Pictured above: Bill and a colleague working in an attic office at the National Assistance Board in Gateshead, 1963

I began my career in the civil service in March 1953 having passed the Civil Service Commission’s open Clerical Officer Examination. You had to pay fifteen shillings to sit it! I was assigned to the Air Ministry and fortunately my posting was to an office only about a mile from home. The most interesting part of my work there was conducting stocktaking visits to RAF stations in our works area – southern Scotland and Northern England. Most lasted about a week but some took a fortnight. One episode that sticks in my mind occurred when another CO, John and I, were given duty for stocktaking at RAF Acklington in Northumberland. Our accommodation had been arranged locally at the Railway Inn public house. When we arrived the landlord showed us to our room. It turned out that not only did we have to share a room, but also a bed. Not being complaining types we accepted the situation with good grace.

I was called up for National Service in May 1954 and served in the RAF for two years, mostly at RAF Rufforth, near York. Afterwards I returned to my Air Ministry post in Newcastle. It was decided to close that works office in March 1959 and we were given the option of a transfer to York or Aberdeen. I chose York. While there I passed the ex-National Servicemen’s executive officer examination and was assigned to the National Assistance Board from March 1960. At my request they kindly gave me a posting back to my native Tyneside. I worked in the NAB Area Offices at South Shields and Gateshead. Home visits were carried out as part of the job and my eyes were opened concerning the conditions in which some folk lived. I remember visiting one man who lived alone who raked the ashes from his coal fire into an ever increasing mound on the bare floorboards.

In the summer of 1967 I was sent to the Ministry of National Insurance at Longbenton as part of a team looking at the possibility of paying Retirement Pension and National Assistance in a combined order book to be printed at Longbenton. After consideration we reported back that this would not work due to the frequent changes in national assistance payments. We reported that it would be more efficient for the combined order books to be printed at the local NAB Area Offices and this was adopted.

I was given the option of returning to the NAB or staying with the MNI and decided on the latter. I remained at Longbenton until 1992 when I took early retirement. Over the years I was promoted to HEO then SEO managing staff working in the Central Pensions Branch. Looking back on my years in the civil service it was not a bad career choice.