Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey: Blog https://www.twala.co.uk/blog en-us (C) Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Sun, 21 Mar 2021 16:37:00 GMT Sun, 21 Mar 2021 16:37:00 GMT https://www.twala.co.uk/img/s/v-12/u768911462-o441166186-50.jpg Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey: Blog https://www.twala.co.uk/blog 120 96 Chassis straightening in the 1960’s https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/12/chassis-straightening-in-the-1960-s If a truck with a severely bent chassis came into J H Sparshatts at Bognor Bridge , Chichester, it was one of my tasks to strip the truck down to its basic components. This meant the cab and body had to come off and sometimes the half inch diameter rivets holding a cross members had to be drilled out.

To remove a rivet meant getting out the “Gut Buster”. This was a very heavy duty  electric hand drill manufactured by Wolf. It was very powerful and had earned its reputation as a gut buster as it often jammed while drilling and instead of the drill bit rotating - you did !

The on-off switch was also faulty so when drill jammed, you had to rotate instead of the drill and wait for the electric plug to pull out of the wall. It was no use calling for help because if you did, you would only draw attention to your predicament which would result in lots of laughter from the rest of the mechanics.

We didn’t drill through the whole length of a rivet, just the head which was removed with an almighty blow from a hammer and chisel. The remains of the rivet was then punched out.

Once the chassis was bare and up on axle stands, we dropped plumb lines down from the spring hangers and made a mark with chalk on the greasy floor. Then using a chalk line and with a ping of the string criss criss-crossing from mark to mark, you could eventually see on the floor where the chassis was out of line.

Then we called the experts.  These were two old guys from a company called Barnard and Milton but to us they were known as Barnyard and Stilton. They arrived in an old Bedford flatbed truck, loaded up with oxygen and acetylene bottles, chains, Porta Powers and some very big sledgehammers.

The oldest of the two, who was obviously in his late seventies, walked round the chassis to determine where it was out of true. Eventually he made a chalk mark on the chassis and his ‘boy’ who must have been sixty odd, attached a chain to a Porta-Power hydraulic ram and started to apply some considerable force….

Then out came the oxy-acetylene torches and the chassis got a considerable dose of heat at another place marked once again with  chalk.

Finally the oldest member of the team, availed himself of a very large sledgehammer and gave the chassis a resounding whack opposite the Porta-Power and nowhere near the heat.

Ping!  - The bend in the chassis was now gone ….

During this procedure, not a word was spoken between man and boy as we watched these two craftsmen in awe.

Tools, chains and the Porta-Power were loaded back on to the Bedford and off they went - job done.

This all took place during my Apprenticeship which commenced in 1961. You can read more on my Blog at https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/the-apprenticeship  

 

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/12/chassis-straightening-in-the-1960-s Thu, 26 Dec 2019 11:58:31 GMT
Roger and the Rolls-Royce https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/8/roger-and-the-rolls-royce “It was the Rolling Stones” , “No. I heard it was either the Moody Blues or the Kinks”. “No. I’m sure it was the Stones, I’ve heard that Jagger has got a house somewhere down West Wittering and Marianne Faithful is his girlfriend”…

Actually it was none of the most popular pop groups in the UK at the time - it was us.

Let me explain…

It all started when a Silver Cloud, Rolls-Royce drew up outside a small shoe shop in Chichester. The young driver, dressed in a white tuxedo entered the shop and asked to see the latest Italian shoes. Now the shop was managed by my dear friend Andy Faires 1 who also looked the business in his sharp Italian suit and winkle picker shoes.

Boxes and boxes of shoes were brought down from the shelves for the guy in the tux to try but none seemed to be to his liking. After what seemed an age and with many shoes scattered about the shop floor, the guy got up, offered his apologies saying that none of the shoes were to his taste as he made his way to the door. Now Andy was a mild mannered sort of chap but he was more than peeved to realise that as well as not making a sale he would now have to pick up the shoes, put them back in their correct boxes and then get them back on the shelves. 

So Andy gave the departing guy some choice words and thanked him sarcastically for his business.

The guy in the suit stopped, turned around and confessed that he was not the owner of the car  but just the chauffeur and he was bored stiff  waiting around for his boss to finish at the Chichester Festival Theatre.  Who’s your boss asked Andy ? - Albert Finney 2 was the reply.

I tell you what, said the man in the suit, why don't we meet up later in your usual pub, brings some mates and I’ll buy you all a drink to say I’m sorry and by the way, my name’s Roger.

At this time, around July 1965  I was living on a houseboat on the Chichester Canal along with Andy , Sam and Stuart and we were all ears when Andy told us about this guy with a Roller was going to treat us all to some free drinks at the White Horse.

So, come the evening, we all bundled into my Ford Popular (District Nurse Model) and we made our way back to Chichester and the White Horse.  Roger was already there and thankfully dressed in more normal clothes this time and no sign of the Rolls. Over the next few days we got on well with Roger and he often drove the Rolls, which he used to hide down a side street,  down to our boat for a coffee before heading back to the theatre to pick up Mr Finney.

The boat was called The Pride of Erica, it had two bunks at each end and a galley and toilet in the centre. It was shaped like a matchbox in as much it had a flat roof and bottom and square corners. Sliding doors were at each end and heating, ha ha what heating?, was by a single gas fire.

I wouldn't  say it was damp but when I took my Gannex Mac out of the wardrobe, it had mushrooms growing up the sleeves. My mum had bought me the mac hoping to make me look more distinguished ! It didn't work for Harold Wilson either.

The boat also leaked.  Not only from the bottom but when it rained it leaked from the top as well. Quite often we had saucepans floating in the water catching the drips from the ceiling.

Oh and the toilet (Head in nautical terms) was something else. We had a big sign on the door to remind visitors to  Pee, Pump & Pedal. In other words, after you had used the toilet you then had to use a hand pump to draw canal water up into the toilet and then when the level was higher than the canal you pressed a pedal which opened a valve to flush everything out.. It was quite amusing to see river creatures briefly swimming around the pan before they were returned back to their more normal habitat.

Then there was the drugs bust...

All of us had a job apart from Stuart who always appeared to have funds but was always reluctant to cough up his share of the rent. One day when we were all aboard , I spotted a black Jaguar Mk10 driving up the towpath, it stopped by our boat and if anybody had read any books by Mickey Spillane they will understand me when I describe the occupants as ‘Hoods’

When Stuart saw them he went white as a sheet as he was gently persuaded to get into the back of the Jag for a serious talking to. Unbeknown to us, Stuart was dealing in purple hearts and he was late in paying his suppliers.

The drug bust took place when I was in St Richards Hospital having a stainless steel rod removed from my leg.  (See the Cricketers Incident) . As I was coming round from the anaesthetic I found a stranger sitting beside my hospital bed. He quickly  asked me a question and in my still befuddled state I mentioned the name of Stuart. The man by my bed turned out to be a detective from Chichester Police Station.

In my absence, the boat was raided and a thorough search took place. Andy took great pains to hide a small round tin container. First under a magazine and as the police got warmer he relocated it behind a cushion and then to a shoe. This farce went on for some while, until an observant searcher spotted Andy’s antics and seized the illicit container. Job done, evidence found but the white powder in the tin now had to be sent off to New Scotland Yard for forensic analysis.

Eventually the result came back to Chichester. The white powder was just menthol snuff !

Andy took great delight afterwards in going up to any policeman he found in Chichester and asking them if they would like a pinch of snuff. Often the reply was unprintable …

Anyway, back to Roger in the White Horse and our devious plan to hoodwink the locals.

Now a pub in North Street called The Old Cross was the the popular hangout for actors and other celebrities and because of an un-written rule agreed by the locals not to make a fuss, they felt comfortable there. You could go for a drink in The Old cross and spot many well known names and even Fenella Fielding has been known to serve customers from the other side of the bar.

It was due to the presence of many celebs in town that led to the idea of our scam. We decided to spread a rumour that a well known pop group was coming to Chichester. The rumour spread and people in the White Horse were even expanding on the rumour and some even admitted to have inside knowledge as to who the pop group was !

We continued to feed these rumours and started to mention a  specific day when the group would be in town. Someone said it would be next Friday evening and the word spread around the regulars in the pub and they were all on the lookout.

So, nobody was surprised to see a white Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce the next Friday  evening, cruising down North Street, gliding around the Cross and proceeding down South Street. It came to halt outside the White Horse pub and the driver, in a white tuxedo, got out of the car and swiftly opened the rear door nearest the pavement. All of a sudden, four figures appeared out of the shadows, dived into the back of the Rolls, the door was smartly closed and the guy in the tux got back behind the wheel and sped off into the night.

“It was the Stones” , “No. I heard it was either the Moody Blues or the Kinks”. “No. I’m sure it was the Stones, I’ve heard that Jagger has got a house somewhere down West Wittering 3 and Marianne Faithful is his girlfriend”…

Of course it was none of the most popular pop groups in the UK at the time - it was us!  

Unfortunately Albert Finney found out and he was cross. He threatened to fire Roger but gave him an ultimatum.  If he could provide him with the words and guitar chords of a hit single by the Byrds called Hey Mr Tambourine Man in twenty four hours, he could keep his job.

So, of we went and bought the 45 single, sat in the back of the Rolls and played the record on the cars record player while I wrote down the words and a friend who played the guitar worked out all of the chords..

Roger presented the score to Albert  and he not only kept his job but got us an invitation  to meet Mr Finney, along with Shelagh Delaney 4 on the beach in West Wittering.

We were eventually evicted from the houseboat as a new marina was being built and I am sure the developers didn't want us on their doorstep.

I wonder why…

—————————————-  “  ———————————

Andy Faires R.I.P. - A lost soul and a good mate, gone but not forgotten. We shared the same birthday.

2 Played John Armstrong of Gilnockie in Armstrong’s Last Goodnight at Chichester Festival Theatre.

3 Redlands in West Wittering was the scene of the famous February 1967 police raid, the subsequent       arrest of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger and prison sentences for Jagger and Robert Fraser for drugs possession.

4 Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey, the play for which she is most famous, at the age of 19
 

As I was redundant at the time, I attended the court case and also tipped off the ITV News about the tunnel linking the Court House to the Police Station so they were able to get their cameras into position.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) albert finney andy faires chichester canal pride of erica Rolls-Royce https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/8/roger-and-the-rolls-royce Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:30:35 GMT
The Apprenticeship https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/the-apprenticeship The Apprenticeship
 

The system of apprenticeship was first developed in the later Middle Ages and came to be supervised by craft guilds and town governments. A master craftsman was entitled to employ young people as an inexpensive form of labour in exchange for providing food, lodging and formal training in the craft. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Having failed the eleven plus exam, my education over the next six years took place at Midhurst Secondary Modern School. It was a good education, I enjoyed metalwork the best as the classroom was well equipment with lathes and milling machines etc

Probably the most important event of my school days, was to meet an eleven year old classmate who would not only become my girlfriend at school but later become my wife - Jill Brittain

My first job after leaving school with a sole GCE in Metalwork and Technical Drawing at the age of 17 was, thanks to my Uncle Don, at the Rural Garage, Westhampnett, Chichester as a petrol pump attendant.

