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Glyn England interviewed by Steven Guilbert and Thomas Lean

England, Glyn, 1921-2013 (speaker, male; interviewee)
2012-06-13, 2012-20-11, 2013-01-30, 2013-03-06, 2013-05-22


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  • Title:
    Glyn England interviewed by Steven Guilbert and Thomas Lean
  • Contributor: England, Glyn, 1921-2013; Guilbert, Steven; Lean, Thomas
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry in the UK

  • Rights: The British Library
  • Place Name: Interviewee's home, Ubley
  • Description:
    Track 1 [50:02] [13 June 2012] Glyn England [GE] born Llantrisant, South Wales. Recalls earliest memory: demanding to be outdoors when suffering from rheumatic fever. Description of Llantrisant, remarks on it being a classless valley. Mentions a first world wall planted forest with a wishing well as a favourite place to walk to. Remarks on there not being much of a community in the small settlement he grew up, mentions going into Llantrsant very rarely. [9:51] Description of home, mentions having electricity but no indoor toilet. Description of internal layout of house, comments on most of the living taking place in the Kitchen, the front room being reserved for special occasions. Remarks on having no toys. Estimates houses were built in 1910. Recalls having a radio, mentions family coming round to all listen to it on match days. [20:00] Remarks on moving to Penarth aged ten when father retired, mentions being pleased at moving to the seaside. Description of house in Penarth. Story about wearing a white silk scarf [Choker] on his first day at school in Penarth, mentions being teased. Description of father, Charles Thomas England (CE), mentions him being an older father. Recalls him taking GE up a hill to see a magpie’s nest, mentions this being the only time GE and his father had a connection. Further description of father and his background, mentions attending teacher training in Bangor and fairly quickly becoming a headmaster. Remarks that his father enjoyed his work but was prone to depression. Comments on not knowing his father very well, his feelings or thoughts. [31:20] Short description of how his mother and father met. Description of mother and her background, Alice Esther England (Nee Thomas), remarks on her being a frail child. Description of her father, Thomas Thomas, a railway man and road sweeper who established a Chapel. Further recollections of mother and grandfather Thomas Thomas, the only grandparent GE knew. [40:00] Description of siblings, five brothers. Remarks on two eldest brothers, being socially and politically conscious. Comments on middle brother Arthur going to Cardiff University to study engineering, mentions him being GE hero. Recalls the next one being in a hurry to leave school, mentions he went on to work in the electricity industry. Description of life with five brothers, comments on Christmas being a great time when they all came back together, remarks on GE’s relationship with his brothers in later life.

    Track 2 [47:45] Remarks on childhood lifestyle being very similar to neighbours’ who were miners, comments on being puzzled why this might be considering his father’s occupation. Comments on father being very down to earth, but remarks on being conscious that the number of books in their house distinguished them from their mining neighbours. Comments on his father’s liberal politics which also distinguished him [CE] from his mining neighbours. [9:30] Description of daily domestic chores, mentions GE’s and his brother’s responsibility for breaking up coal into smaller pieces. Mentions bathing routine. Description of father’s allotment, mentions an abundance of fruit and vegetables and eating extremely well. Description of mealtimes, recalls little conversation. [17:33] Description of parents religion, a form of non-conformist Primitive Methodism, remarks on them joining a Presbyterian chapel when they moved to Penarth. Comments on the difference between Church and Chapel. Short description of attending Chapel on a Sunday morning, mentions religion mainly being confined to Sundays. [25:40] Comments on playing outdoor games and exploring all around his neighbourhood, short description of ticking for trout. Remarks on mother’s and father’s leisure time activities, mentions knitting and reading. Recounts number and variety of books found in the house. Recalls going very occasionally into the local town to see silent films. Comments on thinking that music was for other people. Remarks on playing football for the local team for many years. Comments on not being able to do woodwork at school because he had to study Welsh. Description of local bike rides, mentions often going with a gang of boys to Sully Island. [38:01] Short description of Penarth, mentions occasionally going into Cardiff. Remarks on the limited expressions of Welsh identity. Description of family holidays, mentions mother still having to cater and cook. Comments on having three weeks by the sea most years, mentions realising this was exceptional by their neighbours’ standards. Remarks on a holiday to Paignton, mentions the train, boat and coach to get there.

    Track 3 [1:12:36] Description of infant school, mentions one pupil coming to school on a horse. Remarks on it being the only school in the village, recalls walking to school with his father. Description of upper school, mentions one particularly fierce teacher and wearing leeks on St David’s day. Remarks on the building of the new school being a response to population growth rather than prosperity. Comments on the school being a soup kitchen during a miner’s strike. Further recollections of miner’s strikes, mentions the Prince of Wales [later King Edward VIII] visiting the area and subsequently setting up a fund for miner’s families. [15:52] Mentions going to primary school for one year in Penarth, comments on being chosen to receive special tuition for the eleven plus exam. Further remarks on starting school in Penarth, mentions the assumption that he would continue on to secondary school. Description of starting secondary school, mentions it being overcrowded. Some remarks on teachers and teaching methods, mentions being laughed at while reading out a hymn on account of his strong valleys accent. Comments on becoming attracted towards science, but being mainly interested in his involvement in the school football team. Remarks on rugby being the posh game and football being the working class game. [27:57] Remarks on the different social groups at school. Further comments on his growing interest in the sciences. Mentions both parents and teachers expected him to do well in his exams. Recalls one teacher who committed suicide just before the exam but left the class information about how to answer specific questions. [36:37] Comments on enjoying physics and chemistry lessons, mentions mostly having science lessons in the lab rather than the classroom. Remarks on being a diligent student and revising thoroughly. Recalls the number of students who went on to university after taking their Higher School Certificate. Story about leaving school and getting on his bike to go to England to look for work, mentions getting a job as a trainee lathe operator. Remarks on applying for a job in the scientific civil service, mentions being mainly asked about sport in the interview. Description of work at the Road Research Laboratory, recalls after a year being switched to war work. [50:00] Description of war work, remarks on being interviewed by the secret service on account of his political views. Mentions meeting his future wife, then a student at the LSE. Remarks on decision to apply to study Engineering at Queen Mary College [QMC], London. Description of studying engineering at Queen Mary College, London in Cambridge. Mentions becoming Chairman of the Engineering Society at QMC. Description of engineering degree syllabus at QMC, mentions being new to electrical engineering. Remarks on a number of tutors and lecturers. Mentions his involvement with the Democratic Socialists. Recalls, while Chairman of the Engineering Society, inviting the builder of Battersea Power Station to give a talk, also mentions writing a paper on the public ownership of the electricity supply industry.

