October 27, 2021

Dougie Webber

Cath writes :- “As so many children of these boffins, there is very little we are able to recall as their jobs were never talked about at home and when asked my Dad would often say they had been out in the plane looking for Russian subs!

My Dad was Dougie Webber and as far as I am aware he was seconded to Malvern from his job in Birmingham as an electrical engineer.  I remember my Mum, Connie, talking about when she worked in the grounds of the school.  They were due to marry and I think this process was speeded up so that they could set up home together.  They lived in rooms at a house called “The Bent” at the top of Peachfield Road for a while before moving to a house called “Stanton” at 244 Wells Road, where they started their family.

I only ever remember Dad going to and from work on his bike .. always came home for lunch too as money was tight.  He used to go around every month with a three penny piece in his pocket .. just in case anyone was leaving and he needed to donate for a card!  When paid he would withdraw the ‘housekeeping’ cash for the month and split it into 4 or 5 tins, depending on how many weeks in the month.  These were hidden (under the floor as we later found out) so that Mum could not overspend on the household!  She would be given a new tin on the same day every week!  In an effort to close the gap on household funding, Dad worked as a maths teacher at Malvern Tech, 2 or 3 nights a week.

Mum never worked after having we children.  I’m not sure how they saved but eventually we moved to a self-built bungalow in Bellars Lane .. called “The Limberlost” after the tennis club in Erdington where they had carried out most of their courtship.

There is only one story I recall about Dad’s time at work and I don’t think we were told about this until after his retirement!  It involved an airborne radar test which had to be carried out.  My Dad was usually the only civilian on the planes and on this occasion a young ‘apprentice’ type lad was with them – he may have been military like the rest of the crew – I don’t know.

The story goes that in order to test the radar in flight, bits of foil (like oversized confetti) had to be dropped from the rear of the plane so that Dad and others could monitor picking these bits of metal up on the radar.  The young lad was given his order to ‘launch’.  The team saw nothing on the radar screen.  “Again” went out the request to the youngster.  Still nothing detected on the radar.  Apparently no one had instructed this poor lad that he was meant to empty out a full container when the instruction was given.  He was sitting there dropping one piece at a time!!

I do remember talk of there being little or no inflation so annual pay rises didn’t exist.  Dad would talk of the wait for someone to retire or die before any sort of progression could be made and I think I’m right in saying that his salary remained the same for about 15 years.  He remained at RRE until he retired early when the section was being transferred to Farnborough in about 1976, I think.

In order to overcome the 5 lean years until his pension was payable he concentrated his efforts on his competitions which were, by then, paying off nicely!!  In March 1961 Dad was the only civilian member of the team on the Valiant bomber which, by way of pilot error, crashed on take-off from Defford fully loaded with fuel.  It ended up in a ploughed field not far from the railway embankment with Wyre Piddle village immediately beyond.  The airfield’s brand new fire tender got stuck in the field and never made it to the plane.

Luckily nobody was seriously injured although the rescue services had wanted to amputate the pilot’s leg in order to get him out.  However, Dad had hung around and insisted they got him out, and his leg, in one piece .. which they did eventually!

Dad was honoured by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours of 1963 with a Commendation for “Valuable Service in the Air”.  I’m proud to now own his award and certificate from this.

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