next series of photographs show some much more complicated test pieces produced by Apprentices for entry in the All-Europe Craft Competitions, partly organised by City and Guilds.

Medals for Craftsmanship were awarded to Baker Perkins Apprentices at one of these competitions held in Spain.

On top of training exercises and working with skilled men on Baker Perkins products, Apprentices also produced other pieces of machinery. They can be seen above, working on special orthopaedic beds and other appliances (see also Careers in Engineering and Manor House) and producing pedal cars in The Self-propelled Vehicle Racing Event.

They also entered the workshop equipment market as shown in this brochure for "The Individual Apprentice Workbench". Designed for use in the company's Apprentice Schools in Peterborough, Leeds and Bedewell, many generations of apprentices learned the rudiments of their trade on such a bench.

Another Apprentice task was to produce mementos to be presented to VIPs and dignitaries who visited Westwood Works (See also VIPs at Westwood Works). These often took the form of a model dough mixer. This one is of a fairly early design of bread dough mixer and was probably made in the early thirties. A later version, presented to Harold Watkinson, can be seen in The Opening of the Apprentice School.

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