What I’ve learnt: Memories from a centennial

Our first retired engineer featured is Stanley Fletcher MIET, who contacted us after he reached his 100th birthday.

“I was recently looking through the latest issue of Member News and it crossed my mind that there was perhaps an opportunity to pass on some of my life lessons in engineering. I have now reached my 100th birthday and have been very blessed to have experienced a period when engineering has changed so much.

If your parents can guide you from an early age, it gives you a good head-start in life. My father encouraged me to study electrical engineering, which he had the foresight to realise was the future. This was the start of a long journey. I was raised in the small mining village of Horbury, Yorkshire, as an only child of a mining family. My parents encouraged me to work hard at my studies from a very early age, despite the sacrifices this involved.

Your academic development as an engineer is crucial to your future career. At the start of the Second World War I was advised to continue my studies. This I did until 1940 when I was called up to the Navy, where I was recruited as a ‘wireman’ on minesweepers. After completing a commissioning course back in London, I was then commissioned as an Electrical Officer in the Navy to serve again on the minesweepers. It was here that my electrical engineering training started to become more useful as I dealt with the issues of generated power on the vessels, mainly based along the South coast of England.

Sometimes as an engineer you can be in the right place at the right time and you need to take advantage of these opportunities. As a young engineer I was lucky to be assigned on the project to produce diesel powered passenger locomotives, that were to challenge and ultimately cause the demise of steam locomotion. The then Chairman of English Electric, Lord George Nelson (Past President of IEE/IME) and George Ivatt (Chief Mechanical Engineer London Midland Railways) returned from a trip to America where they saw developments in diesel powered locomotives.

The great thing about engineering is that you can guarantee that things will not stand still. In the early stages of my career, it was the start of a period of dramatic change in the industry, identified by periods of consolidation, efficiency measures and takeovers. I’m certain this is something that many IET members will have experienced, and I hope embraced, as you wouldn’t be in the job that you’re in without it happening.

Each period of my career was one with challenges and great opportunities but where great friendships and experiences are now the memories I live on. During the majority of my career I was a member of the IEE and I valued the professional support that the local groups gave me in staying up with the latest developments both technically and in career development terms. When I now read the articles in Member News, I marvel at how things have progressed and the level of support that is now easily available through the IET.

Any member not taking up the excellent support from the IET would be missing an enormous opportunity. Being a ‘professional’ engineer is perhaps more vital than it has ever been and being an active member of the IET ensures recognition of the importance of this fact.

If you remain focused and professional in your outlook there will be a great engineering future that you will be able to look back on with pride. As we emerge from the worldwide challenge of COVID-19, there are parallels to where I was at the start of my career. I’ve learnt that the opportunities will be there as will the challenges.

Good luck to you all!”