Early in the Second World War, Germany invaded and occupied many of its neighbouring countries in mainland Europe. Germany and the Soviet Union had secretly signed a non-aggression pact agreeing that they would not attack each other, but Germany invaded the vast country in June 1941 and soon pushed deep into Soviet territory. With this turn of events, the Soviets joined the Allied powers and agreements were quickly reached to send supplies in order to assist them in their fight against the invaders. The western Allies knew that if the Soviet Union fell, Germany could then turn its full military might to the West.

The Soviets desperately needed weapons, fuel and supplies, especially after their country’s most-industrialised areas had been captured by the Germans. Getting these supplies to them, however, would not be easy. Land transportation routes were cut off and the best sea routes were blocked by the enemy. Shipping supplies to the Soviet Union via the Indian or Pacific Oceans was a very long trip. That left the Soviet seaports on the Arctic Ocean as the fastest way to deliver goods—but it was also the most dangerous.

Beginning in the late summer of 1941, a total of forty-one Allied convoys sailed to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel during the war. The Arctic convoys delivered millions of tons of supplies from the United States, Great Britain and Canada, including aircraft, tanks, jeeps, locomotives, flatcars, rifles and machine guns, ammunition, fuel and even boots.

The first series, PQ (outbound) and QP (homebound), ran twice-monthly from September 1941 to September 1942. The route was around occupied Norway to the Soviet ports and was particularly dangerous due to the proximity of German air, submarine and surface forces and also because of the likelihood of severe weather

The second series of convoys, JW (outbound) and RA (homebound) ran from December 1942 until the end of the war. Outbound and homebound convoys were planned to run simultaneously; a close escort accompanied the merchant ships to port, remaining to make the subsequent return trip, whilst a covering force of heavy surface units was also provided to guard against sorties by German surface ships, such as the Tirpitz. These would accompany the outbound convoy to a cross-over point, meeting and then conducting the homebound convoy back, while the close escort finished the voyage with its charges.

Dubbed by Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain, as “The Worst Journey in the World”, the toll taken on the Arctic convoys was horrendous. 104 Allied Merchant ships were sunk, along with eighteen British Navy warships. The human losses were 829 merchant mariners and 1,944 navy personnel. The Soviet Union lost thirty merchant ships and an unknown number of personnel, and there was almost no let-up from the high-level bombing by the Luftwaffe, low-level U-boat attacks with torpedoes and ship-to-ship surface gunfire. The Germans lost five warships, thirty-one submarines and many aircraft.

Arctic Book Cover Work - Copy217

‘Tales from the Arctic Convoys’ (kindle edition) is now available via Amazon and features the stories from veteran Royal Navy seamen from: HMS Victorious, Edinburgh, Belfast, Sheffield, Rhododendron, Punjabi, Eskimo, Wrestler, Scylla, Ulster Queen, and Faulknor, and Merchant seamen from: ST Chiltern, MT Marathon, SS Rathlin, Empire Gilbert, Chulmleigh, and Steam Merchants Ocean Viceroy and Ocean Voice.


UK Regional airline Flybe placed itself up for sale in October 2018 following a significant drop in pre-tax profit expectations, triggering a 37% drop in its share price. Increased oil prices (fuel is priced in Dollars but paid for in Pounds – which is steadily decreasing in value against the Dollar) with the seasonal drop in passenger numbers being the key factors.

EasyJet at SEN

London Luton Airport-based EasyJet is looking at purchasing a part of the failing company, and Stobart Air, lessee of London Southend Airport, which operates an airline with Flybe under a franchise agreement, dropped plans to buy the company outright in March after its bid was rejected, but may go to the table again despite experiencing its own recent tremors at management level.

I sometimes hear from other writers who have signed up with bad, inexperienced, or even dishonest publishers, and are desperate to get free. They contact me wanting to know how they can break their contracts and regain their rights. Unfortunately, I am not a lawyer, and there is no easy answer to this question, even where the publisher has clearly breached its contractual obligations.


A publisher pays writers and authors royalties in exchange for the rights to publish their work in book form. Royalty rates are percentages of book sales and they are entirely negotiable, though some publishers have standard royalty rates that are stipulated as part of the contract between the publisher and the author(s).

