Maxwell killed off one of town's giants

WE can only wonder at what might have been if Robert Maxwell had not asset stripped and closed one of Ipswich's engineering giants in 1988.

David Kindred

WE can only wonder at what might have been if Robert Maxwell had not asset stripped and closed one of Ipswich's engineering giants in 1988. The company had the staff experienced in building, among other things, massive cranes including walking draglines used in open cast mining.

Following recent memories of the company in Kindred Spirits, Don Turvey, of Beechcroft Road, Ipswich, explains how some of the know-how was moved to Lincoln and thousand of hours were put into building more machines there.

Don said: “Following in my father Edgar's footsteps, who worked in the machine shop for many years, I started working at “R and R” in 1950 as an apprentice and, after many years at night school and receiving training through the various departments, I moved into the drawing office.

“There I worked on fork lift trucks, mobile cranes and crawler excavators, when managing director Bob Perkins decided we should venture into walking draglines once more after a break of nine years.

“The dragline office was situated in the former offices of transport company Christopherson's on the corner of Harland Street and New Cut West, with Don Carter as chief engineer, Don Purdy on booms, Doug Botwright bases, Russell Lambert walking machinery and myself as assistant chief engineer-hoist and drag machinery.

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“Don Carter retired in 1982 and I became chief engineer, walking draglines. After the purchase of the company by Robert Maxwell the works was run down and my office was moved to the corner of Bath Street. In 1988 the works had closed and an office of just six was left.

“At the end of 1989 the walking dragline information drawings and specifications were purchased by Bucyrus Europe Ltd in Lincoln. From 1989 I worked on walking draglines and helped them sell three more W2000 draglines to India to make a total of 12 of this model sold there.

“Although I retired some while ago I am still in touch with my office and I am doing some computer programming for them. I was told recently they have just received another order from India for another W2000 walking dragline taking the total to 13.”

Mrs C Thomas, of Mildmay Road, Ipswich, added: “My late husband George, who was known as 'Mop' worked at Ransomes and Rapier doing his apprenticeship from the age of 14 to 21.

“He was a plater in the girder shop. He also worked on the walking draglines and his last job with the company was working on the rotating restaurant for the top of the Post Office Tower in London.

“During the Second World War he was making Bailey bridges and other types of bridges. He was billeted near Clacton with several others including Bert Upson, Don Mann, and Bob Merchant. It was all a secret to me; I did not know until after the war what he was working on. He worked very hard like the others, but when Rapiers was going to close he finished and got a job at the power station. I am sorry to say he died in 1979 aged 57”.