These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr V Annis in the mid-1980s as part of his research for his book The Story of Wivenhoe. These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from his original notes.
About Mr V E Annis
Born at Brightlingsea in 1912. Came to Wivenhoe when he was married in 1942.
Apprenticed at Aldous Limited in Brightlingsea in 1927. He left school at 14 and went to work in the drawing office as an office boy. Father a fisherman who also crewed. Parents did not have a lot of money. He was a “little above average” at drawing. Aldous needed an office boy with a view to becoming an apprentice draughtsman if he were suitable.
What Mr Annis told Nick Butler:
In those days the firm had enquiries from people for various types of craft. That meant designing something to suit their intentions. How big, what was she to carry, how propelled? Did a rough sort of lines – estimated displacement – also an estimate of the total weight of the vessel so that she floated at her waterline. Estimated quantities of steel and timber for the joiner’s work. Piping for plumber’s work. Estimated the materials needed for the vessel. You based your quotation to the customer on the quantities of materials which you had worked out. Money estimate was done by the secretary of the firm. The secretary would also consult the foreman fitter, joiner, plumber, etc. To see how long the job would take. All part of the quote. If quote accepted you did a set if lines for the loftsman to lay in the moulding loft floor. And as many calculations as considered necessary. Tonnage, centre of buoyancy, centre of gravity. These jobs might be done by more than one draughtsman. You also did working drawings. All the various drawings to enable the various departments to carry out the work.
I worked at Rowhedge Ironworks in 1952. (To learn more about the Rowhedge Ironworks click here)
Wivenhoe Shipyard opened for a while in the late 1930s. In 1934 opened for about 15 to 18 months. Started up under the name of Arthur R. Brown & Co. Fellow behind the company I believe was a Greek, a company promoter. Eventually, the yard went into liquidation. I didn’t get all my wages. A Brightlingsea Solicitor took my case into the London Courts.
At Aldous in the thirties not much work to be had when Browns at Wivenhoe folded up I went back to Aldous. One of my jobs in 1938 was to do structural steel work for buildings at Aldershot Barracks. The only jobs done at Arthur R. Browns were a London tug – the Rodeney, and another small towing launch for the Fiji Islands. Existed on a shoestring.
Rowhedge Ironworks made a wooden submarine in WWII. Rowhedge built the Mulberry Harbour, but on this side of the river.
In WWII Wivenhoe Shipyard was commandeered by the Admiralty. Built wooden minesweepers.
In WWII Brightlingsea was a fitting out place for M.Ls designed by Cobham of Surrey. Also a base for experimental work to combat magnetic mines. They worked drifters in pairs. Several trawlers lost by touching off mines on the bed of the sea. At least one case at any rate. Draught too much. Big fishing boats. Magnetic mines defeated by “degaussing” and the double L sweep.
Acoustic mines. Sound vibrations. “A” frames on the bows of each vessel. Dropped over the bows. Had an ordinary power hammer in a “bucket”. Steel plated hammer. Produced vibrations which travelled ahead of the vessel and exploded the mines. All we designed were the frames.
We did a lot of work on M.T.Bs, M.G.Bs, patrol yachts. Literally thousands came for repair and fitting out. Built quite a lot of M.Ls at Aldous. Cobham’s did all the plywood frames. Sent out to other yards. Two skins of mahogany put on them. “The answer to the E boats”.
Worked for Cyril Hughes in a corner of Wivenhoe Shipyard, in a shed behind the then Shipwright’s Arms in 1963. He designed small launches. Dr Emil Savundra. Imprisoned for fraud. His vessel – the Jackie S, named after his little girl. 30-40 feet. Entered for the British powerboat race. Did badly because steering was haywire. Fitted three new Jaguar car engines into her.