In a situation similar to that of a writer who had not been paid royalties or had any breakdowns of sales (as per signed publishing agreement) for almost 23 months, I found this response in WritersWeekly: “Unfortunately, there are lots of snakes in the industry. When a publisher does not pay royalties to the author(s), it is illegal and, if I were you, I’d get my books out of her clutches ASAP. She is stealing from you each time a book sells. If she had any intention of paying you, she’d have responded to all of your emails in a timely manner and furnished you with regular breakdowns of sales with associated royalties due to you, and she’d have been at least sending token payments.

She’s keeping the money, and spending it herself. It’s clear she isn’t going to pay you. People who keep an author’s money are thieves. You’re getting played and each month it gets worse. You should move your books to a reputable publisher, and then report her to the authorities. It looks like she’s running an elaborate scam.WritersWeekly.com


It is worth noting that even if you are correct, and the publisher has breached its obligations – and even if the contract includes a provision for termination due to the publisher’s breach, which not all contracts do – you, personally, have no way to enforce a termination. The publisher can simply deny the allegations, or stick its metaphorical fingers in its metaphorical ears and go right on producing and selling your book.

Various causes of action are implicated by a publisher’s failure to pay royalties or comply with auditing provisions. The most obvious claim is breach of contract, which may be asserted based on a publisher’s material noncompliance with the terms of the agreement, frustration of an agreement’s terms, or bad faith in handling claims. Thus, for example, a publisher who has not paid royalties as due, who has denied timely information under an audit clause, or who has provided incomplete or confusing data, may be liable for breach of contract.

There is a lesser-used provision that allows a plaintiff to obtain disclosure from a defendant, prior to bringing a lawsuit, when it is necessary to determine whether the plaintiff has a basis for asserting a legal claim. In some cases, such as where the right to an audit of publisher records is not clear from the publishing agreement, Pre-complaint Discovery may be warranted to determine how the publisher is calculating royalties and whether the plaintiff has a cause of action along the lines set forth above. Pre-complaint discovery may effectively provide a court-supervised alternative to haggling with the publisher over audit procedures. (Textbook & Academic Authors Association, 15 August 2017)

One last thing: Reversion of Rights to a book. A publisher should not put a price on rights reversion. Charging a fee for reversion or contract termination is a nasty way for a publisher to make a quick buck as a writer goes out the door. A termination fee in a publishing contract is a red flag. And attempting to levy a fee that’s not included in the contract is truly disgraceful. (WriterBeware, 1 October 2014)



The Southend & District Roll of Honour 1914-1921 is an A to Z list of the 2,152 of His Majesty’s servicemen, who were either born in, or moved to, the following areas at the time they were called to service: Southend-on-Sea, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, Shoeburyness, Foulness, Barling, Westcliff-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea, Hadleigh, Thundersley, Benfleet, Canvey Island, Rochford, Hawkwell, Hockley, Rayleigh, Wickford, Vange, and Pitsea, and who fought and fell during the Great War, or died as a result of war between 1914 and 1921.
The names are listed are as used by the men in service records upon their enlistment. Among these are several aliases which appear instead with only a reference to their real names. The files include biographies of the serviceman of the Land, Air and Sea forces, their regiments and service numbers, theatres of battle and actions, personal letters, and citations where medals were issued.

*The Kindle edition offers readers a sample of the book for free.

Click here

A review of the operations at Prestwick airport, following its purchase by the Scottish Government in 2013 for £1 to avoid closure, has identified that the passenger side of the business down not make money and is a real drain on resources. Ryanair is the sole passenger operator, and the majority of passengers are holidaying scots and visitors. Its passenger total increased in the year to March 2018 by 3.5 per cent to 702,000 compared to Glasgow Airport’s 5.8 per cent growth to 9.9 million passengers in 2017, and Edinburgh Airport’s 8.6 per cent rise to 13.4 million.

Photo courtesy of Graham Spiers

More than twenty airline operators have been contacted to try to persuade them to fly from Prestwick, but without success, and attracting flights from London’s airports would be very difficult because of the number of flights already operating to and from Glasgow.

