Print

David Webb interview: Life after the war

When and where did you start your first job?

It was in 1951 after I had done one year in the sixth form. I took the Civil Service open competition to be an apprentice in the Ministry of Supply and I was sent to the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, in September 51. I did one year there and then some recruiting officers came from the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern, Worcestershire, and they said would any of you apprentices like to transfer to do an electronics apprenticeship? So three of us went from Woolwich to Malvern and I did another four years there doing the Ordinary National Certificates in mechanical and electrical engineering and then a Higher National Certificate in electronics.

When did you get married and do you have children?

I got married in 1965. I was living in Slough, Berkshire, because I was working at the Admiralty Observatory which is in Ditton Park, Slough.

[We have one son and two daughters. The eldest, Linda, lives in Ohio.  Her two sons  are in the US Army. The eldest went to Afghanistan last week. Our next daughter, Helen, worked on the film "Chicken Run" and our son Dr Alex Webb is a Reader in the Plant Sciences Dept., Cambridge University.]

I understand you are interested in local history. Can you say anything about that?

Yes, when I lived in Whitechapel, just after I had retired in 1994, I joined the City of London Historical Society because it was very near. It just does the Square Mile and then a few weeks later their Secretary retired and they appointed me the Honorary Secretary of that which I did for two years. We met about once a month and went around looking at the buildings in the City. I became a Friend of St Paul's Cathedral and I did a course in there on how to be a guide. We had teams on the different days of the week. I was in the Monday team, explaining to tourists and anybody else about anything they wanted to know about the cathedral and Christopher Wren.

How would you describe the changes and developments in Wimbledon since you lived here?

I come roughly every six months to the Wimbledon College old boys meetings. The main thing I miss are the trams that used to start outside Wimbledon Town Hall. The number 2 and the number 4 which went through Tooting and Clapham and the Oval, round to Westminster, along the Victoria Embankment which I used to go on a lot when I was a schoolboy. I haven't been on any of the new trams today. The other thing I miss are the trolleybuses, number 604, which used to come along Worple Road from, I think, Kingston on Thames and Hampton Court. A lot of our boys at Wimbledon College came to school on those. I remember during the war when the buses had criss-cross tapes on the windows so that when a bomb fell the glass would not fly so far and hit the people. It was supposed to retain it in one piece, I think. I don't remember any of the people on the trams but I just remember the bell there was instead of a hooter and where it used to change at Colliers Wood - just past South Wimbledon on the way to London - from overhead wires to the underground electrical pickups.