Land Surveying: an article from Ross Dallas

Ross was a Land Surveyor at Fairey Surveys from 1968 to 1970, and on coming across our website, has contributed an article about the Land Survey team during his time there, along with a few images.  The surveyors didn’t spend much time in the office, but we still have contacts with a number of the team who were around then.  We can pass on messages!

The whole text of the article is below, but it’s also attached as a Word document, so it can be downloaded and printed.

Ross Dallas: Surveying at Faireys

 

LAND SURVEYING AT FAIREY SURVEYS

My name is Ross Dallas. I was fascinated to come across this marvellous site dedicated to Fairey Surveys Ltd. I worked for the Company as a Land Surveyor for two years from 1968 to 1970 (see photo below).

I’m writing this piece now, as going through the site, I can’t find any mention of us terribly important surveying guys!  In those days, the Chief Land Surveyor was Rodney Pringle. A fine chap, who I believe was related to the Pringle family of tweed manufacturers from south Scotland.

I think we had about ten land surveyors in total.  Peter Green, John Cripwell and Roy MacDonald I recall were three of the senior land surveyors at the time. Some of the young lads were myself, Ian Jarvies, Graham Jarvis and Tim Bale.

Our main business was photo control work. In those days, the Company had many contracts around the UK, much of it for road building programmes. Once the aerial photography had been procured, it had to be ‘controlled’ to provide coordinates for the plotting work. We traversed up and down the land, tying into OS trig points and Bench Marks. I think there was a secondary stage of field verification, but personally I was not involved with that work.

The mapping was mostly 1:500 scale from photography at 1:2,500 to 1:3,000, taken by the Company aeroplanes of course. There was OS mapping of all the UK, but it was at too small a scale, probably needed revising and was not accurate enough for road building. As well, we put in lots of semi-permanent survey markers along our traverses for subsequent setting out.

Even in my fairly short time with the Company, I worked all over – the Luton/Dunstable Bypass, the M6 in Cumbria, the Tranent Bypass in Scotland, just down the road on the M4 three-lane widening etc. Fine in the summer, but your hands froze to your Wild T2 theodolite in the winter! Mind you, that wasn’t as bad as on occasion having to travel in Peter Green’s Mark I Land Rover – heater, what heater??

We made use of the Geodimeter Mark VI for ‘distance’ readings. It took about fifteen minutes to take a reading as you repeatedly ‘nulled’ the dial. Then, back in your lodgings that evening another fifteen minutes each to compute the distances – assuming that you didn’t make a mistake!

Then, the traverses had to be computed before you left site, just to be on the safe side. We had a special large form for traverse computations, devised I think by Rodney. All the sums were done on mechanical calculators, of the ‘Brunsviga’ type. Peter Green was very proud of his ‘Curta’ calculator – a beautiful, tiny precision calculator that sat in the palm of your hand.

I have to say that I don’t think we young surveyors in particular were very popular at Reform Road! We swanned in and out the ‘office’ between jobs – and of course when in the office didn’t seem to have much to do!

We did in fairness have to provide our own transport, and got some ‘mileage’ money. Did I mention that we all seems to have, err, sports cars? Ian Jarvies specialised in bending Triumph TR3’s. Did I mention that I had a Lotus Cortina, Mark 1A? Well, I needed the boot space for all the tripods . . .

We did do some work in the office, you know! In the field, we had 9” x 9” ‘contact’ prints of the aerial photos, which we had to incredibly carefully prick with the location of the control points. I’ve still got my ‘Casella’ hand stereoscope, with ‘R Dallas  Fairey Surveys Ltd’ scratched on the underside (photo attached!) Company property, hope they don’t want it back.

Anyway, inevitably, from time to time there would be problems of identification, and we would be called into the plotting room to sort it out. I remember well the remarkable sight of a dozen or more photogrammetric plotting machines filling the room, operators glued to the eyepieces, whirring away with that distinctive co-ordinatograph whine, as they moved from point to point.

From looking through the website, I recognised quite a few names of the operators and staff of the time, but the one for some reason that I had most dealings with was Bill Cheffins. A lovely man, who always seemed to have time to talk to you and discuss problems without giving you a hard time!

I think I talked to him most, as I had carried out an architectural photogrammetry project at college and he had carried out the remarkable survey of the north face of Edinburgh Castle (see Ref below). He used one of the Company aerial survey cameras on its side, photographing from Princes Street Gardens. An ingenious solution, but perhaps not too practical for everyday architectural work! Also, we had a (very) slight personal connection, as I recall Bill was a mad Scottish Country dancer and had quite separately met my sister at dances in London. A tragic loss when he died quite young.

