In chapter Seven I had written about a Times report, which I described in a sub-heading as a Powerful childhood influence . It was about two warlords in a South American district known as Chaco between Bolivia and Paraguay. It was a very bitter war fought in a hostile environment, in which the casualties from snakes and mosquitoes were as severe as from the bullets themselves. The fighting was between the warlords over the ownership of tin/tungsten etc, which are essential for armaments manufacturing. The terrible casualties made me a passionate advocate of peaceful/constructive conditions, and that really meant Socialism, whose Dictionary definition reads: a political or economic theory which holds that a country's natural resources ..should be owned or controlled by the community as a whole
And so, I naturally looked for a political party whose programme would be most likely to bring about a socialist society in Britain, and the Communist Party looked most promising in that context, because their published programme already included nationalisation of both banks and land: The two essential pre-requisites for a socialist society.
I had long realised that my firm support for socialism, soon to be emphasised by my Communist Party Membership would in affect cut me off, ideologically, from the family fold whose value's tended to be set by the stubbornly reactionary views of my father Edwin and his close brother James (Lord Craigavon) including inevitably the hard line orange (bitterly anti-Catholic sector), and those were values which I had of course reacted against in my swing to the left , and could never accept. The family fold however, of course included some political innocents like my dear mother Molly, and her already socialist-inclined twin Patty, who both stood for more liberal values.
One day in 1946, when I was on home leave, Edwin signally avoided congratulating me on my promotion to captain, and my much-prized award of a Kings Mention in Despatches . He was clearly far more interested in the information about my Left leanings which he had just gleaned from reading my mail, which he told me bluntly he had opened, read and burned, saying if I ever thought you believed any of that rubbish, I would cut you off immediately . I was incensed that, without a hint of discussion he had resorted to force majeure, (including the crude financial threat). That threat did not concern me unduly, because I knew that convention decreed that, whatever inheritance eventually transpired, it would be shared equally between me and my sister, and Edwin was the absolute embodiment of convention which guided everything he did.
His hatred of socialism was so profound that he clearly felt that any discussion of it would inevitably give it a degree of credence, which he was not prepared to concede.
I am keenly aware that, apart from close relatives, some old friend readers (persons whom I have for long much respected) may well be surprised by and disagree with my latter-day dedication to Socialism described above.
To them I would only say: if you have for some years - developed a conviction which you truly believe to be right both for yourself, and society as a whole, in spite of whatever antipathies, then the old adage of having the courage of one's convictions to express oneself is as valid today as ever it was.
In the mid forties I joined the Communist Party and soon got used to using the term Comrade when referring to fellow members. The early 1930's had seen a remarkable turn for the better in the "image" of the Communist Party (CP) which was no doubt partly due to the remarkable advances of the Red Army against German occupation. That image-improvement included the election of known CP members to be Union presidents or general secretaries, which in turn had a big effect in the Labour Movement.
At the time there was clearly a consensus amongst CP members about the need to build on and consolidate that improved image , which had emanated simply from discussion and for want of a better term, might be described as an ethic , which could be described briefly as being, and being seen as being a good person , both in the community (i.e., both popular and respected) and in the workplace where the Comrade should be good at his job. That Ethic soon became widely accepted throughout the CP, including by myself, and was recognised by all as being in the best interests of the party growing to be a powerful force for peace and progress.
Several years later I learned that, at that time, in the thirties it was illegal for Forces members to belong to a political party, but no one ever told me then. In 1941, I d seen an advertisement from the War office (in view of the recent heavy losses of Royal Engineer officer's in North Africa) for architects to volunteer on the understanding that they would immediately receive direct commissions . In august 42, I therefore visited the army recruiting office in High Wycombe and volunteered for a direct commission in the Royal Engineer's .
After a few weeks I returned to the recruiting office and was told there d been some confusion over my application at the War Office and that the direct commission part must have been mislaid. But since I had volunteered to serve, this empowered them to send me to the First Training Battalion R.E. at Clitheroe, Lancashire, (widely known as a hell hole especially in mid-winter) which I had no option but to accept and which is best described in Chapter Twelve. So I went without any sign of a commission but in fact, straight into the ranks along with hundreds of other fellow citizens, most of them conscripts. This whole unfortunate muddle by the War Office was just the first of many War Office foul-ups) I was to experience in the many years to come.
It may well have been a surprise to some that I fared better than some might have expected in the army, since there were occasions of very real physical discomfort, not least of which were the appalling conditions in the barracks, and at times, the agonisingly tiring experiences of running across rough country carrying heavy weapons, together with the bullshit parade-ground procedures of drilling, which were always difficult to remember and perform correctly.
During those long and difficult months it had become clear to me that the army, like it or not-was now unmistakably both my community and my workplace. Somehow I managed to hang on to the recently accepted CP lifestyle ethic principles, which I found helpful as criteria to aim for and keep ones spirits up both in the ranks (Chapters Twelve and Thirteen) and later when commissioned (Chapters Fifteen-Twenty one). The extent to which I succeeded was perhaps best illustrated by the incident covered in Chapter Twenty when one of my sergeants said "he had never met an officer my equal".
I have said above, that in the context of wide acceptance by party comrades, including myself of the Communist party ethic which emphasised the importance of being both good individuals and good at their jobs. I had accepted fully that through the passage of time and circumstances, the army had now become both my community and my workplace , and that the ethic gave me a sense of purpose which was fortified by the knowledge that, in the army we were engaged, in keeping with our comrades of the magnificent Red Army , in rebutting and finally defeating fascism, in a truly just war .
At the time of my very first close experience of the army environment I had a good experience, which I believe helped greatly to ease me in to army life: I had been shown what would be my tank: Dog , and invited to inspect it and give my reactions. Naturally, my first impression was of the extremely cramped conditions for all the crew, and I was particularly struck by the fact that the very important emergency charging plant for the heavy duty main engine starter-batteries (which was a small petrol engine driven generator) was apparently normally kept standing on the floor, at the left side, thus occupying vital space which was a critically scarce commodity. I was told that it was the duty of the Co-driver to take it out when necessary, through the left-hand escape door to run it in the open, exhausting harmlessly, but with the operator being exposed to enemy fire risk.
With my engineering experience, I could quickly see that with a modest reduction in its size, the generator could be sited in a near-by fixed position where it would in-fact be easier to start, with its flexible exhaust arranged to discharge through the open-able port in the tank floor.
The idea was welcomed immediately, especially by the co-driver, (whose life was normally at risk) but also critically by our attached REME (Royal Engineers Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) unit who offered to immediately make the necessary alterations for a trial model .
That experience of highly sensible mutual assistance, naturally gave my sense of co-operation with army life an invaluable boost at an early stage in my service career and strengthened my feeling that I could make a successful job of my role as an officer commanding sapper activities with armoured protection.
There then followed the unusual situation in Holland, where- in the absence of any Captains (they happened to be away on other duties) another officer was required to command a relatively complex and critically important operation involving re-placing three road bridges over canals, which had been destroyed by the enemy, and Brigadier Watkinson decided to give me (a lieutenant at the time) full responsibility for the operation which proved to be successful and became known by the name of Craig's Bridge's (the name given to our efforts by my loyal tank crew), for which I was awarded a King's Mention in Dispatches dated 4th April 1946, and promoted to Captain as well.
The operation in question is described fully in Chapter 17 (iv), but I think it should be added in this chapter that there can be little doubt that the driving force which enabled me to keep going through a difficult and life-threatening reconnaissance and then continue to direct a complex operation was very probably due to my communist conviction that I was doing a worth-while job supported whole-heartedly, not only by my gallant tank crew, but also by the many other sappers in my troop, who had skilfully assembled the required three bridges.
It was common knowledge that the War Office had a department called MI5 whose main concern was to keep an eye on Communists including, it must be assumed any already in the Armed Forces: in my case of course, the Army in which, from early days I had had a consistently good record.
That MI5 already had a clear idea of my politics, at least in 1954 is best illustrated by the letter from my then neighbour, Mr Palmer, (reproduced in full in Chapter 29) which explains itself.
In the Army, in keeping with the CP ethic I had aimed at being a reasonably good person in the community and had always trained hard so I could remain good at my job (which was later endorsed by my Mention in Despatches).
At some stage within MI5, I can imagine that a decision was needed in regard to my apparent breech of the regulation forbidding membership of a political party, and I can only believe that, since I evidently knew my job then, pragmatically it could be argued that even a communist officer must be better than none , so that no action would be called for. All I knew subsequently was that no action was ever taken to interfere with the later days of my Army career when I was, in fact, still doing important research and development work on the new Bailey Mobile Bridge.
In the army, we were fighting Nazi Germany, in company with the Soviet Union and its remarkable Red Army in what was clearly an Anti-Fascist War, which was very strongly supported by the Communist Party. In fact, at no stage during my time in the army can I recall any occasion in which there was any logical reason for my relinquishing CP membership.
At the time when I was most active in the CP/in the mid 1950's there was political turmoil in Europe following Kruschev's speech revealing Stalin's crimes, and the Red Army's repression of the Hungarian revolt.
Those highly significant events led to demands for discussion within the party on a wider basis than simply within branches, which, in our case meant, including individuals and groups over whole counties comprising the South Midlands. The whole scenario soon took on the title of inner party democracy and an investigative commission with that name was set up in party HQ.
I was deeply concerned that these developments did not lead to the disintegration of valuable communist branch environments, but rather that they could be put to constructive use by discussing whatever positive alternative arrangements might be feasible.
My approach attracted much support and a considerable amount of correspondence resulted. Also, I received keen support from Christopher Hill from Oxford, and it was soon agreed that he and I, (in my car) should visit every appropriate organisation and individual in the South Midlands to conduct a straw poll and then take the results to party centre .
However, sadly Harry Pollitt had died and his successor, John Gollan was rather less patient with intellectuals than Harry had been. The resulting abortive discussion, which followed, was one of several, which marked the imminent demise and eventual winding up of the British Communist Party. Harry Pollitt had been a wonderful CP secretary and was widely respected. He was a very likeable Lancashire man who had been a boiler-maker, a very exacting and exhausting occupation, which involved much backbreaking labour in difficult conditions.
Harry and I got on well together and I think he came to trust me, which resulted in a number of interesting situations, as described in various following chapters.
Many of these were in fact also Communists, and they were so numerous and remarkable, it is impossible to do justice to them all here.
Since Thora had been an effective and popular secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, many of our friends were naturally doctors or surgeons. For example, one-the surgical registrar at Charing Cross hospital named Irving Zieve once enquired how I was faring in the army. I explained that I had survived six months from D-Day to the Rhine crossing as a Royal Engineer Assault Troop Commander, but that now I was deeply worried about the threat of being posted to the Far East, where the Japanese were being particularly bloody-minded; I also mentioned that I had been suffering back pains for some time recently.