My Uncle lent me the £12 to buy my first motorbike from Gray and Rowsell, a BSA C10 250cc side valve to commute from my home near Petworth to Chichester, a journey of some fifteen miles.

The bike had starting problems, so Uncle Don gave me a large 6 volt truck battery which I strapped to the pillion pad. On the first corner it slipped off into the rear wheel and I had to take the corner with one hand on the bars and the other clutching the battery as it clattered against the spokes. The joys of motorcycling were learnt very early. That BSA blew a head gasket every couple of months followed soon by a burnt out exhaust valve.

My first job in the morning at the garage, was to fill up the glass bottles with engine oil from a hand pump and get them out on the forecourt and also to make sure that the Redex Dispenser was full. When I was not busy out the front I was down the pit brushing car leaf springs with old engine oil to stop them from squeaking.

After I had been there for a couple of weeks, the manager asked me if I wanted to do some more jobs in the workshop. Of course I said yes and the next think I knew, I was removing an engine from a Willys Jeep ! All very well but they were still paying me a petrol pump attendants wage, which just about covered the cost of the petrol to get to work.

Not happy with my career prospects at the Rural Garage, Uncle Don got me an interview at J H Sparshatt & Sons, at Bognor Bridge, Chichester and after a short interview, I was taken on as an apprentice.

My five year Apprenticeship commenced on the 27th November 1961 and the Indenture was signed and witnessed by Bill Hazelman - Master Baker & Grocer of Petworth & Frank Curnick - Farmer.

Looking back now after fifty years, it was a good apprenticeship where I learnt many skills. Initially we just had to do the mundane jobs like servicing trucks, which involved changing the oil and filters and then going round the chassis with a messy grease gun. I hated the term ‘Grease Monkey’ but that’s what some of the fitters called us lads.

Later we learnt how to remove an engine which would be sent to the engine shop for reconditioning.  The engine shop was out of bounds to us learners but after a couple of years we were allowed in and shown how to hone cylinder bores and to reface valves and eventually rebuild the engine.  Grinding crankshafts though was the sole responsibility of Dennis who commuted each day from Portsmouth. A stint in the Stores Department followed where we learnt about stock control and job sheet costing.

Every morning trucks had to  be moved out of the workshop and in the Winter this invariably resulted in lots of white, choking smoke as reluctant diesel  engines were given liberal doses of EasyStart which was ether sprayed directly into the inlet manifold.

On the subject of Winter I must tell you about the  heating system - or lack of

Our large workshop boasted just the one, oil fired heater - old engine oil that is, none of your modern stuff.. This one heater worked by injecting a mist of old engine oil by compressed air into a cast iron casing which was about 24 inches square and 60 inches tall.  We started work at 8:00 in the morning and it took at least an hour to start the heater.  By the first tea break at 10:00 it was glowing red hot and it was very warm when you were close but  freezing about 12 inches away. Many is the time that someone's diesel soaked overalls would start to smoulder through standing too close but we were cruel enough not to put the victim wise to his impending conflagration. 

I hated the Winter and an episode in 1963 perhaps sowed the seed to leave the country and seek warmer climes. ( See my story about The Winter of 1962 - 1963)

Of course there were some perks that came with the job. One was that after some work done on a customer’s lorry, a road test had to be performed. The usual route was to leave the yard and head for the top of the Goodwood Estate which was known as the Trundle.  On the way you passed the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit and if you spotted any action, you knew where to stop on the way back. Sometimes there was racing by club members and if you had a furniture removal lorry from say Farr’s Depositories aka Bishops Move, you parked on the road overlooking the  Lavant Straight, climbed on top of the lorry and watched the racing for a while.  Eventually you had to get back to the workshop where the foreman Eric Robinson asked what took you so long.. Telling him  you had to  stop to bleed an air lock resulted  in a knowing smile.

Anther perk was a trip to the body shop in Portsmouth where the coach work was done. You were given a set of Trade Plates and about ten shillings to pay for your train fair to Portsmouth.  Well, the ten bob was quickly pocketed  and you took the trade plates out on to the Chichester bypass and hitched a lift.  Sometimes you only got a lift just to the Black Cat Café in Emsworth where you could pick up a bacon & egg sandwich before getting back on the road to thumb another lift.

Arriving  at the bodyshop in Pompey, I was shown around the brand new Leyland Octopus eight wheeler truck I was to be entrusted to bring back to Chichester. (See photograph) All gold leaf signwriting and every coach bolt’s square nut was in perfect alignment with its neighbour. Perfection reigned at the Sparshatts Body Shop.

I climbed up into the cab and made ready to leave but was told by the foreman  to wait. So I waited.  Eventually after about an hour of waiting , the foreman looked at his watch which was approaching 4 o’clock and told me I could now set off.

So I left the yard just as the siren at the Dockyard signalled for the dock workers to knock off for the  day.I found myself for the very first time driving  an eight wheeler through Portsmouth’s narrow streets, surrounded by hundreds of dockers on bicycles.  This I learnt was part of your initiation  to becoming a qualified heavy goods driver.

On returning to the workshop at Chichester everybody including Eric the foreman and the Manager Ron Barrow, crowded around the truck inspecting it for scratches and looking for parts of bicycles or even parts of dockers.

I survived my apprenticeship and with exam passes  taken at both Chichester College of Further Education and Bognor Tech, I became a fully qualified diesel mechanic with experience in welding, cutting, body building, chassis straightening and most of all, surviving  working alongside the most cantankerous industrial blacksmith - Vic Stentiford.

Following the end of my apprenticeship , I was called into the managers office  who congratulated me and praised me for sticking out with the hard working conditions and low pay. Then he offered me a pay increase of a penny ha’penny an hour. I bit my lip and didn't tell him where to stick it but I was tempted.

By this time most of our customers were employing there own mechanics and work started to dry up. The inevitable came one day when many of us mechanics were made redundant in May 1967 and were given our cards, P45’s and our Redundancy Pay

I received the grand total of £27 0s 0d and for a while I was ‘Jack the Lad’ in Chichester spending my time in the El Bolero coffee bar in South Street and in the evening in The White Horse Pub.

By this time I was living on a house boat on the Chichester Canal but that’s another story. See Roger and the Rolls-Royce

Soon my funds were getting exhausted, and in those days if you were looking for a job you went to the Labour Exchange.

I no longer wanted to be a mechanic and wanted to try something different so the guy at the Exchange got me a job at a yacht chandlers in Chichester. I enjoyed working in the shop but then they wanted me to deliver Calor Gas bottles to Butlins in Bognor. Now these weren’t the small domestic gas bottles but the big industrial ones. I asked where the fork lift was or did the truck have a tail lift. Nothing like that lad, you just have to load them by hand.  Blow that for a game of soldiers, so back to the Labour Exchange I went.

The next job was at Chichester Festival Theatre where I was to become Danny Kaye’s dresser.  Can’t the man dress himself I thought but I never found out as Mr Kaye cleared off to Israel to entertain the troops fighting in the  Six-Day War (5–10 June 1967)

Back to the Labour Exchange I went and they got me a job as a trainee manager selling fridges, TV’s, radiograms etc at J & M Stone (Civic Stores Ltd) in East Street Chichester. I started on the 10th July on the grand salary of £2,00 a week - Wow!  But I didn't last long as I couldn't  see myself selling washing machines for the rest of my life.

Back to the Labour Exchange again

This time I said that I fancied working abroad and using my skills as a qualified and experienced diesel mechanic. They said they would make some inquiries.

About a week passed and I received a message to call in at the Exchange. They had found an un-listed telephone number of a company in Cheapside, London who were recruiting experienced diesel mechanics to work abroad.

The company turned out to be Lonrho headed up by a Mr Tiny Rowlands. I was interviewed by John Sangster who told me all about an operation in Africa called The Hell Run and I would be working for a company called Smith & Youngson.

I accepted the job and when I got home I fished out my old school Atlas thinking to myself  “where the heck is Zambia” ?

So, In October 1967, I boarded a VC10 at Heathrow and so began an exciting chapter in my life’s story.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) "Jimmy Day" Brian Gilbert Colin Barns david etherington dusty withall eric robinson J H Sparshatts Leyland louis severe ron barrow sid stride smith & youngson sparshatt Sparshatts the hell run Tom Linkhorn" https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/the-apprenticeship Sat, 22 Jun 2019 17:10:08 GMT
George and the Hippo https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/george-and-the-hippo The Smith & Youngson Tannoy burst into life and rang out across the yard…

"Bamba lo George Monkhouse, Bamba lo George Monkhouse" ( grab George Monkhouse}

“Buya lapa office mwamusanga, mumsanga”. (Come here quickly)

George left the truck he was working on and made his way across the S&Y yard to the workshop office. Inside was a Zambian driver who had just reported to Stuart Littlejohn the yard manager that his truck had broken down.

George, I want you to take this driver back to where his truck is and either fix it or bring it back to the yard.

George went back to his Zambian team and instructed them to load a Toyota Hilux with tools and fuel and with the driver and an assistant, known as a spanner boy in those days, they headed off down the Great East Road.

I can’t remember exactly where the truck had broken down but it was about a good two hours drive away from the S&Y yard in Lusaka.

Eventually following the driver’s instructions, they came to where the truck had broken down. A quick glance confirmed to George that it indeed had broken down but what the driver had omitted to divulge was that the Leyland Hippo was at the bottom of a ravine.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George had passed a couple of Cat Graders on the way to the breakdown, so he doubled back and did a deal with the operators which probably involved a case of Lion or Castle Beer each.  The graders made their way to the escarpment and George coupled them up with some wire rope and attempted to haul the Leyland back up to the road. No chance, the Leyland was much too heavy even with two Caterpillar 12E Graders pulling on the dirt road.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George gathered up all of his gear and headed back to the yard where the yard manager was far from sympathetic.

George, he said, I sent you out to bring back a truck and I don't want to hear your excuses. I want that truck back in the yard.

So the next day, bright and early, George commandeered another Leyland, loaded it up with more wire rope and a couple of heavy duty tic tics ( the ratchets on winches make a tic tic noise hence the local name) 

Back to the breakdown they went with a team of workers and prepared once again to get the Leyland out of the ravine. George hooked up the winches, bribed the two grader operators with more beer, climbed down into the ravine and attached a wire rope to the truck. Well, they sweated for a couple of hours but apart from getting the Leyland to move a few feet upwards, they realised that there was no chance to get the truck back onto the road.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George gathered up all of the equipment, the wire rope and the tic tics and headed back to the yard., where the meeting with the yard manager was, despite the heat experienced in the tropics, decidedly frosty. Stuart Littlejohn laid it on the line and told George in no uncertain terms, that he wanted that Leyland Hippo back in the yard tomorrow or it would be VC10 time. Now the threat of a VC10 meant the possibility of being fired which resulted in getting a ticket for  a VC10 back to the UK. It was the Zambian equivalent of getting your P45.

