50th Anniversary

John Hankin would like to make contact with any 1965 vintage apprentices out there, John has managed to keep in touch with Alan Greenhalgh, Peter Humphries and Ken Green but has lost touch with Karl Ashton, Steve Aspden, Bill Browne, Geoff Caswell, Bob Carwright, Ray Charnock, Pete Cole, Phil Dichfield, Howard Eyre, Les Gregory, Roger Hinde, Paul Sinclair, Kevin Starkey and John Turner.

John can be Emailed on this address john@hankin578.orangehome.co.uk

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From left to right; Les Gregory, Howard Eyre, Phil Ditchfield, Kev Starkey, Geoff Caswell, Bob Cartwright, Peter Humphreys, Karl Ashton, Roger Hind, me - John Hankin, Bill Brown, Harry Haden, Peter Cole, Tom Heaton L Sept 2002, Jim Summers L early 80's, Ray Charnock, Colin Smith, Paul Sinclair [Paul Griffiths], Steve Aspden, Alan Greenhalgh, John Turner and Ken Green

1965 Intake (sharpest dressed to date) getting on the coach to Winfrith in front of the UKAEA Canteen.



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Time for a night out

Pete Humphreys, Steve Aspden, John Hankin and Phil Ditchfield in the dormitory prior to night out in Weymouth winter '65.


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Six Apprentices and  dog

Lulworth Cove in summer of '66 with Ken Green, Phil Ditchfield (?), Pete Humphreys John Hankin, Jim Summers and Alan Greenhalgh.


Maurice & the minibus

We regularly hired the pair of them to take us home for the weekend.

Back row left to right, Maurice the driver, Roger (Alf) Hind, me John Hankin, Paul Sinclair, Ray Charnock. 

Front row left to right, Ken Green, Bill Brown, Jim Summers (now no longer with us) and the odd one out from either Winfrith or Harwell. 


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All done and dusted

Risley Apprentice Association prize ceremony 1969 with Lord Hill and a mix of apprentices from various years.

Left to right: Alan Greenhalgh, Steve Aspden, Sam Beswick, Neville Snodgrass, Alan Clare, (?), Mike Abrams, Paul Sinclair, John Hilton(?), Bill Brown, John Giles, (?), Lord Hill, Brian Helsby(?), John Hankin, Howard Eyre, Ray Bryan, John Goody, Brian Mackie & Tom Dooley.


All the above Photo's kindly supplied by John Hankin


Weymouth Seafront Summer 1966

Not a car or property developer in sight just a bike propped against a wall. 

Call me daft but I can see a lady standing behind the bushes above the bike dressed in Victorian style clothes wearing a hat with her arms folded watching the group having their photo taken.

Left to right: Jim Summers, Bill Browne, Roger Hinde, (me) Karl Ashton, Tom Heaton and Geoff Caswell.


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Egdon Hall

A good view of Egdon Hall as it was in 1965.

1985 Weymouth Reunion Trip

Left to right:- John Turner, Alan Greenhalgh, Tom Heaton (deceased), Bill Brown, Ray Charnock, Steve Aspden, John Hankin, Paul Sinclair (Griffiths), Geoff Caswell and Alan Greenhalgh.

weymouth 1985


B&W Photo's kindly supplied by Karl Ashton, Colour by John Hankin


2012 Article from the Dorset Echo

In 1965 the first intake of the newly created United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) Risley Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme travelled down to Winfrith AEA in the autumn/winter of 1965 and the spring/summer of 1966 to complete the first year craft apprenticeship. Risley did not, at the time, have adequate craft training facilities on site. The object of the scheme was to develop craftsmen into Design Draughtsmen and Engineers to work in the expanding design offices at Risley.

Twenty two teenage lads fresh from school, from the environs of Risley,  (Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington, Wigan, Lymm and Leigh), set off on a crisp October morning in 1965 on what proved to be a pioneering trip to Dorset and as we paraded in front of the coach a group photo was taken for posterity. It transpired that further intake years followed and retraced our steps until such time when suitable training facilities were provided at Risley.

