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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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Are there any note full events or particular ships you were involved with that were quite famous or important?

Well I would say they all are because they’ve all been involved somewhere around the world, either the Falklands – we did such a rush to get the Illustrious – the HMS Illustrious, the carrier away for the Falklands, but I mean even the Arch Royal – they’ve all been all over the world and been involved in different things. The last Gulf War I think what was tragic was the fire that broke out on the Glasgow – HMS Glasgow where there was a number of people burnt to death. But I mean shipyards and heavy engineering work – there was always accidents – people being killed. I think probably my first experience of that was an apprentice at the Slipway someone got caught in the horizontal bearing machine and they just literally got lashed to death y’know and I can still see in my own mind these days the piles of sawdust soaking the blood up y’know. Like I say the fact is that there was nearly always somebody that got killed at least once or twice a year and I think when you’re younger you don’t really think about it too much. I mean to a large extent I would say the bringing in of the health and safety acts stopped a lot of it where I mean we used to go climbing around on staging with no hand rails and that kind of thing. I mean now your forced to wear respirators and helmets and I don’t know anybody that’s worked in the likes of Swans or heavy engineering that hasn’t got some respiratory problem!