And then there was overseas work . . . Even in my short time, I was very privileged to be sent on a couple of ‘overseas’ jobs. The big one was to Saudi Arabia, for three months to the Ta’if region, where Faireys had a big contract to carry out photo control and mapping for a large block of aerial photography. I think this was the first contract for topographic mapping in Saudi after the major triangulation programme across the whole peninsula?

We had a team of four surveyors – John Cripwell was the lead surveyor, then Roy McDonald, then a Polish origin lad whose name I’m sorry I have forgotten. Roy McDonald was the real joker in the pack – he loved telling jokes, and ended them with one of those infectious laughs so you couldn’t stop laughing yourself.

John was a South African, and he ran the programme in what, shall we say, was rather a ‘colonial’ manner. I got a real bollocking from him one day. Our Toyota trucks were really tough vehicles – they looked like something left over from WW2. They had one odd fault in the heat, the brakes quite rapidly became ‘spongy’ and mine needed attention. One day, John had to borrow my truck for some reason. Unfortunately, his style of driving was to drive on his brakes. Don’t think he believed in stopping for the locals. Well, you can imagine the rest, but fortunately that day he never actually hit anything!

Anyway, we sortied forth in our Toyota trucks, covering many kilometres of dirt roads. These dirt roads developed corrugations and you quite literally bounced along. It didn’t seem to matter whether you were going fast or slow. We usually had to do observations very early in the morning before the haze and ‘shimmer’ got too bad.

We were working to the triangulation scheme which as above had been put in a few years previously. But there was a problem. Most of the concrete block triangulation points had been stolen by the local Bedouin! Luckily, they didn’t know about the witness marks, so we got by! I remember John organised a big pow-wow with some of the local Bedouin chiefs to try to stop them removing the trig points. We sat on the floor cross-legged in their tent, eating dates and sipping ‘chai’.

I was also sent to Malta. Sorry, Rodney, but that was really a holiday! How I spun it out to a week I do not know! We were doing a survey for a proposed Marina just north of Valletta. It wasn’t even triangulation work – just some measured distances plus level points for two pairs of stereo photos. The Architect guys in charge also seemed to be on holiday. They had a lovely sailing dinghy . . .

I left Faireys in 1970 to take up a post first with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (RCHME) and went on to pioneer the adoption and methodology of architectural photogrammetry in the UK (see Ref).  As a result, working in such a different field I lost contact with my fellow land surveyors and others that I knew at Faireys. A number of Companies got into close range and architectural photogrammetric work, such as Huntings and BKS, but I don’t think Faireys ever really did much in that direction?

To be honest, I don’t think I was a natural fit at Faireys. In the first place, for those days I was one of those unusual beasts – a Graduate from Glasgow University. I guess also I had quite a strong Glasgow accent, rather different from the ‘Thames Twang’ of most staff! Then, folk seemed to think I had a lot of opinions!

Can’t think why. Well, I can. Fairey staff were fantastically experienced, skilful, hard working and fast. But I think it’s true to say that in those days many staff had a ‘military’ background of some sort – ‘Ours not to reason why!’ So asking a simple question like why do you do it like that, could be misinterpreted . . .

But I hugely valued my time at Fairey Surveys and gained much practical experience. I hope this short ‘snapshot’ of a brief period will be of interest – and I hope it might trigger some other of the land surveyors to offer their reminiscences over a longer time. Even better, they might disagree with me!

Regretfully, I don’t seem to have any photos of survey work in progress, either of UK work or from the Saudi trip. Perhaps some others can contribute some photos of surveying operations?

 

Refs

O. W. Cheffins and J. E. M. Rushton

EDINBURGH CASTLE ROCK: A SURVEY OF THE NORTH FACE BY TERRESTRIAL PHOTOGRAMMETRY

The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 6, Issue 35,  April 1970 (pages 417–433)

 

R.W. A. Dallas

PLUMB-BOB TO PLOTTER: DEVELOPMENTS IN ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAMMETRY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 11, Issue 61, April 1983 (pages 5–27)

 

Photos

DALLAS  ‘Pass’ signed by Rodney Pringle

DALLAS  ‘Cassela’ hand stereo viewer

DALLAS   Saudi Arabian driving licence

Ken O’Dell: RIP

We have had a report from Geoff Milsom that Ken O’Dell passed away last Sunday, 19th November.  Ken had been suffering from dementia for some time.  Condolences to his wife Beryl.

