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Volunteer Stories - Bob Webb

27 June 2020

We are back with another of our Volunteer Stories. This time we have Concorde steward and resident saxophonist Bob Webb.

Vickers-Armstrong Apprenticeship

'I left school at 15 and went for my ‘test’ to become an employee at Brooklands in May 1956. I started work in June and for three months worked in the Training School, then went straight to the Fitters’ Gallery for 9 months to assemble Viscount throttle boxes, which I really enjoyed.

During my apprenticeship, I went through the various departments: The Fuselage Section ‐ working on Viscounts. This was in Building B1 which was on the Byfleet side of the runway; then the VC10 Wing Section. Next was the fibreglass plant ‐ I only spent a month in there as I got dermatitis and I’ve still got a little scar on my hand to prove it!

Next was the main erecting shop working on the Valiant flight deck (like the one we have at the Museum). They were manufactured by Saunders Roe on the Isle of Wight. Press Shop ‐ small press tools. This was quite interesting. Hydraulic Section; it was summer, we were working on a Valiant undercarriage and we had to file a lump off it. My mate said we should go for a walk outside. Puzzled, I followed him out. Apparently I had gone deathly white ‐ I was running out of energy. That’s what I remember from the hydraulic section!

The Fitters’ Tool Section; Machine Shop minding automatic machines, which was boring; Inspection Department learning to use gauges of various sorts. One day someone came up to me and said: “Do you fancy going in the Standards Room?” Here we calibrated and repaired anything that could be altered mechanically, eg. thread calliper gauges, Vernier gauges, micrometers, dial indicators and theodolites. Thinking back to that time it was a terribly important job because you were actually making or setting the gauges to make everything else! I ended my apprenticeship in this department and worked there until I left the company.

Back to Brooklands

My son said one day “I’ve got a copy of Pilot magazine and it’s got a free entry to Brooklands Museum! Didn’t you used to work there?” So, off we went to Brooklands and soon after I started as a volunteer. That was nearly 25 years ago! Initially, I came in every Thursday morning and then taught at Gordon’s in the afternoon. When I retired from teaching in schools I came in for the whole Thursday, which inevitably lead to volunteering on other occasions when required.

When I first became a volunteer the Museum was a lot smaller and stewards tended to vary their location from week-to-week and gained knowledge of all the exhibits. This and my background as a school music teacher led me to becoming an Education Volunteer giving tours to school parties. The arrival of Concorde was of great interest to me, particularly as I worked at Brooklands (BAC) from the beginning of the project. When the opportunity arose to become a Concorde Steward I readily accepted. 

Like most volunteers, I tend to come in on the same day each week (Thursday in my case), but occasionally I’ve helped out on a Friday and some weekends. Concorde Experience tours are structured and we have certain information to impart, but no two tours are ever the same where the public is concerned and this makes it enjoyable and interesting for me. 

My love of music and Concorde is combined when I play the saxophone for the Mach 2 for Tea special events, and last year’s 50th-anniversary celebrations to mark the first flight of Concorde stand out as highlights of my stewarding career.

For several years I’ve also been a member of the Outreach Team.  We have a presence at most of the big events held on-site but also attend off-site shows, spreading the word about visiting and becoming a member of Brooklands,  I enjoy talking to visitors on the stand, and from a personal point of view, it’s an opportunity to display my pre-war classic car.

I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at Brooklands because of my interest in motoring and aircraft, but also working with like-minded volunteers who have become friends.