So George lit up a smoke and made a plan…

The next morning George loaded up a Leyland truck again but this time selected some Zambian workers who had some  special skills in truck recovery. Once again they retraced the journey back to the escarpment and started to unload some of the extra equipment they had brought along with them. An Oxy-Acetylene cutting torch, known in the trade as a  ‘gas axe’

It didn't take long to cut the Leyland Hippo up into small, manageable  pieces which were then  hauled up to the road with the tic-tics and loaded onto the truck.

Triumphantly but perhaps anxiously George returned to the yard, not expecting what reception he would receive from the yard manager Stuart Littlejohn. "Well done George", was the unexpected greeting,  now you are using your skop (head). Now I have another quick job for you in the morning.

You see in Zambia, in the tail end of the 1960’s and 1970,s , nothing was ever thrown away, every nut & bolt was saved and what George had  brought back to the yard, albeit in pieces, was a valuable cargo and many parts would be used again.

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George Monkhouse 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) George Monkhouse Hippo Leyland smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/george-and-the-hippo Mon, 17 Jun 2019 21:17:24 GMT
Frogs, dogs and a cat. https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/frogs-dogs-and-a-cat The evening started with a trip from Mimosa, which was our Smith & Youngson bachelors house eight miles South of Lusaka on the road to Chilanga and the River Kafue.

Myself and a couple of other mechanics  had taken the company twelve seater Toyota bus into Lusaka for a drink or three at the Ridgeway Hotel and I was the usual driver.

On the way we were stopped at a police road block where they were checking for stolen vehicles. To prove that vehicle was not stolen, you had to show the police officer that you were in possession  of the ignition key.  So I showed him the key and he waved me on. I put the key back in my shorts pocket and hoped that the split pin bridging the terminals behind the ignition switch didn't drop out. Of course as I showed him the key, the engine kept running...

It must have been a good evening but I was pleased to get back to my room at  Mimosa which I shared with Charlie Watson who was the yard foreman at S&Y. Charlie was also from Aberdeen and it had taken me many days before I had a clue what he was talking about so I often just nodded with a yes or no , hopefully in the right place. (See “Coping with a foreign language in Zambia”)

Because we had a small dambo (pond) at the back of the house, we were often plagued with mosquitoes and therefor it was advisable to sleep under a mosquito net. That was all very well but just try getting out from under a  net to visit the loo in the middle of the night. The worst that  can happen and did once for me, was for the hook in the ceiling to pull out and the net fall over your desperate body as you hit the floor struggling to free yourself with much cursing and muttering.

Anyway, now in bed under the net and drifting off to sleep.

And then the frogs started...

Now the African Bullfrog  (Pyxicephalus adspersus) ) likes to make himself heard and the loudest and most persistent frog gets the girl  but also hoping that the lady frog doesn't take to heart that his Latin name of pixie phallus doesn't disappoint. 

After a while the frogs are silent and are busy doing what frogs do under cover of darkness, so off to sleep.

And then the dogs started….

Now we had five native dogs which hung around Mimosa, all mongrels but some with the characteristic ridge down the spine which comes from the African lion dog the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

So, out of bed I got, being careful not to tug on the mosquito net , opened the window and hurled the only ammunition I could lay my hands on at the dogs - my shoes.  That shut them up for a while, not that they were frightened by my safari boots but perhaps they just couldn’t  believe the smell of old engine oil and diesel that was coming their way.

So, back to bed but the dogs now becoming bored with my boots started up barking again but now with more volume, or was that my hangover starting to kick in.

So, once again the window was flung open but I had exhausted my ammunition so what to do? Well the only solution was to go outside and retrieve the boots and shoes that had been flung.

Now as it could get quite warm at night, I was bereft of any night attire as pyjamas were definitely not worn in Zambia. So stark naked, I left the bedroom, fumbled my way up the corridor and out onto the grass. Now, did I say that the frogs were quiet, well the one I trod on with my bare feet let out a plaintiff croak as it squelched up between my toes - I love Africa !

Oddly enough, the dogs were now quiet and after I had gathered up my footwear, run my feet under the tap in the bathroom, I at last retired to bed for some well earned sleep.

The next morning over breakfast I regaled my story to the other S&Y mechanics who were of course unsympathetic but then our housekeeper Mrs McCarthy asked me to repeat the bit about the dogs. She listened patiently and then asked me why I thought the dogs were barking. 

I said I had no idea as I was relatively new to Africa and Mrs McCartney, who was in here sixties had come out to Africa in her twenties and stayed.

Well, said Mrs Mac, yesterday there were five dogs and now there are only four, any idea why ?

No, I said.

Well she replied, a leopard paid us a visit last night and leopards can be very partial to a bit of dog   and just at the time you went out in the middle of the night to retrieve your shoes !

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The photograph is yours truly sitting on his bed at Mimosa 1967

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/frogs-dogs-and-a-cat Sun, 16 Jun 2019 18:37:18 GMT
Malema shucks a police truck https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/malema-shucks-a-police-truck Bwana Steve, bwana Steve, can you help me please ?

Indaba Malema, what’s the problem?

Now Malema was a larger than life Zambian, about six foot tall and built like a, well he was a big guy and thats why he was so good at not only driving our Oshkosh horse and low-loader but skilled at transporting Caterpillar Graders and Cat Bulldozers.

Bwana Steve, if the police come here, can you say that I was in the yard yesterday as I have a maningi problem.

I think you had better explain Malema.

Well Bwana Steve, you know I was bringing back the D9 Bulldozer from Mpongwe yesterday and you know its dangerous to travel at night.

Yes Malema, that big blade sticking out from the low-loader could cause a nasty accident.

Well, Bwana Steve, I was passing Ndola when it started to get near to dark but I thought I had a good chance of making it back to Kitwe before it was full dark.

So, what happened Malema ?

Bwana Steve, you know those police Bedford trucks with the canvas sides and the long seats inside for the police ?

Yes Malema, I have seen how they transport the police sitting facing each other on long benches.

Well, I got near to that place where the road gets smaller and I saw a police truck coming towards me.  I can't move over because of a culvert but I thought we had managed to pass OK. But when I looked in my mirror, I saw that the D9 blade had cut  the canvas on the side of the truck and all the police were falling out on to the road.

Did you stop to see if they were OK Malema ?

Ikona Bwana, I was laughing too much and anyway, they would have put me in the jail for a long, long  time.

So, Bwana Steve, if the Police come today, please say I was in the yard.

OK Malema

Dzikomo kwambili  Bwana Steve.

A police Land Rover was seen later going around the industrial estate but they didnt call in to us at Marais Construction …

-------------------------

Words in italics are possibly in the Bemba language and I have spelled them as they sound. If anybody can correct my spelling, I would be very grateful.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) kitwe marais construction oshkosh zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/malema-shucks-a-police-truck Mon, 10 Jun 2019 13:52:13 GMT
Breakdown on the Munali Pass https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/4/breakdown-on-the-munali-pass This photograph was taken by myself around 1967/68

My photograph shows a Canadian Kenworth horse coupled to a 36ft semi-trailer pulling a 15ft drawbar trailer known in Zambia as a Dangler. This rig was also known as a ‘set of joints’ by the Canadian drivers who came over with the 52 Kenworths that were purchased by Lonhro. The Canadian’s job was to map out the Great North Road which was known as The Hell Run and to train the Zambian drivers on how to operate a Kenworth Truck. One of the Canadian drivers called Mitch, could reverse a ‘set of joints’. I tried to do this and tied the rig up in knots, which was very embarrassing as I had quite an audience watching me !

The Kenworth in the photograph looks fully loaded with maize from the Monze area and it was probably on the road to Lusaka via Mazabuka and the Munali Pass.Those are the escarpment areas south of Lusaka.

I do remember going out to fix a broken down Kenworth and It could be this one in my photograph. There was a very big thunderstorm with lots of lightening strikes all around us, so Ernest Tembo, my assistant (known as a spanner boy in those days) and I had to shelter under the semi-trailer for a while until the storm passed.

Ernest asked me for some money as he had spotted a guy on a bicycle carrying bottles. He chased the guy down the dirt road and returned with a couple of bottles filled with a brown liquid with bits floating in it.  I tasted some and I was told it was known locally as honey beer but I would think we would call it mead.  I drank some more but had to strain the bits through my teeth. These bits were the wings and body bits of the bees !

You can see that a half-shaft has been removed, probable broken by using too much power in a low gear. Kenworths also suffered from twisted propshafts for the same reason and we had to make the first five gears of the fifteen speed gear box* unavailable to the driver for the same reason.

We often carried a spare half-shaft when we went out on a breakdown and a drill rod (an 8ft drill steel used with a jack-hammer on the copper mines). The method was to remove the opposite half-shaft and use the drill rod to poke out the broken piece of half-shaft. If the broken piece couldn't be extracted , then the complete differential had to be removed - great fun out in the bush !

I have no idea why the pick-up has an L plate !

Smith & Youngson also used Leyland Hippos to transport the maize but I never worked on them.

My thanks to everyone on the Northern Rhodesia & Zambia Group on FaceBook for help in locating where this photograph was taken.

* Fuller RTO 915

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/4/breakdown-on-the-munali-pass Sat, 13 Apr 2019 15:26:18 GMT
My desire for a Velocette Thruxton was strengthened in Rhodesia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/3/my-desire-for-a-velocette-thruxton---a-very-special-motorcycle When I was an apprentice diesel mechanic in the 1960’s a Velocette Thruxton cost around £420* which was was out of my price range so I had to make do with a Velocette MAC followed by a very quick Velocette Viper both were 350cc single cylinder machines.

In 1992 I saw a Velocette Venom SP advertised in a classic bike magazine. It was located in Crewe and after many telephone calls and faxes, I hired a Ford Transit and drove up to buy it.  It was all there but in a sorry state but at least it started and ran OK.  Little did I know that it would be 27 years before it ran again and it still hasn't been out on the road - yet !

While we were loading the Velo into the back of the Transit, I casually mentioned that I really wanted a Thruxton but this Velo would have to do.

“I know where there’s  a Thruxton for sale” said the vendor, “but all I know it's in pieces” After a lot of persuading, he gave me a telephone number in Pontefract and as I headed South back home, many thoughts were running through my mind - I really wanted  a Thruxton as it was an incident previously in 1968 that cemented my desire.

In 1967, I left the UK and went to work for Smith & Youngson on the Hell Run in Zambia and on my first long weekend break the following year I drove down to Salisbury in Rhodesia with two fellow truck mechanics taking our housekeeper Mrs McCartney to visit her son.

As there were terrorists in the area we were not surprised to encounter our first road block. We were commanded to stop by a loan soldier standing in the road who asked us where we had come from and where were we going. We told him of our plans to visit Salisbury and asked him how he was expected to apprehend us on his own by standing in the middle of the road. He smiled and nodded at a bush set back from the edge of the road, a hand popped up with a wave and then we spotted the large machine gun trained on us !

After a stopover at Chinhoyi Caves, we continued on our journey to Salisbury (Now Harare in Zimbabwe) with no more drama apart from a bull elephant blocking our way until he decided to let us pass.

After a couple of beers at his house the talk got around to bikes and he mentioned that he had a bike in his garage.  We went to take a look and to my astonishment, there stood a brand new Velocette Thruxton !