    Track 4 [0:00:47] [Interview Two: 20 November 2012] Remarks on the weather, sound check accessioned in error.

    Track 5 [1:49:12][Interview Two: 20 November 2012] Remarks on wife Tatiana Reichenbach: refugee from Germany aged 13, Jewish mother and Communist father; GE meeting her at an Organisation for Woodcraft Chivalry school in the New Forest; much in common with GE, enjoyment of outdoor activities, similar political views; brought GE into contact with different way of life; experience of discrimination in Germany and bravery during Gestapo raids; degree in economic history from LSE; distinguished family background; personality, anxiety over German invasion of Britain. [05:45] Remarks on left wing political outlook: childhood in depression in mining area of South Wales; anecdote about wife disagreeing with antiwar stance of Independent Labour Party's [ILP], of which GE was a member; political meetings in Hounslow whilst GE worked at RRL; anecdote about land lady reading his mail from ILP; limited discussion of politics whilst working as a scientific civil servant. [10:50] Remarks on work for Department of Scientific and Industrial Research's Road Research Laboratory [RRL] at Harmondsworth: testing of bitumen road surfaces near Slough; GE greater use of public library in West Drayton, learning about economics from a book by Honor Kru [ph], a relative by marriage; duties measuring viscosity of tar and supervising road materials machine; wartime change to war work, [14:20 pause] such as researching concrete gun mountings for boats. [15:50] Remarks on attending night school at Southall technical college; : growing interest in attending university from in-laws influence; studying engineering drawing and mathematics; taking London Intermediary Degree; support from manager at work; good standard of tuition in technical drawing; appeal of engineering to GE, elder brother an engineer; taking London University Entrance Exam. [19:50] Remarks on university at Queen Mary's College [QM]: two year course; value of previous laboratory experience; studying electrical and mechanical engineering; electrical and electronic aspects of course; using facilities of Cambridge engineering department; [22:00 pause] examples of laboratory activities; anecdote about pure mathematics lecturer Soul's interest in other worlds. [24:20] Remarks on Cambridge University Fourth Term programme: wide range of useful subjects, such as industrial history and law; quality of lecturing, such as by John Bonn; foreign affairs. [26:10] Further remarks on university: workload of degree, anecdote about GE filling arrangements; inspirational power engineering Professor John; anecdote about meeting Professor John later at Manor Beer; differences between light and heavy current subjects. [29:10] Remarks on GE feelings about electricity supply as a public service: writing a paper on the subject at university; later difference of opinion with minister Nigel Lawson; benefits of a standardised ESI. [29:50] Remarks on interest in politics at university: background of Communist attitudes to war effort; GE role as secretary of Cambridge University Labour Club; Roy Jenkins membership of Oxford University Labour Club; anecdote about talk from Farmers Union representative; occasion when GE breaking the rules of the Labour Club. [34:50] Remarks on: vacation job in agriculture in Worcestershire; temporary job as an aircraft electrician; volunteering to join army before being called up. [37:00]

    Track 5 [cont' from 37:00] Remarks on wartime work in aircraft repair factory near Cambridge: factory enabled by national grid electricity; anecdote about aircraft arriving filled with potatoes after crash landings in fields; influence of observing night workers on GE; GE duties dealing with electrical problems; tools; joining Transport and General Workers Union; anecdote about a strike; difficulties of long shifts; skilled colleges; extra payment due to having a degree. [43:50] Comments on: digs in Cambridge; wife's family's secret work for Foreign Office; marriage and simple meal in secret location at Woburn Abbey; wife's registration as a British citizen. [48:20] Discussion about wife: family background, mother's PhD in science, political activist father's work as an actor; move from Düsseldorf to Berlin; GE's mother's mildly anti-Semitic opinions contrasting with her love of GE wife; wife's feelings about UK; death of family members in Germany; father's running of prisoners of war 'Wochenposte' newspaper for Foreign Office; father's awards from German government; [pause 53:18] secret war work; affects of early experiences on wife; change in GE's anti war viewpoint. [56:05] Comments on GE army service: transfer from Royal Army Ordnance Corps to Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers [REME]; feelings on army life; anecdote about return to birthplace to join up, medical exam; sentry duty in Hull on Christmas Eve; army training in Gravesend; selection for officer training on Scottish border; anecdote about live fire exercise; looking after his troops, feelings about being an officer. [1:01:20] Comments on first postings: battery repair shop in Midlands, unhealthy fume filled conditions; touring country doing lectures on instructing; V1 flying bomb raids on Croydon; running welding school at Reading, experiments on welding extra armour to Sherman tanks; [1:05:08] examples of managing, factory organisation in Midlands and discipline lectures in Reading; technical workshop training in Loughborough; appeal of 'real engineering', hands-on creative activity. [1:08:20] Comments on posting to Far East toward end of war: delays in transport meaning war ended by the time he arrived in Bombay, India; GE's open minded approach to India; transit through Suez Canal; feelings about end of war. [1:10:10] Comments on posting to riot torn area near Calcutta: transfer to Indian Army in command of Indian manned Light Aid Detachment [LAD]; duties of LAD recovering vehicles; unrest in run up to independence, eating from Muslim and Hindu kitchens to maintain equal relations; antagonism between Muslim and Hindu troops; [1:15:00] taking part in playing football with troops; many languages in unit, learning Hindi, limited help of interpreter; enjoying social challenge of brining unit together; remote position of officer in charge; story about holding an inquiry into accusation of sexual impropriety; separate officers' accommodation. [1:19:50] Story about becoming involved with local Ashram social and spiritual centre, through whom he met Gandhi. [1:21:18] Remarks on: feelings about Indian independence; GE meeting with Bengal governor and former trade unionist Burroughs; building up contacts with Indian community, visiting university of Calcutta, friendship with Neru's secretary, meetings future Indian health minister. [1:24:20]

