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Learning to blow up tanks with a mortar


Making money playing the mouth organ
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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I joined the army in 1944 and was posted off A1 fit, to Scotland, which is about as far as you could get away from where I lived. And I must say I enjoyed it. I had a much better life in the army than I ever had at home. I had more comfort, more convenience and regular food and exercise and interesting things to do and to me it was a wonderful life, I really enjoyed it. No responsibility and you get all your food and your clothes and everything you want free of charge and all you had to do in return is march up and down the square until you're proficient at it and then you get sent off somewhere to do something constructive. Well I did my training and I passed out all right on that, and I played the mouth organ a lot in those days. I'd started up playing the mouth organ in about my ninth or tenth year and it was very irritating to my mother because I apparently sat banging my foot on the floor all the time to keep time. And the curious thing is she also apologised about that in later years. So it just shows you the things that go on in parent's minds that children don't understand. And I did very well playing the mouth organ and actually made money playing it for charity things and I'd get paid a few shillings. When you're a soldier in the army pre-war, you were very, very happy indeed to make a shilling. I mean a shilling would buy a packet of fags or sausage and chips in the NAFI, you know that kind of thing. So, it was a very valuable sum of money to fall over and if you didn't play the mouth organ you wouldn't get it anyway. So that was the matter of the mouth organ and I turned up for a talent competition with it and I not only won the competition without actually entering because when I arrived, the cinematograph didn't work and I knew about cinematographs so I was able to prod this thing into life and they considered I'd won the competition for doing that. And then subsequently I did play the mouth organ and they thought I was the best there so I won. I've still got the prize somewhere, I see it every 10 or 20 years. I look at this thing and think of those harmless, very happy days.

George Daniels, CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (19 August 1926 - 21 October 2011) was an English watchmaker most famous for creating the co-axial escapement. Daniels was one of the few modern watchmakers who could create a complete watch by hand, including the case and dial. He was a former Master of the Clockmakers' Company of London and had been awarded their Gold Medal, a rare honour, as well as the Gold Medal of the British Horological Institute, the Gold Medal of the City of London and the Kullberg Medal of the Stockholm Watchmakers’ Guild.

Listeners: Roger Smith

Roger Smith was born in 1970 in Bolton, Lancashire. He began training as a watchmaker at the age of 16 at the Manchester School of Horology and in 1989 won the British Horological Institute Bronze Medal. His first hand made watch, made between 1991 and 1998, was inspired by George Daniels' book "Watchmaking" and was created while Smith was working as a self-employed watch repairer and maker. His second was made after he had shown Dr Daniels the first, and in 1998 Daniels invited him to work with him on the creation of the 'Millennium Watches', a series of hand made wrist watches using the Daniels co-axial escapement produced by Omega. Roger Smith now lives and works on the Isle of Man, and is considered the finest watchmaker of his generation.

Tags: British Army, mouth organ, cinematograph

Duration: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008