After returning to my unit I found that Irving had telegraphed to my senior officer suggesting that I should be checked for TB kidneys, which resulted in my name being removed from the list of possible postings to the Far East; to my huge relief!
It then transpired that my kidneys were not tubercular, but that I had some other lumbar infection, which in fact cleared up after some four months treatment.
That was an example of the ways that party Comrade's helped each other in whatever ways they could, which went far to establish feelings of mutual respect and support.
Finally, we had faithful Left wing friends (who were not actually CP members but who agreed and supported its policies) including particularly the lawyers DN Pritt, KC and John Platts-Mills QC (see Chapter Eight).
For some reason Pritt was always known as Johnny and Thora knew him best when she volunteered to assist with his election campaign in Hammersmith where she knew many supportive nurses at the big local hospital.
Johnny Pritt, who was a very successful and highly regarded KC, really set the pace for British lawyers prepared to take considerable risks by travelling widely to give legal support to, for example, Nehru in India, and Kenyatta in Kenya.
John Platts-Mills, who had been a law pupil of Johnny Pritt valiantly followed his lead and, for example, took great risks in February 1963 when thousands were tortured and killed in Iraq following Saddam's Baathist Party Coup. John went on to help defend the achievements of Cheddi Jagan, one time- successful and popular premier of British Guiana who had been illegally ousted by forces supported by the UK Government.
I explained in Chapter 22; Back To Civvie Street , that a job I had been virtually obliged to take in the Borough Engineers Office in St Marylebone, London, to qualify for early release from the army, to assist the Housing Effort had been frustrating because of the complete absence of any government plans to seriously tackle the huge back-log in housing programmes, and my then decision to become involved in forms of organising work to stimulate public pressure for appropriate government action.
At the time, my main concern was to set the ball rolling towards nationalisation of the building industry (together with the all-important building materials industries) by promoting such sections of the construction industry as were already in public ownership, namely the Direct Labour departments of local authorities.
In the early thirties there had been considerable unemployment amongst architects and their juniors who were exploited by the various employers and thus the need for some kind of trade union to protect the interests of those concerned became clear, and resulted in the formation of the Association of Architects, Surveyors and Technical Assistants or AASTA , and my old friend and Comrade Kenneth Campbell agreed to be its first President, and thus give it some standing . I joined its management committee and helped initiate the name change to the more meaningful and simpler Association of Building Technicians which was soon accepted as a legitimate Union by both the TUC and other building trade unions. Thus, I was able to initiate my campaign to promote Building by Local Authorities under the sponsorship of the fully established Association. I had already produced an illustrated a four-page pamphlet outlining the campaign which had been well received, so I proceeded to the next natural stage-a public meeting, which took place on 3/11/45 in St Pancras Town Hall. For this, as main speaker, I had managed to get Aneurin Bevan, who as Minister of Health was responsible for housing which I believed to be wrong because housing was so important it deserved a ministry of its own.
Bevan, unsurprisingly, failed to offer any support to policies favouring nationalisation, nor of course, the slightest hint of socialism.
I had invited Professor Bernal to join the platform and give the winding up speech because of his great interest in the building industry generally and in particular the introduction of new lightweight building materials, and his speech was as stimulating as usual
My work with the A.B.T. proved an excellent opportunity to get to know and understand the building Industry, which eventually resulted in Harry Pollitt asking me to draft the Communist Party's evidence to the Royal Commission on the Building Industry then sitting, which was accepted by the Communist Party's Industrial Committee, of which I was a member for some years in the mid thirties. The Comrade on the Industrial Committee most concerned with building was the elderly, but highly active Frank Jackson of the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers (A.S.W) which represented Carpenters and Joiners, traditionally considered the leading craftsmen throughout the building industry.
The executive committee of the A.B.T had appointed me as representative on the London Trades Council, which consisted of representatives of practically every union operating ion the London area, with its lively secretary Julius Jacobs, speaking in support of or against motions on that council involved preparatory research from time to time, as did reporting back to the A.B.T E.C.
In the course of my attending in numerable meetings whether at the Beaver Hall in the city of London for the Trades Council meetings or at Communist Party HQ in King Street, together with continuation meetings in one or another of the numerous near-by pubs I had the opportunity to become friends with a variety of splendid, usually Communist, building trade unionists including, for instance: Bill Smart and Leo Mc Gree of the A.S.W, Geoff Mildwater, Harry Weaver (President) of the A.U.B.T.W (Chiefly bricklayers), Frank Stone and Tom Sullivan (Plumbers), and Bill Zak ( Furnishing Trades Operatives). In particular Harry Weaver who was a Communist became a long-term family friend.
The first World Peace Congress had been initiated by a group of Polish intellectuals, whose country, like others in central Europe had been devastated by the recently concluded Second World War. The Congress took place in Wroclaw, Poland in 1946. Those taking part were primarily Communists or other Left wingers known to the Polish organisers, and included prominent scientists such as Frederic Joliot-Curie from France, Professors Desmond Bernal and J.B.s Haldane and a healthy number of other men and women of good will .
The conference decided on the formation of a permanent body to be known as the World Peace Council, with Frederic Joliot-Curie as its first President, and its intention that repeat congresses should be called together annually, hopefully in a different, preferably Capitalist country each time.
A concluding decision was taken that the Second World Peace Congress should be held in a western capitalist country, with London as the strongly preferred venue.
By that time, following Us pressure, the worlds media had almost universally adopted the false-hood that the Peace Movement was a front for soviet aggression , and as a result finding a suitable venue anywhere in the London area was all but impossible.
It was therefore decided to attempt to find a venue in some other British city, and Sheffield was chosen because it was world renowned for its high quality steel production.
Ivor Montagu had offered his services to the world peace council as an organiser, for which he had had considerable experience, for, apart from being an able and experienced writer he was a great protagonist of the little known sport of table tennis, of which he was a highly capable player himself. And he had organised many International Table Tennis Tournaments involving numerous international nationalities.
Since the USSR had suffered so terribly in the war it was entirely natural to give financial support to a body promoting world peace, and it was equally natural (if the would be congress was to take place in Britain) that the British Communist Party should assume Trusteeship responsibility for the expenditure of those funds. So Ivor Montagu (from an old banking family and an old established CP member) had been appointed as Chief Congress Co-ordinator, and I had been appointed as his deputy to promote the congress to the best of my ability from a base in London.
The Communist Party's business-men's group was then alerted to my need and soon produced a small group of rooms which could be used as offices at an address in Cork Street, Mayfair, which Rumour had it, might well have previously been a house of ill repute . There I managed to find a room, which I could use as an office, but finding a room large enough for meetings was impossible. So we had occasional meetings in the bathroom where Ivor managed to sit with his feet in the bath.
My staff of about twelve included one trusted young woman whose job it was to fly to and from Paris daily carrying quotas of Moscow Gold for wages, travelling expenses etc, which were issued to her from the HQ of the World Peace Council because of Joliot-Curie's presidency, and were primarily a French-dominated body.
Fortunately, a Comrade named Nan Green (like Thora, a Spanish war-veteran) had been asked to assist in expediting matters in Sheffield itself where, to-date all we had was a bomb-site with permission to erect a Marquee when a dead-line for opening the conference was fast approaching, and I already had a list of over a hundred hopeful participants with unpronounceable names, some of whom had even managed to already actually enter the UK. So, our work was about as hectic as can be imagined and, although a deep disappointment, it was no surprise when Ivor rang me from Prague to say that the Polish Government had offered us the use of a magnificent very large printing works under construction but almost complete, in Warsaw. This could be used for the congress with the simple addition of seating. My orders therefore were all change! Move forthwith to Warsaw! Where upon, fortunately with the aid of a friendly travel agency, I faced the task of assembling a sufficient number of charter planes to fly out the hundred odd delegates already here or expected shortly. Unfortunately not direct (the distance was too great) but via a re-fuelling stop, half way at Prague. (The Czech Government actually loaned me twelve planes, which was extremely helpful)
Then began the nightmarish task of finding those many delegates from all manner of mostly poor countries, who had never before experienced the delights of somewhere like Oxford Street. Since they neither understood nor could speak English, nor understood what little English money they had, the problems were virtually endless. This was magnified many times when I had to assemble flight schedules with very little interpreting assistance and a mass of beaurocratic procedures involving passports and visas to overcome. At a time when officially, peace had become a dirty word which had inevitably rubbed off on numerous officials whose good offices I badly needed at the time.
When we eventually arrived in Warsaw the Mayor gave us a great welcome. He and the Polish Government had not only provided us with an alternative conference centre itself, but also hotel accommodation for the eighty/hundred international delegates who I had been able to bring over from London.
The building which had been allotted to us as a conference centre was in fact intended eventually to become a printing-centre in which the printing machinery had not yet been installed and thus, the way was clear for seating for the expected many hundreds of delegates to be provided. The Polish electricians then added a sound amplification system for the speakers, which included facilities for translators from the numerous different languages expected.
The sound system worked well from the start and somebody had had the bright idea of composing a jolly piece of music which could become the conference "signature tune and this simple but catchy music soon acted as a morale-lifter for delegates at the commencement of each session. The location of the future printing works was highly appropriate for the site of a peace congress, since the area all around it was one of apparently endless chaotic destruction. Near by, there stood the skeletal remains of a Church, of which the people of Warsaw had always been very fond. However, during the last days of the War, the Nazi's had used that Church as a place of execution-a diabolically vindictive and cruel act.
Owing to the inevitably adhoc nature of the conference it had not been possible to arrange for appropriate recording of all the proceedings, and these paragraphs must stand as the only record of what took place in Warsaw in 1950, which were nevertheless surprisingly widely recorded globally because we had made special efforts to accommodate the press from all corners of the globe.
As with so many developments at the time it all began with the Cold War (chapter 29). The Soviet Union was anxious to preserve its well-established anti-fascist image and ally of Britain, Moscow therefore decided to issue invitations to prominent members of each profession in Britain and other capitalist countries to visit the USSR free of charge to meet and establish relations with their opposite numbers. Such invitations were issued to the British Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR, who in turn passed them to Colin Penn in whose office I was then working, and so he in turn passed them to me to process . I, therefore forwarded them to as many prominent architects and Town Planners as I could think of.
Regrettably, it had at the time become quite common for senior professionals to do profitable lecture tours of the USA, and of course owing to the Cold War , a Russian visa in the passport tended to compromise such invitations and as a result my invitations met with little success.
After a while I tried again and succeeded in getting acceptances from some, at least semi-prominent architects such as the city architects of well known places such as Bristol. Unfortunately however, an invitation had also reached a man named Yerbury who was an Honorary Architect who had been given the somewhat meaningless title because of his position as Director of the Building Centre , which was in fact a permanent London Exhibition of building materials and equipment, and Mr Yerbury had immediately accepted.