    Track 5 [con't from 1:24:20]Story about connection with Gandhi: GE ordered to Assam after closing unit; Gandhi intervening in terrible riots in East Bengal; GE travel to East Bengal to join Gandhi's group; visiting a village with Gandhi's secretary to calm situation; anecdote about speaking in English; spending Christmas in Gandhi's group. [1:28:20] Further remarks on contact with Gandhi: earlier contact with Gandhi through Mirabehn; growing antagonism between Muslim and Hindu Indians, GE interest in peacemaking; GE turning down Gandhi invitation to stay in India; GE removal of military insignia whilst visiting Gandhi in Bengal; GE report to governor about Gandhi, concerns over pro-Japanese Indian National Army; GE feelings about visit to Bengal. [1:33:00] Remarks on Gandhi: GE never finding the great man of reputation; Gandhi reactions to GE, interest in spinning; quiet days when Gandhi wouldn't speak; many women in entourage; GE visiting village with Gandhi's doctor; GE previous contact with Gandhi through Mirabehn in Delhi; anecdote about digging a latrine at the request of Mirabehn. [1:39:23] Description of Mirabehn: background; role in village movement in India. [1:40:40] Further remarks on India: length of time spent with Gandhi; picking up his posting in Assam, from where he was posted to Bombay and return to Britain; visits to Rabindranath Tagore's remote university in Santiniketan, where he met English Quakers and Hallam Tennyson. [1:45:45] Comments on GE feelings about India: interest in social conditions and movements; friendship with Indian Dharampal and family; Dharampal's background in Indian philosopher; GE not wearing uniform on visits to Indian community.

    Track 6 [07:27] Remarks on: wearing cotton shirt rather than uniform whilst visiting community in India; later visiting an Indian MP who he knew as a social worker; GE reasons for not staying India, wanting to return to family life in UK; wife's feelings about GE posting to India; wife's studies in the UK, training as psychiatric social worker at LSE; building a nest egg whilst in India; correspondence with wife whilst in India. [06:15] Remarks on GE applying to Central Electricity Board [CEB] with wife's help: Winston Churchill setting up CEB; GE favouring publicly owned nature of CEB over private companies.

    Track 7 [59:29] Remarks on return to UK in 1947: voyage from Bombay; cold winter and fuel crisis in Britain, causing resignation of minister Emanuel Shinwell; accommodation arranged by wife; demobilisation near Liverpool; wife arranging an interview for him at the CEB; formal interview for CEB; appointment at CEB General Assistant Engineer (Protection). [03:30] Remarks on starting work for CEB: office in Aldwych which they rarely visited; appointment to substation at Earley, outside Reading; GE limited knowledge of electrical installation and first visit to a substation; mentor Dr Last, who had develop protective gear for grid with Casson; working in the fields. [06:15] Description of three phase switch gear encountered by GE on first day. [07:15] Remarks on work as engineer: learning on job; description of protection arrangements on grid cables, automatic re-close system; examples of causes of faults, anecdote about fault on GE land recently; using a 'Mega' and Avometer to measure resistance and current; use of light current to operate large switches; example of using Avometer to repair fault in relays; [12:50] description of daily work travelling around substations checking equipment after modifications; initially riding in bosses' car, then purchasing Austin 7; working hours, Saturday's being spent on admin; contacts with other colleagues; [16:36] busy nature of work; poor records of wartime repairs. [17:50] Comments on faults: low oil levels in transformers potentially causing problems; repairing circuits; industry ethos of restoring supply; GE acquiring assistant; story about incorrectly wired relays and shutting down part of London. [20:55] Story about fault at St John's Wood substation: good view of cricket at Lords from substation roof; GE moving circuit box during station modifications; shut down of large part of London; subsequent inquires; repairing fault. [24:50] Remarks on: repairs of wartime damage to grid; importance of grid connections to remote wartime shadow factories; work of GEC subcontractors; inefficiency of working arrangements; transport problems caused by smog in London; salary levels; [30:07] joining Electrical Power Engineers Association, but fieldworkers being little involved; preparation of army experience for working independently in field; lack of extra training as he progressed, learning from experienced immediate boss; examples of technical knowledge gained on the job; wearing normal clothes to work. [33:50] Remarks on fitters: duties, tradesmen not engineers; qualifications could lead to engineer status; typical background and education; differences in payment to engineers and fitters. [35:55] Remarks on health and safety, watching cricket from substation roof; importance of earthing; accidents. [37:55] Remarks on: limited paperwork of general engineer post; anecdote about being disciplined for not replying to a letter from headquarters; expense claims, anecdote about gaining knowledge of local restaurant around Stepney and Poplar; irregularity of night call outs affects on family life, leading him toward a headquarters job; [41:40]