This was even more astonishing, as since UDI, there was a very strict embargo imposed by Harold Wilson's government on Rhodesia and no imports were permitted from the UK.

How did he acquire it ? Well, being Ian Smiths personal bodyguard must have helped.

Before heading back to Lusaka in Zambia, we treated ourselves to some culture by booking a table at a well known night club and restaurant know as Le Coq D'or.  Now this establishment not only supplied good foods but entertainment as well. Imagine our surprise when a well built young lady took to the floor with tassels attached to her breasts. She then proceeded to rotate the tassels to the music while we three mechanics looked on in wonderment as neither of us could comprehend how she managed to get the tassels to contra-rotate without the aid of a hand start. 

Forward to 1992, once I had unloaded the Venom I was straight on the phone to a Mr Kendall in Pontefract, the owner of a Thruxton in bits.  He didn't really want to sell it but he did say I could come and see it.  So the next week I jumped into my car and headed North to Pontefract

I paid £3,800 for a box of bits, loaded the big lumps into the boot and the frame across the back seat of the car.  I must admit that I drove home feeling a bit worried - was it a genuine Thruxton? Only just over 1,000 were made ?

When I got home I phoned a Mr Ray Thurston who is the Keeper of the Thruxton Register. He asked me for the engine, frame and gearbox numbers which I gave him. it seemed an age before he came back on the phone to tell me it was indeed a genuine Thruxton and it was first registered in December 1965

I had a Thruxton at last but now I needed to rebuild it but that’s another story….

The rebuild was eventually completed and my Thruxton went to its new owner in Essex in 2016.

I never rode it….

And the Velocette Venom SP (Special) looks a lot different now. Here are some before and after photographs.

You can read more of my adventures on my Blog at :-

www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-road-train-from-mpika-and-getting-fired

 

Raymond Sparkes £427-0s-0d in 1967 from Geoff Dodkin, East Sheen.

Michael Love Update - in March '68 317.14.10 + 82.7.0 p.tax = 400 pounds 1s 10p! I couldn't afford one either .. until 1971 when I bought a s/hand beauty.

Thruxton History - I cant remember where I copied this from so obviously someone owns the copyright

The 'Thruxton' version of the Velocette Venom ridden by Dave Dixon and Joe Dunphy won the Thruxton 500 endurance race. (In 1965 the race was actually held at another disused airfield, the Castle Combe Circuit). In 1967 two Velocette Venom Thruxton motorcycles, ridden by Neil Kelly and Keith Heckles gained first and second places in the Production TT that was first staged at the Isle of Man that year, with Kelly also recording the fastest lap at 91 mph. Prepared by London Velocette dealer Reg Orpin, the winning motorcycle was far from standard, for as well as being in 'Thruxton' trim, the valve gear included titanium tips to the pushrods and valve caps. A Norton Manx piston had been specially engineered at Velocette's Hall Green Workshops, and it had cam followers on needle rollers as well as light alloy timing wheels. It was nearly all for nothing, however, as Kelly failed to start and the rest of the field left him struggling to kick start the Venom. Orpin managed to start it just in time, and, despite the poor start, Neil Kelly caught up with the other riders within three miles and went on to win the 500 cc class, recording 121 mph as he passed the Highlander speed trap.

 

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) charlie watson don turner rhodesia smith & youngson the hell run velocette velocette thruxton zambia' https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/3/my-desire-for-a-velocette-thruxton---a-very-special-motorcycle Mon, 04 Mar 2019 15:33:41 GMT
The Hell Run https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-hell-run “The Hell Run” keeps fuel for Zambia flowing
A report made in February 1967

The main route for fuel & oil supplies was a 1,500 mile (2,400km) highway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia and is known to truck drivers as the Hell Run because of its many hazards.

The fuel lift was the result of sanctions against Rhodesia which until Ian Smith and his Cabinet declared Independence, Zambia obtained its fuel from a refinery near Umtali.

The Zambian Government offered substantial payments to truck owners who were prepared to risk “The Hell Run”

The road, which passes through the Tanzanian Highlands and drops to the Masai Plain, is both lashed by rainstorms and then scorched by the Sun and since the fuel run began more than a year ago, more than sixty men have died on it.

Often the rain or dust on the road was so bad that headlights have to be used during the day and passing another vehicle is usually  impossible. Trucks get stuck in the mud, slide off into ravines or crash and roll-over because of driver exhaustion. The biggest danger of all was the cargo where the smallest spark or even the heat of the Sun could cause an explosion.  Many burnt out wrecks could be seen by the side of the road.

Vehicles which survived the trip returned to the Port of Dar es Salaam carrying copper wire bars and this became an important route for Zambia’s vital copper exports.

Click here for some interesting British Pathé films of the Hell Run.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth kapiri mposhi smith & youngson the hell run zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-hell-run Sat, 26 Jan 2019 14:47:21 GMT
The road train from Mpika and getting fired. https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-road-train-from-mpika-and-getting-fired I joined Smith & Youngson in October 1967 and started my life in Lusaka, Zambia working on the Canadian Kenworth Tankers.

I was later seconded to Contract Haulage which was part of S&Y and Lonrho. Contract Haulage took over the repair and maintenance of all of the Kenworths. The management later asked me if I would like to be relocated to Ndola where the new oil storage depot was being built and which would be the place where the oil pipe line from Dar es Salaam would terminate.

I agreed to this new adventure and as I was still a single man, I looked forward to the challenge.

The yard at Ndola was more or less bare. An office was on site but no workshop as such existed, just a large concrete slab and an old Ruston Generator which had seen better days providing power at the Livingstone Saw Mills.

I stayed in the Savoy Hotel Ndola and found that many of the other guests were the top brass of the Worlds oil companies including Shell, BP and Texaco.

Boy could they drink, as soon as I had finished for the day I would be spotted and dragged to the bar where I would be plied with many free drinks. I often wondered why they were being so  friendly and then it dawned on me that I was the guy who would be servicing  about 52 trucks and of course specifying what type and brand of lubricant  should be used. They were also there for the official opening of NOSCO* by the President of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda. 

This hard drinking became so much for such a young lad that I had to sneak into the hotel via the back entrance to avoid my new friends. One perk though of being a long term resident of the Hotel was that the Chef often poked his head around the kitchen door and if he saw me, he gave me an extra helping. Chicken or pork  peri peri was his speciality.

Prior to moving up to Ndola I  had already advised the company that I would be returning to the UK to get married which I did on October 24th in Chichester and that date was also Zambia Independence Day !

On my return to Ndola with my wife, I learned to my dismay that a new guy would be my boss. To say this really peed me off  would be a bit of an understatement as I had spent a lot of time and effort setting up a yard from more of less nothing, with scheduled servicing, repairs & welding etc.

I will call the new man Tom Wilkins, not his real name for obvious reasons. He was Welsh and also he was the best mate of the new general manager who's name was Ron.

Now this Tom was one of those guys who had seen it all, done it all and if he hadn't done it his brother had either done it or was about to do it, in other words he was an obnoxious know it all and I took an immediate dislike to him and he to me.. The tricky part was that he lived in the flat next door to mine and he had to give me lift every morning to the yard as he had  already commandeered my company Peugeot 404 for his own use.

I had one ally at the yard and that was the transport manager, by the name of John Corey, a  Canadian who came to Zambia when  the Kenworth Trucks were delivered. He tipped me off that my days were numbered as Tom and Peter didn't want me upsetting their cosy jobs and as Tom knew about everything, they didn't really need a qualified diesel mechanic like me.

It all came to a head one day when I was flat on my back under a Kenworth adjusting the mainshaft brake - a device to assist in making quicker gear changes. To adjust the brake you needed to turn a ring around on the mainshaft and to do this you needed a long punch and a hammer.

Tom poked his nose under the truck and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was adjusting the mainshaft brake . His response was to say that you don't do it that like and I was doing it all wrong. My response was to grab this little Welshman by the scruf of his neck, pull him under the truck and tell him in no uncertain terms what I would do with this hammer if he didn't go away ! or words to that effect.

Not surprisingly things didn't go well after that and Tom spent a lot of time with his mate Ron in the office no doubt plotting on my demise.

It was the start of the rainy season and reports came back that many trucks had got stuck on a bad section of road near Mpika. I talked to some other drivers and as I suspected, three of our Kenworths were stranded with slipping clutches. 

After reporting my findings to the management, guess who was instructed by Tom to rescue the trucks ? Well there was only one person capable and that was myself after all, I had never ever seen Tom with a spanner in his hand let alone driving a Kenworth.

I recruited the best driver, Peter Jam and got him to load up a Kenworth tanker with water for ballast. Ernest Tembo, my right hand man spanner boy organised my tool box which we heaved up into the sleeper section of the cab along with some wire rope, shackles and other bits & pieces.

On Friday we left the yard and headed South to Kapiri Mposhi where we turned left onto the Great North Road, better known as “The Hell Run”. We drove all day and after stopping for the first night we feasted on a chicken stew cooked up by some of the other drivers on the road.

Early the the next day after an uncomfortable night trying to get some sleep in the cab, we continued our journey to Mpika. The road in some places was like a quagmire, churned up by many vehicles transporting fuel to Zambia.

Eventually we came to a long steep hill and it was just chaos with numerous trucks trying to pass each other in the mud. We saw that a couple of Fiat Tankers  with Somali drivers were mainly responsible for causing the hold up, so we attached a wire rope to their vehicles and hauled them both up to the top of the hill to continue their journey. 

Then our attention turned to the Kenworths and it was obvious that a lot of clutch abuse had damaged the centre disc in the twin disk transmission - a common problem with the Lipe-Rollway design. The clutches were was OK for use on the American Highways but no good for dirt roads and African drivers…

Using our good tanker and the skills of Peter Jam our driver, we towed each Kenworth up the hill and parked them all nose to tail on a straight stretch of road.  What next? Well all of the afflicted Kenworths were carrying a full load of fuel and they had to be got to Ndola by any means but all three had limited drive due to their damaged clutches. So, why not join them all up ?

Each vehicle always carried what was known as an A-Frame which was a simple piece of equipment to easily attach and tow another vehicle in the event of a breakdown. So we set to work coupling all of the tankers together with our single vehicle in the lead.  With no mobile phones or radios in those days, we solved the problem of communication by getting the driver's mates or lorry boys as they were known, to sit on top of their vehicle and to  shout out any warnings if anything went amiss.

So, off we went, a tanker towing a tanker plus trailer, towing a tanker plus trailer, towing a tanker plus trailer. 

We had ourselves a Road Train ….

We got back to the yard in Ndola on Sunday and with some extra help we steam cleaned all of the vehicles and parked them up neatly in a corner of the yard.

Come Monday morning I was waiting outside our flat for Tom to give me his customary lift to the yard. He didn't speak to me during the journey but when we got to the yard he took me straight to the general manager's office.  Tom with his mate Ron stood with their backs to the office window and both of them started giving me a really hard time.

“Why are you here, were you not instructed to bring back three broken down Kenworths, so I’ll ask you once again, why are you here?”  raged Ron.

