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Jack makes poignant trip to Drakelow Tunnels after 71 years
EIGHTY-seven-year-old Jack Shutts made a poignant return to Drakelow Tunnels - his first visit in 71 years to the Second World War aero engine factory he helped to build at the age of 15.
SEVEN decades have passed since John Shutts, known as Jack, was sent to work on the construction of Drakelow Tunnels as a bricklayer.
He said it was “exhilarating” to revisit the tunnels as he had happy memories of working with a group of bricklayers from London, who were always singing, joking and laughing.
He was working at a Kidderminster spinning mill when it was closed due to the Second World War.
The Labour Exchange then sent him to work on the tunnels, which he remembers being miserable about at the time.
Mr Shutts said: “The visit was exhilarating. It’s brought back a lot of memories about the London bricklayers I was working with. They were such a great group of guys - they made the job pleasurable.
“I didn’t like coming here originally. I worked in a spinning mill and here people were blasting out the tunnels and using pneumatic drills.”
Mr Shutts was particularly keen to visit the air intake shaft he helped to build and even climbed a ladder to make sure he got a good look at it.
He added: “I had to do it. That’s where I really enjoyed the job. I didn’t think I’d be climbing ladders at this age.”
Mr Shutts recalled an incident when there was a rock fall in the tunnels and the bricklayers had to work all day, all night and some of the next day. He then went to the cinema that night and fell asleep.
He added: “When we left, my boss asked if I wanted to go back to London to work for him. He’d lost a son and people said I apparently looked like him.”
Mr Shutts decided to stay in Kidderminster and went to work at drop forging firm SDF at 17. He added: “Turning the tunnels into a museum is a wonderful idea.”
The visit was organised after Mr Shutts’ granddaughter Leanne Mason wrote to The Shuttle about her grandfather’s thoughts on the proposals to build a museum at the site.
Volunteer Michael Scott and caretaker Sid Robinson offered to show them around.
Miss Mason, of Cookley, said: “I’ve always listened to the stories and I’ve built up an image in my mind. It felt like I was walking into his memories.”
Volunteer Michael Scott said they were appealing for anyone else who worked in the tunnels, from the era of tunnelling through to the end of the Cold War to get in touch and were looking for any photographs taken of the site, inside or outside, from the Second World War to 1996.
He added they were also looking for donations from local companies to help renovate the tunnels, such as desks, chairs, beds, electrics, air compressors, industrial air conditioning and carpet and boarding.
Volunteers are also in talks with another MoD site, Burlington in Corsham, Wiltshire to see if they can have some Cold War era furniture for the proposed museum.
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