    Track 7 [cont from 41:40] Remarks on life outside work in: living in Willsdon; active in local Labour Party; purchasing first bought home in Goffs Oak in Hertfordshire, and becoming involved with local Workers Education Association; joining writing group; birth of children Gillian and Janet; schooling arrangements for children, attending Technical Secondary school in Hatfield; importance of weekends, countryside walking with family; anecdote about wife's ability to prepare food. [48:50] Anecdote about later involving children in selecting sites for power stations. [49:52] Remarks on progression of career: attraction of regular hours; applying for job in CEGB [Central Electricity Generating Board] planning department; importance of new job to GE's career; length of time spent working in field; nationalisation and reorganisation of ESI, creation of British Electricity Authority [BEA], creation of CEGB. [53:10] Remarks on GE impressions of ESI structure. [54:30] Remarks on later considering careers outside the CEGB: applying for a job in Pakistan ESI; interview by Lord Hinton for secondment to Atomic Energy Authority [AEA], departure of colleagues to AEA; later applying for a AEA environment and labour relations post; considering a post at the World Bank, where he later worked; importance of posting to planning department to GE.

    Track 8 [1:09:12][Interview Three: 30 January 2013] Remarks on joining CEGB planning division: attraction of advert for job, GE membership of Town and Country Planning Association, appeal of regular working hours for family; GE joining planning division on same day as Reg Hunt; base in Bankside House in London; importance of planning group duties finding sites for ever larger power stations; GE appointment to Midlands and Yorkshire area, containing River Trent; GE interest in working with local authorities; strangeness of working in an office at first, bureaucratic rules; GE position in planning. [04:30] Remarks on Midlands and Yorkshire Region: CEGB adoption of "Generation by Wire", generation of electricity near coal fields and transporting it long distances by the grid; previous situation of towns having own small local power stations. [06:45] Comments on power station planning considerations: requirements for water supply, lots of land, rail and road access; interactions with local communities in planning process; objections by Repton Public School to nearby power stations; importance of public ownership of ESI in generally positive public reactions to power station proposals; benefits for communities in new sports facilities, employment and improved schools; [10:30] GE paper on economic and social effects on building a power station; environmental concerns over construction of power stations; GE involvement in High Marnham, Eggborough, Doncaster, Thorpe Marsh; failure to get planning permission for a site near Nottingham. [12:08] Story about CEGB losing public inquiry for proposed Holme Pierrepont power station near Nottingham: CEGB representative drawn into question about a site he had never visited; GE giving evidence in long debate about clean air; anecdote about local newspaper ridiculing GE over misunderstanding with a map on witness stand; GE feelings about public facing role, after experience as Labour Hertfordshire County Councillor. [16:45] Comments on research into air pollution: fieldwork activities with balloons; GE enjoying research; scale of CEGB research facilities in Leatherhead and elsewhere; anecdote about opponents at public inquiry quoting CEGB researchers; GE involvement in field studies into atmospheric pollution from power stations. [19:20] Description of process of choosing a power station site: search for suitable sites around River Trent; acquiring data about weather and transport access; station development section of planning department building up outline plan of proposed station to present to communities and councils; application for permission for from local authority and Ministerial 'Section 2 Consent'; role of Chief Alkali Inspector in inquiry process; GE role ending before construction began; length of time of planning process, example of extensive negotiations over flooding around Thrope Marsh. [24:20] Comments on: increase in size of power stations after World War 2; chief planning officer Donald Clarke setting up Development Group to investigate problems of ever larger power stations; GE appointment to lead Development Group; GE setting up multidisciplinary team of experts, including water quality expert John Pipe and air pollution expert John Clarke; huge quantities of coal needed by new power stations. [28:00] Remarks on Donald Clarke: very good boss; wartime experience building power station near Reading; resignation over nuclear power station choice in 1970s, remaining as consultant. [29:50]

    Track 8 [Cont' from 29:50] Remarks on: other sections of planning department, plant design section; variety of work, travelling, interactions with local communities of planning, acquiring measurements of work, interacting with transport and coal authorities; large efforts in coal generation in 1960s; prospects for nuclear power, value of a mix of energy sources. [33:50] Remarks on changes in CEGB power stations: improvements in dust removing precipitators on power stations; use of a single large chimney to carry emissions far from power station; water quality work. [36:08] Description of merry-go-round coal trains to efficiently supply power stations with coal: initiative of British Rail's Gerry Fiennes; bottom opening hooper wagons to continuously transport coal from pit to power station; Derek Ezra and others attending opening of new railway to supply power stations; importance of merry-go-round service to CEGB. [39:18] Remarks on learning from foreign power industries: visit to France to research use of bottom opening wagons used in merry-go-round trains; German influence on use of coal plough; GE working in Rhineland of Germany for some time to learn various operations; comparisons of British and German power station practice. [42:22] Remarks on working in CEGB planning: working atmosphere; conflicts between different groups as power stations got bigger, such as over colour of grid pylons; administration arrangements of public enquires; limited work social life whilst working in London; working hours and commuting from South Hertfordshire [45:45] Remarks on life outside work: involvement with local Labour Party, school governance, workers education association, creative writing group; United Nations Association meetings; GE election to Hertfordshire County Council, winning and losing elections; duties of local councillors; [50:35] GE interview by CEGB manager when he became a councillor; anecdote about GE discovering he should have lost salary when he became a councillor; anecdote about how GE came to view his own personnel file when promoted to become Chairman of South Western Electricity Board [SWEB]; crossover between GE planing role in GE and local council. [53:45] Story about research into London smog: possibility of CEGB London power stations being closed; research work; use of Fairey aviation aircraft from Bristol to photograph smog; GE flight across London in smog, landing on Jersey; aerial photographs of power stations producing coloured smoke plumes rising above the smog proving they were to blame for it; GE interview on television; CEGB research proving value of large power station chimneys, adopted in USA and elsewhere; realisation that coal house fires were to blame for smog and subsequent Clean Air Act; anecdote about flight in aircraft flown by pilot named Hazzard; photography arrangements and subsequent publications; later concerns over acid rain. [1:01:25] Remarks on: limited use of computers in planning, great use on running Grid; description of role of GE's development group in planning department, planning for larger power stations, ash, clean air, water quality. [1:03:23] Story about GE becoming Chief Operations Engineer: GE limited operation experience; difficulty finding suitable candidate from operating personnel; board member Eric Booth suggesting GE fill the role; unusual for planner to become operations head; GE not applying for job. [1:06:40] Remarks on GE role in commissioning West Ham B power station at end of war for BEA: anecdote about GE synchronising the power station to the Grid; work involved in commissioning a power station.

