David Foot contacted us to relate some tales told by his father. Victor George Foot, born January 1919, was a Shipwright Apprentice during the 1930s where he met his wife who also worked in the Dockyard. He had grown up in Gosport and travelled to work by ferry. When the apprentices were working in a certain dry dock, they would slide off to a quiet place in the corner and brew tea. They were caught once but not punished. Victor had only positive things to say about the training and the people who trained him.
In conversations with his family, Victor described the Mould Loft. He said that once a ship had been built, the floor wood be skimmed with a sort of hard wax so that the lines of a new ship could be cut into the new surface. However, maps were made to locate the area on the floor where a certain part of a ship was “engraved”. The surface could then be scraped off and the lines revealed should a similar vessel be needed or a panel on an old ship replaced.
Victor also told tales of learning to spot weld (he found this hard going), of hitting his thumb with a hammer whilst caulking, and an incident in the Drawing Office during WW II when a rat ran up the trouser leg of one of his colleagues - Hubert was a very mild-mannered man who did not even swear, saying only “I’ve got a rat up my leg!”.
Another tale concerned those who spent many nights during the war as firewatchers – sat in tall buildings so that they could raise the alert when fires broke out. Portsmouth was of course heavily bombed and David recalls the craters around the town shielded by hoardings. One morning, Victor arrived in the Drawing Office and his colleagues said: “Lots of activity last night – you must have had a busy night”. Victor agreed and accepted their sympathy without telling them that he had fallen asleep and had not been aware of the air raids!
After the war there was little demand for shipbuilding and Victor transferred to the Inland Revenue – but hated it! So, after a year or so he transferred back to the Ministry of Defence, working on Navy-related projects first in Bristol and then in London. Some of these were connected with equipment testing for the “Cod War” although, under the Official Secrets Act, he was not allowed to discuss them with his family.
As a consequence of his father’s MOD appointments, David was brought up in Greater London and still lives there – but maintains his connection with Portsmouth by supporting the football team!
John Crump for David Foot