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Members Stories


We are always on the look-out for a great member story and feature to consider for publishing in the NFOP Magazine, eNewsletter and here on the website.


Do you have a story that you would like to share with fellow members?


It could be about an event with your branch, a special memory, a favourite hobby, interest or activity that you are involved in now - anything that you think might be of interest to your NFOP community will be considered.

BT Tower Stories 

Following the announcement that the BT Tower had been sold to an American hotel company, we published a short feature and an appeal for your stories of working for BT at the Tower in our eNewsletter #330.


We would like to thank all NFOP members who sent in their wonderful stories, some of which are published here, enjoy!..

A Very Scary Evening - by Jan Prior

My father was a GPO electrical engineer in the 60s, based at Cornwallis Road, Archway, and then later at Finchley.  He was one of the team involved in the technical installations during the construction of the Tower, although he rarely spoke about his work at home.


One evening he failed to come home at the usual time - which was always by 5:00 at the very latest as he started work at 7:30 each morning.  As the evening wore on my poor mother became more and more agitated.  We had one of the very latest two-toned, curly chord phones not long installed, but it remained silent hour after hour.  At 9:00 Mum rang the Police, but a man not coming home on time was not exactly seen as the unprecedented emergency to them as it was to us.

Finally, just as it was turning midnight and we had all had Dad die a thousand times in our minds, we heard his car draw up in the empty street outside.  Apparently he and his mate had been just finishing up for the day on something they were involved in out by the huge dishes way up high on the Tower when along came security and, failing to see them still working outside, locked up for the night.  In those pre-mobile phone days they then had to wait helplessly for several hours until a passing night watchman at last clocked they were locked outside and - mercifully - set them free.


My mother could never hear mention of the Post Office Tower after that without shuddering, and to this day I can never look up at it myself without remembering that long and very scary evening of my childhood.

Sherry Anyone? - by Colin Twohey

I started working in the old radio hut on top of the Museum Telephone Exchange in 1957 , as a Youth-in-Training .

At that time , the prime function was to provide microwave radio relay services for 405 - line, black/white television of poor quality, but watchable !

With the advent of independent television companies, colour television to 625 line , plus the increase in high rise buildings in central London, a taller structure was planned to give uninterrupted line-of-site transmission to all major routes from the London node .

The majority of the television studios were situated in and around London, and BT , and formally the GPO ,had a mandate to provide TV services to all city centres , which included the switching of all non BBC programmes, from studio sources to transmitter destinations .

This facility was , and still is , provided at Museum ATE / Tower building .

After completion of my National Service in 1960 , I returned to radio maintenance in the roof hut and was fortunate to be present at the opening of the Tower in 1965 .

I still have the sherry glass with Tower logo , presented at that ceremony .

Many floors were used to house the radio equipment as television, telephony , and diverse links to France and satellite stations , expanded .

Night work was essential and made for many stories of creaking doors ,opening and closing , wind whistling up the lift shaft , all with creepy exaggerated happenings .

One night , I had to check on the radar aerial that rotates atop a lattice mast , above the horn and aerial arrays .

London airport stated it was not functioning.

It was certainly cold up there !

Running between floors in a circular tower to answer an alarm call , as it was quicker to do so than wait for the lift , kept us fit and exhausted .

We had a league table of who could run the fasted down the narrow , circular staircase.

Short legs didn’t help .

There were many foreign workers in the restaurant , above the equipment floors and I met many of these , especially in 1966 , World Cup football .

We had a central control room with television monitors mid tower , and at times had cooks , waiters , good food and wine to help us with our endeavours .

Suicides , bombings and general concern of public safety , changed the access and character of the building .

The progress and increasing use of fibre optics with its greater reliability and performance than that offered by microwave radio , paved the way to redundancy for this iconic monument as a milestone on the path of changing technology .

I became Head of BT’s microwave network , planning all UK , Channel Islands , inter- France , inter - Ireland digital radio relay systems in the late 1980’s .