“Three Kenworths” I replied, “Well if you turn around and look out of the window you will see three Kenworths all parked up, washed and waiting to be unloaded  -    Next job please” ?

That afternoon I was fired!  Perhaps I shouldn't have been so cocky but I couldn't  resist it and the looks on their faces was a picture…

News quickly spread among the Zambian workers and three of the Kenworth drivers, including Peter Jam, took me to one side.

“Are you leaving Bwana Steve?”

I nodded.

“Is it because of Bwana Tom?” they asked.

The look on my face gave them their answer.

“Bwana Steve, we like you and respect you. All of us drivers have  had an Indaba (meeting) and we think it could be a good plan if Bwana Tom doesn't come to work tomorrow.”

I smiled and thanked them for their support but made it clear that I didn't want any harm to come to Bwana Tom. He will eventually get his comeuppance. 

The following week I hitch hiked to a site where a Mr Charles Edmunds had a contract in the bush. He had a Kenworth and he asked me if I knew how to drive one !

After I demonstrated the use of all fifteen gears, he muttered something like ‘bloody poms’ and gave me a job. I stayed with him at Edmac Contractors for the next eight years and he was my hero and the source of many of my stories.

Some months later, Contract Haulage ceased their operation on The Hell Run as the pipeline was now completed and fuel was flowing freely into the country.

I don't know what happened to Tom and his mate Peter as I never heard of them again…..

 

* NOSCO - Ndola Oil Storage Company

Tanzania Zambia Mafuta (TAZAMA) Pipelines Limited is a company jointly owned by both the Zambian and Tanzanian governments. Founded in 1966 its purpose was, and still is, to transport finished petroleum products from Dar-Es-Salaam to Ndola by way of an oil pipeline. The construction of the pipeline took almost two years, with its official opening being in 1968, when the first Zambian President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, and his counterpart, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, jointly opened a valve at Tank Farm in Tanzania and a valve at the Ndola Oil Storage Company (NOSCO) in Ndola, Zambia. TAZAMA has since been successfully pumping finished products through the 1,710 kilometre (1,062 miles) pipeline from the Indian Ocean port of Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania to the Copperbelt town of Ndola in Zambia.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth cory" edmac contractors john john corey' smith & youngson the hell run zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-road-train-from-mpika-and-getting-fired Thu, 24 Jan 2019 18:26:49 GMT
The diamond merchants from the Congo https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-diamond-merchants-from-the-congo This story is a bit tricky to tell as it involves someone that his family may recognise, so I am going to call the key figure in this story Nev. (which is just two letters off his real name)

Now Nev worked as the plant manager at Edmac Contractors in Kitwe, although I never really saw him managing any plant as it was mostly up to myself and my two workmates Alfonso and Dimitris to look after the yard and all of the plant.

Anyway, when Nev joined the company, he was allocated a small office which had just a desk and three chairs. Curiously, when he moved in, he demanded that his office floor be carpeted which was an odd request as all of the other offices had the usual polished concrete floor. Nev got his office carpeted, a nice deep pile version, dark blue if I remember. Once he was settled, Nev carried on with his management of plant and we just carried on keeping it running. 

One day, Nev summoned myself and Dimitris to his office. Already seated inside were two rather scruffy gentlemen who looked decidedly shifty. Now Nev’s job description did not encompass recruitment, so Dimitris and I were curious as to why Nev wanted us.

It turned out that these two characters spoke no English or any of the local Zambian languages. They only knew Swahili and French which is the  lingua franca of the Belgian Congo* which is where these two guys had come from. 

Dimitris had spent some time working in the Congo but had to leave rapidly with his family due to the uprising in the 1960’s . He was not only fluent in French but also Swahili so it became obvious that Dimitris was to be the interpreter and me, the bodyguard !

These guys had a lot of diamonds which were quickly poured out  from a couple of draw string bags to form a small heap on the desk.  It quickly dawned on Dimitris and myself that Nev was a diamond buyer and these two guys were illegal diamond merchants, no wonder Nev needed a bodyguard.

Getting down to business, Nev started sorting out the diamonds into three separate piles. One pile for the rejects, another pile to be examined in more detail and the third pile for the choice items, they all looked the same to me !

Once they had been finally sorted, the haggling began and this is where Dimitris became the key player in this drama. I just stood and watched as the diamonds from two of the piles were pushed around the desk until at last Nev had created  a small pile that he wanted to buy.  Eventually a price was agreed and the two guys left with a large wad of notes.

Once they were gone, Nev then stood up and locked the office door. He stacked the  three chairs on top of the desk and moved the lot up against the wall.

He then went down on his hands and knees and started to run his fingers though his new blue carpet. Immediately he started to pick out the best stones which he had flicked off the desk with his little finger whenever the two dealers were momentarily distracted. 

The two guys were illegal diamond merchants but I’ve often wondered what that make Nev.

 

* Belgian Congo later renamed Zaire and then renamed again as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo)

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) diamond smugglers edmac kitwe zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-diamond-merchants-from-the-congo Wed, 23 Jan 2019 16:38:16 GMT
The Diamond Smuggler https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-diamond-smuggler Dave was a quiet sort of chap, easy going but he kept himself to himself. It must have been around 1970 when he worked at the Smith & Youngson tanker shop on Chachacha Road in Lusaka and was involved in repairing the bent and battered S&Y vehicles of which there were many.

He didn't join us on Saturday evenings when most of us mechanics either ended up at the Ridgeway Hotel for their famous chicken in a basket, or for serious drinking sessions at the Q Inn on Cairo Road. Dave kept himself to himself - Until we had that party.

Now it wasn't really a party but if there was a long weekend for example at Easter when we had Friday to Monday off, we organised a gathering at Mimosa to enjoy many Lions, Castles and lots of steaks on the braai*

Dave lived along with us twenty odd mechanics at Mimosa which was known as the bachelors mess and was about eight miles South of Lusaka on the Kafue Road. Mimosa was run by Mrs McCartney who must have been in her sixties. She had come to Africa from the UK when she was in her twenties and never went back.

Anyway, I digress.  The gathering was well populated with guests from Central African Motors, Power Equipment plus a few others.

One thing we had noticed about Dave was that he always had some form of money belt around his waist. It was often hidden by his shirt but now and again we got a glimpse of it.

As the party went on into the evening, we invited Dave to join our little group where we were in the process of demolishing a couple of cases of Lion Lagers. Dave seemed to enjoy our company and after a couple of bottles or three, he began to open up and to our surprise, he began to tell us a story about a guy who had worked on a diamond mine in South Africa.

Now if you worked on a diamond mine it appeared to be relatively simple to pocket some choice stones and stash them away. The big problem was getting them out of the mine compound where all the mine workers lived. The compound was surrounded by a high fence with armed guards and if you had to leave you were subjected to a full body search, sometimes an x-ray and all of your possessions were scrutinised.

Now this guy, according to Dave, had squirrelled away some stones and needed a plan to get away with them. A new office block was being built and the yard was busy with bricks, scaffolding and cement mixers.  While nobody was watching he scooped up some fresh concrete and quickly fashioned it into a rough block. Before he put it back on the ground, he carefully inserted the diamonds he had collected.  The concrete eventually set hard and became just another part of the general rubble in the yard.

The day came when the miner's contract was up and he made preparations to leave. He was strip searched and his belonging were checked over by the security people. His vehicle, an old pickup was also given a quick once over but as this had been kept in a secure garage, it was not suspect.

All his possessions were loaded into the back of the pickup and he slowly drove across the yard to the main security gate but to his annoyance, he got a puncture. Pulling up outside  the new office he got his jack out of the back of the pickup and started to raise the wheel. Unfortunately the jack couldn't get the wheel high enough to clear the ground, so he needed something to put under the jack, like a concrete block….

It didn't take him long to change the wheel and when he’d finished he loaded the punctured wheel back in the pickup along with the  jack and the concrete block. Of course, he needed the concrete block incase he had another puncture. The main security gates opened and he drove off.

Now Dave then mentioned something about the IDB** and their organisation that used informants to track down stolen diamonds. It seemed that you could not only make some money by stealing diamonds but you could also makes a tidy sum by informing on someone and earning a reward. The IDB organisation had its informants throughout Central & South Africa so any diamond smuggler never knew who to trust or when he would get that tap on his shoulder.

We finished the last case of Lions and as we all had to be back at work early the next morning, we retired to our separate rooms.

Next morning at breakfast there was an empty place at the table..

Dave was gone.

Dave was that diamond smuggler.

————————————————————

* BBQ

** IDB - Illegal Diamond Board which I believe was part of the De Beers Mining Group

 

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Cairo Road Q Inn Ridgeway Hotel smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/the-diamond-smuggler Sun, 20 Jan 2019 22:34:08 GMT
Lost over the Congo https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/lost-over-the-congo The Cessna 206 was known as the Sky Wagon as it had a large door on one side for ease of loading.

Charlie, my Boss said that there was a broken down scraper* at Solwezi and could I load some spares onto his pickup before we both drove out to the dirt airstrip at Nkana.

The Cessna was sitting on the grass and we proceeded to load some five gallon drums of engine oil, tools and spare parts for the GM 4-71 Scraper engine.

“Put a couple of drums of diesel in too Steve, we’re getting a bit low on the new road we are building”

"But Charlie. the plane is full enough, it will never take off with all this extra weight”

Charlie response was to reach into a pocket behind one of the two seats and pull out a dogeared sales brochure for the Cessna.

He pointed to the sales blurb which stated “If you can get it through the door, you can take off with it”

“Put another drum of diesel in Steve” he grinned..

So, we took off eventually and a quick turn through 180 degrees took us over the Nkana Copper Mine and we headed off to Solwezi.

Now, I had been previously warned by others who had flown with Charlie that he had the habit of falling asleep at the controls after setting the auto pilot.

Aware of this I asked him how long it would take us to get to Solwezi, about an hour he replied and I made a note of the time on my watch.

Just as I had been warned, Charlie nodded off as the Cessna droned on its way to Solwezi, or so we thought…

On the hour, I gave Charlie a nudge at pointed at my watch.

“OK” said Charlie, searching the horizon ahead, “You see that hill, well Solwezi is just over the other side”

So we flew over the hill but there was no Solwezi.

“Perhaps it’s this hill”  said Charlie as he banked the Cessna over in another direction - Nope

“Perhaps it’s this hill”  said Charlie as he banked the Cessna over in the opposite direction - Nope

It was becoming obvious that we  couldn't find Solwezi and that we were lost !

Charlie spotted a dirt road in the distance with a puff of dust obviously being made by a vehicle.

He made a quick pass and saw that the vehicle was a large truck.

“Right” said Charlie, “I think I know what road this is and if we could see who the truck belongs to, I will know where its heading”

With that, Charlies banked the Cessna round and we came up behind the truck at zero feet.

Now the stall warning horn started to blare out as Charlie throttled back as we flew along side the truck.

“Quick Steve, read me the name on the side of the truck”

“ I cant Charlie”

“Why?”

“its all in French” !