The airport had been loaned £40 million following its purchase in 2013, but it has lost as much since the acquisition – £25 million, as it had in previous years, and although several offers have been received to buy the airport, it would not be sold as building land for social housing.

Could the airport continue without fare-paying passengers?

The long-awaited answer to the decision of which UK airports would be selected as the UK’s first spaceport, was made public in July 2018 with Sunderland being nominated as the UKs first vertical-launch spaceport. This moves Prestwick a step closer as a serious contender, with £2 million funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) already invested in the basic infrastructure on site, in support of their plans to be one of the UK’s three horizontal space launch sites.

Prestwick bosses believe they are by far the most suitable spot for horizontal space launch in the UK in terms of its niche location, the availability of a 2,987-metre runway, and the thriving satellite manufacturing industry that exists on their doorstep. An independent assessment concluded that most of the anticipated infrastructure required for space launch capability is already in place at the site, meaning that they could move speedily to achieve a licence once the legislation is defined.

The spaceport project is an integral part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal and supporters say it would attract new investment to the aerospace cluster located around the airport, safeguarding existing jobs and creating many new ones. The vision, if realised, would place Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport as a centre of excellence for the space and aerospace industries.

The commercial space sector is worth an estimated £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next ten years. For the present, however, the very future of the airport hangs in the balance, and it is the duty of the Prestwick executive board to admit the reality of the airport’s future prospects and focus on those parts of the business which might be profitable instead with regards to paying back the tax-payers investments.



Ryanair, Europe’s biggest budget airline, has announced that it will base three aircraft at London Southend Airport from summer 2019, with between 55 and 60 weekly flights to 13 destinations in eight countries. The Irish airline expects to create 750 on-site jobs per year, and carry around a million passengers a year from the Essex airport, largely to Spain and Italy. However, the €300m investment in basing three planes at Southend is to be accompanied by the airline closing its Glasgow airport base because of low demand.

EasyJet established a base at Southend in 2012 after the site boundaries were secured, but with most of the Ryanair routes flying to four sunshine destinations already served from Southend by EasyJet – Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma, the competition between the two airlines could trigger a fares war.

Ryanair is also adding holiday services to Reus (described as ‘Barcelona’) and Bilbao in Spain, Brest in France, the Greek island of Corfu and Venice. Four city links are also on the new route map from the Essex airport: Dublin, Milan Bergamo, Kosice in Slovakia and Cluj in Romania.

The Stobart Group, which purchased the airport in 2008 for under £21m, announced pre-tax profits in May 2018 of £100m for the year to 28 February 2018, and is set to invest £40m in the airport between 2018 and 2021 following a 25 per cent increase in passenger numbers in 2017, and a 10 per cent increase in passenger numbers flying its own airline Stobart Air (formerly Aer Arann), which has been operating for Aer Lingus Regional and Flybe. The rapid expansion at Southend is set to continue, with Stobart anticipating five million passengers using the terminal by 2022.

The opportunity was taken between 1938-39 (while the EKCO works along Priory Crescent, Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, were being enlarged), to excavate the lamp factory, and rebuild it, incorporating a number of bomb and gas-proof air raid shelters. The build standard was dictated by the need to have a high security shelter capable of withstanding an all but direct hit, and which would safeguard the radar and the key design personnel, the engineering personnel and the senior managers and directors of the company.

EKCO Factory Southend

The biggest difference in their construction to that of ‘normal’ underground shelters was the technique of using two-metre (6ft 6in) inside diameter concrete pipes, the same as those used for large underground waterworks. This meant that it would have been a fairly quick process of dropping each of these pipe sections into the trenches as soon as they were dug.

Concrete steps led down to the shelters, which had heavy steel gauge steel blast and gas proof doors at each end and in the centre to protect the people inside. It was divided into three sections (called galleries), and each gallery was protected from blast damage in the adjacent gallery by an ‘anti-blast’ wall as well as the blast doors.

EKCO 03-09-09_38 (OP)500


Each gallery has two ‘Elsan’-type chemical toilets (the same type that was used on the Lancaster bomber), and a clean water supply, and off the central gallery was a separate power room, which was equipped with a diesel engine that drove both a dynamo and an air pump. Air was supplied through the shelter via outlet pipes which had automatic non-return valves in the event of gas contamination.