    Track 9 [1:07:32] Discussion on chief operations engineer role: GE feelings of apprehension about becoming chief operation engineer, without having the typical power stations experience of the post; station decommissioning programme, complicating factors of running and maintenance costs buried in the detail; coal transport personnel; GE responsibilities for all stations; GE mid career course at Manchester Business School; preparatory work for debates with government; responsibility for national grid; [06:15] organisation beneath GE, Grid control, statistical operations and records for stations; need to understand plant maintenance records; feeding back operational experience to station designers, particularly in case of nuclear stations; nuclear power station maintenance access not being a reactor designer priority; description of CEGB headquarters in Sudbury House at Paternoster square in London; position of chief operations engineer within CEGB. [13:58] Remarks on running of Grid from national and regional control rooms; anecdote about grid staff watching television schedules to warn of demand; use of pump storage power in Dinorwig to provide power quickly; importance of maintaining frequency of grid; anecdote about frequency meter in Grid control headquarters being converted to control share price; consequences of changes in 50 cycle frequency; [18:18] undervaluing of National Grid at privatisation; vital importance of National grid; set up of grid to maximum security settings during severe weather, running lines over hot to melt snow; overriding importance of keeping system running. [21:35] Remarks on chief operations engineer post: GE feelings about chief operations engineer post; description of Grid Control in 1960s, importance of computers; [22:55 pause] use of computers in running Grid; GE growing interest in wider topics, such as fuel policy; differences between GE work in planning and operations; GE position reporting to board member for operations; [27:40] bureaucracy and meetings; low salaries in CEGB, comparison with American Tennessee valley Authority, lack of perks; anecdote about pre-nationalisation contracts allowing free electricity as a perk of the job; enjoyments of post; importance of keeping the lights on. [32:00]

    Track 9 [con't from 32:00] Comments on becoming Director General of South West Region:responsibility for running power stations in South West England and South Wales: outline of role, closely involved in labour disputes, visiting power stations; anecdote about visiting Aberthaw power station; responsibility for nuclear stations; opening of Oldbury and Pembroke power stations, with Tony Benn and Edward Heath, respectively; anecdote about choosing a present for Edward Heath. [36:50] Story about consolidation of widely spread CEGB regional staff in a single new set of offices in Bristol: size of staff; appointment of architects Ove Arup; GE reassigned before building completed; description of building's environmental controls; anecdote about swimming pool being closed; anecdote about new regional headquarters site's proximity to GE's home. [41:30] Remarks on life outside work: searching for home with family near Bristol; purchasing a farmhouse; GE daughters' educations at Swansea and near Ilkley, subsequently becoming teachers. [44:10] Remarks on regional nature of CEGB: GE visit to London for fund for new headquarters against background of industry redevelopment in 1970s; relative freedom in operations from central London control; limited contact with area electricity boards in region; anecdote about joining SWEB without talking to SWEB management before he started. [48:15] Comments on 1971 miners strike: GE driver driving supplies into Aberthaw; anecdote about a picket turning up at Aberthaw; well balanced mix of power station types in region; South West region's importance in supplying rest of country with electricity; story about Electricity Council and energy minister visiting Aberthaw, GE impressing minister with speech on fuel policy, GE suspicions that speech led to his appointment as head of SWEB; [52:50] oil price shock of not being noticed by electricity consumer due to CEGB stopping burning oil; GE feelings about miners strike, relatives in mining industry; work to rule in CEGB. [55:55] Remarks on labour relations issues at Bristol: difficulties moving research staff from Portishead to new headquarters; labour relations machinery, set up Lord Citrine; huge effort involved in labour relations; GE resignation of from Electrical Power Engineers Association when he became CEGB chairman. [59:30] Remarks on: historic reasons for power station locations and fuel mix; order of merit, prioritising running cheaper power stations; influence of Manchester Business School training on GE, labour relations issues and management philosophy, benefits to GE of becoming chairman; GE career expectations, not anticipating becoming chairman of CEGB, move to SWEB in 1973; GE later appointment as part time member of CEGB generating board. [1:04:00] Remarks on politics and ministerial appointments: ministerial appointment of area board chairmen; non-issue of political background of ministers and area board chairmen in appointments, with example of Labour supporter GE being appointed chair of SWEB by a Conservative minister; later influence of political bias on selection for government industries such as British Airways; professional attitude of energy ministers; GE surprise at being appointed to chair SWEB; limited effects of GE's political career in CEGB.

