Mrs. Freda Tassell.
Freda Tassell (SD 1942 – 1987)
Mrs. Freda Tassell was one of the first to respond to my request for people’s memories of working at Shelvoke & Drewry. Freda sent in this very interesting account of an entire working life at the Company.
FROM WELDER TO COST OFFICE MANAGER.
By Mrs. Freda Tassell.
It was the Second World War that brought me to Letchworth and Shelvoke & Drewry. In September 1942, at the age of 18, I was sent from my home in Orsett, near Thurrock in Essex as a war worker. I was trained to become an electric welder, working with other girls who had also been called up. Some specialist men taught and helped us. Mr. Shelvoke was the Managing Director, and he used to regularly come round and ask us if we were enjoying our work. He used to put on social evenings for all the girls. We were welding manifolds and bends for Army trucks.
The World War II Welding Shop.
A Group of Wartime Workers. Photos Supplied by Brian Sherwood.
I was then moved into the office as a cost clerk, working with Peter Wright. We spent hours costing the latest secret weapon, the 4 man submarine, which were built entirely by S & D. There were no calculators in those days, and every single part, right down to the last nut and bolt, was costed manually.
When peace came in 1945 production of the submarines came to an end. The factory started building the tiller controlled Freighters once more, usually with a Chelsea type body. The following year, 1946, Mr. Davenport became the Managing Director. He was always a great help, and a friend to everyone.
Sadly Peter Wright died in the office in 1966, and I was asked to take his place. I ran the Cost Office for 21 years, with the help of four lovely ladies, until I retired in 1987, after 45 years with the Company, which was nearing its end. We costed every single vehicle that left the works.
I married my husband Alex Tassell in October 1945, and he returned to S & D after war service in the Royal Artillery. His father had worked in the Joiners’ Shop until he retired in 1940. He worked on all the models with wooden cabs. Alex initially worked on the chassis line, and then in the Service Dept. where he became a service inspector with Bill Martin, Alex Taylor, Mick Walker, Tom Pryke and Ken Jenkins. Sadly all these have now passed away with the exception of Alex Taylor.
Freda and Alex Tassell and their daughter, Gillian.
For me, and my family, Shelvokes was a family oriented firm, as it was for many others. Alex’s brother, Eddie, also worked there, for over 20 years, at the No. 2 Factory. It was a sad day for me when I retired in 1987 – lots of tears were shed, apart from my husband and daughter, Gillian. S & D had been my life.
I kept in touch with Mr. Davenport after he’d retired and his wife Win gave me a copy of the ‘Sphere’, from October 1947, that describes the miniature submarines. I’m very proud of the part I played in the war effort.
15th March 2003.