John Groves worked as a Design Engineer at Westland for nearly 50 yrs and remembers what the factory was like when he joined
It started life in when 1915 wasn’t it and it got added to all the way around. Loads and loads of small departments. It was like a maze really, you know. When people used to visit Westlands they’d get lost and, in fact, when I came back it was still the same basically until they rapidly expanded it. I know my wife’s uncle, he was a foreman electrician of the maintenance in Westlands and like he said, the place had grown up without any drawings and they used to have a nightmare trying to check all the main current all the way around the whole factory because in those days Westlands could generate their own because we had six huge, well, two or three very large Petters oil engines going, generators. Of course, eventually all that got scrapped and they went on the mains, virtually external supply. I always remember old Uncle Roy, as we used to call him, complaining about they used even to bring him in after he retired to use his memory to find cables if he could remember what happened and where.
Where was this power plant then, whereabouts on the site?
The main power plant, let me think, as you came in through the main gate, past the offices, there’s drawing offices there now, turn left and it went on down and there used to be a building down on the left-hand side. I think it got used for a test house and all sorts of jobs after that, but that’s where that main power plant was.
And that was before the factory got connected to the main supply?
They used, basically, mains supply for a long time. They used those big engines as a standby. Of course, eventually, they scrapped them all because they weren‘t the most economical engines, quite big diesel they were. I remember seeing the pistons when they broke them up. The pistons on them were a good foot and a half across. They were huge engines, you know. It was incredible.