    Track 10 [1:01:25][Interview Four: 6 March 2013] Remarks clarifying timing of merry-go-round trains discussed in previous interview. [01:20] Remarks about GE appointment as chairman as SWEB: GE predecessor arranging for him to meeting South West MPs; GE interview for position; GE previous interaction with Department of Energy civil servants over corporate planning. [04:02] Comments on corporate planning methods at SWEB and management advisers. [06:35] Remarks on SWEB: description of role of Area Electricity Board [AEB] role supplying electricity to many customers; GE starting work in summer 1973; anecdote about GE's office being decorated on his first day at SWEB; GE spending first week in the field visiting parts of SWEB in the Taunton district; SWEB electrical appliance shops maintaining links to the community; geographical area of SWEB from North of Bristol to Lands End and Scilly Isles, then along coast to Southampton, including much agricultural lands. [12:23] Comments on SWEB's stalled reorganisation: GE concerns over number of people acting in their posts; GE cancelling reorganisation. [15:25] Remarks on GE other first impressions of board: long term SWEB employees on board limiting innovation; anecdote about NALGO criticism of GE fitting air conditioning to overheating office. [19:20] Story about major disconnection in Cornwall: result of cascade fault, revealing deficiency in local grid system; GE request that he be informed of problems in future so he could visit area to support staff and deal with customers, to opposition of SWEB board. [22:25] Remarks on: SWEB management: traditional approach of deputy chairman; arrangement for secretary; resistance to change within SWEB; pride at SWEB at achievements, such as rural electrification. [24:40] Remarks on daily work as SWEB chairman: dealing with labour relations issues, district joint advisory meetings; dealing with criticisms passed through MPs. [26:49] Remarks on contact with customers at SWEB: introducing himself to customers at appliance shops; external members of SWEB board, including chairman of local Consumer Council; anecdote about dealing with an eccentric customer's 'leaking' electricity meter; arrangements for sympathetically dealing with disconnections; GE meeting customers at SWEB tend at agricultural shows, popularity of SWEB in rural areas for their extensive electrification programme; history of SWEB's rural electrification programme. [31:25] Story about Isles of Scilly: electrify from small power station rather than connection to grid; high demand for electricity on islands; meeting on islands when SWEB raised tariff; sympathetic attitude of Island dwellers. [34:00] Remarks on SWEB small power stations: gas turbines and small hydroelectric stations; [pause phone 34:52] hydro stations inherited from previous electric companies. [35:45] Remarks on: SWEB 'mini-grid' distribution network; electricity shops value in customer contact but difficulties competing with appliance suppliers; limited links to local councils and community groups; GE holding board meetings away from Bristol. [39:40] Remarks on SWEB Board: external members including chairman of Consumer Council, industrialist from china clay industry, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, professor of economics from Exeter University and a local councillor; meeting with locals over board lunches; anecdote about local notables assuming GE was a Conservative Anglican; chief officers of SWEB forming executive board; importance of way leave officer, who negotiated with landowners to put electricity lines across their land. [44:05] Remarks about SWEB appointment of first woman as chief officer in a district as a way leave officer: male dominated nature of ESI; GE later discovering her later career through South Western Electricity Historical Society. [45:40] Remarks on SWEB Board meetings: limited contributions of external board members. [47:53] Remarks on: SWEB later reorganisation; differences between CEGB and SWEB in quality of staff; story about GE discovering limitations of SWEB staff after asking them to construct a prototype motor for farming implements; GE bringing in a finance officer from CEGB; anecdote about GE disrupting promotion schedule amongst secretaries. [52:20] Comments on Electricity Council: useful to meet people but of limited impact on SWEB; antagonism between CEGB and Electricity Council chairmen; disagreements over over education and training between the Electricity Council and CEGB; large scale of meetings; AEB chairmen, GE management style. [58:50] Remarks on: SWEB inquiry into fault in Exeter, differences in CEGB and SWEB approach to inquires; GE visits to South Wales Electricity Board in Cardiff when he started work at SWEB.

    Track 11 [29:34] Further remarks on SWEB: relatively little involvement with labour relation issues except on advisory side; senior personnel officer; description of Citrine's labour relations 'machinery', natural joint industrial councils, national agreements. [03:15 pause] Story about GE visiting Walter Citrine at home in his retirement: discussions with GE about Plowden committee, structure of ESI, trade unions; description of Citrine and his wide breadth of vision; comparisons of Citrine and Frank Chapple. [07:20] Further remarks on: EA attending advisory committee meetings on labour relations issues, but not negotiations; limited impact of 1973/74 miners strike on GE at SWEB; limited contact between GE and CEGB; SWEB boards normally including a prominent local farmer; GE restarting series of lectures at Seale Hayne agricultural college with a lecture by Lord Halford; Consumer Council chairman sitting on SWEB board. [12:20] Remarks on electricity pricing: disagreements between AEB's and CEGB over pricing; need to minimise costs whilst meeting social obligations, such as rural electrification; AEB's setting their own tariffs; limited industrial customers in SWEB region. [14:00] Remarks on self-contained nature of SWEB: limited links with CEGB and other AEB's; advisory links with Electricity Council; different feelings about Electricity Council role amongst AEB chairmen; nominal responsibility to Secretary of State for Energy, but lack of direct intervention; Secretary of State for Energy Tony Benn also MP for Bristol. [16:59] Remarks on fuel poverty: Benn's interest in people whose electricity was disconnected; GE giving presentation on understanding approach to disconnections at national conference, that impressed Benn; Benn visit to SWEB; disconnections dealt with by Chairman of NALGO branch; good relations between SWEB and social services over disconnections; Benn being impressed with SWEB's handling of disconnections. [20:35] Story about turning down a job offer to of Deputy Chairman of Electricity Council. [21:40] Further remarks on SWEB: GE appointment as part time members of CEGB board; tokanistic gesture of AEB chairman sitting on CEGB board; reflections on SWEB traditional thinking compared to youthful GE; GE career progression rate; GE salary at SWEB; limited perks other than use of chairman's car; anecdote about GE's secretary at SWEB answering letter to an MP for him; GE secretary's duties; GE enjoyments of time at SWEB; commitment of SWEB staff; National Association of Local Government Officers [NALGO], traditional union of clerical staff.