“Eissh, were over the Congo” and with that  he gave the Cessna full throttle and banked sharply away to the East…

Once we calmed down and had hopefully resumed our flight in Zambian airspace we cruised around until we spotted a grass air strip in the distance.

Charle quickly put the Cessna down as as he switched off the engine a figure in white flowing robes approached us followed by what seemed hundreds of small children .

We had landed at a missionary…

“Greetings my Son, how may I be of assistance” the white robed figure asked ?

“Can you direct me to Solwezi please ‘? asked Charle 

“”Well, it is about ten miles due East” was the reply.

“Thank you Father” Charlie replied as he fired up the Cessna frightening off many piccanins who had by now surrounded the aircraft.

We took off and sure enough, there was Solwezi exactly where the White Father said it would be.

————————————-

Was this Charlie's Flight Plan ?

*  The scraper was a LeTourneau-Westinghouse (Wabco) with a General Motors two stroke diesel engine

There will be a sequel to this story about returning to Kitwe at night and landing on an airstrip with no lights.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) charlie edmunds edmac solwezi https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/lost-over-the-congo Sat, 19 Jan 2019 20:29:08 GMT
Kanjombe and the baffled tanker https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/kanjombe-and-the-baffled-tanker “I can do that Bwana Steve, let me do it please…”

Kanjombe was jumping up and down in excitement hoping for the chance of being the most important member of the Team..

When Ian Smith and his Cabinet declared UDI* in 1965, it resulted in the border between Rhodesia and Zambia being closed which meant that no more fuel arrived from Umtali. With the aid of Lonrho, the Zambian Government purchased 52 Canadian Kenworth tankers to bring fuel from the port of Dar es Salam in Tanzania, along the Great North Road**, to Kapiri Mposhi and then on to the the fuel depot at Ndola (NOSCO) This operation became known as The Hell Run.

Each  Kenworth consisted of a rigid tanker with a 5,800 gallon tank pulling an 8,500 gallon drawbar trailer.

The tanks had individual compartments to keep separate the petrol and diesel but it was decided that some of the tankers should carry just one type of fuel, either petrol or diesel, so were tasked with cutting large holes in the compartment walls.

Now, the walls were 1/4” thick duralumin, welded all round to the internal skin of the tanker. Each drawbar trailer had three compartments so it meant that two walls had to be opened up thus creating two baffles.

Because of the lack of power in the yard, we only had an old Ruston powered generator which had served most of its life at the Livingstone Saw Mills,  Honda petrol generators were sourced along with some 220 volt power drills.

Teams were organised. The first member of the  team was a Zambian with a piece of wood with a nail in one end and a pencil in the other. With this he marked off a twelve inch diameter circle in the compartment wall.

The second member of the Team had a hammer and a centre punch and he punched a mark all around the circle about the width of a pencil apart.

Now the third member had the job of drilling around the circle with a 1/4” drill bit. As the tankers had previously been full of fuel, they had to be steam cleaned first to remove all traces of petrol but there was always a couple of inches of water left in the bottom which couldn't be drained off. Therefore this third member of the Team was under strict instructions NOT to let the drill come anywhere near the water.

The final & fourth member had to cut out the baffle using just a hammer and chisel. You can imagine the noise that was generated.

So, all went according to plan. The circles was marked, centre punched, drilled and chiseled until we had just one tanker left to do.

“Bwana Steve, Bwana Steve pleeeze can I do some of the drilling pleeeze ‘?

OK, Kanjombe, but you must be very, very careful not to let the drill touch the water, do you understand Kanjombe’?

“Yes, yes Bwana Steve, I understand…….”

With that, Kanjombe swiftly climbed up to the top of the tanker  and lowered his lithe body down through the Emco Wheaton hatch and he started drilling.

After about ten minutes Kanjombe had drilled all around the circle and he excitedly shouted out “Bwana Steve, I have finished the drilling”

Clunk!
Kanjombe had dropped the electric drill into the water

There was a scream, followed by a shrill cry of “It bit me, it bit me”

Now, if you recall those cartoons where a character punches their way out of a box, well I swear that the sides of the tanker bulged where Kanjombe’s body ricoched from side to side off the tankers  sides. 

The hatch at the top of the tanker is only about 18” in diameter and it takes some effort to reach up and haul yourself out of the tank but Kanjombe literally shot out of the hatch like a rocket and his legs were already running at speed along the walkway at the top. Just like the cartoon Road Runner, his little legs kept on running even when he was in mid air as he disappeared into the bush still screaming “It bit me, it bit me..

The rest of the Team who had witnessed this episode had meanwhile collapsed with laughter but were relieved to see poor Kanjombe eventually come back out of he bush.

“Did I do a good job Bwana Steve” Kanjombe asked ?

“Yes Kanjombe, you did a very good job” I replied.

“Thank you Bwana Steve”

Kanjombe walked off with his head held high and a big grin on his face. 

He was proud that at last he was an  important member of the Team.

The photograph shows Kanjombe standing on a tyre by a Kenworth Tanker.

* Unilateral Declaration of Independence

** This became known as the Hell Run

Other members of the Team were Ernest Tembo, Mwila and Sheftu Zewa, also great characters.

 

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth hell run smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/kanjombe-and-the-baffled-tanker Sat, 19 Jan 2019 10:30:16 GMT
Little Richard https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/little-richard When I founded my previous company along with a business partner in 1983, I quickly realised that taking on a trainee, who could learn about the products would be an advantage. Little did I realise what this would lead to.

Richard arrived under the YTS banner, a Youth Training Scheme set up by the government and similar to the old apprentice scheme.

We already had a Richard working for the company, so to differentiate between the two , the original Richard became known a Big Dick and the YTS trainee became Little Dick.

Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for.

Richard quickly settled in and was quick to learn about our products. He had a strange affection to all things VW and he was proud of his VW Valiant which to our amusement even sported a cover to protect the front end from stone chips. We soon learnt that this was  known as a bra. Yes his car wore a bra !

We soon became aware of Richard’s humour, sometimes very strange and we learnt very soon not to take the bait even if it was dangled in front of us.

Here is an example.  One day Richard was obviously setting us up for something, every time he moved around the office or workshop, he would raise one of his arms upwards.  When he stopped at  his bench or desk, he would lower his arm only to raise it again if he went to another part of the building.

The rest of the staff were curious as to what he was up to but were not yet ready to take the bait.

After lunch, Richard was seen to walk back from his VW and once again he raised his arm and this strange behaviour carried on throughout the afternoon.

Something had to give and when he came into the office someone took the bait.

“Richard, why are you walking around all day with your arm raised?”

“Ah! funny you should” ask he replied, “This is my pet camel Ishmael and I had to take him to the Vet at lunchtime.” 

“What was wrong with him?” someone asked.  

“Nothing serious , the Vet said he’s just got the hump” Richard replied.

Following this episode, everything returned to some sort of normality until the day Richard found something in the warehouse.

Why we had it I will never know but one of the companies sharing the warehouse was involved in exporting to developing countries.

The article in question was a full nuclear/chemical/bio-hazard suit consisting of a large, one piece coverall, boots which were as big as a clowns shoes and a full protective headgear complete with mask, goggles and a hat.

Richard put it on….

To say that the image was hilarious was an understatement and we dared him to go outside while wearing it. Richard took up the challenge and walked up to the main road which lead to our industrial estate.

At this time, an advertising representative called and parked his car just outside our office window. He had not seen Richard yet but we were all at the office window waiting to see what would happen.

A grass bank separated our office from the main road and it's down this bank that Richard decided to walk very slowly and directly to the Reps car. We could see that the Rep had spotted Richard as he made his way slowly to him but he made no move to get out of his car.  Richard by now had reached the car and was standing motionless by the Reps car door.

After a few moments which must have seemed like an eternity to the Rep,  Richard slowly raised is arm and with his gloved hand spread his fingers out to form a large V

The Rep just sat their motionless.

“Hail Tharg” we heard Richard boom and he slowly turned and walked away, disappearing behind our building.

Nothing was said when the Rep eventually entered our office but his complexion looked unnaturally pale .  However Richard had not yet finished with him….

My office was separated from the main, open plan office by a half panelled glass door and anybody sitting in my office was able to see through this door and the people behind it.

Richard took it on himself to extend the previous torture by repeatedly  passing in front of the glass door and  walking down the  stairs. Later he would appear again, walking up the stairs.

Nothing wrong with that you may ask except that we didn't have any stairs !

I often wonder what happened to that Rep… but I know what happened to Richard.

He is now the Commercial Manager of a large plastics company and I often wonder if his staff know of his former activities ;-)

It also appears that he is still a fan of VW’s but this time they come with a Porche badge ….

********************************************

Having just read the above, Sarah, who was also at my previous company along with Dave, has told me of a few more japes ...

"Ha, those were the days.  Yes Dave was there, when he first started we were super mean to him - putting cold tea bags in his apple turnovers, draining his can of Lilt through a hole in the bottom of the can then refilling it with water & gluing the hole closed so when he opened it he was quite surprised!!!  And Colonel Hurnell - we used to replace his hard boiled eggs with shell on for non hard boiled with shell on, all very amusing & good times! "

Both Sarah & Dave are at my present company PVL Ltd I'm pleased to say...

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/1/little-richard Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:13:18 GMT
The case of the missing Dynamite https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/the-case-of-the-missing-dynamite My main job when I worked for a company on the Copperbelt, was to maintain a large fleet of earthmoving equipment including various trucks and stationary plant such as pumps, compressors & welding machines.

If the company was awarded a contract to build a road, dam or airstrip in the bush, I had to make sure the necessary plant was available along with tyres, fuel and spare parts etc. Explosives, which were used for blasting rocks, were the responsibility of the Boss who held the blasting license.

Once the plant was all out in the bush we communicated once a day with our UHF radio. I fabricated  a really tall mast in our yard and the Boss usually found a tall tree to fix his aerial.  We were only allocated a five minute transmission slot once a day by the Zambian Government, so any messages had to be both short and to the point with no time for chit-chat. UHF transmission were very difficult to understand and it needed a practiced ear to understand the garble and a quick control of squelch adjuster.

After a contract was completed, all of the plant & equipment returned to the yard and I gave each item a quick appraisal  to see if it just needed a service or if a major overhaul was needed. Caterpillar Bulldozers and Cat Graders took priority as they were our main earners and had to be got ready for the next job.  Any damaged items such as engines, gearboxes and back axles for example were put into  a large building known as The Back Store. Nothing was thrown away as some spare parts were very difficult to obtain and sometimes impossible.

The plant coming back to the yard was a very slow process over several days as most was transported either on our low-loaders or in trailers pulled by our Kenworth Horses *

As the plant started returning to the yard, the Boss asked by radio if I had seen two magazines. Now by magazines, he meant wooden lined, secure steel boxes which were used to transport our explosives. Both magazines were painted red and one was for Dynamite and the other one was for the Detonators. It was a strict rule that the magazines never traveled together - for obvious reasons.

I replied the next day to the Boss that I had checked in one magazine and it had been put in a safe place.

Days passed and the Boss came over the radio again to see if I had found the second magazine. No, was my reply once again.