It was an experience that was to prove momentous as for most of us it was the first time away from home apart from holidays and school trips. No explanation of the impending year’s tour was offered at the interviews except for a passing query ‘as to whether you would object to doing a bit of travelling’.

In those days the journey to Weymouth took around nine hours as the M6 finishing at Gailey in Staffordshire, resulting in a long haul through Wolverhampton and the suburbs of Birmingham. We stopped at Tewkesbury for lunch and then as night closed in south of Bristol so did the fog ensuring that the latter stages of the journey were a complete mystery. Tired and weary we arrived at our destination at around 6 pm, still fog bound, to be greeted by the establishment manager one Eddie Hapgood the England and Arsenal full back of the late thirties.

The following morning we found that our home for the next few months was a single storey terrapin construction known as ‘Egdon Hall’ named after the fictitious Egdon of the Thomas Hardy novels. The hostel was run by the WMCA and lay on the outskirts of Weymouth at the bottom of Lynch Lane, close to the infamous Chesil Bank.

Egdon Hall was typical of most hostels in those days comprising two bed rooms and multi bed dormitories, communal ablutions and food served up with Dickensian efficiency. Having ‘settled in’ our days began at 6am for showers for those up early enough and queuing for what seemed like acres of bacon and an epidemic of fried eggs served by the indomitable Mrs Davis – “she who must be obeyed”. Most just had time to trap a sample of each between dried bread before dashing 100 yards to board a green double-decker bus that would take us forty minutes to cover the thirteen mile ‘excursion’ to AEA Winfrith. The route took us into Weymouth, along the promenade and passing the famous White Horse at Osmington continuing through glorious countryside to the site. Most however were catching up on lost sleep to be sightseeing and of course in the autumn and winter it was still dark! So we had to wait until the spring and summer of 1966 to appreciate the beauty of the countryside.

On arrival we walked down to the Training School and well equipped workshops, with gymnasium attached. Before we started our days work we were subjected to 30 minutes of ‘torture’ under the watchful eye of ex marine commando Mr Prosser-James. This pint sized character had an inexhaustible list of impossible tasks with medicine balls, alternating with the command ‘on your backs – feet six inches –  Raise’!

Once rereleased from our tormentor in chief we changed into our overalls and started work on our specific discipline projects (we were training as electricians, mechanics or instrument mechanics).

Adjacent to the training school was the social club with its distinctive spiralled roof which we visited usually just once a week, on pay day, for a drink of lime and lemonade on the way from the cash office back to the training school.

The money in our pocket was short lived, for that evening we queued to deliver the majority of it to Mr Hapgood leaving just £1 18s 6d (£1-92.5p) remaining to last us the rest of the week.

In those days a vinyl single 45 cost 6s 8d and LPs anything from £1 10s to £2.

During our first spell in Weymouth it was dark when we arrived back from Winfrith and we tended to stay in the hostel making our own entertainment in the games room or watching TV during the week or dating girls met at The Pavilion or cinema. 

Weekends were different and usually we visited Davis & Hadlley Ltd of St Thomas Street in Weymouth on most Saturday mornings listening to our favourite groups and sometimes when finances permitted buying one. Saturday evenings were spent in and around the Pavilion trying our luck with the local girls or at the cinema and as most of us had turned seventeen we were able to partake of many of the local hostelries (even though you had to be 18 years of age) of which there was an abundance, particularly around the harbour. It was at this time that I first tasted the local brew of Scrumpy and believe me you didn’t need to drink much. Saturday nights were usually rounded off by calling at the Marquis of Granby on Chickerell Road and then Alf’s Chippie at the top of Lynch Road where faggots and chips were particularly appealing to us and a lot cheaper than fish and chips.