    Track 12 [32:04] Comments on GE being appointed as chairman of CEGB: GE informed several months in advance; ministerial appointment by Tony Benn, a cause of problems later in GE's career; GE not expecting position. [02:55] Remarks on GE feelings about becoming CEGB chairman: daunted by large size of organisation; wife's input to decision and feelings about GE appointment; GE living in London during week and home at weekends; anecdote about GE enjoying farming in tractor at weekends. [05:50] Description of large scale of job running the CEGB: dealing with politicians, public relations, construction, fuel suppliers, geographical spread of organisation, power stations, National Grid. [08:40] Remarks on: GE decision to take job; GE visiting many parts of the CEGB before he took over; GE plans for CEGB; GE lack of experience of power station construction; GE predecessor [Arthur Hawkins] centralising management style; extensive CEGB construction problems, investigated by Wilson Committee. [pause 13:50] Remarks on: GE encouraging senior appointments to SWEB from outsiders, to compensate for insular nature; high powered nature of CEGB board; CEGB board external members, industrialist Lord [Frank] Kearton's, deputy chairman of Royal Institute of British Architects [RIBA], chairman of Rio Tinto; GE changes to CEGB board; board member for operations Gil Blackman; board deputy chairman Fred Bonner; contributions of external board members, example of RIBA member assisting with CEGB statutory obligation toward environment in power station construction; Lord Kerton's involvement with government industry initiative. [19:00] Remarks on: CEGB involvement with British industrial policy, Lord Kerton; GE early impressions of CEGB, anecdote about long serving secretary staying in post beyond retirement to settle GE into job; messages from government, such as requests to complete Drax power station ahead of it being needed; GE concern for external problems overriding internal CEGB issues; 1970s debate about restructuring of ESI; Tony Benn announcing that he was adopting the principles of Plowden report, adding to GE's uncertainty; Liberal party opposition to ESI restructuring. [24:55] Remarks ESI restructuring: GE lunch with Liberal energy spokesman causing controversy: GE later discussions over how industry could be restructured; GE feelings that a centralised electricity generation and distribution organisation would be too big; Plowden report into structure of ESI, committee including Frank Chapple; GE feelings about prospects of becoming deputy chairman of reorganised industry; GE having few plans for how industry could be reorganised, logic of split of generation and generation; [29:15] alternative power board structure of organising ESI; GE feelings about early days as chairman of CEGB; anecdote about difficulties communicating directly with energy minister.

    Track 13 [59:10][Interview Five: 22 April 2013] Comments on CEGB: description of responsibilities of CEGB; GE concerns about over centralisation of description making by his predecessor as chairman Arthur Hawkins; contrast of GE and Hawkins; reasons for favouring decentralisation of power to regional structure. [04:10] Remarks on difficulties with construction of new power stations: parliamentary commissions; trade union difficulties; GE lack of experience in power station construction; GE appointment of skilled Dennis Lomer as board member for construction; labour relations problems, example of laggers strike on Isle of Grain; Lomer's solutions for improving construction; anecdote about Lomer overcoming difficulties with visiting a site. [09:15] Remarks on generation: CEGB nuclear and coal station programme; slackening of demand for power limiting need for new capacity; increased concentration on efficiency, resolution of problems with new large 500MW plant; former CEGB chairman Stanley Brown's involvement in 500MW programme; [12:20] cost reductions from replacing old power stations with larger new power stations; staff reductions on closing old stations; AGR [Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor] nuclear reactors; previous difficulties with AGR construction by consortia, CEGB asked to take responsibility for nuclear station construction; National Nuclear Corporation; later debate about pressurised water reactors [PWR]. [16:30] Remarks on CEGB board: GE experience at SWEB of bringing in talent from outside; GE appointing to board in former civil servant John Jukes, formerly economist at UKAEA; deputy chairman finance specialist; other members Dennis Lomar (construction) and Gil Blackman (operations); typical weekly executive meetings and monthly full board meetings; description of board room with view of St Pauls; free-for-all nature of meetings, with visitors brought in for specialist topics. [21:05] Description of personalities of executive board members and their expertise: financial concentration of Fred Bonner; Gil Blackman's practical expertise in generation; direct Denis Lomar; intellectual approach of John Jukes, who suggested appointment of John Baker as board secretary; importance of board meetings; anecdote about Monday meetings preparing GE for week; productive nature of meetings. [26:07] Remarks on GE weekly activities: every day different; visiting power stations and districts around the country; GE speaking to staff at every visit; large size of CEGB; anecdote about assistance of wife accompanying GE on visits; [30:00] international links with EDF, Tennessee Valley Authority, Ontario Hydro; GE becoming vice president of UNIPEDE; GE spending little time with ministers, regular meetings with permanent secretaries of energy ministry; appearing before energy select committees; GE meetings with chairman of National Coal Board [NCB], British Rail [BR] and oil companies; addressing London social clubs and lunches; GE speech writing system, background research by press office; anecdote about GE bad joke to coal industry lunch; relevance of social engagements in networking and public profile; [37:20] GE media interviews, Electricity Council managing public relations; GE trying to overcome central to regional disconnects by visiting sites across country; GE discussions with staff at power stations. [40:24] Remarks on contact with NCB: GE meetings with NCB chairman Derek Ezra; NCB occasional difficulties supply coal; nature of CEGB and NCB relationship; anecdote about GE, Ezra, BR's Peter Parker photograph of opening of new stretch of railway line; contracts between NCB and CEGB; fluctuation and negotiation of prices of coal and oil. [45:11] Remarks on GE contact with department of energy: Secretary of State for Energy theoretically GE's boss; anecdote about Benn later referring to CEGB as formidable; contact between Benn and GE; Benn's preoccupation with Plowden inquiry into industry restructuring; limited involvement of energy minister in direct operations; anecdote about Nigel Lawson directly intervening in CEGB; annual financial negotiations with civil servants, example of difficulty convincing civil servants of value of cross-Channel electricity link; arrangements for basing electricity price on costs; CEGB making a profit for the country. [50:54] Remarks on: GE wife opinion to him becoming chairman of CEGB; anecdote about GE turning down a knighthood with wife's blessing, GE feelings on drawbacks of honours system, concerns that he might fail; GE lack of ambition in becoming figure of establishment; degree of wife's involvement with GE work and social occasions; anecdote about wife always travelling second class; anecdote about GE meeting useful contacts whilst travelling first class. [55:25] Remarks on difficulties of GE early period at CEGB: concerns over gaps in GE experience; GE not wanting to follow practice of previous chairman; nuclear construction problems; operational problems caused by weather; big energy issues discussed with international customers.

