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July 04, 2005

Bill Deedes.

Bill Deedes if following the route his company took from Normandy to Germany, thebeginning of what looks like an excellent series of articles. One extract:

Our departure was unpropitious, because the London dockers declined to load our lightly armoured White scout cars from America, "on account there's no rate attached to the job, you see, guv'nor …"

Fred Coleridge, in charge of the loading, summoned me to address the dockers on the lines of "Friends, Romans, countrymen …"

"Men," I cried. "They're clinging for dear life to that Normandy bridgehead. Some of them will be your young kin. We've got to get there urgently."

"That's right," the dockers agreed. "You got to get there soon, but the trouble is we haven't got the rate for loading these vehicles."

Despairingly, under the guidance of a retired docker, we loaded them ourselves, thus damaging the water-proofing we had attached to the vehicles, so that half a dozen of the cars drowned on landing in three foot of choppy water off Normandy.

This attitude pops up all over people’s memoirs of the shipyards and docks of the time. The union demarcation lines, piecework rates and so on. I’ve seen it said that the crane operators  insisted on extra payment to dip the cranes as the barge with Churchill’s coffin on went past in the 1960s.

July 4, 2005 in Military | Permalink


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And in the Royal dockyards:-

The dockyard maties' children
Sit on the dockyard wall
Watching their big fat fathers
Doing, it seems, fuck all
And when those children grow up
What do you think they'll do?
Sit on their big fat arses
Doing fuck all too.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 4, 2005 9:35:39 AM

This anti-cooperation attitude pervaded most of unionised labour throughout the War, and it was that very same attitude, of "what's in it for us?" which sounded the death knell for most of the heavy industry in britain over the past thirty years. Look at the same Royal Docks in the previous comment; when I was at sea, we had to queue to get a berth, and those busy docks were crucified by the unthinking greed of union actions, until the employers simply went elsewhere. The only question which should be asked is "can you blame them for abandoning something which could be paralysed at the shop stewards whistle?!

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Jul 4, 2005 11:45:19 AM

I'm pretty sure there a similar tale from Southampton on the eve of D-Day.

As you no doubt know, the invasion was planned for the 5th of June and the troops had already embarked and were set to go before it was called off. Having by now been fully briefed the brass couldn't let thousands of troops off their ships again in case the world's biggest secret got out. So they were stuck there and the dockers, so I believe, wouldn't load extra food because "they wanted the Russians to get there first". Great eh? Scared, cold, cramped and now hungry.

Posted by: Mark Holland | Jul 4, 2005 7:34:27 PM