One of the four Managing Directors, at the time, Mr. Walter Holman, of St. Just, was drafted into the Royal Engineers in 1916, and was at first based at Sandwich Kent. When two crews were required to take over some large tugs which had been purchased from S. America, and which had been trading in the River Plate, he was selected to serve in the engine room of one of them. He therefore joined H.M.T. Marino (afterwards known as H.S. 47) as second engineer, at Dover, and went across the Channel. Early in 917 his vessel was drafted on to the Mesopotamia route, being based at Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, and later at Alexandria and Taranto, Italy. Before being drafted on foreign service he was hunting submarines and helped to bring in a torpedoed steamer from near the Eddystone, for which he shared prize money. While in the Mediterranean he was in action with enemy submarines on various occasions, did escort work, aided torpedoed vessels and saved torpedoed crews. At the end of 1917 he was promoted to Chief Engineer of his ship, and remained so until demobilization in 1919.

The local Military Tribunal in their efforts to secure recruits for the Army, very naturally turned their attention to the business that was retaining the services of yet another manager, who though was regarded from inside as indispensable to carry out the constantly increasing Admiralty work, was at the same time within military age. This matter was finally decided by the Admiralty through the Ministry of Munitions, and the manager's services retained.

The arrival at the port of one of the first "Q" boats for repairs was an interesting episode for both managers and men. At that time, they were indeed a mystery ships, and their secrets were not to be divulged. Even those whose duties took them on board came away without having penetrated them, for at a casual glance there was nothing to excite curiosity.
The work the firm had to carry out took the mechanics into the engine-room, where everything was ordinary and common-place, and the workmen had no business elsewhere; but human nature being what it is, excuses were invented for having a "look round." These "decoy" ships had been spoken of, and once the suggestion that this was one began to circulate, one can trust youngsters, with technical instincts awakening within them, together with the spur of curiosity, to trace effects, given certain mechanical causes.

An amusing incident befell one of Holman's men on board this ship. He said that members of the crew, when on leave, used to catch all the black cats they came across in their excursions in and around the town, and bring them on board, and that the vessel was swarming with them. One, a back Persian with "tail like a fox," struck his fancy, and he determined, if opportunity occurred, to take it to his home. As he was leaving work in the evening, this cat was caught and stowed away under his open-necked shirt. How it happened the man cannot explain, but as he was climbing ashore the cat wriggled round to his back and so scratched him that he was glad to tear the garment to liberate the creature, which disappeared on board again like "greased lightning," and the two never met again.

Naturally all war memories are not humorous. Perhaps the most tragic event in the memory of the firm, and was shared by some employees, was the loss of the "Star of Freedom." The vessel was one of the larger patrol ships, and had undergone several refits as her turn came round, during which intimate friendship had been cemented between the Chief Engineer and one of the firm's leading men. It is recalled that this engineer often confessed to a presentiment that sooner or later his vessel would be blown up. After a week in port, during which more work than usual was carried out, she left the harbour never to return. Whether she was engaged in mine sweeping was only known to the staff officers who issued the Captain's instructions, but it is understood that she collided with one of these weapons which our enemies scattered so profusely round our coasts, and all her crew perished with the exception of one or two. The friendly engineer was amongst the "missing," and the event spread a gloom over the Base, and all connected with it.

The Admiralty claims free accommodation in all harbours round our coast, and Penzance Harbour Authority was not entitled to any payment for the extensive use that was made of the port during the war. As an act of grace, however, it was decided to take down the floating dock gates and put them in order as compensation for the wear which occurred during the four years of the great war. The gates on this occasion were repaired entirely by Dock Yard operatives, but they have been down on other occasions, when N. Holman and Sons have secured the contract in competition with other contractors. The first time the work was done the contract for repairs was secured by The Thames Bank Iron Company, who employed local firms to do the work, and after having received payment from Penzance Corporation, they filed their petition, and Holman, with others, lost many hundreds of pounds.