During this time twenty or so individuals many miles from home, living, working and laughing together started to bond into something special. Even so, as could be expected under the circumstances, cliques formed with like for like personalities bonding together and sometimes there was friction between the groups but nothing serious. On occasions returning from a day out in Weymouth it was not unusual to find our dormitory furniture planted on the flat roof, by the lads in one of the other dormitories as a joke. This was usually reciprocated when the opportunity arose but it was all taken in good heart most of the time. However as a group it was one for all and all for one on the odd occasion when the need arose. Even so we were all pretty well behaved and stayed clear of any trouble.

During this first sojourn to Weymouth in the winter most of us were missing friends and girlfriends left at home and we couldn’t wait to get back to them but the tour was to last just around eight weeks so it wasn’t too bad. Even so we stuck beer mats (one for each day of our stay) round the wall of our dormitory and as each day passed one mat was taken down.

All our Mums and Dads were transported to Weymouth and Winfrith by the UKAEA to see how we were being cared for.

They were shown Egdon Hall whilst we were at work and the Training Workshops as well. They stayed at The Royal (? now a Shearings hotel I believe) overnight and we were invited for dinner with our parents who travelled home the following day.

The week before Christmas it was back home to great cheers for two months allowing us to continue our various sandwich courses at Warrington College. 

It was on the 1st March 1966 when we travelled the same path back to Weymouth for the final time as a group and feelings were mixed on what awaited us. Expectations were high with the hope of warm spring and summer weather! As it turned out the weather was on the whole very nice and we were able to get out and explore the lovely countryside and secluded inlets like Lulworth Cove, enjoying sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the clear blue waters. Although of course we were all expected to work hard and complete our discipline projects each of us making a set of tools and instruments specific to our engineering disciplines.

Even though we all were enjoying ourselves much more we still missed our families, girl friends and mates back home and decided to arrange weekend trips home every few weeks (when finances permitted), using the services of a local mini bus and driver Maurice (I never got to know his last name) who took the opportunity to visit relations in Liverpool.  Seats were limited and as there were usually more bods wanting to go than seats available we needed to decide how to deal with the problem. The democratic way was chosen and lots were drawn, the unlucky ones sulking for a few days while hoping for better luck the next time. Still the delights of Weymouth sufficed to temper the disappointment.

I had tuned seventeen the previous October and started a course of driving lessons with Clearway School of Motoring based in Lynch Lane just a short walk from Egdon Hall. A block booking of six one hour lessons cost £6 10s and I passed my test in and around Dorchester. My family hadn’t a car at the time but on my return we did buy a two year old Ford Anglia 1200 Super. Great!

Towards the end of our final weeks I got chatting with, Susan a girl who lived in, if I remember correctly, Gordon Crescent, backing onto Egdon Hall boundary fence. My mate Alan was with me at the time and we arranged a date with Susan and her mate Denise, who lived in the centre of Weymouth in Crescent Street.

We seemed to get on well and started dating, going to the cinema and enjoying walks along the promenade. The four of us decided to visit the open day at Portland Naval Base and thoroughly enjoyed the day out seeing all the latest warships belonging to the Royal Navy and the navies of other NATO countries.

Weymouth Carnival too figures in the memory of yesteryear with many brilliant floats, one a giant Baird TV with girls sitting astride it, another depicting a Greek or Roman Temple with lovely girls wearing togas. There was one I remember of a yellow submarine made out of cardboard and based on the Beatles hit record.

Unfortunately Alan and I had to leave Susan and Denise to return home for good. I did correspond with Denise for a while but mainly due to the distance involved any continued relationship was difficult and we lost touch to go our separate ways.

Our time in Weymouth had come to an end but a special bond and camaraderie had been formed between the pot-pourri of personalities thrown together, we worked, studied and laughed together during our twelve months in Weymouth.

Twenty years on only four of the original apprentice intake still worked for UKAEA/BNFL. The rest of us had scattered far and wide throughout the country. I worked as Assistant Area Engineer for Wigan Area Health Authority, Alan worked all over the Middle East in oil, and Phil worked for British Steel in Scunthorpe and Ken for ICC in North Allerton, North Yorkshire. I was a similarly story for the remainder of our year but we kept in touch by phone.