There are many gaps in the material we have on the website, and unfortunately we don’t have a photograph of Ken “Red” O’Dell – or at least not one where he has been identified.  However, a quick look through the old newsletters shows Ken O’Dell out in Malta and Bechuanaland in 1957.  In 1959 he was in Aden, then Rhodesia and Nyasaland on a Federal Surveys contract with Geoff Milsom, Paul Heimes, Brian Corbin, Adrian Workman and others with the Dakota ‘Charlie Tango’.  The Company News in September 1973 reports him in Saudi Arabia.  By 1978 Ken was Chief Engineer, and the February 1978 internal newsletter reports him out in Zanzibar, Nigeria and Liberia as ‘Travelling trouble shooter”.  Was he ever at home?

The funeral will be at Easthampstead Park Crematorium, South Road, Wokingham RG49 3DW, on 6th December at 10:30.

 

 

Eddie Homes: RIP

We have received an email from Eddie Holmes’ son Stephen announcing the death of his father on 28th October 2017.  His email is copied below.  Eddie Holmes worked in Compilation and Project Control with Tony Furneaux and the team.  Some photographs are attached below.

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Dear Friends,

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the the death of my father, Eddie Holmes on the 28th Oct.

Dad had been struggling with Parkinson’s for many years but kept the sharpness of mind and sense of humour until the last. He was 91.

There will be a simple Service of Committal at Beaconsfield Crematorium on the 20th November at 11:00 which we are reserving for close family and friends. However everyone is welcome to a subsequent Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving at 1:00 at the High Street Methodist Church, Maidenhead.

I would be grateful if you could pass on this news to former colleagues at Fairey Surveys.

Thank you

Stephen Holmes

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Ken Ullersberger, Roy Macdonald, Eddie Holmes, Roger Laffoley. Taken at the Fairey Surveys reunion at White Waltham, 2004

 

 

Ulrich Münzer (foreground), John Marshall (?) (left) and Eddie Holmes (right), probably at Farnborough Air Show

Eddie Holmes and John Tompkins in Compilation

These were taken during a fishing competition on the Thames: both photograhs show Eddie Holmes on the right.

Eddie Holmes is in the bottom left photograph, on the right. Photographs by Ulrich Münzer, 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Corbin: RIP

John Tompkins has passed on the sad news that Brian Corbin died at Wexham Park hospital on Monday 30th January.  His daughter Kate Solomon was with him, and we also have a request from her.

This is probably the best photograph we have of Brian, at the West London Aero Club in 2012 with Adrian Workman, Graham Bridges and Geoff Milsom.

 

AW05 West London Aero Club monthly gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In their own words: John Tompkins

“This is a general message, so some of you already have heard, but here is
some sad news.Brian died at Wexham Park hospital on Monday Jan 30th his
daughter Kate was with him.
Via Graham Bridges and Geoff Milsom I have some information about the
funeral etc.
The service will be a non religious one to be held at Amersham
Crematorium (In a small private room) at 12.15 on Tuesday Feb 28th. There
will be a burial at Braywick Cemetery, followed by a wake at White Waltham
Flying Club where he and other ‘Faireys’ met monthly.
If you would like to attend the WWFC gathering please let me know in advance
so that I can inform Kate how many to cater for.”

Kate Solomon:

“I know how much the monthly visits to White Waltham meant to my dad and I believe you make many of the social arrangements for the Fairey Group.

Could I trouble you to advise the group of the sad loss of my dad and that the arrangements for his funeral on Tuesday 28th February are as follows:

Celebration Service at 12:15 at the Chilterns Chapel, Whielden Lane, Amersham HP7 OND

Braywick Cemetery, Braywick Road, Maidenhead SL6 1DJ for 2pm.

Back to White Waltham for a buffet etc.

It would be lovely for me to meet some of my Dad’s friends and to hear about his time at Fairey and Clyde Surveys, particularly as this is such a sad time. I know it is difficult but if you could gauge numbers that would be attending that would be great. Waltham have told me they can only cater for 50 and I haven’t a clue how many we should expect.

We have decided on a celebrant to take the service at the Chilterns as dad was not religious.  If at your gathering this weekend you have any amusing stories that we could use, I would be very grateful.”

Please let John Tompkins know if you would like to attend the wake at White Waltham, so they can cater for everyone. If you have a story or anecdote that you would like to share, but can’t attend the funeral or the wake, again please contact John, or post a comment here to share it with everyone.  If you don’t have John’s contact details, email admin@faireysurveys.co.uk and we’ll pass on the information.

 

Memories of Fairey Surveys Scotland

From John Scarrott

Further to your post celebrating Bill Clark’s 90th birthday, I have recently been sorting through my photo collection and attach a couple of photographs of Fairey Surveys Scotland Ltd (FSSL) staff circa 1974

Bill, Malcolm Eaton and I moved up from Maidenhead to Livingston in 1973 to setup FSSL, I was responsible for the Drawing Office

I recall that whilst waiting for our new office to be fitted out we were working from Bill’s flat in Livingston and had a contract with Bartholomew & Sons in Edinburgh to update elements of the Times World Atlas – Bill having convinced them that we were a competent and fully functioning company and could handle the project locally – as opposed to sending the work down to Maidenhead

That all went slightly awry when John Bartholomew himself paid a visit to check on progress and found me scribing on a make shift light table in Bill’s kitchen!