The use of microwave radio is still with us , and , like the phoenix , was rise again once the fibre weevil strikes !!

bt tower.jpg

Mick Or Monty? - by Mick (Monty) Loney 

I joined the GPO in 1961 as a Y2YC in the Long Distance area of the LTR, and started in Faraday Building. Shortly after completing my training in 1963/4, I went to the Tower, and joined the construction staff monitoring the contractors installing Mercury I/C Trunk exchange as well as Tower O/G Trunk exchange.

When I arrived, the Tower was still a building site, and the stairs up to the first floor were made of scaffolding and scaffold boards!


As there was already a Mick on staff, I was asked if I wanted to change my name to avoid confusion, so I chose Monty, a nickname I was given at my local youth club. This name stuck until I left the Tower in 1973, and many of the remaining staff were not aware my real name was Mick and not



One of the LTO's was the late Jack Shepherd, whose daughter I eventually married. Jack's son Alan also joined us at one point in the Test Room, and his brother Derek worked for Peter Lind, the building contractors, so the Tower became a real family affair!


Some of the events I witnessed over my time there were:

1 The many 'Tower' races, where students would run down the Tower staircase as fast as they could.

2 The Top of the Tower race from London to New York, where competitors raced from the Top of the Tower to the Top of the Empire States building in the fastest time. We had a grandstand view from the first floor windows!

Image by Mathew Browne
Image by Metin Ozer

No Tower But No Trousers!

- by June Fyfe

I worked for BT in the0's as a clerical officer, at BT'main office in my town where all users of BT land lines  were served .  My duties were to sort bundles  of telephone tickets of local area. Each paper ticket had a code  and number of their calls made that month. They would be put in area and numerical order then typed out on large adding machines, and posted to each customer. I also answered special speakers in the office of telephone engineers who would call in  the meter readings of  the islands and outwith areas so we could process users accounts 


I remember having to visit tiny exchanges in my area to actually read the meters. The first time I did this I was amazed at the massive machine containing every telephone number in that area , and also the steady clicking noise as people made calls when I was there. 


I loved working at BT and one funny story I remember was once a week a very loud spoken lady would come into our office to use the direct special phones to contact individual engineers.  Her job seemed to be a seamstress who would call someone who had joined BT and had been supplied with the standard green uniform.  One day she came in and because she spoke so loud we heard her saying " OK Duncan I'll take down your trousers tomorrow"!!!!

All of us young girls giggled for ages until our CEO came in furious at our noise. Most of us went to the BT Canteen where we chatted about boyfriends etc while we ate quite good meals.


My sad story is even though my Grandfather installed the telegraph poles, my uncle maintained them, my husband laid the cables, my son put in t  he phones and was a jointer, and I sent out the bills,  BT COULD NOT PROVIDE ME WITH INTERNET OR A USABLE COMPUTER SERVICE.  I had to pay to get WI FI.

Windswept And Spectacular

- by Steve Howlett 

In the Autumn of 1961 I joined the PO Engineering Department as a Tech2B on exchange construction duties and was sent to MUS Exchange in Howland Street in the old Centre Area.  The staff locker room was on the third floor at the rear of the exchange and overlooked a large building site with a big circular hole.  This deep hole was filled with large springs laterally like a mattress.  I was told that this hole would be the footings of a tall tower being built by Lind's who were a company that specialised in building tall chimneys.  A few weeks later, on arriving at work, I found there were dozens of concrete lorries all around the block and they were continuously filling the hole with wet concrete. This was an amazing sight.


Over the following year as the building grew upwards two lift shafts began to be installed and platforms at intervals would be built on the sides. Our job was to extend the temporary fire alarm system for the builders as the building got higher. My job was to survey what work was needed to extend the fire alarm. There were no sides to the building floors and whilst it offered spectacular views it was very windswept and I felt the need to always be holding on to some scaffolding.  I found it very scary.


After about eighteen months I was transferred to "Clerk of Works" duties at Holborn ATE and my connection with the tower came temporarily to an end.

