When work was a family affair

IPSWICH engineering company Ransomes and Rapier's has been featured several times in recent Kindred Spirits.

David Kindred

IPSWICH engineering company Ransomes and Rapier's has been featured several times in recent Kindred Spirits.

Many readers have recalled how generations of the same family worked for the company which was on a large site between Wherstead Road and the River Orwell in the Stoke area of Ipswich.

A popular annual event at the works was the annual open day where thousands of visitors would wander round the vast site to see how huge engineering projects were built in Ipswich.


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Visitors were transported round the site on vehicles usually used to move items around the works. Neville Heath of Ipswich used to work at the company.

Like thousands of others, for Neville it was a family affair. Neville said: “I have been very interested in all the information that has emerged in Kindred Spirits regarding “R & R”.

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“I thought my photo of the works truck taking visitors for a ride would be of interest as it has been referred to by several readers. “The man near the back is my father A T Heath, who became the chief engineer, the blond curly headed boy in front of him is my brother Charles, who later worked in the accounts department and I am the boy looking over his head.

“I later did my apprenticeship there and worked in the drawing office. My second photo is of the electricians who completely rewired the factory after the 1953 flood.

“The people in the front row are apprentices. They are from the left, Tom Denny, Geoff Grout,? Frost, myself, Michael Rozier, and Brian Stannard.

“Others in the picture are left to right Bill Berry (foreman), Les Wright (assistant foreman) Paul Oxborrow,? Davey, Aubrey Miles, Eric Lawrence, Ray Greenleaf, Stan Peck, Brian Beachcroft, Tom Giddings, John Bennet, Tuffy Whitbred, Brian Bloomfield, Buddy Roper, John Finbow (charge hand) George Oakshot, Jim Fisk, Bill Giddings and another Bill Giddings.

“The person in the light coloured overalls is Sam who kept the place tidy and came round with the much welcomed tea urn. Next to him is Harry who worked in the office looking after the time cards and stores.

“Although the 1953 floods were tragic circumstances for many, I remember the time as one of a wonderful spirit of friendly co-operation and hard work to get the job done which are rarely experienced, except in times of emergency.”

The devastating flood during the night of January 31 and February 1, 1953, was caused by a storm surge in the North Sea. From 6pm on January 31, winds drove the storm southwards causing devastating floods along the east coast.

Over one fifth of Felixstowe was flooded by the storm. An area around the mouth of the River Deben at Felixstowe Ferry was the first to be flooded at 11.30pm, but the main damage and loss of life took place closer to Felixstowe Dock.

Prefabricated houses built after the Second World War were an easy target for the flood. The lightweight houses were smashed or swept along, some for over 200 yards. Families died in their beds while other were drowned by the raging waters.

By daybreak the full extent of the gruesome night was realised. Hundreds were rendered homeless and 39 people lost their lives. The flood surge travelled up the River Orwell and caused huge damage around the low lying areas by the river.

Many homes in the Stoke area of Ipswich were several feet deep in water. As Neville Heath tells us the Ransomes and Rapier site suffered badly and a huge operation to rewire and repair the works took place.

The floods along the Suffolk coast are well recorded, but no photographs of the damage in Ipswich seem to exist. Historically the stories of the damage in Ipswich seem overshadowed by the dreadful events at Felixstowe.

Do you have an Ipswich story or photographs from 1953? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk

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