Harry Ridgewell was a Draughtsman at Westland for 34 yrs and remembers 'getting along well' with his Italian colleagues building the EH 101
The language for the project was English so the Italians, they could speak very, very good English so I was, from a personal point of view, pleased that they were speaking my language rather than me having to learn their language. It was a challenge! In meetings, in mods meetings, if we were discussing a particular topic and the Italians wanted to talk about part of their bit, they would go off into a huddle and talk Italian and one or two of the guys, well a number of the people I worked with, were good linguists, they could understand what was going on. With me, it just went way over my head, I’m afraid.
The collaboration achieved what it’s achieved. We’ve got these aircraft flying around. The Navy, the Air Force, Denmark, Portugal, Italian Navy, I’ve lost track of how many hundreds of 101s we’ve now built and flown, hundreds of thousands of hours, might even be up to a million hours now, which is incredible, but that’s what that collaboration gave us. There had to be give and take; you probably don’t realise that at the time but you do have to say, well, hang on, wind your neck in a bit. Just because they don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean to say that we’re always right and they’re not right. We had meetings, mods meetings, development mods meetings for the aircraft. It might sound strange, talking about modifications to a brand new machine but it’s all part of the evolution and we would have mods meetings and they would alternate between here in Yeovil and at the Cascina Costa factory in Italy so it gave me the opportunity to go and visit another country on a regular basis over a number of years and I think that was the time when it really helped me to understand a little bit more the way the Italians worked. In some respects, they are very relaxed. It would be wrong to say laid back because laid-back creates a totally different, a false impression but when they do work, they go at it. They throw people at it and, yes, it was amazing.