Tower Bomb - by David Walton. London Regional Branch 228

Around the time that the bomb exploded in the Tower, I was one of the resident electricians based on site. We were classed as the EL&P (Electric Light and Power) Construction Group. We carried out all kinds of electrical installation projects throughout the estate, including the tower itself, which was always referred to as 'The Stick'. We were only responsible for new work and carried out a variety of projects. Small works were referred to as a minor works authority (MWA), while larger projects were called estimates. An MWA was for a task not exceeding 100 hours, with an estimate greater than 100 hours. A typical MWA would be around 32 hours and could be something like the provision of additional socket outlets and maybe new light fittings. The timing of a job was critical and it was a cardinal sin to exceed the allotted time, which was known as ‘going over the top’. For that, we incurred the wrath of our inspector, Tom Daley. There was always a reluctance to work in the stick for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there were only two lifts in the tower. The south lift was for general use, while the north lift was given a priority for the public viewing galleries and Butlins Restaurant. It could take anything up to an hour, just to reach your place of work and at the same time, you had to consider absolutely everything that you would need to complete the task. Realising that you had forgotten something after you had started work was a nightmare. This could involve a long wait for a lift, which would add unwanted time pressure on you. There was also a much greater reason for the reluctance to work ‘up the stick’, which I will explain.

In my time as an electrician, we were issued with a comprehensive set of tools. The only mechanical aid supplied to us was an electric drill, often referred to as a ‘gut buster’. It was fine for drilling holes in wood or metal but of no use whatsoever for providing fixings in concrete. The tower was of course concrete and from experience, it was as hard as steel. Any fixing in the tower structure had to be hard fought and made with a hefty hammer jumper bit, which we called a ‘Rawlplug Tool’. It could take 10 or fifteen minutes just for one fixing and breaking the jumper was a frequent occurrence.

We were all quite young and energetic at the time and like so many of our contemporaries, we were struggling with mortgage payments and providing for our young families. To this end, our eyes were always illuminated by the mention of the word overtime. One day, we had a visit from Tom Daley and he mentioned that he was recruiting for a weekend project at nearby Gerrard Telephone Exchange, which was about a mile away from the Tower. After a brief reconnoitre with my mate Jimmy Bean, we agreed that we would be available to work. As I mentioned earlier, going ‘over the top’ was a cardinal sin but getting caught off the job was a capital offence!... continued right

Post Office Tower Bomb Damage- 1971-2 David Walton.jpg

Image courtesy BT Archive

Tower Bomb - continued ...

The Gerrard job was a doddle and we completed all the works by early afternoon on the Saturday. With the anticipation of a visit from the Inspector on the Sunday, we knew that we would have to attend site but decided that a Sunday ‘lie in’ would be appropriate. To my horror, my wife woke me, frantically telling me that a bomb had exploded at the Post Office Tower. Panic set in, as I immediately thought that I was going to get caught off the job. I drove to Gerrard as quickly as I could and managed to get there seconds before the Inspector. Jim and our colleague Brian Horton had also arrived in the nic of time and we were safe! Tom Daley summoned us to go to the tower and I was given a police escort. There was I, in my old Morris Traveller, with a police motorcycle outrider!

We were taken up to the site of the bomb and given the task of making live circuits safe. There were wires everywhere that had to be traced and identified. The place was swamped with strangers but it wasn’t anything like a crime scene environment that you currently see in television representations. There was no taped off area and no forensic suits. I even picked up a piece of distorted copper pipe, which I carried around as a souvenir for some time. We worked until the early hours and completed what we could.

Over the next couple of days, the emphasis was on making the site safe from falling debris and the area was cleared pretty swiftly. We were then given the task of providing temporary lighting around the underside of the core, to enable the building surveyors to begin their work. As someone who had worked at the tower for many years, I have encountered all weather conditions but nothing compared to the conditions post bomb. We were working in the dark, on a floor that was devoid of any external cladding. The wind was howling and it was absolutely perishing. The wooden steps that we were using were tethered to parts of the tower core, to stop them from being blown over the side. One man had to hold them for additional security. We had thin sash cord rope tied around our waist as an additional safety measure because there was only a small bund lip to stop you from falling over the edge. The cord was tied off on anything that we could find. We did have hard hats issued to us as standard but they were something that we only ever presented at a tool inspection, carried out by the Inspector. In all honesty, I have never worn a hard hat throughout my career. The wind on this occasion would have probably ripped it off! We had been supplied with two Parka coats that had been bought by local purchase from Millett’s in Oxford Street and we had to share them between us. It was so cold that you could only manage a few whacks with the hammer and Rawlplug Tool before you had to stop and try to warm your hands. Gloves were of no use and were impractical.  I don’t think that I have ever experienced such cold and it has left an indelible mark in my memory. The very next day, we asked the Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) to come and view our working conditions and it was the most glorious sunny day imaginable! As the lift doors closed as he left the site, low cloud engulfed the area, creating a damp misty environment, making it difficult to see. It’s all so long ago and Jim Bean and I still remember it vividly, with a smile of course!

