FROM KNOTTINGLEY TO
How Don Aaron came to live in Great Parndon, Harlow, Essex
The Early Years
I was born in
1936, the eldest son of Hector Aaron (January 22nd 1904 to December 7th
1943) and Ivy Aaron née Knapton (August 4th 1912 to April 1st 2004).
childhood in Knottingley was spent at No. 1 Gordon Terrace, located just
off Womersley Road and running parallel to Broomhill Avenue. My father
worked for one of the major employers of the town - Jackson Brothers - manufacturers
of glass bottles.
recollection of Gordon Terrace is now getting a little dim. However, I do
remember that we had gas lighting and the heating was from open coal fires
in every room. However, unless we were using a room for an extended
period, which then merited starting a new fire, the main room in use in
Winter was the very large Kitchen. The main feature of the Kitchen was a
large black cast iron range which heated the kitchen, produced hot water
(for baths in front of the fire) and on which my mother did all her
cooking. Magic. The family radio was run from lead acid batteries which
had to be taken frequently to be recharged in a long dark building
located, if memory serves me correctly, just off Racca Green.
> Later on we
'upgraded' to a wired system which was powered, via overhead cables, from
a building situated in Aire Street.
memory I do have is a visit, as a very young child, to the theatre with my
parents. It was raining heavily and I can still visualise the rain against
the outside wall of the theatre. The only act I can remember is with a
man on stage listening to an emergency programme on the radio as we were
at war. The man was learning how to boil an egg. With the egg in the pan
and all of two minutes into the act, it was announced over the radio that
the programme would be continued next week!.
recollection of my paternal grandparents as my Grandmother Florence, née
Renton, had died in 1924 and Grandfather Reuben Aaron (June 9th 1860 to
April 11th 1938) had died before my second birthday. I have a better
memory of both my maternal grandparents as they survived until 1951
(Grandmother Ellen née Pickersgill - January 14th 1881 to June 13th 1951)
and 1956 (Grandfather George - 1878 to October 14th 1956). These
Grandparents lived off Broomhill Avenue and Grandfather George worked at
the local Glassworks, Bagley's. After his 'retirement', Grandfather took
on a number of casual jobs to support himself and his wife Ellen. They
were both kind and caring, of a completely different generation - a 'Personal
Pension' in those days was an alien concept. My Grandfather had fought for
King and Country in both the Boer and First World Wars. Two of their sons
became policemen, one of them was stationed in the North whilst the other
was stationed in Oxford.
Terrace we had a long allotment where we grew potatoes, with a chicken
house as the main feature - invaluable in wartime as eggs were then on
ration; as were meat, cloths, petrol etc. In fact I've still got a vivid
memory of seeing the odd car with a gas bag on the roof. I can also
remember milk being delivered by a man with a horse-drawn dray - the
milkman served milk from a churn, the customer provided the receptacle.
Similarly, coal was delivered on a horse-drawn flat bed cart. The street
lighting along Womersley Road and along Broomhill Avenue in those days was
gas. As there were not many fridges about, it was necessary to buy things
fresh and ensure good storage conditions.
interesting, small quantities of goods often provided in twists produced
from sheets of brown paper - polythene and other modern packing materials
were a thing of the future. The shops in Aire Street, all now gone in the
interests of progress, were fascinating, some dark, and maybe dingy,
however Arkwright knew what he was about when it came to laying out and
organising a store - none of your modern display cabinets. I still have a
strong memory of Horncasles, the Drapers, as I trapped a finger in the
door!. Clays, the Grocery shop, as well as Spiers, the Newsagents, were
all fascinating places. Aire Street was the location of the
"Palace" where the Saturday morning treat was to see the latest
Cowboy or Comedy fantasy - more than often still in Black and White. The
open ground (the Flatts), over the road from the shops, and on the bank of
the Aire was used by the "Fair" for the week of it's annual
visit. The "Flatts" was subject to flooding almost every year,
as was the area on the other bank, Brotherton Marsh. In quieter times the
river ran very low and a ferry service over to Brotherton Marsh was
operated by a man with a rowing boat.
could boil clothing in the boiler attached to the Range (spotless with
it's black lead polish) and had a "Peggy Stick" to work the
cloths on a deep zinc plated round tub. A wash board and mangle completed
died in 1943 from pneumonia. Broomhill Avenue became my home in my teens.
