Reminiscence and Resource Centre












Settled at Bata after many jobs. - 1963
There are still several of the men who fought in World War I among the older employees of British Bata. One is Fred Keeling, of the production moulds shop of the engineers’ section, who, on Saturday, completed 25 years service with the Company.
Bata Record, on behalf of his many friends, congratulates him. Some of them, as well as other workers in other departments, probably remember him as a driver of one of the first buses to be seen in Grays.
“That,” said Fred, “was when the factory was being built. There were only a few buses in the district, and the one I drove - known as “The Local Bus”, a fourteen-seater, ran from the War Memorial at Grays to Nutberry Avenue, and back. It was my own bus, and was used by quite a lot of Bata people - the factory, with the hope of employment it offered, at a time when work was scarce, was a frequent topic of conversation.
“My first important job started in 1916, barely two years after I left school - and I had to advance my age to get it. I joined the old Royal Flying Corps, and served in France in the later stage of the first war. It was a time when many teenagers added a year of two to their age, in order to get into the services.
“I was born at Southampton, but came to Grays when I was a boy, and have always been interested in mechanical work, such as driving and engineering.
“Before I came to British Bata, I was a fitter in a large manufacturing firm, but was not impressed with the prospects, and soon found myself thinking about a better job.
“A friend of mine was a foreman at British Bata, and suggested I should try for work there. He said it was a young and expanding firm with a progressive engineer's section. I took his advice and my application was successful.
“What I value here - apart, of course, from steady work and a regular wage packet - it the friendly atmosphere. I should say that this shop is one of the happiest in the factory - we are all friends, always ready to help each other.”
Fred was in the Air Force Reserve, so was called up a few days before the start of the second world war. He served in France, in the Royal Air Force, and “graduated,” as he says, at Dunkirk. In his younger days (the term is relative, as he looks at least 10 years younger than his age), he was a keen amateur boxer and footballer, and is still interested in sport - as a spectator, he explained. He lives at Vange, and has a son and a daughter, both grown up.

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