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Jack recalls helping to build historic Drakelow Tunnels near Kinver
1:38pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
EIGHTY-seven-year-old Jack Shutts made a poignant return to Drakelow Tunnels - his first visit in 71 years to the Second World War aero engine factory he helped to build at the age of 15.
Jack, who was sent to help with the construction of the tunnels as a bricklayer, said it was “exhilarating” to revisit the underground complex, near Kinver, as he had happy memories of working with a group of brickies from London, who were always singing, joking and laughing.
He was working at a Kidderminster spinning mill when it was closed due to the Second World War.
The Labour Exchange then sent him to work on the tunnels, which he remembers being miserable about at the time.
But he was delighted to revisit Drakelow seven decades on.
He said: “It brought back a lot of memories about the London bricklayers I was working with. They were such a great group of guys - they made the job pleasurable.
“I didn’t like coming here originally. I worked in a spinning mill and here people were blasting out the tunnels and using pneumatic drills.”
Mr Shutts was particularly keen to visit the air intake shaft he helped to build and even climbed a ladder to make sure he had a good look at it.
He added: “I had to do it. That’s where I really enjoyed the job. I didn’t think I’d be climbing ladders at this age.”
Mr Shutts recalled an incident when there was a rock fall in the tunnels and the bricklayers had to work all day, all night and some of the next day. He then went to the cinema that night and fell asleep.
The historic tunnels are now earmarked to become a new museum - a plan described by Mr Shutts as a “wonderful idea”.
Volunteer Michael Scott and caretaker Sid Robinson offered to show the plucky pensioner around, along with his granddaughter Leanne Mason, who said: “I’ve always listened to the stories and I’ve built up an image in my mind. It felt like I was walking into his memories.”
Mr Scott is now appealing for anyone else who worked in the tunnels, from the era of tunnelling through to the end of the Cold War, to get in touch.
He is also looking for any photographs taken of the site, inside or outside, from the Second World War to 1996.
Donations are also being sought from local companies to help renovate the tunnels, such as desks, chairs, beds, electrics, air compressors, industrial air conditioning and carpet and boarding.
And volunteers are in talks with another MoD site, Burlington in Corsham, Wiltshire, to see if they can have some Cold War era furniture for the proposed museum.
Anyone with information or able to help can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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