Post-OFfice-Tower-construction-May-1963 (1).jpg

By Bus To School In The 1950's - A Story From Chris Jenner 

My family's only means of travel in the 1950’s was by bus - and that bus was a London Transport RT. I suppose that was what made me interested in buses, and resulted, amongst other things, in my compiling scrapbooks containing anything I found about them. This was of course, after I learnt to read!

I started school in September 1952 - one month short of my 5th birthday. We lived in Plumstead at the time and I was sent to a small private school in Belvedere, 4 miles distant. Initially, my Mum took me on the bus - the 99 - but as the school did not provide dinners she not only had to take me, but meet me at lunchtime and feed me sandwiches in the nearby park!

Understandably, Mum soon tired of this performance, particularly as winter was approaching, and it was agreed that she would take me to the bus stop and put me on the bus.

Armed with my fare (3d, if I remember right) and a note to the conductor which read 'Please put Christopher off at the Eardley Arms’, I began my regular commute on the 99. My return fare was wrapped in my handkerchief, which made nose blowing difficult!

Bearing in mind the necessity of returning home for lunch, this procedure would be repeated in the afternoon, but as it was necessary for me to fend for myself at the ‘distant’ end of this journey, the taking to the bus stop, and collecting from same, was soon after dispensed with.


I was quite happy to travel alone - I was not the only 5-year-old to do so, though I think mine was the longest journey. In those days, it was expected that a child would give up their seat to an adult, and though RT’s thankfully had plenty of places to hold on to, I could only reach the tops of the seats. Many times (or so it seemed!) I and my traveling companions would end up on the floor when the driver braked sharply. Another problem was that I couldn’t reach the bell cord, but I soon learned of the ‘secret’ conductor’s bell push beneath the stairs!

My reading was not particularly advanced when I started school, but I soon learned to read the digits ’99’ on the front of the bus, and ‘Frith’ (because the blind always seemed to be slightly mis-set, so that the ‘E’ of Erith always appeared as an ’F’) on my way to school and ‘Woolwich’ on my way home. Avoid at all costs ‘Plumstead Garage’, which was not actually on the route, and would have left me in uncharted territory!

I remember nothing but kindness from the drivers and conductors on the 99. Once, I lost my return fare. The conductor still issued me with a ticket and told me to pay him the next time I saw him. I carried this additional 3d around with me for weeks before, with great relief, I saw him again. I suffered from Asthma, as did many children (or so it seemed) in those smoggy days, and I once had such a bad attack that I collapsed as I got on the bus and was quite unable to get up. The conductor lifted me up, put me on the rear bench seat, and made sure I got off at my stop in Plumstead. Fortunately, that was in the early days when Mum still met me at the bus stop.

School was situated between stops, and I and my companions always got off before the school, at The Eardley Arms. Just occasionally the conductor would tell us not to alight, ring the bus away, whilst nodding to the driver who was looking over his shoulder, and the bus would stop outside the school. Being seen by our school friends getting off the 99 outside the school was a matter of great esteem, and never seemed to be matched by those traveling in the opposite direction.

And so, for five years, I travelled on an RT on the 99 - two return journeys a day, totaling 16 miles - 80 miles a week! Because of this, I soon became known to the regular crews on the 99 and was often greeted with a cheery ‘hello Christopher’ as I boarded the bus.

Our thanks to Chris Jenner for his story of travelling to school in his early years. If you have a story to share with fellow members just click the button below to email us.

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