Soon alter the Great War ended a Society was started with the aim of getting partially disabled men back into the industry, and a record, called "The King's Roll," was created, on which the names of all firms who would employ a certain percentage of such men, were inscribed. N. Holman & Sons, Ltd. became associated with the movement and took into their employ as many such war veterans as possible, and endeavoured to replace them with similar unfortunate men as the former died or otherwise terminated their engagement, but the supply had fallen off and the class of mechanic needed had not been available.

In 1919 Mr. Alfred May, who had been the Secretary of the Company almost since its formation, was obliged for family reasons to resign his post. This was felt as a great blow to the Directors, for by his devotion to the firm's interests for 25 years he had won the respect, one might say the affection, of each member of the Board and of the office staffs in the various branches. His retirement, coming at a time when the difficulties of post-war re-organisation were pressing made the selection of a successor anxious undertaking. The claims and qualifications of many applicants were carefully considered, and the Providence which shapes our ends led to the appointment of Mr. John Vercoe, who has proved his ability to serve the Company in cases too numerous to mention. As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, his work in keeping the accounts of the firm has been above criticism, and year by year the shareholders were assured by their auditors that the books were kept in an exemplary manner. Mr. Vercoe's wide knowledge in business matters generally had also been of great value to the Directors, and always at their service. another change. In 1925 advancing age and ill-health resulted in the retirement of Mr. Fred Holman from the Chairmanship of the Company, and at the annual meeting of the shareholders in 1926, Mr. F. W. Holman, who had deputised for some months at the Directors' meetings, presented his report as Chairman for the first time. His appointment as Director occurred. 1899, and as he was the first of that generation to obtain a seat on the board and had held the post of manager of the Market-Jew-Street branches since 1896, his experience in the working traditions of the Company were such as enabled the general policy of the firm to be carried on without any revolutionary changes, although the industrial depression had compelled some alteration in administration which it was hoped would prove an advantage when better times return.

The firm had left its mark on the town in different ways. And there was scarcely a street which did not make known its activities in one way or another. Lamp- posts, railings, gratings, hydrant covers, manhole covers proclaim the fact that their existence as such started in the casting shop at the Wharf. Amongst the larger contributions towards the needs of the Borough were the massive railings extending for half-a-mile across the Promenade from the Battery Rocks the Public Baths, which were fixed in 1896. Although the makers' name was omitted for the most part, all the standards were manufactured at the company works'.
Even one of the managers had made a special study of hot-water heating, (an early form of central heating) and halls, schools, and other public places had been made warm and comfortable by activities in this Department.

Just at the time of Mr. P. W. Holman's succession to the chair, the Wharf Foundry lease fell to be renewed, and was done under conditions which every member of the Management felt to be uneconomic, but the firm was not ready to vacate the premises. One of the first acts of the Board was institute a financial policy (sort of seven-years' plan) that would enable building operations to start at the Dry Dock when the first seven years of the new lease were expiring.
At all events, nothing could be actually done with the site until existing tenancies of the Dock were terminated, but the physical effort of removal, coupled with perhaps a sentimental attachment to a place where the firm had been established for two generations and more, caused the start to be postponed until it could be put off no longer. The problem of the general layout of the site was troublesome one. The existing buildings and erections, together-with the irregular shape of the plot, threw difficulties in the way of producing an accurate plan, but when the general arrangement of the ground area was decided on, work was commenced in earnest.

