Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
By mid March most of the copper and lead had been spirited away. No trace. No account. No book keeping. Best of all. No crime. "It's a poor common where there's nowt." Said Dad. Having spent most of the evening counting the cash and arranging it into neat little piles for distribution amongst our partners in no crime.
The following week, after winding up the recalcitrant old Fiat dozer through its raucous donkey engine. Dad was perched aloft the controls bringing the former crane site to level. With a broad, extremely broad grin across his ruddy, wind tanned face.
"Mr Day. We need your advice and possibly your help." Grin restored Dad replied "That so. How can I be of help, Sir?"
"We have a small problem. A couple of months ago Customs seized around five tonnes of illicit beer from a Danish vessel. The villains were attempting to smuggle it in concealed amongst a cargo of timber. Following due process we have been ordered to destroy it."
Grin broadened before discretion overruling valor Dad surmised restoring frown mode might be more appropriate, under the circumstances.
"Go on." Replied Dad, optimistically, as he later recounts might gain a few precious seconds more thinking time for what he correctly guessed might be coming next.
"You appear to have the ideal tool for the job. Could you crush the canned beer with your bulldozer?"
"Likely I could. What's it worth?"
"About a thousand Pounds"*. Came the reply.
"What? A thousand Quid! Just for destroying some beer. Must be good stuff. Who made it?"
"No man. That's what the beer is worth. We could let you have say a hundred, plus expenses, for diesel and so forth."
"She needs petrol too. For the Donkey engine, for starting 'er."
Replies Dad. Pushing his luck.
Luck was in town that freezing cold, windy day, and so it came to pass.
JCB front loader and the rusty but trusty old ex army TK Bedford 7 ton tipper.
The beer was duly scooped up from the pound where it had been unceremoniously dumped and was loaded. Amid protests from Dad to our digger driver of "Careful not to damage it!"
Which might have seemed a little odd to the 'brass' as it was heading for destruction anyway but then as was apparent, not much went on below those shiny peaked caps.
Click image to enlarge
The convoy arrives around a mile downstream on the Great Ouse river, on Estuary Bank. The remote, river side site chosen for the execution.
The load was tipped "Careful! Slowly! Steady! I told you not to damage them!" Implores Dad as he mounts the rusting hulk of the giant dozer.
Not a lot of people know this but a bulldozer is mounted upon tracks similar to those on a war time tank. The reason? No, not to make them look unfriendly to the enemy and not only to provide better traction (grip) but because it spreads the weight of the heavy vehicle that the tracks support over a larger ground area. It thus prevents these heavy vehicles sinking into the mud. Design engineers call this feature 'Low Ground Pressure'. There's a clue in these last 3 words.
You'll probably be ahead of me by now won't you?
Dad was ordered to clear up the mess of what 'brass' thought was now a heap of scrap metal as soon as possible. Lennensians (residents of King's Lynn) had historically been known to riot. Particularly when perceiving what they considered to be gross injustice or simply downright stupidity. Stupidity perpetrated by men wearing peaked caps and shiny badges.
Dad promised there would be no trace of the destruction left to be seen. That is of the few hundred or so cans that burst quite spectacularly under the dozer's massive tracks. When Dad decided a little theatre might be in order and wriggled the dozer's steering brake levers a tad so as to skid the machine, sacrificially crushing a few hundred cans in the process.
That evening under cover of deepening, freezing, howling gale and looming dusk, now absent of frozen to the marrow and since departed Customs officers, the few hundred destroyed aluminium cans, along with the surviving fourteen thousand or so intact third of a litre cans, were carefully, so as not to damage them, reloaded into the Bedford truck. Whereupon they made their way northwards up remote and deserted Cross Bank Lane, towards the Royal estate of Wolferton and thereon through the deserted dark, back lanes of Sandringham Woods, to sanctuary and eventually lots of grateful, thirsty gullets in North West Norfolk. Including a few score freebies for all our friendly officers and staff of Dersingham Police Station. As a sort of insurance policy.
Making British Ealing Studios epic 1949 film production of 'Whisky Galore' seem quite amateurish by comparison. Dad could have even taught Robin Hood a thing or two.
The illicit cargo was thus destroyed. Eventu a l l y.† As required by law. Sort of.
* £1,000 at 1965 prices is worth around £19,500 today.
† "Well put it this way." Said Dad. "I bet there aren't any left now!"
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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