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Volunteer Voices8th March 2022

Jane’s Story

In our series for International Women’s Day, find out how our volunteers #InspireInclusion.

Jane’s Story

I left school in the summer of 1978 not knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I spotted a recruiting advertisement in the local paper, for Clerical Assistants and Clerical Officers at the dockyard.  Having just two ‘O’ levels I was only eligible to apply for the assistant’s post, but undeterred, I promptly applied. Following an interview, I started work at HM Chatham Dockyard in October of ’78.  I was placed above the Light Plate Shop, just the other side of the bridge now known as St Mary’s Island. I worked with two PTO IIIs and a young lad around my age; we learnt the basics of office admin on the job. It was quite isolated there, so the two of us spent our lunchtimes playing cribbage and eating sandwiches. 

After six months I got itchy feet and took the opportunity to transfer to the Central Standards Group, in the building opposite the Mast Pond.  I worked as a lone female with a team of 23 men, from PTO I to III.  They are wonderful memories. 

Time for Change

Unfortunately, as we gathered around a radio, we heard the announcement that the Dockyard would be closing.  Some people cried and others just sat in silence. 

The rumours began to circulate, and I was advised that I should take the first transfer I was offered.  I continued to work within the Civil Service for a further 8 years. 

I have wonderful memories of those dockyard days. Men in green overalls that scurried around like ants; clocking in and out; couriers like hotel doormen; the 4 pm siren alerting everyone to clock off and a mad dash to the gates ensued.

Returning to the Dockyard

When the opportunity arose to return as a volunteer, I jumped at the chance. 

As a part of the Ships Team, I have been allowed to work alongside a wonderful team of volunteers, mostly experienced retired tradesmen and ex-Dockyard employees.

As a volunteer, I am learning manual skills, and it is nice to know that that old feeling of camaraderie and pride is still there.

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