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Apprentices at Play

Life for the apprentices at the Associated Motor Cycles Ltd factory in Plumstead was not all long hours in gloomy workshops, college homework and low wages. (Well, actually, I suppose it was!)

With a little imagination, though, there was always the odd opportunity for a bit of fun in the lunch breaks and, if you could afford it, the chance to get away from it all for a week or two during the Summer holidays.

However, unlike many of their old school friends who had gone into more lucrative employment, the AMC lads usually had to make do with staying in Britain, instead of jetting off to sun themselves on the Costa del Sol beaches.

The following pictures, though, show how some of the AMC apprentices and their friends made the most of their non-working time.

Apprentices with 'jampot' pic
Apprentices and mates discussing the finer points of 'jampots'
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Terry Wetherfield Dennis Boney Mick Odell Peter Sutton (gearcutters) Bill ? (gearcutters) Jimmy Rudd
Apprentices on roof pic
Apprentices and colleague enjoying a break on the factory roof
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Morgan 'Mogs'Drewell (capstans) Bill Cakebread Mick Odell Mick Giddings Dennis Boney
Derek Dixon and Bernard Coplestone pic
Derek Dixon (L) and Bernard Coplestone (R) off for a scramble

Seaside poster montage
Kentish Riviera posters
Pegwell Bay campsite pic
Pegwell Bay campsite

This is a fine example of how four AMC apprentices managed to holiday on a shoestring back in the '60s.

The Far East was the location chosen for their Summer holiday (the far east of Kent to be precise) where the sun-kissed waves of the North Sea lapped onto the golden sands of secluded Pegwell Bay, just a short ride away from the historic cultural centres of Ramsgate and Margate.

How lucky they were in managing to obtain accommodation on such an exclusive camp site, conveniently situated next to the corporation refuse tip, and at such an affordable rate (no fees payable).

Pegwell Bay tower pic
Pegwell Bay exercise class

Each action-packed day would commence with early morning keep fit classes, organised by the entertainment staff, to be followed by a well-earned hearty breakfast in the dining room (once the primus stove could be kept alight).

Pegwell Bay beach pic
Pegwell Bay beach
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Roy Gilbert Les Apps Peter Guinigault Dave Smith

The rest of the day would then be devoted to achieving a glorious sun tan that this exotic location was rightly famous for.

Dragon Rally icon
Dragon Rally icon

Another example of youthful enthusiasm conquering common sense was participation in the Dragon Rally, an annual pilgrimage on two wheels to Snowdonia, North Wales in the depth of winter (when else?) to test the endurance of man and machine.

In 1966 the honours fell to apprentices Roy Cunningham, Keith Jackson and (your site co-author) Peter Attwood to take on the challenge over the weekend of the 4th - 6th February. For the jaunt, they had been loaned three works trials bikes that had just returned from that winter's ISDT competitions, in need of a thorough cleaning down and check over.

Equipped with barely street-legal lighting, this intrepid trio set off from London after work on the Friday and managed to grope their way up the pitch black M1 (opened in 1959), using the whiff of Castrol R from their exhausts to help locate each other.

Fortunately, they were able to form a convoy with other riders at the Blue Boar services, near Rugby, gaining the use of their headlights from then on.

Crossing the border into Wales in the early hours of Saturday morning saw an instant change in the weather from cold and dry to cold and wet, when a torrential downpour started that caused rivers of water to run down from the hillsides across the roads.

Dragon Rally badge
Dragon Rally badge

Riding machines with high ground clearance was a definite advantage in these atrocious conditions, helping them make it to the Llanberis camp site without problems, and to collect their enamelled Dragon Rally badges. However, thoughts of taking a break from the saddle rapidly disappeared when they viewed the water-logged field they had intended to camp on, and chose to head back home, instead. (another eventful story in itself!!!)

You can read a Motor Cycle report on the 1966 rally entitled 'Ducks and Dragons'.

You can also view photos of the intrepid 1964 AMC Dragon Rally team.

Montage of TT posters
Collection of Isle of Man TT posters

Being motorcycle fanatics meant that the thought of watching the Isle of Man TT races was an almost irresistable one for AMC apprentices, giving them the chance of seeing the AMC Race Shop machines competing against the world's best on the famous 'public roads' circuit.

Those unable to actually go to the IoM had to content themselves with listening to the commentary over the works Tannoy system.

Bill, Dave & ? at Isle of Man (1965) pic
Group of lads outside their Douglas, IoM guesthouse - 1965
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Bill Cakebread Dave Smith Rudi Zeder
Keeler, Kelleher and Brown at Isle of Man pic
Other Isle of Man race attendees
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Arthur Keeler John Kelleher Daughter of guest house owner

In spite of his pride in and dedication to the company's machines, site co-author Bill Cakebread (on left in picture above) always liked to compare different makes, and travelled to the TT Races in 1965 on a Velocette Viper.

Bill recalls that "The Velocette wrecked its gearbox on the return ride from watching the first day's racing and, being unable to find a replacement, was ignominiously returned to Plumstead on the back of the AMC race support truck. AMC 1....Velocette nil."

The racing didn't disappoint though with a memorable Senior race, Hailwood crashing on the last lap and crossing the line on a battered machine. Works supported rider Bill Ivy had been chasing Hailwood hard until his engine expired. As a joke souvenir, Bill was given Bill Ivy's wrecked piston by the race shop staff as a consolation for his wrecked gearbox on the Velo!

He adds "Visits to the Isle of Man were always exciting."