Over the next few days the Boss’s radio transmissions sounded that he was getting a bit stressed.  He asked me to check the magazine that I had put in a safe place and then in the following day’s transmission I told him that it contained detonators

Now the Boss sounded very agitated. “What’s wrong? I asked .."

“Eissh we’ve lost a case of dynamite” he replied. “Can you organise a search party immediately as in this heat the sticks will be sweating by now” !

So, I organised a search party and after about half an hour, one of the Zambian grader operators came running up to me shouting “Bwana Steve, Bwana Steve. i have found a led box” **

The Grader Operator led me to the Back Store and there under a heap of old truck springs and back axles was the glint of a red box. Carefully we removed all of the clutter and gently carried the red box out into the sunlight. To my consternation, I noticed that a liquid was oozing out of a corner!

We stacked some old tyres over the magazine and retreated to a safe area - which was perhaps about fifty feet away as we were not afraid of a few sticks of dynamite blowing up - were we ?

By this time the Boss had arrived back to our town so I phoned him at his home to break the news that the lost case of dynamite had been found.

“Thats great Steve” he replied, ‘Just chuck it on the back of a pickup and I’ll see you in ten minutes.

“Boss, Im calling you from about five miles away as that box is sweating and looks lethal”

“Ach! you Poms are all the same” he replied with a chuckle, but I drove back to the yard to meet him.

The Boss arrived in his new Holden pickup which had a rubber lined cargo space. We gingerly loaded the magazine onto the back and jammed it in with some old tyres.

“Boss” I said. “You cant return that to the Government underground store, it's dangerous”  “What are you going to do with it ?”

The Boss gave me a strange look with a twinkle in his eye and drove off out of the yard…

Normal life resumed over the next few weeks , with many small contracts more local to our town when we heard the news that we had won a contract for a job up near the Congo border.

The story was that a pumping station had been blown up with dynamite allegedly by Congolese rebels and we had been awarded the contract to re-build it.

Now how convenient was that ?

* Not real horses but trucks which hitched to a semi-trailer.

** Many Zambian substitute R’s into L’s ! Therefore a Led Box = Red Box

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/the-case-of-the-missing-dynamite Sat, 15 Dec 2018 15:02:16 GMT
Losing the Plot ! , or learning to ride a motorcycle & sidecar. https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/losing-the-plot-or-learning-to-ride-a-motorcycle-sidecar The first time I got on a bike with a chair I destroyed the hubcaps of three cars on a housing estate as I tried to lean it into a left-hander.

The second time I hit an oak tree while trying to turn right on a dirt track.

Then my Uncle Don taught me to use the bars as a tiller and to steer one-handed - success ! and soon I was getting the plot up on two wheels with confidence 

The bike was a Norton ES2 with the rotten plywood sidecar body stripped off and thrown over the nearest hedge.. A friend started the bike for me and my crutches were bungeed to the chassis.

The reason for the crutches was a prior coming together with an Austin 10 which I tee-boned outside the Cricketers Pub in Duncton. Not with an outfit but on a very quick Velocette Viper.  This story can be read in The Cricketers Incident

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/losing-the-plot-or-learning-to-ride-a-motorcycle-sidecar Thu, 06 Dec 2018 13:54:23 GMT
My Dad's BSA Sloper https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/my-dads-bsa-sloper My Dad must have been de-mobbed from the RAF in 1944 and he returned to his original job at de Havilland at Burt Oak, Edgware,Middlesex. To get to Edgware from Petworth in West Sussex he purchased a BSA for the 60 mile journey. He did this journey every Sunday afternoon, stayed in 'digs' over the week in Edgware and rode back to Petworth on Friday evenings. 

He did this for many years and I remember seeing his Kapok, quilted flying suit hanging up to dry in the shed!

Later, he took a train to and fro from work and the bike was parked up in the shed covered in an old blanket.

I used to sit on the bike and my memory of it is as follows 

 

Its had a green tank with a black headlamp.

It had girder forks and a stand which folded down from the front mudguard. It had a similar stand clipped to the rear mudguard too.

There was an angled upward filler cap for oil which had a hexagon casting for a spanner.

It had a single saddle with a separate pillion pad.

It had a hand change gear on the tank and the most important part of my memory, I think the registration Number was MG 1444

My Dad later gave the bike away to a Chris Chapman who lived on a farm at Upwaltham on the South Downs. I wonder where it is now...

-------------------------------------

I did this drawing when I must have been about seven or eight years old.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) BSA Sloper https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/my-dads-bsa-sloper Thu, 06 Dec 2018 13:53:15 GMT
SNAKES  ALIVE - Or how I hold the lap record at Eureka Stadium https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/snakes-alive---or-how-i-hold-the-lap-record-at-eureka-stadium Eureka Speedway Stadium was located about ten miles south of Lusaka and was basically an oval track with a compacted dirt (laterite) surface.

In 1967 I was employed as truck mechanic working on Canadian Kenworth fuel tankers for Smith & Youngson on the Hell Run* and myself and some of the other mechanics had volunteered one Sunday to cut down some of the tall elephant grass which had grown in the centre of the track.

We fitted a short length of chain to the PTO (Power Take Off) of a tractor and this was used to flail the grass into submission.

Once all of the grass was cut, I strolled across the middle of the circuit  back to our Toyota Pickup**  parked on the opposite side.

There were still large clumps of grass still lying around as I casually meandered my way, only to stop suddenly by the sound of a very loud hiss.

I had nearly stepped on a Gaboon Viper and this is how to this very day I still hold the lap record at Eureka - RUNNING.

 

* The Hell Run was a 1,200 mile dirt road stretching from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and was the main route to bring fuel into Zambia after the border with Rhodesia was closed due to UDI being declared by Mr Ian Smith.

** Bakkie in local parlance.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth Puff Adder smith & youngson the hell run zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/snakes-alive---or-how-i-hold-the-lap-record-at-eureka-stadium Sat, 01 Dec 2018 17:01:33 GMT
Lenses are just like spanners ? https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/lenses-are-just-like-spanners Back in 1983, I employed a guy who's second job was a freelance photographer working for many of the Fleet Street newspapers. Today, you would call him a Paparazzi but he was known to us as Super Kev.

One day, I looked inside his camera bag and was horrified to see two Nikon F3 camera bodies and an assortment of lenses all jumbled up together with no body or lens caps fitted at all.

When I asked him why he treated his expensive gear like this, he answered with a question.

He said, you're a mechanic aren't you, so do you wrap up your spanners in cotton wool ?

I replied of course not.

Well, he said, these lenses & camera bodies are my spanners and I can reach inside my bag, select a lens by feel and attached it to a camera body while I am running down the street after a possible exclusive photograph - smudges I think he called them.

Then he told me about some of his scoops and I was very impressed.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/12/lenses-are-just-like-spanners Sat, 01 Dec 2018 13:52:11 GMT
Coping with a foreign language in Zambia. https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/11/coping-with-foreign-languages-in-zambia When I first arrived in 1967 to work on Kenworth Trucks at Smith & Youngson in Lusaka, I was called into the Forman's office on my first day to get my instructions.. His name was Stuart Littlejohn and he came from Aberdeen. I nodded intelligently as he rattled on but I couldn't understand a word he was saying.
As I left the office, a Zambian followed me who had heard the conversation. I asked him if he knew what I had to do and he replied "Yes, Bwana Steve, he wants you to check out a Kenworth' gearbox which is giving a problem"
The Zambian's name was Tambrush and from then on he became my interpreter until I learnt braw Aberdeen. It turned out that he had been the Foreman's spanner boy for many years and now he was a very competent mechanic.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Canadian kenworth smith & youngson zambia https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/11/coping-with-foreign-languages-in-zambia Fri, 30 Nov 2018 14:09:45 GMT
The Winter of 1962/1963 https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-winter-of-1962_1963 The Winter of 1962/1963  - Probably the coldest since 1795!

Back in those days, I lived with my parents at Burton Mill Cottage near Petworth in West Sussex and I was apprenticed as a diesel mechanic to J H Sparshatt  a heavy truck repair company in Chichester which was about 15 miles away over a range of  hills known as the South Downs. 

The snow and big freeze started around the end of December 1962 and Christmas was spent at home huddled around a coal and wood fire. No central heating, just one fire to heat the whole house.  We had an outside toilet which had a one inch gap under the door for ventilation. Can you imagine sitting on a privy contemplating the small snow drift which had built up in the opposite corner! Bladder control was mastered at an early age as in cold weather, you only went to the toilet when it was absolutely imperative. 

Anyway, after Christmas it was back to work on my 350cc Velocette Viper motorcycle. My Mum would already have my gloves and socks warming up in the oven and my bike would have been wheeled out of the shed, put on it's centre stand, started and left to warm up. On would go PVC leggings over my jeans, a wax cotton Barbour jacket insulated with newspapers, a scarf around my neck brought up over my mouth and nose and last of all goggles which were kept on the cold windowsill to prevent misting up. The bike would now be about three feet back from where I left it ticking over - singles tend to walk backward on their stands when ticking over ! 

I managed to get over Ducton Hill as it had been gritted and with much sliding and sideways moments I arrived at Sparshatts which boasted just the one, oil fired heater - old engine oil that is, none of your modern stuff.. This one heater worked by injecting a mist of old engine oil by compressed air into a cast iron heater.  We started work at 8:00 in the morning and it took at least an hour to start the heater.  By the first tea break it was glowing red hot and it was very warm when you were close but  freezing about 12 inches away. Many is the time that someone's diesel soaked overalls would start to smoulder but we were cruel enough not to put the victim wise to his impending conflagration. 

A truck had broken down somewhere in Kent and as we had the biggest wrecker* in the area it was our job to recover it. I was volunteered to go with the driver and so we set off in our un-heated Leyland Octopus.  Reaching Brighton we encountered a very heavy blizzard which was so severe that our windscreen wipers stopped working altogether. Guess who had to put his hand out of the passenger window to reach around and clear snow from the screen and give instructions to the driver.  We eventually had enough and turned around and headed back to Chichester. 

I now had to get on my bike and ride home. All went well until I got to the top of Duncton Hill. I tried riding down but after falling off for the umpteenth time I laid the bike down, sat down on the road and kicked it down with my frozen feet. 

I eventually arrived home after a journey, which only took about 20 minutes in good weather, had taken me well over two hours.  My parents were very concerned with my frozen condition and kept me walking up and down the lounge with a cup of tea held by my Dad at one end and a cup of coffee held by my Mum at the other. Eventually circulation returned with the resulting agony and I lived to tell the tale.  Looking back it is now obvious that I was suffering from hypothermia but that word had not been invented yet. 

The outcome to my story is that after completing my apprenticeship I high-tailed it in 1967 to warmer climes – Zambia in Africa, where I lived and worked for the next ten years commencing  at first on the Hell Run**

*Breakdown Truck

 

NEWS REPORT

On the 29th and 30th of December a blizzard across south-west England and Wales left drifts 6m (20ft) deep which blocked roads and rail routes, left villages cut off and brought down power lines. Thanks to further falls and almost continual near-freezing temperatures, snow was still deep on the ground across much of the country three months later.