When Harry Pollitt heard of Yerbury's acceptance, he rang me and asked for me to call to see him urgently. It transpired that Yerbury had been approached by Time Life Magazine to take photos for them in the Soviet Union. Harry explained to me that just prior to WWII Yerbury had been arrested near Moscow for photographing in a No-Go area and Harry was deeply concerned to avoid any reoccurrence of any such incidents and therefore asked me to be sure to go with the delegation and always watch Yerbury to ensure there were no problems. I at once agreed, but explained that I still had no Soviet Visa and the delegation was due to fly out the following day. Harry therefore telephoned the Soviet Embassy and asked them to send a visa for me within twenty-four hours. I was thus able to leave together with the other delegates who had accepted the invitation.
Immediately after reaching Moscow I approached Yerbury and said I understood he was working for Time Life , to which he replied, "No, I told them they were not offering me enough for the job".
Therefore my main reason for being with the delegation at all had disappeared! I then became free to join the remaining ten or so members of the delegation who were all in fact bona fide architects, and take full advantage of the remarkable invitation to travel free over vast areas of the Soviet Union and enjoy typical Russian hospitality in a number of different fascinating places.
Before leaving Moscow we had been introduced to our English speaking woman interpreter, who also kindly acted as our guide. We had naturally all been allotted accommodation in different hotels in Moscow, and I had opted to share a room at the Hotel National near the Kremlin with Frank Tindall, who was in fact County Planning Officer for East Lothian, and had been a keen supporter of the University Research Branch of the CPRE (CURB, Chapter 6) which I had founded
Before leaving Moscow we naturally visited the major places of interest, which naturally included the astonishing underground, the entire environment of which was more reminiscent of a Cathedral than a railway. Surprisingly, there were no advertisements and each different station had astonishingly spacious platforms built on a grand scale with very remarkable materials including much marble. We were also shown around the enormous new Moscow University by its designer Academician Rudin, who when asked how he had solved the problem of circulation for the 12,000-15,000 students involved, replied I thought if I put the male students in the north wing and the female in the south, that the problem would solve itself!
Before leaving for our grand tour of the Soviet Union, we went by train over-night to Leningrad. That city had of course been the seat of the old pre-Revolutionary Russian Government, and we were able to witness the sites of the more important battles during the 1917 Uprising by the Russian people against the Tsarist regime. The magnificent old eighteenth century buildings now house the famous Hermitage Museum, which has a world-renowned collection of paintings including a wonderfully comprehensive collection of Impressionist painters.
We then learnt that in order to complete our tour of the Soviet Union, the Government had provided us with a twin engine, 15-seater plane, with a friendly pilot who was prepared to fly low over vast distances, enabling us to well understand the terrible sufferings which, particularly the Ukrainian people must have experienced because over many, many miles particularly around Kiev, the entire environment was just a mass of shell-craters and destroyed buildings.
At Kiev there was a remarkable Museum of the Great Patriotic War on a dramatic site high above the Dnieper River surrounded by an extraordinary number of great concrete sculptures representing both life-size and over life-size figures depicting both soldiers and civilians.
The huge Museum had remarkable records of all the great battles, which the Red Army had been involved in; including the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad.
The great city of Stalingrad was still largely an enormous pile of rubble, closely adjoining the Great Volga River, which had in fact constituted the front line during the intense fighting. It was intended to leave the ruins, to some extent, as they were as a permanent memorial. However, re-building had already commenced on a massive scale and there were several interesting features of that construction work. One of these was the innovative practise of constructing walkways beneath what would become main streets. Those walkways were intended to provide permanent access to the many important services such as, drains, water supply, electricity and telephone supplies, all of which ran in easily accessible areas at each side. This practise meant that maintenance engineers could obtain access at any times without destroying the street surfaces, which were added later.
A considerable proportion of each day was occupied by enormous meals, which often lasted from around 6pm-10pm, when our party was invariably hosted by some local luminary, often a Minister or Chief Architect or whoever appropriate, who invariably made us welcome with a speech. So it was necessary for one of us to reply on behalf of the British Architects, and to select who made that reply was chosen by a straw poll, which I organised each afternoon on the plane.
Our programme next took us to Ehrevan, capital of the Soviet Republic of Armenia, which although a loyal part of the Soviet Union, rather prided itself on its distinctive character, which was emphasised by its architecture which had none of the enormous wedding-cake-type buildings such as the type we had got used to in Moscow and other cities. Armenia was physically separated from the rest of the Soviet Union by the formidable range of the Caucusus Mountains to the south of the Republic of Georgia. We landed to re-fuel at Tiflis (the Georgian capital), and our interpreter told me that our pilot had asked permission to delay our progress because of bad weather. When we returned to the control tower an official told us that Moscow had said that we MUST continue immediately because the British Architects were invited to supper by the Armenian Minister of Culture
To fly over the necessary mountain range involved climbing to a height of 20,000 feet (probably the maximum for the plane involved). Our brilliant pilot, however managed to navigate between two terrifyingly close rocky ridges and take us down to land at Ehrevan, assisted by enormous bonfires which the local people had built to show our pilot the way. It had been an exceptionally tiring, and at times terrifying flight, and when we were called down to supper, thinking that as usual we would be sitting with feet hidden under the table, I simply put on my bedroom slippers and proceeded to the dining room; and as I entered, the band struck up a dance tune and an imposing lady (the minister's wife) came towards me with her arms open, clearly inviting me to dance, which was apparently an Armenian custom for the leading lady to welcome the first guest on the scene. Our interpreter explained that all the Armenians were asking, is it an old English custom to dance in bedroom slippers? (Which in my case were highly embarrassingly dotted with odd drops of bright red toothpaste).
By this time we were well used to lavish meals-but this-our first in Armenia proved even more wonderful than usual, supplemented by numerous both white and red local wines (but no vodka). The meal began with the Minister of Culture greeting us English architects. He also welcomed our leader whom the interpreter referred to (naturally incorrectly) as the notorious Mr Yerbury (I think it can be safely assumed that he meant to say the well-known Mr Yerbury But the term notorious was inadvertently so appropriate that we all collapsed with hysterics). This left the other guests not knowing what we were all laughing about. The banquet concluded with our poor woman Russian/English interpreter doing her best to assist her Armenian interpreting colleagues by explaining what all the hilarity had been about.
On the next morning when we were strolling in the gardens of a nearby Monastery I temporarily missed my colleague-of the moment - Mr Douglas Jones (City Architect of Bristol) and asked the Armenian interpreter if he knew where Mr Jones was. The reply came: I think he is behind that tree emptying his blaster.
We then entered the comfortable people carrier , which took us along many torturous roads through the mountains to visit an unusual small monastery, partly built out of the mountainside itself. The interesting site was particularly unusual in being populated by very numerous young children, and we learnt from our guide that the monk in charge belonged to an Order whose vows included sexual abstinence and that a recent Edict of the local government had relieved him of those vows!
By this time (it was probably about midday) having had breakfast at 7am, we were wondering about our lunch, being many miles distant from civilisation . Whereupon we were invited to re-enter the people carrier which took us a few miles back towards Ehrevan but then stopped in a particularly beautiful olive grove in a remarkable position with panoramic views, where a team of chefs with appropriate assistance had prepared a barbecue site from the level grass terrace by digging a long shallow trench along whose total length a timber fire had been prepared and started burning to provide for cooking kebabs of various kinds. Our whole party was thus able to sit cross-legged while enjoying the splendid lunch, washed down by the delicious Armenian wine
After returning to Ehrevan, we spent our last day in Armenia making a final tour of the City, admiring the broad range of both old and new buildings, constructed using the local sandstone known as Tufa, which lends itself admirably to some beautiful architectural detailing.
Concluding our visit to Ehrevan, we were invited to descend the hundred odd steps down to the huge wine cellars, where we were invited to taste numerous wonderful red, white and rose wines. We then took a flight directly back to Moscow, before flying home at the conclusion of a fascinating and memorable tour of the Soviet Union, about which several of us gave lectures in various centres in Britain.
Winston Churchill may well have been an effective British leader during WWII, but it should never be forgotten that his primary loyalty had always been to the promotion of Capitalism and the fortunes of his class-the ruling class, and naturally he saw socialism as the main enemy and, by extension, the Soviet Union likewise. There can be little doubt that it was his hypocritical pragmatism that prompted him to enter into an alliance with the Soviet Union and its all important and successful Red Army, at a desperate time when massive German pressures were so great as to actually be threatening the defeat of the Western Alliance.
It was Churchill who in fact initiated the Cold War in his speech at Fulton, Missouri in March 46 when he performed a fundamental about-face , in which he in fact denounced our Soviet Allies (who had just inflicted a crushing defeat on the German Armies at Stalingrad), and accused them of having created an iron curtain across Europe, (a phrase first coined by Hitler's propaganda minister, Goebel's ) behind which he accused them of having extinguished all freedoms and other such extravagant distortions.
Once Churchill had set the hate-socialism ball rolling, all manner of near-fascists joined the bandwagon he had created - most notable of whom was of course the American Senator McCarthy, who took it upon himself to start a widespread witch-hunt termed the Un-American Activities Committee which started investigating all manner of American citizens, suspected of left-wing sympathies, and encouraged many persons in all walks of life-including numerous prominent Hollywood actors to denounce their colleagues as Left-Wingers. Once the poison of Mc McCarthyism had taken root in the USA, it soon spread globally, even to Britain where sections of the press took it up and reporters were soon making life a misery for many eminently decent individuals who had had Left-wing backgrounds.
One such, Professor Eric Burhop, a highly gifted Australian physicist (who had in fact for a while, worked on the American Manhattan nuclear bomb project ) and who, with his wife Winny were in fact good friends of Thora and myself, were so harassed by reporter's that they had to barricade the door of their London home and escape via a rear bathroom window.
In chapter 25, I have already mentioned the existence and purpose of MI5, the War Office's Military Intelligence Section Five. I surmise that through spying on Harry Pollitt's office, amongst other things, they had already gained data on my political activities for their files.
When Thora and I decided to invite our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Palmer (the occupants of the big Queen Anne house, near Revel Cottage) round to a Sherry party, we must have sent the invitation by post, which no doubt MI5 would have opened and scanned.
Thora and I had enjoyed our first meeting with Mr Palmer and his charming Brazilian wife - who had an impressive collection of paintings, and I learned that he was head of a large engineering firm. By chance, that firm had just obtained a government contract to produce weapons components, and that must have prompted MI5 to tell Mr Palmer about my politics. As a result he sent me the following letter, which I reproduce here in full, and on which at the time I commented on as very interesting and honest (which I still feel was a fair comment):
Regrettably over the years, I have mislaid the original carbon copy of the draft of the reply, which I had intended to send him, but in fact never did (for no particular reason). However, from notes I have pieced together a copy of the gist of that draft letter, which I reproduce here:
Dear Mr Palmer,
Further to your letter of 25/11/54, my wife and I were very glad to know that you are no Mc Carthyite Blimp or otherwise reactionary as you say.
