Frank Prevett (b.1904): Life and Labour Part Two

Frank’s first role as a stationmaster came in 1942 at Woldingham station in Surrey. Frank writes that ‘Monday 20th April 1942 was one of the happiest days of my life, first day at my own station’ (79). Frank and his family only stayed at Woldingham for a year. On the 9th April 1943 Frank was offered a promotion to the stations of Ashurst, Cowden and Hever but due to a lack of amenities and suitable accommodation for Frank and his family he asked to be promoted to Sanderstead instead and he was accepted.

Railway Safety Poster from around 1940

 

In 1946, Frank became stationmaster at Addiscombe and a previous post [Purpose and Audience] goes into more detail about how the pressures of being stationmaster at this station had a negative effect on Frank’s mental health and nearly led to a breakdown. Frank admitted that without the support of his wife, Florence, he would have struggled to get through this period. Whilst stationmaster at Addiscombe there was an accident that to the day of writing Frank notes was one of the most serious accidents he can remember. On Friday 24th October 1947, an electric train went into the back of another, near South Croydon, and 31 people died. Frank reflects that this accident had one of the most lasting impacts on the railway community.

The cover for the South Croydon accident report. Full record can be found here

 

 

Four years after obtaining the position at Addiscombe, Frank attended an interview at Redhill regarding a position at Mitcham station. Frank was informed that he ‘was well down the list of applicants in seniority but would receive due consideration’ (13). Frank had little hopes of obtaining this position. However, on the 12th October 1950 Frank was informed that he secured the promotion of stationmaster at Mitcham. The stationhouse at Mitcham was connected to the station, which resulted in the whole family being disturbed when Frank was called upon during the early hours of the morning and late in the evening. One incident which was the final straw for his wife occurred on the 21st January 1952. At three in the morning Florence woke Frank to inform him that someone one was in the office. Frank writes that ‘realising that I should be asking for trouble if I went in single handed and the only near telephone was in the office, as an alternative I quietly opened the front door leading to the station approach and blew my whistle’ (148). Upon hearing the whistle, the assailants fled. Frank quickly called the police and upon entering the office Frank realised that nothing had been stolen. After this incident Florence informed Frank that she would like to move to another station as soon as possible.

Following Florence’s request to leave Mitcham Frank began looking for promotions and on 17th September of the same year, Tulse Hill became vacant and Frank decided to apply. On the 21st October he went for an interview at Redhill and was offered the position backdated to the 8th October. On the 10th November he handed the keys back to Mitcham station. Frank and his family were not at this station for an extended period as on Monday 20th July 1953 Frank received confirmation that he was successful with his application for the position at West Croydon. Frank commenced his role as stationmaster at West Croydon on Wednesday 26th August 1953. Again, Frank did not stay at this station for a considerable length of time although he does recall one shocking incident that stands out when looking back on his career. A man fell from the platform and hit his head on the live track ‘during his fall, he must have knocked his head, as he was found a few minutes later, badly burnt and beyond help, still in contact with the live rail’ (177). Frank had the sad duty of informing his wife of the tragic accident and ‘there was a very tragic sequence to this unfortunate accident, when some weeks later, the widow took her own life’ (178).

Mitcham Station in the early 1960s

On Monday 27th June 1955, Frank secured a promotion and was required to move as soon as possible. Frank began his new role on the 12th July 1955. This was Frank’s last move before he retired and the longest amount of time he spent at a station. Frank did apply for more promotions even though he told Florence that he would not go for any more. Frank was not successful in any of these applications and stayed at Redhill until his retirement. Whilst planning for his retirement, Frank and Florence bought a cottage in the village of Buxted. Frank received his pension on 22nd July 1964, but still worked as a temporary clerk at Redhill, for a short period. Frank and his employers came to agreement on the terms in which Frank retired, he writes that ‘with the leave that was due to me it was agreed that I should finally finish railway duties from the 2nd June [1965]’ (329).

Bibliography

‘Frank Prevett’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:638.

Prevett, Frank. ‘Memoirs of a Railwayman’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection

Images

Railway Safety Poster – National Railway Museum and SSPL

Accident Report – RailwayArchives.co.uk

Mitcham Station – John L. Smith

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