The wash board, mangle and other wash day items were consigned to history
when a (twin tub) washing machine was acquired. Electric light was a real
bonus, as was access to anything powered from the mains. However, heating
was still from open coal fires, a "bonus" when much later
brother Ken worked for the Coal Board as a Surveyor and received, as a
perk, concessionary coal. Mention of coal reminds me that rail transport
was powered by coal. A train journey always seemed to result in a dirty
collar and a distinctive smell on clothing. Also I am reminded that
Knottingley is cut, West to East, by a canal which runs in a deep cutting,
particularly in the area of the Town Hall and all points West. From the
bridge on Weeland Road it was possible to see the "Tom Puddings"
carrying the coal down stream to Goole. The Tom Pudding was a large
floating container, capable of holding up to 40 tons of coal. A number of
these containers were coupled together and moved by short tugs placed fore
and aft. As they chugged slowly along, a few men were doing the work of
many. Each shipment could move up to 700 ton of coal. Thus keeping many
dirty heavy lorries off the road. On arrival at Goole, each of the
containers was "simply" lifted out of the water and up-ended
into the hold of a ship for onward movement. The system finally came to an
end in 1983 after over 120 years service.
in those days seemed to be dominated by the Glass Industry. Gregg's,
Bagley's and Jackson's. Much later on, Bagley's was taken over by
Jackson's and then later on Jackson's was to become part of the large
Rockware Glass Company.
As a child I
was taken, on a school outing from Weeland Road School, to watch the
launch of a ship built by John Harker's. The shipyard (now defunct)
located East of the Town, was just over the way from the Yorkshire Tar
Distillers, now Croda International. This site was a fascinating place.
Large distillation plants, in those days with large lagoons of solidified
pitch, a by-product of the (very) smelly distillation process.
Quarries to the West of Womersley Road were an endless source of pleasure
to us all - looking back on these times now, they were also a real source
of danger - lots of deep crystal clear water (badly polluted in later
years) and all too often very thin ice in Winter!. In my childhood one of
the quarries was still productive. However, even then the last productive
one was well past it's peak. Double Summer Time appeared to make the days
playing in the Quarries inordinately long.
The two means
of transport readily available were the bus or bicycle and I spent many a
happy hour exploring the countryside on my bike as other traffic on the
road was genuinely sparse. The bus journey was to the local shopping
metropolis, Pontefract, or very occasionally an expedition to Leeds. Later
on the bus became my daily means of transport when I went to Grammar
School in Pontefract.
attending, probably in the late 40's, a performance of the Messiah at the
Methodist Church in the Ropewalk, sponsored I believe by a Mr. John Polson
who lived very near the Church. The orchestra was the Hallé Orchestra and
the principal female singer was Kathleen Ferrier. I have never been a real
fan of classical music, however, her voice was of a supreme quality. The
recordings she made are still available, however, I believe that they do
not do full justice to her range and power. It may be that time has
distorted my memory, but I still have that clear impression of pure
quality. Sadly she died at the age of 41 in 1953 having started her career
as a pianist and surprised everyone, including probably herself, by taking
first prize in the 1937 Carisle Festival for both Piano and Voice. She
made her first recording for Decca in 1946 and from then on was acclaimed
as a true star.
the Weeland Road School and in 1947 I set the 11+ and gained a place at
the Kings School Pontefract. If I remember correctly 1947 was the year of
deep and extended snow. J.D. Lean was the Headmaster of the Kings School
in those days, with Mr. Done as Head of Science. Latter on I was joined by
Brothers Ken, Colin and Brian - Sister Wendy had to be different - she
went to the Girls High School, also in Pontefract. Sadly, political
leveling-down later on ensured the demise of two very good schools. I also
had cousins at the Kings School - the Aaron Family were all powerful!. In
remembering Weeland Road School, I am reminded that my brother Brian,
after his first day at School is alleged to have said something along the
lines of "That was nice. What am I doing tomorrow ?", how many
other children have made the same mistake?.