Several arrangements of the premises were considered and rejected before an idea was adopted which seemed to meet the needs of the Branch and the general acceptance of the Board, and it is believed that the final evolution guided by the united brains of the Directors did not only prove adequate but constituted range of buildings of pleasing appearance rather than otherwise. It was regretted that the view from a few of the houses on the cliff had been somewhat obscured, but the Management took special care to minimise the obstruction, even going so far as to modify the originally planned height of the buildings with this question in view. The first task was to buttress the foot of the cliff and build up the old boat launching slip after the removal of Mr. Legg's workshop, and opportunity was also taken to re-arrange surface water drains from the houses above which used run across the site and had often given considerable trouble through chokages (an old term for bad smells). Whilst the buttress was being built, demolition was started on the tanks and buildings of the Anglo-American Oil Co. and also on the concrete stables. As they disappeared it was surprising how quickly one forgot where they had once stood, and it was difficult to visualize them. There were two misgivings present in the Directors' minds regarding the floor space allotted to the various work-shops. One arose from a statement that when the Anglo-American Oil Co. was excavating for their underground tanks, the sea was found to saturate the ground almost to the surface. If this proved to be correct, it would, of course, have been fatal as far as the Foundry was concerned, and test pits were dug to ascertain the exact depth at which such conditions prevailed. Happily, the report proved to be much exaggerated, for no moisture was met with, even at high spring tides within some feet of the surface. In order to make doubly sure, however, the floor of the casting shop was raised a foot above the dock-side coping stones, and no kind of trouble had ever been experienced. The second cause for thought was whether it would be he possible to avoid the smell rising from the oil-soaked soil under and around the petroleum tanks. Had not the necessary turning-up of the ground and the cleansing power of the sun done this automatically, danger might easily have arisen from unpleasant, and if not explosive, fumes. Happily again, no trace of smell has been met with since the new buildings have been in use.

The constructional work was entrusted to Messrs. John Lysagnt & Co. L.td. of Bristol, whose wide experience in the creation of steel buildings enabled them to design a roof trusses to span the 68 feet without intermediate supports. As the trusses were being placed in position with their numerous ties and stays, the framework almost resembled a huge spider's web, and a great deal more complicated than it does now. The large shed was divided' into Smith and Fitting Shops and Foundry, each shop being light, spacious and airy. The cupula installed, at the time, was one of the most upto-date pattern, designed to minimise the production of fumes to the least possible amount. It was fitted with an electrically driven blast, that was capable of dealing with a ton of molten metal per hour. After the ground had been cleared and the foundation dug for the workshops' building, the old coal sheds began to disappear and provision made for another similar building, but not so long, which had been fitted out as a store. This building was divided into two storeys, and together with an iron and coal stores adjacent, provided ample floor space. The ground floor had been furnished with appropriately shaped bins and racks, with conveniently wide and lighted passages between them and the building contains practically the whole stock-in-trade. By that means the work of the store men was much simplified, in comparison with the conditions which obtained in the old Foundry premises, where widely separated stores were built or buildings parts of the yard as necessity arose, and it was expected that the conveniences would be appreciated by both employees and patrons. With the completion of these buildings all that was immediately necessary, for removal from the Foundry, was provided, and as the extension of time granted by landlords, was becoming threateningly near, all energies were directed to transferring stock, plant, tools and employees their new home. The offices at the entrance to the property, which should a matter of course have been occupied by the firm, were not available at the time owing to the lease under which the Company had let them having some months longer run. It was therefore necessary to fit up a temporary office in the building, provided for the fitting and machine shop. This was not a convenient arrangement., so as soon as the occupants the office building vacated it, plans for its rearrangement were put in hand, and in September, 1933, the Manager and his clerical staff took possession. It was decided at a later date to extend the roof of the stores to- the edge of the graving dock, and also to roof over the open space between the two buildings so that practically the whole area was now under three roofs, each covering a span of 68 feet. Of course, the new buildings and yard was electrically lighted throughout, and some motors were installed to drive the machinery. Under the conditions of trade depression during the mid-1930’s, and view of the considerable cost of construction and removal to the new premises, the Management had not considered it an opportune time to scrap or otherwise dispose of the existing steam and oil power plant, but the units required renewal, as the price of electricity became more persuasive.

It was hoped that the opinion expressed regarding its appearance would have been endorsed by those who were anxious that natural beauty shall be little as possibly interfered with, and that what interference was unavoidable shall at least be symmetrical and finished in unaggressive style. But, in order to preserve the walls of the new buildings, a coat of red-lead paint was put on with the fixed intention of covering it later with some neutral colour. Protests from artists, architects, and inhabitants of private houses in the vicinity bombarded the Management, and last of all the new Town Planning Committee suggested that something more pleasing than the brilliant red would be more agreeable to the public eye. Now it so happened that the firm had already purchased a considerable stock of green paint for this very purpose, and the supply was gladly divided between the Management and the Quay Committee, so that at last it looked an agreeable colour scheme, GREEN.
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