    Track 14 [19:36] Further remarks on CEGB construction: little need for new construction; description of Dinorwic pump storage scheme in North Wales used to provide peek power at low cost. [02:00] Remarks on 2000MW cross channel link to France: CEGB financing for cable construction; purchase of cable laying boat; issues involving national governments; difficulties convincing civil service of system's value; anecdote about Tony Benn considering it a way of exporting coal by wire, and his Conservative successors as a way of importing French nuclear power at times of miners strikes; anecdote about GE visit to EDF director general in Paris to sign a protocol establishing outline of trading agreements; anecdote about opposition to construction of sub stations in Kent, from GEC's Lord Aldington , senior treasury official, journalist William Deeds and others, delay of inquiry; [09:05] precedent for energy trading within Europe; cost benefits of scheme. [10:20] Remarks on: GE and CEGB board visit to Dinorwic; previous small scale hydro power and cross channel links in CEGB; importance of CEGB research department; renewable energy research; expense of DoE built experimental wind turbine on rigid tower in Scotland; GE bringing back idea of superior flexible tower wind turbines back from contacts in USA; GE advising British Wind Energy Association of future prospects for purchases; [16:15] GE post CEGB involvement with wind energy development company, anecdote about British banks' reluctance to fund scheme; GE views on renewable energy in 1970s; interest in tidal energy, John Jukes sitting on Bondi committee to investigate Severn Barrage hydroelectric power; reasons for interest in renewable energy.

    Track 15 [23:40] Remarks on photograph of GE with football team made up of Indian soldiers during his time in the Army: value of Indian experience to GE; anecdote about GE moving prejudiced Hindu medical officer to avoid upsetting Muslim troops. [02:14] Remarks on photograph of GE with predecessors Arthur Hawkins and Stanley Brown with secretary who had worked for all of them. [03:25] Remarks on GE office: reasons for not having a desk in his office; assistance of secretaries; painting of Dungeness power station on wall; anecdote about journalist Chapman Pincher writing about GE's lack of desk. [05:05] Remarks on photograph of GE talking to staff on a visit to Pembroke power station: few women in photograph. [06:30] Remarks on photograph of minister David Howell and GE in National Grid control room: value of visit to National control in showing people the whole grid and it functions. [08:45] Remarks on photograph of GE and Edward Heath on opening of Pembroke power station: anecdote about present given to Heath; anecdote about GE's car breaking down on way to power station opening and getting lift from police. [10:30] Remarks on photograph of GE with Russian minister: signing of protocol; CEGB team visiting Russian ESI; limited impact of visit, value of lower level visits. [12:05] Remarks on two photographs of GE in SWEB typing pool: process of using typing pool. [13:33] Remarks on photograph of GE playing ping pong with Chinese delegation at Fawley power station sports hall: ice breaking nature of visit; later Electricity Council delegation to China. [14:52] Remarks on photograph of district joint advisory committee in South Wales. [15:34 pause] Remarks on photograph of TUC secretary Len Murray on a visit to South West: Murray being refused accommodation at a Bristol hotel. [17:35] Remarks on photograph of GE in office with directors of planning and operations: impressive view of out office window; anecdote about meeting with South West metallurgical society on the day that GE's contract was not renewed. [19:08] Remarks on photograph of GE and Tony Benn inside Dungeness B reactor: Benn's variable views on nuclear power; clothing; anecdote about travelling to site by helicopter that was forbidden to land at Dungeness B due to striking construction workers. [21:30] Remarks on picture of GE in CEGB helmet. [22:03] Remarks on photo of GE and wife being presented with a love-spoon carved by skilled craftsmen at Welsh power station.

  • Notes:
    Recording: 2012-06-13, 2012-20-11, 2013-01-30, 2013-03-06, 2013-05-22;
    - England, Glyn, 1921-2013 (speaker, male; interviewee);
    - Guilbert, Steven (speaker, male; interviewer);
    - Lean, Thomas (speaker, male; interviewer)
    Recording Notes: audio file 15 WAV 24 bit 48 kHz 2-channel
    Access restrictions: none

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