It was in my
late teens that I developed a passion for Short Wave Listening. My
original acquisition was a battery powered 4 Valve Superhet, followed by
the R1155 - a classic war time design, produced to fit in aircraft. I
spent/ wasted many a happy hour trawling the world for the latest Short
It was also
in my late teens that I purchased my first 35 mm camera, a Wirgin
(Wiesbaden) Edina fitted with the Prontor SV Shutter - all springs and
gears to drive the complex shutter diaphragms to produce a shutter speed
of 1 second to 1/300 of a second. The lens was an Edinar f2.8/4.3. Small
disposable bulbs were used in the flash gun and each flash bulb contained
a measured amount of magnesium foil. The cameras had neither built in
metering, nor auto focus. Processing was done at home and the Chemist in
Pontefract, Boots, could be relied upon to have a ready supply of all the
required chemicals - on a slack day the Chemist would even mix the
chemicals for me. One day I must visit the local "Boots" and ask
for a pint of Hypo (Sodium Hypochlorate - or was it chlorite?). I can even
remember experimenting with Dufaycolor - an obsolete additive colour film
process, in which a black and white film was coated with a very large
number of minute red, blue and green filters, the proportion of the three
colours being such that the resulting colour was a neutral grey when the
film was viewed at a distance. After exposure the film was developed using
a reversal process to produce a positive image. Dufay 35mm colour film had
20 lines to the millimetre, hardly a high resolution film. Sadly, all my
efforts have disappeared over both time and moves.
long Summer Holidays I took various jobs to supplement the family income.
Climbing up a vertical ladder in a barn, with a two hundredweight sack of
grain on my back, is now a distant memory. As is working all Summer in the
laboratory at Jackson's, analysing the glass. I was also responsible for
analysing the gas produced on site, used to power the glass furnaces. It
was this that put me off Chemistry - I passed A Level with Distinction in
Chemistry as part of my School Certificate efforts and seem to remember
that I had the offer of a Scholarship at Hull University.
In 1954 I
received a State Scholarship and went to Birmingham University to study
Science. The State Scholarship was for £218 per year, however in 1954 the
Average Price of a house was all of £2,000. This was my last real contact
with Knottingley as although I returned home to Broomhill Avenue during
the vacations, and in subsequent years, my interests were elsewhere -
including taking a job in the long vacation to finance my changed
lifestyle. I remember one very hot Summer when Brian Howes and I worked
for Midland Counties in Birmingham, making Iced Lollies and stacking them,
and Ice Cream, in very cold and very large walk in fridges. I also spent
some time in "Retail" working for the Lewis's Department Store
in Leeds and it was in Leeds that I met my future wife Marty.
I took some time off, prior to joining the RAF - National Service was then
still an "Option", and given a choice of two years in the
Infantry as "Cannon Fodder" or Signing On for an extra year with
a genuine choice of options, I chose the RAF route.
training at RAF Bridgenorth, I transferred to No. 1 Radio School at RAF
Locking to train as a Radar Mechanic. Whilst at Locking I managed to get
some time off and returned to Leeds for a Registry Office Marriage to
Marty. Marty joined me in Weston-Super-Mare where we had a flat in Severn
Road - Marty managed to get a job with Littlewoods in Weston, where she
ran the store Cafe.
eventually posted to RAF Patrington where I worked on the Radar Site out
along the coast near Holmpton. Hopefully someone will one day publish the
fully story of the Rotor System and the R3 Building (A very large two
story underground fully reinforced radar station bunker) and the
associated Radars (including the Radar Type 80). Marty joined me, and we
found a lovely small furnished bungalow at the end of Hubbert Street in
Withernsea. We then spent most of my RAF service living in Hubbert Street.
The odd detachment up the coast to RAF Bempton was no real hardship, as
was a return to RAF Locking to learn all about the FPS 6 Height Finder
Radar. During my service at Patrington, the Marconi Company did a major
upgrade to the equipment in the "Hole" and part of my Service
included helping out/ observing the work carried out.
Donald Ian was born in the small Maternity Home in Withernsea.