The shelter had its own power distribution panel where the lighting power could be switched over to an emergency DC power supply from the diesel generator should there be a mains failure or damage caused by enemy action. Behind the power room was a small extension leading to an escape hatch, which in the war years would have indeed have come up in the sports field adjacent to the factory, although with the post-war extension of the roadway this was now in the western roadway.

There was a cleansing station at each entrance to the shelter, where people who had been contaminated with gas would have been treated and washed down prior to going into the shelter. There was also a fully equipped first aid room at the base of north end entrance.

EKCO 03-09-09_31 (OP)500

Once locked in the tunnels during an air raid, there was no way for the people inside to know when it was over, and so fitted above each exit door was an illuminated sign that warned to ‘Stay in shelter until All Clear is sounded,’ and had a red and green mica panel which lit up showing the status. This was backed up by a bell system, all of which was operated from above ground.

Two further underground shelters were constructed around the same time, and these provided more basic facilities for the production line workers.

In March 2008, the demolition of the EKCO complex began – an early casualty of the changes in law on tax on empty buildings. The site was fenced off and the Kent-based company Downright Demolition Ltd began a nine-month contract to raze the buildings to the ground, and it was while this was going on in May that I arranged through their head office for the late Chris Poole and myself to have free access to the Air Raid shelters some 20-25 feet underground.

EKCO 23-08-08_6 (OP)500

We met the works foreman at the site entrance, who was happy to help, but insisted that we wore hard boots, hi-visibility vests and hard hats (which we had taken with us in readiness anyway), and his other provision was that we kept clear of the buildings actually being demolished. All being agreed, this was the start of what turned out to be a five-month stint of exploration and recording, by notes, photographs and video footage (often on a daily basis), the end of a landmark of Southend’s history.

On our second visit, we were joined by John Anderson, an IT technician who worked for ‘Ecomold,’ and we continued taking photos and cataloguing what we found in the great network of tunnels. Following that visit, Chris invited the curator of Southend Museum to come along, and during the weeks that followed, a team from the Archaeological Department from Braintree arrived to professionally survey and make video recordings the tunnels.

The shelters were subsequently cleared of all furnishings  and put into storage for their future display in the new Southend Museum planned on the seafront at Southend. The only objects they could not remove because of their sheer weight and size, were the air-tight doors, but I understand that they made a fibreglass cast of one. When the demolition and levelling of the site was close to completion, the tunnel entrances were ‘sealed’ with rubble so no-one could gain access to them. It is most likely that the tunnels will never be seen by anyone again.

A real hard case

The ‘safe’ on the site, a steel mesh enforced concrete structure (where in most recent times the blank credit cards were stored) presented the demolition crews their biggest problem – it refused to break. Four one-ton Kango-heads had been broken trying to get into it, and so it was decided to leave this until last; it was too time consuming, and would take a cutting crew or explosives to open it.

The motor giant Ford put in a bid for the foam moulding plant, which was the last remaining operational unit on the site. The method that was used for the production of car bumpers was changing, and production would be continued in Europe – the processes used for foam injection moulding in the UK was to be made illegal by 2010, and the company wanted to secure the licenced production there right up to the last minute. However, the bid was turned down by the site developers.

EKCO 31-08-08_3 (OP)500

EKCO 12-10-08_7 (OP)500

What remained on the production site were the blue Staffordshire bricks that made up much of the design element of the hexagonal patterned slabbing between the EKCO main office building and the pavement of Priory Crescent.

EKCO 02-11-08_6 (OP)500

By the end of 2008, the sole remaining building  related to the company was the EKCO Social and Sports Club (ESSC), which still occupies the original clubhouse that was donated by Eric Cole at the time of the company’s Silver Jubilee in 1952. The clubhouse and sports ground were assigned to the ESSC in ‘perpetuity’, and while few in numbers, ex-employees can still be found there discussing times gone by. This is particularly true for the EKCO plastics tool room veterans who still endeavour to meet monthly.

%d bloggers like this: