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Lance Hopper

Lance was born in Bristol at the beginning of World War II, 1939. At the start of the war his family moved up to the North East and he lived with his grandparents at East Howdon.

Lance left school at the age of fifteen in 1954 and then started as an apprentice at the Wallsend slipway. During his first year he worked as an office boy, and then served a five-year apprenticeship. After his apprenticeship he worked for two years at Swan and then left to work at George Angus where he was there for twelve years. He returned to Swan’s as an inspector and eventually became a Senior Commissioning Manager.

Lance was interviewed by Laura Brown on 12 February 2007. The interview took place at Discovery Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and lasted for 30 minutes.

Lance Hopper's Memories

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What did I enjoy about the job? I think it was total commitment and involvement. It was something that was coming together over a number of years period – the people you met, the things you did. So you actually started off on the bare bones of the shell and worked up to where you did your basin trials, then you did sea trials and it was just a fantastic job. It became a way of life, rather than a job. I mean you used to get some laughs through the build, I mean different things that used to happen. I think sea trials was the biggest laugh because the majority of people that went out on sea trials had never been to sea in their life and the smell of burning paint, once the heat starts to get into the ship fully and the smell for the galleys and the toilets, where people were being sick and people being sick in the passageways and on the companionways!

So what was sea trials?

Sea trials is the actual trail of the machinery on the ship – the full ship where your proving to the Ministry of Defence that everything is up in a working condition. So you do all the front steering trials, healing trials, full power trials and if the weathers bad it can be really rough! Like I say fortunately I’d had about 4 year at sea, so it didn’t really affect me too bad. In fact it was rather good because you always got more for your breakfast because nobody else wanted any and just things like that! But it was the fact that these people went on sea – put there name down for sea trials – mainly for the money and the conditions that they weren’t used to was just unbelievable, especially on the naval ships, but people did it, it’s all experience y’know.