The Radar Years
of my service in the RAF I had a number of interviews in the South, and,
having been exposed to the Marconi Culture, felt very comfortable in
accepting an offer of a job as a Systems Engineer working for Peter Max
and Jerry Taylor out at Church Green. Church Green was a relic of WW2, a
fine country mansion as the offices with Nissen Huts "round the
back" where the Drawing Office and other facilities were located. Now
it's a housing estate - "Progress". I spent most of my time at
Church Green working on the 264 Radar - a 50 cm. set with exceptional
range at the penalty however of a very wide radar response. One of the
installations was in New Zealand on a small island in the harbour. The
runway contractor was persuaded to raise the outer level of the island to
screen the radar from the sea surface, and thus drastically increase the
range of the radar.
lived in digs in Chelmsford, but we eventually found a furnished flat over
a shop on Rainsford Lane. I remember the flat with some affection, it
wasn't luxury, but the three of us were together. I also remember one
particular Winter when Marty was in hospital and I had charge of Don Ian
and the pipes froze!. Trying to clean reusable nappies in the bath, with
only buckets of water from a neighbour, is no joke.
In April 1963
I moved to Cossor Electronics, located in Harlow, with Peter Max and Alan
Carnell. For most of my career in Cossor, latterly Raytheon Systems
Limited, I worked on SSR (Secondary Surveillance Radar). Initially I
travelled with colleagues from Chelmsford, moving to Great Parndon in
Harlow in mid 1964.
of my career was SSR based, I did spend some time working on the 787
Primary Radar upgrade. This was an intense programme which quickly
developed into a shift pattern. As I was still living in Chelmsford at
that time, and working very late, it cost the company a small fortune in
taxi fares!. When it came to Flight Trials at RAF Binbrook we stayed in
the Officers Mess for all of three days. However, Arthur Gregory contrived
to get us thrown out by approaching a rather stiff and starchy Wing
Commander and asking "Where's the Bar Mate". We rapidly
relocated to a boarding house in Cleethorpes which had far more
comfortable beds and better food. The Trials included a period of
Optimisation. I still have a vivid mental picture of Gordon Chase
attempting to explore the first Blind Speed of the Radar at midnight - on
the main runway - in a company van - trying to get the van up to 70 m.p.h.
Binbrook in those days was a Lightning base. Although the radar, for
safety reasons, is kept away from the runway, it was still very
"impressive" to see/ hear the aircraft taxi past the radar and
then take off in formation with full re-heat on.
One of the
earlier jobs at Cossor was as the Systems Design Authority for the SSR
Systems to be implemented at the Air Defence Radar Sites - RAF Stations
Bawdsey, Staxton Wold, Boulmer and Bishops Court (Northern Ireland). The
Design Authority task included producing all the equipment procurement
specifications for the MOD (Antennas, Turning Gear, Buildings,
Interrogators (Transmitter/Receivers), Defruiter (Interference Blanker),
and Interface Equipment), building special equipments (Interface
Equipment), writing Systems Acceptance Specifications and Flight Trials
Documentation. These sites had a two story block house, the R12 Building,
now above ground level, and formed part of the Linesman/ Mediator Air
Defence System. The antenna for the Type 85 Radar was located on the roof
of the R12 building. The Type 85 was a truly awesome Radar - frequency
agile with 12 stacked beams to provide height information. The 12 high
power transmitters arranged on the arc of a circle, the wave-guide and the
high power multi-channel wave-guide rotating joint were works of art.
career at Cossor/Raytheon I was also responsible for the sitting and
performance of the MSSRs (Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radars) fitted
to RAF and Naval Sites in the UK and also three RAF sites in Germany - In
all 27 Systems.
(until I retired in 2001) I was responsible for the Implementation and
Performance of the MSSRs supplied as part of the Raytheon SIVAM (System
for the Vigilance of the Amazon) programme in Brazil.
I've been responsible for MSSRs fitted in Switzerland (Military Systems),
Iceland, and the MSSR upgrade in Scotland - Lowther Hill in the snow and
fog is something to be experienced!.
visiting Algeria just after a coupe - we always seemed to get the same
taxi driver; he could not speak a word of English, yet he unfailingly
always knew what we wanted, even when we changed our plans in the middle
of a journey. The trip was also interesting in that whilst we were talking
to the Generals, the competition, the French, was talking to the Deputy
Two trips to
Egypt, just after the Russian Advisors had left was a fascinating insight
in to the Egyptian psyche - although the British had been thrown out of
Egypt as a Colonial Power, they missed the British organizing abilities.
The local wine, Ptolemy, was a real treat. Beer could be a problem as the
Hotel had to return the empties before it could get a new supply. We used
the Mena House hotel as our base. The hotel is located at the end of a new
dual carriageway motorway outside Cairo, and near the Pyramids. On a day
off we hired some camels to explore the Pyramids - these beasts had been
genetically modified to stop near a shack or pile of rocks where someone
would then leap out to sell some local jewellery. Whilst exiting the Great
Pyramid, someone turned the lights out - the bruise on my forehead lasted
for days. On the return journey to the hotel (in the dark) the camels
insisted on using the local motorway and had decided that it was
"safer" to head into the traffic.
In Iran hotel
swimming pools were closed and full of rubbish. Hotel lobbies were
decorated with anti-American slogans. Strange men with beards sat all day
in the hotel lobby watching the comings and goings. The morning TV
highlights were the traffic jam cameras in Tehran, or a religious figure
talking earnestly to the viewer. Only foreigners wore neck ties, as a sign
of decadence?. However, behind closed doors the Iranians I meet were
charming gracious and very friendly and helpful.
I still find
it incongruous when I recall on many occasions in Tehran seeing groups of
young ladies, dressed just like penguins, flagging down a passing car - a
private taxi - and after a brief negotiation climbing in. In the same
context the journey to the airport could be interesting. On one occasion
the taxi driver, on getting caught in a traffic jam on the airport
approach, simply crossed the central reservation and then reversed the
last half mile to the airport. What could be simpler - there was a lot
less traffic leaving the airport, it was after all 2 am.. Airport check-in
was an "interesting" experience. After queuing to get into the
terminal, it was then necessary to queue to be checked to make sure that
there were no antiquities in the luggage; followed by a queue to validate
the airline ticket; followed by a queue to check in. The next queue was at
effectively the frontier post, controlled by a small smart white picket
gate, followed by yet another queue to be searched (men separate from
women of coarse). Air side was real chaos, it's probably different today,
but then there was no PA system and the only way of checking the flight
was to listen carefully as a member of staff walked among the crowd to
announce the name of the next flight - Moscva comes to mind as one
flight to Heathrow was a revelation. The aircraft did the circuit Heathrow
- Tehran - Bahrain - Heathrow so that it could drop/ change the air crew
in Bahrain. On leaving Tehran the passengers were a mixture of male and
heavily cloaked females?. Within half an hour of take-off women appeared
on the aircraft. When the aircraft landed women wearing make-up had
systems I've worked on are now lost in the mist of time.
retired at the age of 65 at the end of May 2001. During my time at Cossor/Raytheon
there have been many changes in hardware design. I can still visualise
Arthur Gregory and his breadboard design idea - a row of nails along the
far edge of the lab bench interconnected by bare tinned copper wire was
the +200 Volt rail this was complemented by a further row along the centre
of the bench (0 Volts) and finished of by a row along the near edge for
the -200 Volt rail. What could have been simpler? just string the
components between the "Rails" - hot valves? So what?. Health
And Safety?. Now it's all solid state with very powerful computing and
what needed rooms full of equipment can be done on a single chip.
I still enjoy
Short Wave Listening, now however I use a computer controlled receiver.
The receiver is the size of a large paper-back and has great flexibility,
it's an ICOM PCR1000.
Now I use
Single Lens Reflex Cameras, all with built in metering - a great advance
on the old Edina. Who knows, one day I might even go digital!. However, at
the moment I am still digitising boxes of old Kodachrome slides and
negatives using a PrimeFilm PF1800AFL Scanner. A marvel of modern
engineering and all for less than £200.
Just over 10
years ago we learned that an aunt of mine (Aunt Susie - Wife of my Uncle
Tom Aaron) had committed memories of her childhood to paper. Susie
recounts her childhood in Knottingley in the early part of the 20th
century. The memoirs now feature on the Knottingley Web Site -
however, please don't visit the site unless you are prepared to wallow in
pure nostalgia!. I have relied heavily on the Knottingley Web Site for
additional information as I believe that Michael Norfolk has done an
exceptional job in putting together and maintaining the Knottingley site -
see for example the Photo Galleries on the Knottingley site. The
Knottingley web site also has a large number of articles about Ben
Thompson - a cousin of mine via the Knapton and Pickersgill line. In
addition, Michael's Images of Yorkshire and The Wartime Memories Project
are well worth a visit.