I do not refute any of the questions which opened your letter, but I must say that I do object to the various un-British methods on which they must have been based, namely; opening and reading mail, spying with telescopes, monitoring conversations with the use of listening bugs such as microphones sequestered around Harry Pollitt's office. All of which bare the hallmarks of the well known Military Intelligence Section or MI5.
My wife and I have been members of the Communist Party for a considerable time, but that has never made us reluctant to be friends with people with differing outlooks, and never will.
I do indeed respect the direct approach made in your letter but I cannot accept that you are not free to have Left-wing friends. Mc Carthy is far from established in this country and he has in fact only just received a bit of a set-back from the American public. Like thousands of other British Communists in WWII, I fought (in my case with the Royal Engineer's in the 79th Armoured Division, from D Day to the Rhine Crossings) to preserve our freedoms from the Nazis (and now see them embraced and given atom bombs to fight our former Soviet Allies)- so I m a little sensitive about being considered a risk .
Recently with a party of architects I was able to visit the Soviet Union for three weeks and thus see that they are deeply involved in vast peaceful construction projects, which would both be impossible if they were preparing for war, and would be ridiculous as they are mostly in the West of their vast territory.
I wish you - as a lover of great art - could experience their devotion to their wonderful cultural heritage: the loving care and superb craftsmanship with which they have restored the thousands of Cathedrals, Churches, Monasteries, and Palaces laid waste by the Germans; the thousands of eager admirers, old and young, who throng the Hermitage, the Tretyakov and other great collections together with other new museums and galleries.
For our part friendship with your good selves could never embarrass us.
Trusting to see you again one day, with all best wishes,
Following conclusion of the Peace Congress in Warsaw (chapter 27), the Austrian Peace Committee offered to host a further World Peace Congress, and I was asked to be organising secretary of a sponsoring committee, aiming at forming a worthwhile British delegation to the Vienna People's Congress for Peace on 12/17 December 52. For which I was provided with an office at 58 Berners St, off London's Oxford Street. I was fortunate in having the support of two Chairmen, including Percy Belcher, (President of the Tobacco Workers Union), and several assistant secretaries.
I started by writing to a whole number of prominent persons in a cross-section of society to obtain an agreement for their names to be used to head-up an appeal for delegates. The result was promising, with support from six fellows of the Royal Society, four Authors, four Actors, four Doctors, three Teachers, two Musicians, two Barristers, a Businessman, a Farmer and many leading Trade Unionists, these included: nearly forty Presidents and General Secretaries.
At an early stage both the Labour Party and the TUC did their utmost to sabotage my efforts by circularising all their branches, recommending non-cooperation. There was no evidence to show that their efforts had much effect, except, naturally to further strengthen right-wing media antagonisms and revive unnecessary Cold War feelings of hatred towards the Soviet Union.
To finance the appropriate publicity, it became necessary to institute a major fund-raising campaign requiring; eighty thousand leaflets, twenty thousand letters, twenty thousand note books and three thousand collecting cards. In the end we succeeded in sending some one hundred and fifty delegates to the Congress and at the close of proceedings the delegates instructed me to send the following letter to all organisations which had been supportive, and particularly to those who had supported delegates financially:
We are writing to you at the unanimous request of the British delegation to the Peoples Congress for Peace in Vienna, 12-19 December 1952. The success of this Congress was greater than any of us hoped or expected. Among the outstanding features which impressed us about the Congress were the remarkable spirit of tolerance and compromise which pervaded all its work, the rich variety of the political, religious and social outlook of those who took part both from this country and from all parts of the world, the achievement of unanimity in this extraordinarily heterogeneous gathering and the world-wide strength of feeling for peace among people of all classes and outlooks. Particularly important to us, and particularly satisfying, was the special contribution the British delegates made, especially in the work of the commissions, in bringing differing viewpoints together and bringing about agreement on compromise decisions.
With this letter we are enclosing the texts of the two main resolutions adopted by the Congress. Specially significant are the proposals for stopping the fighting in different parts of the world, above all in Korea in relation to which the proposals adopted conform very closely to those unanimously put forward by the British delegation and the simple appeal to the Great Powers to make a new effort for negotiation.
Our delegation was widely recognised as one of the most varied at the Congress. This variety extended both to occupations and to political and religious beliefs. Anyone who had forecast at the beginning of its work that it would ever agree unanimously at the end would have been thought rash in the extreme. It is a striking illustration of the spirit and achievement of the whole Congress that in the final voting the British were unanimous. We feel that this in itself is an example which shows that agreement on the most difficult topics is perfectly possible, provided the will to find agreement is there. There were altogether 159 British delegates and observers. The largest single social grouping consisted of trade unionists, who comprised about sixty per sent of the whole. The largest single political grouping consisted of members of the Labour Party, comprising at least a third of the delegation (counting only those active as individual members). About a third were of no party. A sixth were members of the Communist Party. There were 45 women and ten ministers of religion. A high proportion of the delegates were pacifist in conviction.
The delegation at a meeting the day before the Congress ended decided unanimously to ask its officers to write to all organisations concerned with the problems of peace to ask them to study the results of the Congress, to convene meetings to consider its outcome, to make use of the proposals of the Congress in furthering their work for peace, in particular, to do all in their power, by bringing pressure on Members of Parliament and in other ways, to increase the demand for an immediate cease-fire in Korea and for a sincere and patient effort by the Great Powers to negotiate on their differences.
We hope very much that you will invite one of the delegates to a meeting of your members to give a report on the Congress and we will gladly help to put you in touch with a delegate from your area or from any particular occupation or of any particular outlook in which you may be interested.
On behalf of the British Delegation
Percy Belcher, Monica Felton, J. Powell-Evans; Chairmen
C. Nares Craig, V. Duncan Jones: Secretaries.
I had originally applied for employment at BRS by answering an advertisement in The Builder for an Experimental Officer at the Building Operations Research Unit (B.O.R.U) in London, to investigate problems arising from building organisation and methods .
After waiting a month or more for a reply, I telephoned BRS HQ. My call was answered (rather surprisingly I thought) by none other than the Chief Administrator, one John Rice, who said, in a very friendly way, "Yes we have a job for you, Craigie" and suggested a date for me to call in for details.
John Rice, was in fact, the antithesis of the popular misconception of Civil Servants generally as tending to be bureaucratically obstructive and unhelpful; he was consistently kind and helpful to me over many years.
The HQ premises at Garston consisted of the Edwardian Mansion (which accommodated the Director and his immediate staff) surrounded by well-tended lawns and flower beds, and sufficient space for the purpose-built three-to-four storey buildings for various laboratories and several very bulky items of testing equipment. There was also a large area known as the graveyard where numerous examples of many different materials and building components were left out for several decades so their reactions to weather could be monitored.
In the civil service, considerable dedication to your work was understood and respected to the extent that you could come and go as you pleased, which made a pleasant change from the essentially Private Sector type of employment at Arthur Stewart's practice where clock-watching was necessary, and, when at the drawing board, one could never feel entirely free from the risk of over-the-shoulder surveillance
BRS may well have originally come into existence because of the importance of construction within the national economy, and the need for consistent supplies of good quality and reliable building materials which called naturally for the services of both physicists and chemists to undertake the appropriate checks. Thus these two scientific disciplines of physicists and chemists tended to govern the choice of Director and other senior staff in the Station's earlier days, and, for long, scientists tended to dominate BRS rather than lesser mortals such as architects and engineers.
When BRS was, rightly in my view, incorporated into the civil service, the term scientific was, naturally, and for convenience, retained as part of the terminology defining the status of staff (and thus their salaries), resulting in terms such as's .S.O. (Senior Scientific Officer) or P.S.O. (Principal Scientific Officer) and the like.
B.O.R.U. was not sited at Garston but remained in London, at Montague Mansions, Crawford Street, W.1. in an Edwardian block of Mansion Flats with large rooms which made acceptable offices with two persons in each; my room-mate was William Buckle, who, unfortunately, was a heavy smoker.
B.O.R.U. was the approximate equivalent in size of a Division at BRS, and its head at the time was a dynamic physicist named Dr. John Weston, who was about my age. Next in Line below Weston came Broughton, who was not a scientist at all but a Builder who had been co-opted, at a time when Weston had evidently realised that neither he nor any of his colleagues really understood the building industry, and that he thus needed someone In House , who did. Having, naturally, no scientific qualifications, Broughton threw the Establishment into confusion because, without them, he could not readily be given a grade and thus a name; so he remained, simply, Builder (he was in fact, a middle aged retired builder, from Bournemouth.)
During my first week at B.O.R.U. a Major Pippard suffered a sudden heart attack and died. He had been a Senior Experimental Officer (one grade senior to myself as an EO (Experimental Officer) and a Section Head . Weston immediately decided I should accept promotion to fill the vacancy at SEO level, and take over the section of five men, who, being established had to be employed by someone. I had, naturally, no previous knowledge of any of them; however, they had all been employed by the Ministry of Works as site observers which was a form of experience I could make use of later when preparing for my second main Report (see below.)
The five men now under me were a heterogeneous group, as follows: First: Spud Amos; I never learned the origin of his strange nick-name but he answered to no other. During the second world war, Spud had had the most dangerous and lonely job of all in the RAF, namely tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber, which experience had left him with entirely white hair; Second: William Buckle (the smoker) Third: Joe Davies, Fourth: Stan Haines, who, with his wife as partner, was a ballroom dancing expert, Fifth: Tony Surridge, who had originally been a jockey.
White was a 40 year old architect who had joined B.O.R.U. for a short time fill-in between other jobs.
Dr John Weston was my excellent boss for several years who gave all my work his consistent support (witness sub heading 15). But he was not universally popular, and Ralph White was adept at noting criticisms of him to include in his cartoon; particularly by the scientists, who objected to departures from pure science to more practical subjects relating to building such as mine. These are listed in the words emanating from the loudspeaker i.e. bellrock - and early lightweight partitioning system, pitch pipes a reference to pitchfibre, lightweight and comparatively cheap drainage pipes, pile founds a reference to pile foundations for which an engineer colleague had invented an earth auger or drilling machine, tower cranes which I was instrumental in introducing to the UK, AMMC meaning : Alternative methods of house construction with which I was deeply concerned until being asked to concentrate on High Flats.
The coincidence of the name Weston being the same as that of the famous Somerset town provided a convenient title, and the label, staff nightmare on the horse's rump refers to the occasional misgivings by staff at instances of Weston's occasional disciplinarianism . For instance he took such a strong dislike to empty milk bottles (from coffee breaks ) being left outside office entrances that one wit took an empty milk bottle and cast it into a bucket of concrete which he then left at the door of the Mansion (BRS's HQ, including Weston's own office.
At the time, in view of the tremendous pressure for housing, the government was anxious to emulate apparently successful continental practices of building multi-storey flats. Unfortunately the British building industry had virtually no experience of building anything higher than the widely used two-storey house, so unsurprisingly, estimates for building blocks of flats were invariably high.
