Les of the ‘originals’ returns for a trip down Port of Felixstowe memory lane
PUBLISHED: 10:30 23 January 2016
One of the key men who helped launch a tiny dock on its path to being the most successful container hub in the country revisited his former workplace to mark 50 years since he started his career in shipping.
Les Battrick was one of the “originals” – the nickname of those who ran around a dozen shipping and transport companies at the Port of Felixstowe in the mid-1960s that set the foundation for the future.
But Mr Battrick – who also later spent two periods working in the ports industry in the Middle East – started his career in shipping, by his own admission, “by mistake”.
In 1965, at the age of 16, he left his home town of Sheringham, to live with his sister in Ipswich.
He said: “Like most 16 years olds at the time, I had no idea what I wanted to be – I just wanted a job!
“I signed on at the employment exchange in Ipswich and they put me down as a clerk. After three attempts and being told three times, ‘sorry, no jobs as a clerk’, I was just about to walk out of the door when they said, wait a minute, there’s a job here for a shipping clerk.
“I had no idea what a shipping clerk did, but I turned around and said I’ll take it.”
After initially working with LEP Transport in Ipswich, where the manager was Roy Davies, he went to work for Lockett Wilson Line in the then little-known Port of Felixstowe.
Mr Battrick, now 66, found himself in the right place at the right time as Felixstowe took off, firstly with roll-on, roll-off ships and then containerisation with the arrival of American Sealand and Seatrain.
At Lockett Wilson Line, Mr Battrick worked in The Little Ships Hotel, where around half a dozen of the original shipping companies were based, and later at the newly-built Trelawny House office block.
He returned to Felixstowe this month to meet up with a few old colleagues at the Fludyers, and also visited his former boss at Lockett Wilson, George Russell at his home.
Mr Battrick said: “I saw many friends from 50 years ago – I really enjoyed it.”