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Roger Leonard Biddle
I was Born in 1940 in Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire, near Birmingham. The Germans were bombing the nearby factories at the time and most people were in their Anderton air raid shelters except my mother who was giving birth to me and Doctor Savage who was helping her. My dad was also nearby but he was firing an anti aircraft gun at the Germans and with all that noise the doctor predicted I would be stone deaf but he was wrong.
We lived at 74 Heathway and after the war ended I went to school at Stetchford Road primary and joined the cubs before falling off our garage roof and landed on my head. Rushed into Birmingham Children's Hospital with concussion they discovered I had a burst appendix so removed it. I then caught dysentery and was transferred to an isolation hospital in an ambulance with the bell ringing. The photo on the left must have been taken around that time. Note the sticky out ears which my mum used to stick down with elastoplast to try and improve my appearance!
After recovering I spent several weeks convalescence with my Aunty Hilda in Barmouth, Wales before returning to school by which time I was old enough to join the Scouts. On my first bob-a-job week my maternal Grandmother Fox offered me a shilling for a bucket of horse manure. My mum woke me at sparrow fart to beat the neighbour to the milkman's horse which I followed up the road until I had a bucket of horse shit. I then carried it several miles to my grandmother but by then the hot shit had reduced in volume as it cooled and moisture had leaked out by which time I only had half a bucket so my Grandmother only gave me sixpence! Mum gave me the other sixpence and gave her mother a talking to!
My dad fell off his bike a few times and was diagnosed with menieres disease which affects your balance. He was advised to move to a cleaner atmosphere so the family moved to North Petherton in Somerset which now included my sister Susan. I went to the village school where I learnt to speak Somerset but failed the 11 plus exam due to all the disruptions to my education so went to Weston Zoyland Secondary Modern. Kids from all over the area were bussed in to the school housed in the buildings of an old RAF airfield. My youngest brother Stephen Valentine William was born in 1952 and we moved to Keenthorne, near Nether Stowey when my parents bought a guest house.
I passed the 13 plus exam and chose an engineering education at Bridgwater Technical School. After a three year course there I obtained an Engineer Cadetship with Ellerman Lines in London and completed a 2 year National Diploma of technology at Poplar Technical College in London before going away to sea and completing a year in Swan Hunters Shipyard in Newcastle on Tyne. I was now a qualified engineer exempt from the written examination of the first class certificate of competency apart from a further two years at sea and an oral examination.
I decided that a life at sea was not for me and after leaving Ellerman's I returned home to find the country full of ex marine engineers. I worked for a time at Clarkes as a work study engineer, Somerset River Board as a diesel fitter and degenerated finally to operating a centre lathe at Cryptons before finally obtaining a position with Lister Blackstone Marine as a trainee Sales Engineer. At this time I was a senior scout leader with Quantock Seniors and had begun caving, becoming a member of the Somerset Scout Caving Group as an instructor and a member of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club of which more can be found here. The photo above shows the Quantock Seniors scout group in Burrington Combe about to go underground in 1963. Martin Mills is on the right foreground and I am stood behind him. I was best man at his wedding in Scotland some years later.
After a couple of years learning about the different engines in the various factories, working as a service engineer and in the estimating office, In 1966 I was offered a position as the companies sales engineer in Scotland, and Northern England, living in Edinburgh, a position I held for four years before they banished me to Australia. Here I was the marine sales engineer for Hawker Siddely Brush who were part of the group of companies to which we belonged and agent for all the group engine companies. Prior to leaving Scotland I had married Judith Nichols and our son Steven was born the following year. Judith was then expecting our daughter Rebecca who was born in Australia. After three years in Australia, Judith and I split up and she returned to England with the kids. I returned a year later.
I was married for a second time to Susan Monk from Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1975 and here I am above at the wedding breakfast with my new wife on the left and the best man's wife, Jill Manchip. My, didn't we wear our hair long in those days!
In 2015 Sue and I have been married 40 years. We have been several times to New Zealand where her mother and most of her family live and to Australia where we both have many friends and relations. The most recent trips are described on the other pages of this web site but above right is a photograph of us in 1978 at the Taj Mahal on the way out to New Zealand for the first time after we were married for me to be introduced to the "rellies"! I have had my hair cut and Sue looks a bit like Princess Di!!
Here on the right is a more recent photo of the two of us on the coastal path in North Cornwall taken around 1995.
I founded a new company in Scotland on my return from Australia called Ulstein UK Ltd, an associate company of the Norwegian Ulstein group of companies and was the managing director for 16 years. The company first was just sales and service but quickly moved to a purpose built factory in Fife manufacturing the Ulstein Controllable Pitch Propellers, gearboxes and thrusters. With others I later attempted a management buy-out which failed so I had to resign. The Ulstein Group was later sold to Vickers who were taken over by Rolls Royce and the factory is still there manufacturing marine gearboxes but employing several hundred more. Had we succeeded in our buy-out I would probably be a richer man today!
On the left is a photograph of me holding newly arrived grandson Henry on the occasion of my 64th birthday lunch in 2004 L to R: Rebecca William (No 1 grandson), Me with Henry, Eliza (No 1 Grandaughter) and son-in-law Tom.
After leaving Ulstein in 1990, Sue and I moved from Edinburgh down to South Petherton in Somerset and purchased a general store in South Petherton. Together we turned the shop into a specialist Delicatessen which we called Provender and became one of the first UK shops to sell our products on-line from a web site designed and coded by me. Our internet activity generated over a third of our turnover by 2005 when we sold the business, which is still trading but the new owners stopped the internet side which would probably be huge by now with the subsequent growth of on-line sales. We retired in 2005 and bought the barge Harmonie II which we lived aboard and cruised. We sold Harmonie in 2015.
I am currently living in New Zealand and suffering from a type of blood cancer called myeloma for which at the moment there is no cure.
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My wife Sue passed away from secondary bone cancer on 10th May 2020
Created on Jun 16, 2015