Mini Ostler started working at Westland when she was 17 yrs old

Mini Ostler was 103 yrs old when she recorded this interview

She joined Westland in 1930 and worked in the covering shop sewing material onto different parts of the aircraft


I was about 17 I suppose then. I left the gloving because it wasn’t a lot of money and I had a friend that had a good job in Westland and she said come to Westlands to work Min. I said, well, it’s getting in there, you get to the main gate and then you’re stopped, unless you’ve got a pass or something. I was never one to push myself anywhere like some people. I’m satisfied with what I’m doing. She said, well, come on down there. So, away I went and I met-up with her. She got me a job but I didn’t like it very much at the time. I had a job in the fitting shop, on a drilling machine – huge thing, with a tray full of bits to drill. I did this for a few days but I kept my eye on a man that was on a drilling machine just in front of me. How’s it Bill you can get rid of your tray of things and go and have another one which I said is more money because you’ve done them. Well, I changed my chuck, he said. Well, where the hell do you change that then? Well, you get another one. I said, oh, he said, off of somebody’s bench. It wasn’t his anymore than it was mine. Oh, I said, I can’t do that. Well, he said, I’ll get you one and he showed me how to slow the machine down. He said hold the chuck, not squeeze it, just hold it and pull it down. Put another drill in it then do the same and put it back-up. Well, I said that sounds easy enough. So, I did it, so I could get rid of my tray of things and I earned more money.

I liked sewing so she said ask for a transfer

So, after a while, a few years I suppose, 2 years anyway, I asked for a transfer. I got friendly with a girl who worked in the covering shop. I said what do you down there? she said, oh it’s boring. You’ve got to sit down all day and sew. Oh, I said, I like sewing so she said ask for a transfer. I expect you can come down here because we want some more down here. I said what are you doing actually then? She said, well, covering all the parts of the aeroplane and things. I said well that sounds alright so I asked the foreman. I said I’d like to go down the covering shop to work and he said, well, you can go down there if you want to. What do you want to go down there for? I said, to keep my hands clean, all the oil and stuff, all in my nails, and I don’t like it much, he said, well, I thought you were happy up here and I said so I was.

You sewed by hand with needle and cotton

So, off I go down to the covering shop and you were sat down and perhaps you had a tail-plane or rudder or the centre-plane or different parts of the wings and you had this material which was sewn together. You had to put it over whichever part you were going to and get to the edge of it. Well, then you sewed that by hand with needle and cotton. Well, I suppose you could say thread, not cotton and that was drawn through a wax and you had to over-sew it, like you would ordinary over-sewing and every stitch you had to make a knot and then from the ribs through the …you had a big needle about this length and that was a big eye enough to take. I don’t know if they called it twine or string those days and that went through wax and you put one girl one side and one the other for this. You know what a rib is in a plane or in the wing part and then she pulled it through or you did, whichever, and you had to make a knot in that and go so far up the rib and make another the same until you’d gone up to the top. We did that all day long.

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