It therefore struck me that a natural Brief for myself would be: How best to utilise the existing skills (both supervisory, and that of craftsmen) of the U.K building industry to construct flats in ten, or more, storey blocks, at reasonable cost. Broughton accepted my suggestion and recommended me to start on it as soon as possible, which Weston endorsed.
Thus, I was launched into what turned out to be a dramatically expanding career of expertise in the field of housing in flats of some kind both in the U.K. and later overseas.
To get the feel of my now official research brief, I decided to make some preliminary visits to a variety of flats projects, (both under construction and completed) in London and elsewhere, and, to arrange these, I had excellent co-operation from both City and Borough Architects Departments, who all wished me well with the Brief.
I have no recollection of the majority of those visits (made in early 1956) except one, which was truly memorable. It was to a site under construction by a firm named Tarmac, and its site foreman was a highly experienced man, especially in the field of pre-cast concrete, which interested me particularly. He explained that if he wished to make some exceptionally good quality pre-cast concrete product, that, for preference, he would utilise a former, itself made of concrete, and that advice made a fundamental impression on me.
That man also, inadvertently, strengthened one of my deep concerns about the building industry, namely safety on construction sites, for that highly intelligent man had lost his whole right hand in a site accident, and yet carried on bravely using an ungainly hook as a highly ineffective substitute.
It soon became clear that, to make the brief more manageable, it could well be broken into two main parts; i.e. first; a report based on prices, given by housing authorities, and drawings which could be studied and related to those prices. Second: site studies of actual costs carried out by my team of five observers.
That arrangement was agreed, and resulted in my two main reports (already produced) which were: first Factors affecting economy in multi-story flat design (CN Craig) reprinted in French and Italian and published in the RIBA Journal, April 1956 and republished in both languages.
Second: Multi-story flats design, building methods and costs (published by HMSO as National Building Studies Special Report 34, (1963).
A Builder review of NBs 34 Special Report by A.W Kenyon said: An invaluable point of reference for designers, contractors, progress officers, cost predictors, and everyone concerned with speedier, more efficient, and cheaper building. It has a wealth of information in well documented form, the like of which we have never had before
The first report involved critical analysis by myself of both drawings and other data, in which work I received significant assistance from Spud Amos, who proved himself adept in recording data in meticulous detail, in particular on a mammoth chart which occupied all of a double elephant drawing board. i.e. approximately 100x80 cm.
The above two men were of key importance to the success of my research and development work over the coming years. Wilkinson was the Borough Architect of Edmonton, North London (now Enfield) and he controlled the Borough's own Direct Labour building department. Belcher was the most active partner in the firm of Structural Engineering Consultants: Fife, Belcher and Grimsey, who were retained semi-permanently by Edmonton Council.
Both men had refreshingly open minds about innovation in building and I soon had a good rapport with each. Wilkinson explained that he needed to build an 18-storey block of flats at Angel Road, Edmonton, and he invited me to design it with pre-casting in mind, and then to over-see production and erection on site.
Wilkinson's invitation to both design and supervise construction of the 18 storey flats of course provided both myself and BRS with a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression on the building industry both at home and overseas. So I set to work with enthusiasm, recalling my many ideas for pre-casting on site in particular and when I first sketched out the natural arrangement of sub-dividing walls to create a typical flat with two or three bedrooms and living room, the basic simplicity and repetitive nature of those walls (bearing in mind the advice of the Tarmac foreman) pointed immediately to the logic of using a pair of them, correctly spaced, to produce a third, and that idea cried out for a test, which resulted in the first Edmonton mock-up (sub heading 9b), which finally established the principle of using concrete formers to produce other lengths of walling. At the same time, I had just realised that sections of flooring could well be pre-cast vertically as easily as walling, thus permitting the entire structure to be pre-cast.
It was clear that floor panels could be cast, and then lifted and lowered to ground level and in so doing turned to the horizontal, always keeping the upper-side uppermost, so that the reinforcement mesh remained near the lower face. My close liaison with Belcher made it possible to design lifting loops which permitted the lifting equipment to slide as necessary during the turning operation, after which the cast section of flooring could be lifted directly into place in the building, and Belcher was able to utilise those lifting loops later for horizontal structural continuity.
No one in that team of assistants such as Stan Haines, which I had suddenly acquired following the death of Major Pippard, was in any way qualified but all five of them were keen to participate in the development of battery casting and soon acquired useful knowledge and experience.
Later, at a time when I was keen to develop self-finished concrete cladding panels which could, hopefully, be produced within a battery , I was extremely fortunate to be joined by a new colleague; David Webb. David was a qualified mechanical engineer who was versatile, and open minded about developing new ways of building .
Over many following years, David became my invaluable, hard working, and loyal right hand man at a time when the popularity of battery casting had resulted in considerable pressure of work both relating to the UK and overseas.
In particular, David was involved with the inception of the BRECAST system and became leader of the team of instructors set up to teach building technicians of all kinds (often from overseas) how best to apply the system successfully
This involved the pre-casting of the wall and floor panels and their erection into a small but realistic (single storey but full scale) model of one typical flat, (living room with adjoining kitchen).
For that mock-up construction, I was able for the first time to make full use of the station's remarkably comprehensive range of craftsmen, labourers, engineering and other equipment including the versatile Coles mobile crane (with one or two of my own new team as assistant supervisors, including particularly Stan Haines).
When that first mock-up was completed it served successfully, first, to satisfy Wilkinson and his important Housing Committee of the potential for satisfactory construction by the BRS battery- casting method. I then, with the assistance of one of the BRS craftsmen, (a plumber, but also a part- time publican) managed to bring in a small barrel of beer to enable all the men who had successfully created the mock-up to be rewarded appropriately (in a traditional building industry topping-out ceremony) I was particularly glad later, to learn that that little ceremony had been noted and actually approved by the Chief Establishment Officer Mr Rice who, apparently considered it good for morale which indeed it was. (I had previously had some worries about the possibility of official disapproval, so Rice's reaction was particularly welcome; it also reinforced my pleasure at having joined BRS, and set a happy precedent for further topping-out ceremonies which I was glad to organise at the successful conclusion at several subsequent mock-up constructions
The fundamental factor which distinguishes both these systems from the techniques employed in numerous other widely used systems is the use of concrete itself as the basic material used for the creation of the critically important form work or battery (see below) panels, which govern the accuracy of the production panels which are cast against them.
The great advantage of concrete itself for formers or battery panels (below) is that once cast, and cured (hardened) concrete is virtually inert and not subject to temperature or humidity fluctuations and can thus form highly rigid and stable foundations for maximum accuracy (in all directions) for the panels cast against them. They can also readily accept drilling and plugging wherever required for sockets or other items requiring to be cast-in wherever needed .
Further, when first mixed, before setting concrete is still fluid and malleable, and can therefore be used to create other than plain flat surfaces, i.e. the convex curved battery panels used to produce the concave cladding panels for the later Edmonton Goodwin Road flats. (see illustration)
But the paramount advantage of high accuracy production panels is that they can fit together so exactly that the building can grow automatically without the need for constant costly checking, because panels will not fit together the wrong way thus erection teams can only place them the right way .
Further, such tight fitting joints mean that inevitably uneconomic wet joint fillings are not required.
The word panel describes pre-cast reinforced concrete slabs for either walls or floors, usually about 150 mm thick with length and breadth dimensions to suit the building under construction (often around 5x3 metres) and may be either a battery panel, used for production, or a production panel ready for erection into the building. Groups of appropriate battery panels can be termed Wall Batteries or Floor Batteries .
The Battery analogy: When those battery panels are held apart at appropriate spacing prior to wet concrete being poured between them, then they (loosely) resemble the plates in an electrical accumulator between which acid reacts with them to create electricity: hence the term Battery Casting .
However, the analogy is strictly limited, because electrical accumulator plates are firmly fixed and intrinsic to the whole battery item, whereas concrete battery panels must be free to move, first to release the production panels cast against them, and then to fully open up the comparatively narrow production space to create a working gap (between one and two metres wide) in which men can apply mould oil and introduce the reinforcement mesh for the next pouring.
Thus it can be seen that accurate design of the spacing and latching devises is critically important to ensure their simple, repetitive and safe operation. Three Ton panels standing vertical and still may appear harmless, but tilted, even slightly, can become lethal).
Any form of pre-casting naturally eliminates the often wasteful and dangerous tasks involved creating formwork or shuttering for in situ concreting.
However, On site Battery casting has the following particular advantages:
1) The production area can be created on the building site itself, (within the reach of the erection crane) by both supervisors, craftsmen and labourers accustomed to concreting work, and the same men can go on to become production workers and thus have an interest in ensuring that the Batteries are as well made as possible.
2) The production area can well be covered by a large weatherproof structure so that concreting and other tasks are not interrupted by heavy rain or excessive heat.
3) Assuming the design does not call for any particularly complex external cladding, for example, the use of scaffolding can be eliminated.
4) At the end of a contract the production batteries can be readily disassembled and taken to another site.
5) Use of scarce timber is eliminated except for its essential use for baseboards and stop-ends to complete each production space , during which operations they are regularly cleaned and repaired if necessary.
6) Electrical conduit can be pre-fixed to reinforcement meshes in either wall or floor panels and thus cast in
7) Panels can be produced with such high accuracy that joint widths between them can be extremely small, thus eliminating the need for highly un-economic bucketfuls of concrete or other fillings.
8) The easy facility of producing holes in floor panels at appropriate places to take the uprights of tubing holding pre-fabricated lengths of safety railing means that such safety rails can be positioned on every flooring panel before it is lifted into the building, and thus every length of unprotected perimeter is made safe during erection.
9) The high degree of accuracy of the pre-cast panels means that the building remains correct as it grows without the need for specialist checking at every floor level.
10) The system can produce panels which can be used as roofing without further weatherproof finishing's .
11) Finally, elimination of the need for a special factory naturally avoids the significant costs of a separate large purpose built building, together with the need for a special transport fleet of heavy duty trucks or trailers needing to operate over often considerable distances.
Following erection of the tower crane sited to enable it to cover the whole production area, work began on the site at Angel Road, in June 1963. This record is being written in May 2007 from memory: so, I regret, some inaccuracies are inevitable. It must have begun with Mr. Wilkinson (Borough Architect, and head of the Direct Labour Organisation, introducing me to his Foreman and explaining my role as advisor over the entirely new building system to be used.
It is likely that I then spoke to the Foreman, carpenters and other craftsmen, concreting labourers, the tower crane driver and others about on-site battery casting and its advantages for all concerned. I would have introduced myself to everyone and explained that I was not in anyway concerned with their pay but only with making their work easier and more effective; I asked them to call me at any time and to point out any problems they were facing and their suggestions for any improvements which we could discuss. I soon knew many of the labour force by their first names and explained that their co-operation in improving our designs of the batteries equipment was important to us.