In the intervals when snow was not falling, the country simply appeared to freeze solid - January daytime temperatures barely crept above freezing, and night frosts produced a temperature of -16 °C in places as far apart as Gatwick and Eskdalemuir in Scotland. Freezing fog was a frequent hazard - but the spectacular rime deposits that built up over successive days were a photographer's dream. 

January was the month when even the sea froze (out to half a mile from the shore at Herne Bay), the Thames froze right across in places, and ice floes appeared on the river at Tower Bridge. Everywhere birds literally dropped off their perches - killed by the cold and lack of natural food.

February was marked by more snow arriving on south-easterly winds during the first week, with a 36-hour blizzard hitting western parts of the country. Drifts 20 feet deep formed in gale-force winds (gusts in excess of 70 knots were common, and a gust of 103 knots was recorded on the Isle of Man). Many rural communities found themselves cut off for the tenth time since Christmas. Throughout the winter thousands of sheep, cattle and ponies starved because it was impossible to get enough fodder to them.

A slight lull in the wintry proceedings happened around mid-month, but in the third week of February it was the turn of the north-west UK to suffer - in Cumberland the snowfall was reckoned to be the worst in living memory. By the end of the month the weather over the country had reverted to 'normal' - cold but clear and sunny days with severe night frosts and freezing fog.

A gradual thaw then set in - the morning of 6 March 1963 was the first day in the year that the entire country was frost free, and the temperature soared to 17 °C in London. Temperatures recovered, and long icicles playfully speared into snowdrifts by children in January, finally started to shrink. Monster snowmen and snowballs - now adrift and melting in the green 'seas' of gardens and playing fields - were soon all that was left of the winter that was probably the coldest since 1795

 

* “The Hell Run” keeps fuel for Zambia flowing
A report made in February 1967

The main route for fuel & oil supplies is a 1,500 mile (2,400km) highway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia and is known to truck drivers as the Hell Run because of its many hazards.

The fuel lift was the result of sanctions against Rhodesia which until Ian Smith and his Cabinet declared Independence, Zambia obtained its fuel from a refinery near Umtali.

The Zambian Government offered substantial payments to truck owners who were prepared to risk “The Hell Run”

The road which passes through the Tanzanian Highlands and drops to the Masai Plain, is both lashed by rainstorms and then scorched by the Sun and since the fuel run began more than a year ago, more than sixty men have died on it.

Often the the rain or dust on the road is so bad that headlights have to be used during the day and passing another vehicle is usually  impossible. Trucks get stuck in the mud, slide off into ravines or crash and roll-over because of driver exhaustion. The biggest danger of all was the cargo where the smallest spark or even the heat of the Sun could cause an explosion.  Many burnt out wrecks could be seen on the side of the road.

Vehicles which had survived the trip returned to the Port of Dar es Salaam carrying copper wire bars and this became an important route for Zambia’s vital copper exports.

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) the hell run https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-winter-of-1962_1963 Tue, 30 Jan 2018 11:53:50 GMT
The Cricketers Incident https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-cricketers-incident Around 1962 my current bikes were both 350cc Velocettes, a Mac and a Viper. I originally started with a Mac but after the accident with a dog (See  ‘The Chase’), the Mac was written off by the insurance company. Back in those days you could make an offer for  the scrap, which I did and the bent Mac became mine again.
 

In the meantime, I had visited E W Burnett & Sons (Southsea, Portsmouth) and availed myself of a rather nice Velocette Viper SP. Now the SP meant it was a Special in as much that the aluminium engine parts were left unpolished and covered up with fibreglass panels. Well those panels were soon removed and  copious amount of Solvol Autosol was applied to the map of Africa to create a good shine (Velo fellows will know what I am referring to)

On the subject of panels, I remember a salesman at Gray & Rowsell’s (Bury, West Sussex)  trying to offload on us chaps a very cheap motorcycle which came with not only fibreglass panels but horror of horrors a windscreen and a dashboard!. How un-cool was that ?    A  similar Vincent Black Prince was sold  for over £100,000 last year….

Compared to the MAC, the Viper was much quicker and soon I was writing to Veloce for advice to make it quicker still. I have lost the letters I received from Veloce and can't remember if they were signed my a Mr P E Irving but I did read his book Tuning for Speed (10s 6d from all good stationers). However, I did fit a Nimonic 80 exhaust valve which was recommended. The barrel was rebored and the oversize piston was lapped into the cylinder was copious applications of Brasso using a dummy conrod fabricated from the side of an old fish-box. (We got them free free from  the local fishmonger in Petworth and used them for kindling)

One of the main reasons for making it faster was to catch a certain Mick Bridger of Sidlesham who had just taken delivery of an ex-works 350cc BSA Gold Star DBD32. I did eventually catch him just once on an up hill left hander coming out of Worthing when we were returning from a trip to Brands.

So, I had a quick Viper and my daily ride from Petworth to Chichester on the A285 became faster and faster  as I quickly learned the best line and gear for each corner. I’m not saying that the bike had a great top speed but you learnt to keep the momentum going and not slow down for bends.  This was testified my a Mr Scutt who had a farm on a fast downhill right hander at the Dog Kennels, Upwaltham. I later heard that he used to turn his back on me when he heard me approaching as he feared one day I would end up in the side of his cow shed. I loved that bend and looked forward to taking it every morning which I did until that fateful day.

On the 29th June 1964, I was on my morning ride to Sparshatts & Sons in Chichester where I was an apprentice diesel mechanic working on large trucks. If you were a few minutes late clocking on, you were in danger of being docked an hours pay which meant a lot when you were probably only getting about ten Pounds a week. So, as usual I was probably making progress…

After the Duncton straight I approached the right hander outside the Cricketers Pub when I spotted the Austin 10 approaching from the other direction. Without warning he turned across my path into the pub car park. Only he didn't get to the car park as I tee-boned him right into his passenger door. It transpired later he was dropping his daughter off at the bus stop which was outside the pub.

My immediate thoughts as I lay on tarmac was for my bike, so realising it lay behind me I looked over my right shoulder and my mind went immediately into cash register mode. Bent front wheel ‘kerching’  bent forks ‘kerching’ headlamp hanging off ‘kerching’ Thats a  write off then…
 

While I was looking over my right shoulder, it came to my attention that my left foot was also occupying a similar viewpoint - Bugger, now that not right and indeed it wasn’t.  Someone removed my crash hat but a someone else said ‘Lets move him onto the grass otherwise the bus will not be able to get through’. My response in my best Anglo Saxon put them off that idea. I later learnt that when the ambulance people scooped me up onto a stretcher, part of my broken femur made a bid for freedom and pierced a major vein. Swift action was required to stem the flow !  It turned out that the ambulance driver was also the local bus conductor so the village grapevine did its bit and my family obviously found out my predicament pretty quickly.

On arrival at St Richards Hospital in Chichester, some bright spark said that I had indeed broken my leg doh! and I would need an operation. So without undue delay I was whisked off to theatre and woke up in a four poster bed with lots of  cables and weights attached not only to me but also the end of the bed. They had drilled a hole in my shin, inserted a rod which was attached via a cord to a lump of iron hanging over the foot of the bed - I was on traction  and thats where I stayed for the next few weeks.

I recall that learning to pee uphill into a bottle was the most challenging part of my incarceration.

Once the mashed up bits of my femur had grown together, I was taken down to the theatre again to have the two broken halves joined together by a Intramedullary nail (Kutchener). This is a stainless steel rod  inserted down through the marrow space and driven in with a club hammer - what fun.

On the 14th July I was discharged from The Royal West Sussex Hospital and issued with a pair of NHS wooden crutches.

Up until this part of my life, I only had two major past-times , photography and bikes but now something else came to my attention dressed in starched white uniforms and black stockings.


Nurses……

 

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-cricketers-incident Tue, 30 Jan 2018 11:50:52 GMT
The Chase https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-chase I must have been about 18 and i had had an accident on one my Velocettes, I hit a dog on the Duncton straight doing about 70 ish. I was doing 70, not the dog. The dog survived , I suffering some bruising  but the bike was seriously bent. My Uncle Don collected  it and took it to his yard in Chichester where I also worked as an apprentice diesel mechanic at J H Sparshatts.With my only mode of transport out of commission , I went to work by bus and when I knocked off,  I started to repair the bike.

I got fed up travelling to and fro from Chichester and one Sunday decided to ride the bike home to Burton Pond. The bikes petrol tank was still being resprayed so I bungeed a one gallon oil can filled with petrol to the frame. The Velo had no lights or mudguards but it was definitely roadworthy! The fifteen mile ride home was uneventful but I thought I had better buy my Mum a box of chocolates as she was bound to be cross that I had ridden home. I knew the  Rapleys Garage shop at Heath End would be closed on a Sunday but I knew if I went round the back, the owner would give me a box of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

However, as I turned into the forecourt, I noticed a silver Triumph with a long aerial sticking up the back - Oops ! The bike was a Triumph Saint 650cc twin and they were known to be quite quick. So I rapidly did a U-turn and headed back down the Duncton straight, hoping that my tuned 350cc single engined Velo could outrun the local constabulary on an over-weight police bike.

The one essential piece of equipment which I alway had on my bikes was a cop-spotter - a mirror mounted on the handlebars. As I neared the end of the straight I spotted the cop closing rapidly so I realised his 650cc twin had the edge on my 350cc single. I wondered how he is on the bends, so I led him through Duncton village , cranked over and scratching around the Cricketers Pub and onto the bottom of Duncton Hill. Turns out he couldn’t keep up on the bends and eventually I lost him on the way to Sutton where I then plotted a course for home. 

I ran the bike up the ramp into the shed, shut the door and and got indoors shedding my crash hat and slinging my Barbour jacket into a corner where it stood up on its own - it was a very oily waxed cotton jacket. My Dad asked what the problem was and I explained what had happened . Ten minutes later, a Triumph police bike went up and down our road a few times and then came directly to our house. He knocked on the front door and my Dad answered it, whereupon the policeman stepped inside and came straight  into our front room. He knew it was me as I found out later he had been asking around the neighbourhood if they knew of a young hooligan on a bike who lived nearby - somebody grassed….

He demanded to see the bike, so I wheeled it out of the shed, put it on its stand and listened to the exhaust ticking - it was still hot ! 
He threw the book at me. No tax, no insurance , no lights - etc, etc. He then pushed the bike off its stand and tried to do me for bad brakes. I wasn’t having that as I reminded him about who out-braked him on a certain downhill section where he nearly ended up in the hedge. He let me off about the brakes but wrote out a lengthy summons which he handed to me. 

After he left, my Dad asked me to find a writing  pad and pen whereupon he sat down and put pen to paper. The result was stuffed into an envelope and posted the next day. 

About a week later, he received a personal letter from the Chief Constable of Petworth, letting me off with a caution. It appears that my Dad, having some knowledge of the law, had noticed that the police biker had entered our house  without  asking permission and without a warrant which was illegal - thanks Dad.

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stevenjill@twala.com (Photographs by Steve & Jill Moorey) Duncton Sparshatts Velocette https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2018/1/the-chase Tue, 30 Jan 2018 11:37:37 GMT