Chapter 10. Stansby.


- Tony

Young boys have a fascination for 'the deadly' and making explosions was no exception. As an aside from shooting we made bombs. To start with we horded bangers bought in great quantities on the run up to bonfire night in November. We had to enlist the services of an older boy to do the actual buying as we were under age. He was paid with a quantity of the fireworks. Our favourites were 'Payne's Little Demon' costing a penny h'appny and 'Brock's cannon'at 2d. Throughout the year these would increase in value but with us they were usually gone by early spring. A depth charge could be created by wrapping a 'cannon' in clay, lighting the blue touch paper, waiting until the fuse was actually fizzing well (very precarious!) then dropping it into the canal. The muffled explosion sent up an eruption of water and perhaps a few dead roach.

Yellow weed killer that could be bought from any hardware shop was mixed with sugar! The mixture was put into off cuts of copper piping that could be found on the builder's waste tip at the Express dairy depot that was now well under construction. The ends of the filled pipes were then hammered flat and bent over to seal them and a small touch hole was pierced with a nail. Ignition had always been a problem. Some children used the 'trail of gunpowder 'method' as featured in many a Tom & Gerry cartoon. This meant covering the bomb with mixture and making a trail to a safe distance and lighting it. Most of us just hurled our bombs into a bonfire!

It was Stansby who put us streets ahead in our technology. Derek Stansby was the fat boy in my class and as such was the butt of all our jibes and contempt. I secretly liked Stansby and was always looking for ways of endearing him to the gang. He tried keeping up with us on his bike through rough terrain, He tried shooting but with National Health spectacles verging on spherical he was really a non-starter! These two parts of my life were irreconcilable the gang and Stansby.

I went round to Stansby's house some evenings to make model aeroplanes a passion we both shared. Kiel-Kraft balsa wood kits could be bought for 2/11d. They were delicate things to construct and took hours of patience. Stansby was much better than me as he strove for perfection whereas I was too eager to finish.

The time came for us to fly his immaculate model of the latest American F86 sabre jet. A Jetex cartridge was fitted beneath the model and a short Jetex fuse. The length of the cut fuse was most important because the plane had to be thrown into the air and the cartridge had to ignite before it hit the ground. Cut too short the jet might fire whilst you were still holding it! Too long and the aircraft would fall to the ground and being constructed of highly inflammable cellulose dope, burst into flames. Stansby had conducted experiments with the burning time of Jetex fuse and airborne time of a gliding model plane so the exact fuse was attached.

The fuse was lit, the plane thrown into the air and as it glided lower, about to fall out of the sky, the Jetex fired and sent it hurtling towards the horizon.

The Gang

Wonderful stuff! But the outcome was that Stansby hit on the idea of fitting Jetex fuse to our bombs. This simple idea proved fool proof and he supplied us with short fuses for throwing 'grenades' and ten second fuses for larger bombs. Stansby was admitted to our gang as 'the Boffin'!

- Tony Sheppard