That equipment the spacing and latching fittings , to keep the heavy battery panels safely apart at the correct spacings, had been made at the BRS fabrication workshop, so, when alterations were required they could easily be achieved, and such quick results brought favourable reactions.
Very soon the repetitive tasks of striking a battery, releasing the wall or floor panels into the building, manning the working space for oiling and introducing new reinforcement meshes, closing the gap and pouring concrete again became repetitive and the men highly skilled at the operations involved. So, I felt the time had come when we could invite builders and others to visit the working site and see for themselves how the system worked.
An open invitation was made to all interested building industry personnel both in Britain and overseas to visit the site at any time, and it received a tremendous response. Visits were made by both individuals and groups but more usually in parties or often organised by bodies such as the Cement and Concrete Association, the Formwork Development Group, or professional architectural or engineering bodies, or particular contractors or builders. Organised visits were normally made by appointment and involved coach-loads of visitors.
A large hut was erected near the site entrance with seating for 100 or so. Usually I would open a visit with a talk of welcome, explaining the background and purpose of our work and inviting visitors to freely walk around, and make comments.
The visits began in June 1963, with one by the then Minister of Works, followed by all members of the then Building Research Board and by all Division Heads within the Building Research Station itself, together with senior members of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the War Office.
The visits continued through 1964-6 involving some 1000 UK individuals from a wide variety of organisations and firms, and were followed by visits from numerous different overseas countries which I will refer to separately below.
Because of the built-in earthquake and hurricane-resistant characteristics I was very interested in making contact with particularly third world countries subject to those risks and I therefore greatly welcomed the opportunity to make personal contact with visitors from such countries, which might well lead to useful visits to them later.
Following the considerable interest generated by my first report: Factors Affecting Economy in the design of multi-storey flats I received invitations to give lectures to various bodies.
The first of these was to the Royal Society of Health's (previously the institute of Sanitary Inspectors) annual conference at which my chairman was Sir Basil Spence (an architect who had just gained prominence through designing Coventry Cathedral).
In my talk I referred to the importance of designing large balconies in such a way as to replicate to some extent the garden shed , where for example certain hobbies could be performed. At the end of the meeting, Spence thanked me and said he had taken particular note of my remarks about balconies, since he was in the course of designing a large block of flats in Glasgow.
Later he said I would be welcome to discuss the design of those flats with his relevant assistant. In due course I visited his office to view his design for the Glasgow flats and was horrified to find that it was to be an extra large slab block overlooking the Clyde, subdivided into spacious maisonettes each having extra large balconies in the form of a series of punctuations right through the block which would inevitably be intolerably draughty.
When I expressed my concern to the assistant, he explained that it was too late to change the design because the structural engineer had actually taken advantage of the fact that gale force winds could blow right through the building, to reduce, significantly, the reinforcement required to resist the wind pressures on the huge structure!
The unusual feature of the plainly standard format of the form on which my merit promotion nomination was made is that there is no space on it for the name or signature of the person making the nomination; however, I am, with confidence, treating the nomination as having been made by Dr John Weston, since, as my division head throughout the considerable time involved, was the only person who could possibly have had the necessary knowledge of both the broad picture of the whole development process, and very many details within that picture.
The full nomination is reproduced here because it contains concise details of my earlier career, followed by a convenient historical survey of my research and development work at BRS.
The full nomination is reproduced here because it contains concise details of my earlier career, followed by a convenient historical survey of my research and development work at BRS.
When re-reading that remarkable nomination (sub-heading15) again recently (in May 07) I realised immediately it could only have been written by John Weston himself who as my division head at the time (in the 50's and 60's ) was the only person fully acquainted with all the relevant facts and in particular, had always been a strong supporter and admirer of all the many phases of my work.
My first instinctive reaction to my conclusion that Weston was responsible for the wonderfully supportive nomination for promotion (sub -heading 15) was to try to do all I could to thank him for writing it but tracing his whereabouts soon proved all but impossible, because, it transpired that BRS, which had been for so long widely respected and considered a securely public sector body had been, tragically, privatised and, it would seem, all records of personal and activities during the public sector years had been shredded or otherwise destroyed. It then transpired that John Weston had died, and that my search was therefore pointless.
During my many years at BRS, the total professional and scientific staff must have numbered over 1000, and I cannot recall a single disagreement with any one of them, except one, a physicist named J.B. Dick, about my age, who must have joined B.O.R.U. at about the same time as I had.
At the time a rudimentary form of so called floor heating had been introduced commercially, which was so cheap that it became widely used, but was clearly a fraud because it consisted simply of electric heating cables being dropped into the final pourings of wet concrete into the structural floors of flats, which were too thick to permit more than warming at best, to result, and seemed to offer poor value for money, particularly for tenants. (By contrast, more recent, successful forms of floor heating depend on cables being inserted into separate comparatively thin layers of floor finishing materials laid on top of the structural flooring). I was concerned that that system of floor heating had become so widely used (because it was so cheap) that it had become synonymous with electric floor heating which I was deeply concerned to see specified on so many drawings which seemed to me to represent a too easy way out for the architects involved, who should, in my view have been designing and specifying genuine, (though naturally more expensive), probably central boiler-fed heating systems.
So I wrote an article expressing the above views, which somehow became published in the technical press. I then received an irate communication from J.B. Dick (without any apparent authority) saying that as the senior physicist in the division (apart of course from Dr Weston himself) I should have consulted him over the article and got his agreement to publish, since only physicists (he said) were entitled to opine about heating . I think Dick also asked our division head, Dr John Weston to discipline me and that, I do of course know, Weston never did, (possibly because he did not seriously disagree with my views in the article).
Dick's criticism of myself was cheeky and arrogant, since he was simply an ordinary physicist member of staff and not even a Section Head, but perhaps somewhat over-aware of the facts in sub-heading (3).
Thus Dick was faced with a case of doubly unfinished business having had no satisfaction either from myself, nor Weston, and thus his attitude towards me developed into a grudge which proved, as we shall see later, extraordinarily long-lasting.
Dick's enmity towards me must also clearly have been fuelled by the circumstances at the time when the successes of battery casting and the erection of the Angel Road Flats had focused the limelight on me as the system's inventor (an alien-architect and non-scientist) while he (see sub-heading 3) the physicist, was waiting in the wings keeping his nose clean to become doyen of the station's scientists and in due course, Director, which duly happened (to my deep regret) in the 70's .
It is also likely that Dick's dislike of me had political overtones because of his obvious friendship with two other BORU staff members: statistician William Reiners and economist Peter Stone, both of whom espoused the current insidious Thatcherite attitude supporting all round cheapness as the holy grail when attacking me for advocating increased government capital spending on both housing and flats. (Both Reiners and Stone later became senior figures in the Ministry hierarchy).
The whole regrettable incident described in sub-heading 16 was an all too typical example of how serious disagreements can arise simply through individuals forgetting the great potential constructive value of discussion of possible contentious issues before committing their views to paper which can well have irreversible effects and I am not referring to my original article in the technical press, but rather to Dick's reation to it.
During the 1960's and early 70's it had become commercially fashionable for UK building contractors to own the rights to operate a well known (usually European) building system; the best known example being that of Taylor Woodrow becoming licensees of the Danish Larsen and Neilson system (unfortunately connected with the ill fated collapse of the flats at Ronan Point, London)
At the time, the well established pre-cast concreting contractor; Crendon Concrete Ltd of Long Crendon Bucks, approached BRS regarding purchasing the rights to using the BRECAST system and after negotiations, a price of 25,000 was agreed; the highest figure ever to be paid for a BRS invention.
Some time in 1970 the Managing Director of Crendon Concrete visited BRS (with his assistant Gareth Payne, (whom we had trained to make the best use of BRECAST) for a formal meeting with the then Director J.B.Dick in order to present his cheque for 25,000. I was not invited to the meeting, in fact I had never even been told about the agreed sale of our system .
Minutes after the cheque presentation, Gareth Payne rushed into my office to enquire why I had not been present at the ceremony, and became totally bewildered by my attempt to explain J.B.Dick's long- standing grudge against me.
Dick's exclusion of me from that ceremony simply confirmed my belief that he must have deliberately avoided endorsing his agreement to Weston's nomination for my promotion, and thus, since he had become the all important Director, he had sealed its fate and carried forward his grudge to it's final conclusion in an evil-minded, vindictive way which cost me countless 1000's of pounds in lost salary and pension payments. By that action in deliberately failing to support Weston's nomination of myself, Dick had plainly gone against the clearly expressed wishes of his fellow physicist John Weston, his predecessor as BRS Director.
I have drafted the heading of sub-heading (18) on the assumption that once all the facts had become common knowledge it would have been unlikely that I would have continued at BRS in its old form (assuming that such existed).
The biggest factor which vastly worsened this turmoil in my life was (is) the on-going uncertainty caused by the apparent sudden privatisation of BRS and the resulting feeling of being in a vacuum, with no one to turn to for advice, let alone any form of compensation for having had the temerity to have worked long and hard, if happily, in the public sector
BRS had been, for me, a fundamental part of my life, with its wonderful personnel and equipment, and its steady management in the safe hands of John Rice and his establishment team .
Threatening my existence at BRS felt briefly like drowning without a life jacket, and as if I would be losing a favourite second home .
Sometime in the 1960's the management had decided that the term station was not sufficiently up market for a premier government research body and therefore changed it to establishment , thus BRE became the new acronym for BRS which lent itself well to the term BRECAST which we forthwith adopted as the name of our new system which was, naturally, an extension of the BRS Battery Casting system and was centred on the design of a four-storey block of flats which I felt sure would be popular with third world countries, and for which we set about preparing four large detailed manuals of which the first volume was called: Architectural Design , for which we were fortunate to have the assistance of architect Maurice Simmonds, who produced a splendid set of drawings covering varieties of block types and access, planning flexibility and choices for flats including alternative balcony types (including fire escape provision) ventilation, shading and the like.
As a qualified architect I had always been anxious to dispel the commonly held false idea that an architects main concern was to make buildings look pretty ; I was concerned to stake my claim to a position of leadership in the industry which led me naturally to propose ideas for its improvement; for my invaluable learning-time at BRS had shown me that, without doubt, the building industry in Britain today is a disgrace to the UK, and the situation elsewhere in the developed world is very probably no better.
The UK building industry is rife with out-dated customs, one of which considers it normal for one trade leaving a work site incomplete, untidy or dirty on the assumption that the next trade will clean-up or even make-good after them. It is of course also a notoriously dangerous industry resulting in very many injuries and fatal accidents (see illustrations).
Clearly, the aim should be to re-create building construction more along the lines of ship building in which the finished articles closely resemble the drawings they were created from, which calls for maximum industrialisation , which clearly means maximum prefabrication or pre-casting. The first step clearly has to be elimination of the costly and wasteful wet trades including in-situ concreting, and the terribly laborious and arduous tasks of plastering and floor screeding. It can be said that Brecast meets the above criteria, and can thus be said to truly represent a new way of building .
