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Collections6th October 2022

Happy Birthday 80th Derek Dray

Happy 80th Birthday to head of the Historical Society, Derek Dray. To celebrate the big occasion, we are taking a trip down memory lane and revisit Derek’s time at the Dockyard where he started as a Patternmaker in 1958.

Derek Dray on the right during the 1980s at Whiley Office By No.3 Muster Station

Derek described the trades of  electrical fitters’ and shipwrights apprenticeships being more popular, despite this, he always had his sights set on being a Patternmaker when he passed his Dockyard exam in 1958.  When he finished his apprenticeship in 1963 he went straight into overtime working on building and refitting submarines, occasionally being out afloat to make mock ups for pipes and he worked for the Shipwrights too.

During his down time in the pattern shop they had a couple of table tennis tables and they used to play at lunchtimes. Derek also used to play in the local league.

Generationally, Derek’s father was the first in his family to work at the Dockyard, he came in 1936 or 1937 as a lorry driver and his job was to ferry coal from the coal yard at the locks to the naval hospital. He had that job, part time, for many years until the war when he went on full time.

Derek Dray has been a part of the Chatham Dockyard Historical Society for many years and he is now the Chair of the Society. Derek has been a major part of the society over the years handling enquiries and donations whilst also being an active ambassador and member. Today, Derek volunteers in the Steam, Steel and Submarines Gallery here at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. You may even spot this iconic photo at the top of the blog featuring Derek in the gallery on your next visit.

In the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust store under the ropery there is a rudder that that Derek made.  It has been preserved. He said “I went over with the conservators, and we were walking through I spotted it and I said, ‘I made that!’ They asked if I could prove it and when we turned it over, there were my initials on it.”

Happy Birthday Derek. With thanks to John De Rose & Linda Brown for their work on Derek’s Oral History diary.

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