For a long
time I have been a keen grower of cacti and was the Secretary of the
Harlow Branch of the British Cactus and Succulent Society from 1985 to
2003; prior to that I was the Chairman for three years. I say "was
Secretary" as the Harlow Branch of the BCSS amalgamated with the
North London Branch at the end of 2003 to become the Lea Valley Branch. As
I believe that Harlow still deserves a mention in the Cactus world, I have
provided a link to Cactus in Harlow as well as a link to the British
Cactus and Succulent Society (BCSS) main site.
Most of my
annual summer holidays have been spent in Switzerland as by
"coincidence" Marty is Swiss by birth. She was born in the
village of Effretikon in the Kanton of Zurich and we have spent short
periods with relatives either in Winterthur, Effretikon, Bad Ragaz or
Frasco. However, for most of the time we have been "independent"
and spent a lot of time in Lenzerheide (located in Kanton Graubunden).
Lenzerheide is a ski resort, half an hour drive from Chur. It's major
advantage in summer is the mild climate, at 1473 metres it's a true refuge
from the intense heat of summer and it can be a real relief to get in the
car after a hot day out in Chur and drive to a cooler climate. Lenzerheide
has a couple of beautiful lakes and many pleasant walks. We have tended to
use the Soleval apartments for accommodation. The apartments are very
spacious and not over priced, even during the July/August high season. Yes
they are self catering, but this is a real advantage. The kitchens of all
the apartments are well appointed, so there is no problem in making a
quick meal. However, the real advantage is the flexibility. Being out on
the road, it's simply a matter of stopping in a village and finding a
hostelry used by the locals. The Swiss motorway restaurant chains also
provide very good meals. The Movenpick at Bilten, located on the Zurich -
Chur motorway, a few miles west of the Walensee, is a favourite
"emergency" stopping place when all else has failed - how often
would you drive 20 miles out of your way in the UK to have an enjoyable
meal at a motorway restaurant!.
have flown to Switzerland, our favourite mode of holiday transport is the
car. Over the years the improvements in both the French and Swiss
Motorways has made the journey easier. Gone for good are the days when it
was difficult to average more than 40 m.p.h. across France, - I can still
"see" the potholes on the Reims bye pass!! . Although we still
take two days on the outward journey, we tend to do the return journey in
a single, but long, day. It's 700 miles from door to door, but, leaving
Lenzerheide at 9am, it's possible to be in Harlow by just after midnight.
The journey is down the mountain to Chur and then the Motorway to Zurich,
Basel, Strasbourg, Reims and then to Calais. There is a toll to pay on
both the Swiss and French Motorways. The Swiss one is a single payment -
valid for the year; the French tolls are a lot steeper and per journey.
However, the time saved makes the tolls bearable.
On a couple
of occasions, when our son was young, we were able to take Mother with us
to Switzerland. Then we stayed at the Hotel Landhous in Tagelswangen on
the Zurich-Winterthur road - Tagelswangen is a small hamlet just outside
Effretikon. I am reminded that Mother also used to take Don Ian with her
on her many trips to visit Colin and Family in Brussels, and later
Waterloo (Colin worked for Esso International and had a flat in Brussels
and then had a house built in Waterloo). I am further reminded that Mother
was able to regularly visit us in Harlow. She would spend a week with us
and then move on to visit brother Brian in New Ash Green. She was able to
make this trip three or four times a year and, well in to her late
eighties, was very happy to travel by coach to London where either Brian
or I would pick her up - or return her to catch the coach back home. Later
on it became a strange Christmas if Mother was not with us!. Latterly,
either Brian or I would pick her up from Yorkshire and she was able to
make the trip until 2003.
reviewed our holiday patterns, and realised that, apart from a very late
week in Tenerife (October time), we have only ever booked a package
holiday when we have been away with the Grandchildren, Louise and Thomas.
Memorable "All In" holidays in Crete, Turkey and Rhodes when the
"All In" made real sense with pre-teenagers.
the distance from Knottingley to Great Parndon is 175 miles when
travelling down the A1, A14 and M11.
Aaron Family of Gordon Terrace and the succeeding generations are now
spread far and wide - to Ackworth, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Essex, Kent,
Surrey and other points South.