The second Manual on Structural Design was based primarily on Charles Belcher's decisions and included detailed reinforcement drawings and specifications,(all appropriate for earthquake or cyclone conditions)
The third volume, named Panel Production , contained detailed descriptions of how to create the fundamental and highly accurate initial flat bed followed by detailed instructions for casting and setting up the required wall and floor batteries, including comprehensive lists of all the both purpose-made and proprietary items required, including the dual purpose gantry on rails above the batteries for both concrete and production panels handling. (See illustration).Designing that gantry provided the opportunity to exploit two of my favourite designing principles : (a) killing two birds with one stone and (b) taking advantage of the tremendous reserve of free energy permanently available to mankind: gravity:
Two parallel steel members were required between which the production panels could be raised so they could serve as restraints to stop excessive swaying as the gantry moved. Those same members could fulfil that prime function equally well while sloping from front to back (the front being the operators side) thus a small trolley suspended from those members could move across to the particular space requiring concrete by gravity alone, after the operator had raised the full skip and engaged it with the trolley and pressed the lower control button on the hoist, after which gravity did the rest.
That rather complex operation naturally required highly careful engineering design which I was able to obtain from a very skilled mechanical engineer: Alan Butler, whose services were at times made available to me by his Division Head, Superintending Engineer Joseph Eden, (who was himself consistently sympathetic to my work). On several other occasions, Butler very kindly gave his qualified engineering design expertise to give effect to some of my other suggested engineering solutions for which I was deeply grateful.
I must include reference here to the invaluable help which I received with typing from time to time from Jo Eden's personal assistant Mrs Diana French; she was always ready to cheerfully assist at short notice for which I was most grateful.
BRECAST was officially launched at a successful Symposium in June 72 which resulted in enquiries from Indonesia, Ghana, St Lucia, India, Bangladesh, Peru, Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa and Oman.
From 1964- 74, 5,000 houses and flats were built using battery casting in the UK, also 700 in Australia and 300 in India
In 73 the Chilean Ministry of Housing applied for UK aid and for the supply of a BRECAST package of equipment and expertise required for the construction of 400 flats in Santiago.
That request was sympathetically received by Judith Hart, Overseas Development Minister in the then Wilson UK government. In keeping with her agreement to the Chilean request, she asked me to take a demonstration model of BRECAST to the VIEXPO international housing exhibition planned for September 73 in Santiago to be supported primarily by Latin American countries, together with Spain and Portugal. At the same time, the existence of a model illustrating the BRECAST system would facilitate my explaining it to the Chilean housing authorities.
A Peruvian mining firm, based in the capital Lima, with American consultants, were interested in BRECAST (because of its anti-earthquake feature) for housing their employees at their high-altitude Andes smelting works, and had asked me to visit to give an opinion.
The US consultant (let me call him Jim ) was due to drive me up from Lima (at sea level) to the site, at a place called La Oroya (at approximately 19,000 ft above sea level. Jim's big comfortable American car was in dock unfortunately, for repairs, so we faced the journey in his second car, a small VW. He was also carrying his youngish (indigenous) servant (let me call her Nellie ) to attend to his needs at his house in the American safe enclave just beyond La Oroya (see below).
All went normally until at about 17,000ft, when the VW suddenly went dead, and Jim invited both Nellie and I to get out and push. The effort was naturally enormous and Jim had, regrettably, forgotten the oxygen bottle normally considered essential for the journey.
La Oroya proved to be a place of quite exceptional dreadfulness. The air was heavy with pollution, and the existing accommodation (for families, including children,) consisted only of corrugated iron huts, with no heating stoves.
I had no hesitation in offering a BRECAST solution with heating but I was not surprised when it was rejected because the local indigenous people are clearly considered expendable . We completed the journey at Jim's second home in the safe American enclave beyond La Oroya. It was far enough away from the smelting works for the atmospheric pollution to be largely dissipated and the river running clear. But, to keep it safe for the Americans, the whole luxury housing estate was surrounded by barbed wire and search-light supported machine gun posts to guard against the indigenous (Indian) population.
Before describing experiences in Santiago, it is appropriate to set out some information about the unique country, Chile, of which of course Santiago is the capital. Chile occupies a narrow ribbon of territory between the great ranges of the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Panama in the north down almost to the South Pole, and the inevitably great distances from the capital to the various provinces must severely strain the problems of administration. A narrow, central, comparatively fertile plain is bounded by mountainous areas on both sides, containing valuable mineral deposits such as copper and iron ore while the north is very largely desert.
Chile had previously been a colony of Spain until its independence in 1810 and the installation of a democratic government of which Chileans were rightly proud.
Within that government, Salvador Allende had been elected a Senator and, in September 1970, he stood for President on a broadly socialist programme of economic emancipation, including nationalisation of the mining of coal, nitrate, iron and copper and the banks.
Allende was also instrumental in founding the Unidad Popular a coalition of Socialist, Communist, Radical and Social Democratic Parties, supporting a constitution which guaranteed all basic freedoms.
Allende was a committed parliamentarian and in spite of many warnings he refused to arm the people, and insisted on relying on the loyalty of his military, naval, air force and other Defence senior staff.
In spite of strenuous American (CIA) opposition, Allende received a 46% vote and was duly elected President in March 1973. He remained popular and was clearly going to be successful in consolidating his socialist programme which must have infuriated particularly, the American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was able to give strong support to the opposition to Allende through the CIA and its well established links with the right wing in Chile where the powerful middle classes were naturally, bitterly anti Allende.
The daily supplies of foodstuffs and other essentials to the capital at the time depended on privately owned transport, and the CIA bribed those truck owners and drivers to boycott essential deliveries to Santiago to exacerbate the crisis. At the same time there began vociferous anti-Allende middle class women's campaign to demonstrate daily with saucepans and other kitchen equipment which they banged with anything handy and created a significant noise to help maintain the anti-Allende tension.
In early September I flew to Santiago and checked into my room at the main (naturally US-owned) hotel in the city centre, overlooking the main square onto which the Moneda (presidential palace) also fronted. Tension in the capital was noticeable, heightened by the all-pervasive and highly unpleasant tear gas which, was very probably released by CIA- friendly authorities to assist in maintaining the atmosphere of tension.
The following day I visited the VIEXPO housing exhibition hall where BRECAST had a sizable bay immediately recognisable by the scale model (including tower crane) made by the BRS woodworking craftsmen to their usual high standards. The model had been crated and shipped to the port of Valpariso from where it had been delivered by truck to Santiago (see illustrations).
Before long, president Allende himself appeared evidentially on a tour of inspection of all the housing exhibits. He quickly passed the Spanish, Portuguese and other (non Chilean) Latin American exhibits and then concentrated on BRECAST.
He struck me immediately as a man of great warmth and exceptional intelligence who quickly grasped the essentials of our system and when I explained that I was authorised by Minister Judith Hart to confirm our agreement to freely provide the four instruction manuals and the complete BRECAST hardware package (including tower crane and full concrete mixing plant), and our full time expert advice during the setting-up period, he turned to his housing minister who was accompanying him and said simply: allocate a suitable site for the BRECAST project, and provide Mr Craig immediately with whatever technical or other assistance he needs .
The following day I met the Chilean architect who had been appointed to lead the BRECAST application team. He was named Alberto Arenas, and transpired to be a personal friend of Salvador Allende, being his frequent chess competitor.
After showing me the site for our 200 flats project in a run-down slum area of the city, Alberto took me to our site office where he introduced me to the junior architects (all very obviously middle class!) and others who had been allocated to assist me.
Immediately, I sensed problems. First, architecture is commonly considered a middle class profession and I was clearly transgressing that rule by expressing enthusiastic support for Allende (especially at that time of particular antipathy to him) and delight at the opportunity to assist his regime by promoting a successful housing project.
Second, it was soon clear that those young architects also looked upon me as a renegade who had actully developed a system which constrained flights of imagination such as those of large expensive middle-class mansions by disciplines determined by harsh economic factors in order to provide minimum basic accommodation for the masses .
The following day I attended a reception at the Chilean Foreign Ministry at which President Allende made a point of greeting me warmly and starting what proved to be a long and fascinating discussion about many aspects of their housing problems and how we could best help them.
That evening I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a concert of contemporary Chilean music in which guitars played a prominent part.
One of the leading artists taking part was the evidently highly gifted pianist Victor Jarra whose playing was particularly memorable.
The next day, no doubt acting on orders from Henry Kissinger, the American Air Force bombed the Moneda Presidential Palace where, in fact Salvador Allende was at the time. It is likely that he was carrying the light automatic weapon which Fidel Castro had presented to him for his personal protection, but which of course, alas! was of little help against heavy duty precision American bombs.
Evidence from the great John Pilger film The War Against Democracy explains that in highly understandable desperation, Allende then himself ended his own exceptionally wonderful life.
Details of events at the time are naturally very confused. All I can recall clearly is that I discovered somehow that Pinochet had learned about the valuable BRECAST package having been loaded onto a ship in Liverpool docks ready for passage to Valparaiso, and that he had informed London he was looking forward to receiving it.
That news horrified me to the extent that I then concentrated on somehow getting a message to Judith Hart, imploring her to get the ship unloaded and get the complete BRECAST package somehow put into storage until it could be used by a more acceptable government authority.
I then embarked on the long air journey home with a very heavy heart, knowing that Chile had lost a very exceptional president, and that a wave of indescribable terror would be launched against all those who had supported Allende, by Pinochet, one of the very generals whom he had depended upon supporting him, rather than arming his only genuine supporters the people themselves. Those supporters were about to face years of torture, killings, and imprisonment.
Pinochet particularly singled out students and other young people as victims for his viciously cruel behaviour. For example, the brilliant young pianist Victor Jarra (whom I had heard playing) had had both his hands cut off at the wrists.
Our daughter Lucy had started studying photography at the Guildford Art School in 1966, where she was reasonably happy with the curriculum and the staff. The school was of course controlled by the Surrey County Council Education committee which, at the time, in line with Premier Thatcher's attitude of favouring business wherever possible, were putting pressure on the staff to give priority to commerce rather than art, which caused several staff to resign and the students were largely in sympathy with them. Thora and I often visited the school premises and identified with the students and managed before long to organise a parents support group.
Surrey Education Authority, who had earlier dismissed several of the Art School teachers, took a completely authoritarian approach. At one stage the students decided on a sit-in at the college and Surrey obtained an injunction against them. We assisted in obtaining the help of a barrister to represent the students at the High Court and when he failed to turn up (because of missing his train) the High Court judge agreed to me representing the students and we got a week's remission. Exasperated, Surrey cut off electricity to cripple the sit-in. I was able to help obtain a generator to replace the cut power supply.