None the less we went on to have a very successful relationship with Bartholomew’s working on several other projects and also putting business their way when we employed them to print 50,000 copies of a contract we had won to produce the Glasgow Passenger Transport System map circa 1974 – that one was produced in a competent and fully functioning company!

Faireys Surveys Scotland Ltd – Staff circa 1974
L-R Bill Clark, Isobel (Secretary), John Scarrott, Malcolm Eaton, Neil, Dave, Linda and Isabel (our four trainee draughtsmen), Graham Longley

FSSL Drawing Office 1975

Milestone celebration for Geoff Milsom

A little ceremony was held at White Waltham on Saturday 14th January 2017, to celebrate Geoffrey Milsom’s 70 years as a member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, (GAPAN).

A cake was supplied by Don Green and Bob Berriss, others in attendance were
Don Green, Bob Berriss, John and Carol Tompkins, Laurence Scott, Jean and
Ken Fostekew, two members of the Aero Club and Geoffrey of course.

Geoff Milsom cutting the cake, with l-r: Lawrence Scott, Jean Fostekew and Carol Tompkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With thanks to Ken Fostekew for the information and the photographs – click on the photographs to enlarge.

Happy Birthday Bix

Bill Clark in 1972

Bill Clark in 1972

Bill (Bix) Clark, who opened the Fairey Surveys Livingston office back in the 1970s, will be turning 90 on 5th March.

Bill Clark joined Fairey Surveys in 1947 following 6 years in Royal Engineers Surveys, then left after 10 years to work in the US, where he worked in photogrammetry.  He returned to the UK in 1960, and rejoined Fairey Surveys in the Photogrammetric Section.  He became Photogrammetric Section Supervisor in 1964 and transferred to UK Marketing as Assistant Manager in 1969, reporting to Marketing Manager Peter Forsey.

The opening of the office in Livingston followed the FSL contract to provide mapping for the planning of the new town at Stonehouse, south east of Glasgow.  Bill Clark became Managing Director of Fairey Surveys Scotland, and opened the office in November 1973.  It had a small map production unit equipped with a Zeiss Stereometrograph and cartographic facilities.

We understand that Bill played the trumpet, and that his nickname came from the jazz musician Leon BismarkBixBeiderbecke, who played the cornet and piano in the 1920s.

Jimmy Cheffins – photos

Jimmy Cheffins’ daughter Helen Blackshaw and her sister attended the 2015 reunion at White Waltham Cricket Club, and have sent through some photographs of Jimmy’s time at Fairey Surveys.  It was obviously a Cheffins reunion as well, as Bill Cheffins’ daughter Patricia was also there, and the photographs she brought are on an earlier post!

Helen has sent five photographs, a couple of Jimmy in the office, and three out in the field.  The three field photographs have no dates or names.  Two are of surveyors, and Helen thinks the one with the cairn was taken in Iran.  The man with a chessboard is a mystery, and may be nothing to do with FSL, but was with the other survey photographs, so may be related.  But a collar and tie, playing chess in a field?

If anyone recognises a face or a place, please let us know!

Click on the photographs to enlarge.

 

Jimmy Cheffins in the FSL Drawing Office

Jimmy Cheffins and Jack Briggs in the FSL Drawing Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surveyor on cairn – Iran?

Surveyor on roof – no name or location information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man in a field with chessboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairey gatherings

With thanks to Ken Fostekew for the contribution:

The FSL reunion held at W/W Cricket Club 10th July was a
great success. Many thanks to John and Carol Tompkins for the hard work that
they put to make another memorable evening.

A gathering of a few FSL/Fairey Aviation Folk at White Waltham on Saturday
11th July for the scattering of ashes of the late Ron Neal. Ron’s widow
Sylvia travelled from her home at Lydd and the ceremony took place around
the ATA memorial behind the West London Aero Club.
Ron, was of course an ATC Cadet attached to ATA and accrued many flying
hours as pilots assistant with all the well known pilots of the day. As an
added bonus the Battle of Britain Memorial Spitfires and Hurricanes were
still at White Waltham after their display over London the day before and on
their departure two Hurricanes and one Spitfire did a low level flypast. Ron
would have loved it.

In attendance were…Geoff Milsom, Bob Berris, Don Green, Mr and Mrs Paul
Singleton, Derek Minter, Tony Bamford, John Tompkins, Ken and Jean Fostekew
and of course Mrs Sylvia Neal.