Being perhaps the most nostalgic of us I thought it a great idea to have a twentieth reunion and set about canvassing everyone regarding arranging something special to mark the occasion. Those of us living locally met and discussed various options, however it soon became apparent that there was only one real contender and it was off to Weymouth, a town that became our home for twelve months twenty years before.

Unfortunately (due to work and family reasons) only nine of us were able to make the nostalgic trip for a weekend in early October 1985 and as we boarded our modern day chariot on the Friday to retrace that journey we were all filled with anticipation and excitement. To add to the excitement and atmosphere tapes of sixties music of 1965 and 1966 were played during the journey. The nine making the trip were Alan Greenhalgh, Ken Green, Steve Aspden, Geoff Caswell, Bill Brown, John Turner, Paul Sinclair (Griffiths), Tom Heaton and me, John Hankin. Of course the journey this time round was much quicker and we arrived in sunny Weymouth late afternoon and after booking into our Hotel we all strolled down the prom and along the beach later taking a quick tour of the centre of town. After our evening meal we enjoyed a drink or two in the local hostelries and retired reasonably early as we were exhausted after the excitement of the day. The first full day of our anniversary tour dawned warm and sunny and our first port of call had to be to Egdon Hall. To our delight, the building was still standing, extended by at least four new wings to become an Admiralty Research Establishment. In place of the well tended privet hedge however stood an imposing security fence with an entrance barrier worthy of any border frontier. We stood there in solemn procession savouring the memories of those days twenty years ago but we had to move on and pausing for a few minutes at Alf’s fish and chip shop for the sake of the faggot and chip lovers in the party and a quick photo. The memory and aromas behind us we continued our journey to Winfrith, passing the famous White Horse at Osmington, taking in swordfish steaks at the Lulworth Cove Hotel, sitting outside in the lovely warm sunshine enjoying the view. Feeling well fed and watered we journeyed to the site itself to see again the familiar buildings of the Training School, well equipped workshops with gymnasium attached, still appearing modern twenty years later. The gym and social club with its distinctive spiralled roof both held special memories. In hindsight perhaps we could have contacted AEA Winfrith to see if we could have arranged a visit inside but then again that may have been fraught with difficulty for security reasons .

Feeling better we boarded the mini bus for the return journey back to Weymouth and the night to come. After freshening up and the evening meal we drove to The Marquis of Granby for one drink, for old time’s sake then back to Weymouth to park the chariot for the night and a final farewell to the local hostelries.

Feeling a bit deflated on Sunday morning, our return journey imminent, the weather seemed to sense our mood, turning cooler with overcast skies. This didn’t stop us all taking one last stroll along the prom and town, savouring the occasion for the last time.

The nine of us stood on the steps of the hotel to be snapped for prosperity by one of the hotel staff before departing. Our journey home was uncannily similar to those mini bus journeys back to Weymouth following a weekend home in the summer of ‘66; pensive, the atmosphere punctuated by the odd joke.

The bond between us was as strong as ever in 1985 and remains so to this day even though we have gone our separate ways and most have now retired.

Some time after the visit we were contacted by the local constabulary who wanted to know if we were spies! It seems some kind sole living on Lynch Lane had reported our visit (and provided the registration number of our mini bus) to Egdon Hall and our photographing what was then an Admiralty Research Establishment.

We were somewhat concerned that our innocent action had caused a security problem! Fortunately with the help of the personnel office and the guys still working at UKAEA/BNFL Risley we were able to confirm our reasons for our actions and were given a stern talking to.

Who knows we may well return for the fiftieth anniversary in 2015 (only three years away) although not as sprightly I’ll bet, but we will certainly be young at heart. Looking at Google Earth it’s unclear if Egdon Hall is still there but maybe a part of it has stood the test of time. It would be nice to think so.

Article written by John Hankin and Paul Sinclair