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t the end of 1969 I was asked by the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation to leave the British Steel Corporation to take up the job of Chairman and Chief Executive of Brown Bayley Steels Limited in Sheffield and to spearpoint the IRC’s plans to rationalise the special steels industry of that city. The approach was made on the evening of the very day I arrived at the British Steel Corporation’s Head Office in London to make a start in the new post to which I had just been appointed – Head (Managing Director designate) of Operations, Supplies and Transport of the Corporation. The Financial Times’ paragraphs on my move were headed ‘Taking Off Without His Wings.’ I was reasonably well-known as having introduced executive flying to United Steels in the mid-fifties and for being in operational charge of the British Steel Corporation’s five aircraft. It is interesting, incidentally, to recall that the Industrial Reorganisation’s original contact was made by one of their small band of ‘whizz-kids’, R. A. Morton, the very Alastair Morton who became responsible for Britain’s Channel Tunnel efforts and who has, even as I write these words, been knighted in the 1991 New Year’s Honours List. Alastair joined my Brown Bayley Board when I moved there, and remained a friend of Margaret and myself in the succeeding years.


Name, Rank and Number A


I might have remembered that headline as I dropped through the hole inthe floor of the Halifax. There was an almighty bang, the first of a succession of frightening moments, as the ’chute opened with a loud crack which made me think disaster had indeed befallen me until I found myself clear of the aircraft and suspended in the complete silence of that March afternoon at a height of 18,000 feet or so and definitely without wings. The next tremor of trepidation then hit me as I looked at the comparatively flimsy harness straps of my parachute and wondered if they were strong enough to support my fourteen and a half stones. That was just momentary, for I had worn the harness for years and for a couple of thousand hours of flying and I knew quite well that it was designed precisely for this task. Then there was a third moment of fright. In all those years and all those hours of climbing into and out of cockpits, I had become accustomed on leaving my aircraft to give the front buckle of my parachute harness the necessary twist and bang which released it. It was an almost automatic action and now there was an almost irresistible temptation to carry it out. I stopped myself just in time.


But it was the fourth in this series of frighteners which left me really terrified. I had often heard of fear making hair stand on end, and had never treated that as other than a less than literal description of its effects. Now I was to learn that it could be literally true. It was a lovely, gin-clear afternoon with a blue-domed sky, marvellous visibility and the complete silence which had replaced the noise of the Halifax I had just left. And then, as I swayed on the end of my parachute


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