A visitor to the school at the time was Jack Straw (today's Foreign Secretary) who was the President of the National Union of Students but rather than supporting them, he tried to dampen the student's enthusiasm in favour of the authorities.
The dispute simmered on for several weeks, and during that time Thora and I visited the school premises regularly to give moral support both to our daughter Lucy and her fellow students. We also managed to contact several friendly parents, and we soon founded a successful parent's support committee. It so happened at the time that a very similar dispute developed at Hornsey College of Art in London, so the whole issue of the quality and nature of art teaching readily became a matter or national interest.
The mood of the students at the time is well illustrated by the Guardian press photo of them with their banner at the college main entrance.Thora and I naturally decided to try to resolve the situation in whatever ways we could, so Lucy's photography training could continue together with her fellow students in other branches of art.
Our first move was to write to the Education Minister requesting him to initiate a public enquiry with copies to potentially sympathetic MPs Ben Whitaker, Christopher Price et al.
The reply to our letter to the Minister (dated 11th September 68) and addressed to Mrs T Craig signed by his private secretary, was typically evasive and contributed nothing to calm the situation.
Meanwhile a number of concerned individuals, including particularly Eric Moonman MP had clubbed together to both organise and fund an advertisement in the Guardian demanding an enquiry into the dispute which was supported by over 150 signatories including numerous notable and prominent persons such as Ove Arup, the eminent consulting engineer and professor Peter Townsend, and was published on 29/4/69.
Relations between ourselves and the School of Art remained quiet for a while until the event described in my letter dated 21/11/68.
There followed an acrimonious exchange of views both verbal and written between myself and the Principal. Following publication of the Guardian advertisement no further communication took place between us and the School of Art, but regrettably no public enquiry took place either.
of climate change cam to the attention of humanity. I had written a chapter entitled Environmental Crisis in Alternative World (original published by Housemans Bookshop Publications at 7.50; now out of print but available in full on the Internet www.narescraig.co.uk). I therefore felt it would be natural to continue learning all I could about climate change by reading the more important books on the subject available at the time and then attempting to condense the wisdom therein into a handy pocket book which could readily be carried as a quick reference on the subject, by the greatly increasing number of, particularly young persons actively promoting concern about the threats involved. This was in fact published with an introduction by Edward Goldsmith, the prominent ecologist and founding editor of the monthly journal The Ecologist entitled World Rescue .
In 1996, I had felt the need to commit to print a number of ideas which had accumulated in my mind over several years to which I had given the title Alternative World , should it ever become a book.
Thora gallantly offered to process the ms for me so we purchased a computer for word processing and she volunteered to undergo an appropriate training course in nearby Oswestry. During the first lesson, she was amused when the lady instructor looked over her shoulder and (clearly surprised) exclaimed Oh, you can spell! Thereafter, to my lasting gratitude, Thora spent many, many hours translating my manuscript longhand into manageable print which did in fact, thanks to the efforts of two publishers (Bookmarks/Housman's ) actually result in the book being beautifully produced.
(Alternative World published Housman's , March 1997)
I am glad to say my daughter Tina took it upon herself to become the premier promoter of sales of the book, but regrettably, before long it became evident that it would inevitably drop out of print . In the circumstances, perhaps influenced by his mother's enthusiasm for promoting its sales, Tina's eldest son Ben very ably assisted by his wife Helen decided to commit the entire text of Alternative World to the Internet which in effect meant that it would be both preserved indefinitely and kept accessible for readers at any time.
It was a very gallant decision for Ben and Helen to make, because, although he had made computing his main life's work, and therefore, the associated technology was second nature to him; nevertheless the actual transference of the text in fact occupied both of them for very many hours of dedicated and detailed hard work for which I am deeply indebted to them both, and which had its rightful reward in the publication of the whole book on the Internet, with the introductory signature name of www.narescraig.co.uk where it can be read remarkably clearly at any time.
Gordon and Lucy kindly sponsored this rather special event, for which they had, fortunately, been able to obtain the use of highly suitable premises, namely The Hill near Muswell Hill roundabout which had been a pub and had ample space and comfortable seating.
Lucy applied her graphic artistic skills to the full to provide an inspiring invitation card with illustrations from my youth which she had somehow discovered. This attracted a wonderful crowd of one hundred or so relatives and friends who made it a memorable occasion. Lucy herself actied as MC, with contributions from Stella (Aillaud) and from Maggie Dunn who read out an excerpt from a letter she had received from Denis Goldberg - an old comrade and fellow prisoner of Nelson Mandela.
Looking back on my life my first impression is one of surprise at my having, at various disconnected times held down such a miscellany of different jobs (including in the Army) that I sometimes wonder whether my brutal old prep school head might have had some sort of premonition in labelling me a whited sepulchre if he meant a person who could have a go at a new job when his recent experiences pointed towards something altogether different, bearing in mind also my flouting the law in the 1940's , by illegally ( because I was already in the Army) joining and supporting a political party (and not just any old party but that one for heavens sake)!
At the start of Chapter 31 (BRS) I had emphasised the tremendous advantage of a public-sector job, and later in that chapter (particularly in sub-heading 15) I referred to John Weston's nomination of myself for a promotion which I believe I richly deserved for the initiation and successful carrying through to world wide application of a totally new way of building in fact a system which was later sold by the government for the unprecedented (for BRS) figure of £25,000.
In this summary I cannot over-emphasise the value to myself and indeed to any citizen of a really good, fulfilling job, particularly when one is lucky enough to have a boss like my division head John Weston who was consistently supportive of my work.
I believe the ability which gave me the greatest satisfaction was that of being able to deal with all manner of different kinds of people and somehow getting the best out of them. This aspect was referred to in chapter 31's earlier paragraphs which described the rather surprising cross-section of society which I suddenly found myself in charge of.
Further, that ability to fraternise productively with many different kinds of building trade workers proved fundamental to the successful construction of the very first tall block at Edmonton built with pre-cast wall and floor panels produced by the BRS battery casting system when I made maximum use of the experiences and reactions of the numerous men involved, including their suggestions for improvements.
On re-reading these memoirs, including of course, chapter 17, I felt concerned that I had not done enough to emphasise the inhumanity and horrors of warfare, which can never be emphasised enough.
The most obviously traumatic results of war are, of course, losses of limb and we are often reminded of those by the sight of ex-servicemen on crutches and the like. However, almost equally damaging and long-lasting are the unseen effects of mental trauma resulting from involvement in certain events during hostilities, and one example of such, which happened to involve me personally, I wish to describe here, in the hope that it may serve as a further indictment of human society for, at times, permitting disagreement to deteriorate into warfare.
Towards the end of the fighting at Boulogne (see chapter 17 ii) after I had received permission to abort our suicidal mission (following the collapses of two key members of my tank crew, clearly due to paralysing fear) we were able (with huge relief) to disconnect the special trailer with its lethal load of liquid explosive and revert to our more simple role of battle tank giving what support we could to our accompanying Canadian infantry. They, in fact, at the time were suffering from withering machine gun fire from a German pillbox just ahead of us, and naturally asked us to destroy it if possible.
To comply, we had no option but to advance towards that offending pill box plagued with anxiety because we knew that it might well contain a dreaded 88mm gun, capable of firing extra-high-velocity tungsten-tipped shells which could penetrate our front armour, as we knew only to well from the bitter experience of the fate of our fellow tank and its crew at Falaise (chapter 17 (i). However, we had little option but to set aside such anxieties and advance until we got within the 100 yard range of our petard.
Then, after firing it, its flying dustbin weapon had the usual effect of totally destroying that pillbox.
There followed the exit of some 15 German soldiers from the rubble, all with hands held high, indicating surrender, and I immediately ordered cease firing. Then, to my astonishment and horror, two shots rang out, and two of the German soldiers fell, clearly dead.
Regrettably, it was immediately clear that the two fatal shots could only have been fired by my auxiliary driver and front gunner, Sapper Johnson (the teamaker see chapter 18 Life in the Line )
After the dust had settled (literally) it became possible to start piecing together the events of recent days, which were likely to be relevant to the tragedy.
It seemed that, shortly before the incident in question, there had been an attack on one of my other tanks by a German soldier who had taken advantage of a temporarily-open upper access trap door to lob in a primed hand grenade which had exploded and killed several, including the wireless operator.
By chance, that wireless operator, also a member of my troop, happened to be a very close, in fact inseparable friend of Johnson, who showed clearly his very deep grief at the recent death of his great friend.
Therefore, it began to become to some extent clear that Johnson's action could possibly be termed a form of revenge killing , which, even if remotely understandable, was certainly not excusable, and I should, no doubt, have immediately ordered his Court-Martial for flagrantly disobeying my order to cease fire.
No doubt, at the time, it would have been generally assumed that the two victims of Johnson's action had, in fact, been killed by the original explosion, which destroyed the pillbox, and buried along with the other victims of that explosion, in which case the whole incident , might well have been forgotten for ever.
However, my personal trauma was then just beginning, for I knew well that I should still press for Johnson's Court Martial. At the time, I had no idea of whether or not such a trial for gross disobedience of orders would involve a mandatory death sentence. If it did, then all I could feel sure of was that such a mandatory sentence, of yet another death (in this case Johnson's) could not revive those two young victims of his action. However the quandary of whether or not to order that Court Martial remained and simply sharpened my confusion which amounted to a mental trauma which persisted for years (including my recent 90th) and was one I could well have lived without.
Although at this stage, I had decided to let the matter rest I was still anxious to know whether in fact a Court Martial would have involved a mandatory death sentence, and was advised that the Archivist at the Army Museum could probably answer that question, which I then put to him in correspondence and received the simple reply reproduced here. I have not included the personal details about Captain Home because they tend to confuse the issue by describing his prestigious family background (including his relationship to a future Prime Minister).
By way of conclusion to these Memoirs I simply wish to say as a somewhat spoiled 90 year old in 2008 - that they are very much the product of pressure from grandchildren: in particular, my first grand-daughter Jessica (always known as Puss because of her lovely placid nature!) who kept reminding me that I had clearly had an unusually interesting life including many incidents worth recording. Whilst I do not dispute her feeling on this, I still wish to emphasize what I believe is one of the most important factors that we are all born with but some might argue is insufficiently paid attention to namely, Conscience! That factor undoubtedly led me to renounce the likelihood of a comfortable, well oiled existence in favour of a somewhat turbulent life more in tune with the world we all know only too well.
I should add that I have been fortunate in having (for longer than I can remember), a built-in feeling of self confidence, for whatever reason I cannot even begin to explain, which sustained me through many difficult times, both in the Army (and some of the terrible actions involved) and other less stressful times when decisions still had to be made and adhered to later.
I should add that the intended direction and purpose of those decisions had always been the betterment of humanity, through, hopefully, making wider use of my experiences with housing production or simply, appropriate political activities
Whatever the nature of the decisions to be made, the ready availability of my late wife Thora's advice was always of fundamental assistance.