PORTSMOUTH’S dockyard looked a little different the last time 91-year-old George Higho was there.
The former welder, from Copnor, spent 40 years behind the walls of the city’s naval base in a variety of jobs.
Now after more than 20 years after leaving the dockyard, his family arranged a visit for him to see how things have changed.
BAE Systems hosted the pensioner for the day, giving him a tour of the firm’s apprentice training centre and shipbuilding hall.
The trainees were keen to hear any tips the seasoned welder could offer, and George was keen to share his stories.
He said: ‘It took me a while to get my bearings and work out where I was because everything looks different now.
‘It was very noisy and hot here in the summer, and of course health and safety wasn’t anything like it is now.
‘We often worked in conditions you wouldn’t even let prisoners work in these days.
‘We had a good comradeship in regards to the workers and I do remember that.
‘It has been wonderful to come back and see how different things are now.’
George, of Stanley Avenue, started at the base in 1939 and worked all over the dockyard in a number of jobs from painting to welding over 44 years.
His daughter-in-law contacted BAE to arrange the visit as a surprise Christmas present, and the letter of invitation was given to him on Christmas Day.
Rory Fisher, the managing director of BAE Maritime Services, said: ‘Our apprentices were privileged to meet Mr Higho and show him around the Apprentice Centre – they did spend quite some time comparing welding techniques!
‘It was a positive experience to meet someone who is still so passionate about the dockyard after all this time, and we were glad to give him the opportunity to revisit some happy memories.’
Several members of George’s family have worked at the dockyard over the years, including his father George Higho, son Anthony Higho, daughter-in-law Pamela Higho, and her father James Crichton.
One of the most notable periods of time George spent at the naval base was during the Second World War, including the times he worked on patching up landing craft for D-Day.
‘It was all so very different then,’ he added.
‘The Second World War was the busiest time, repairing ships with bomb damage.
‘Some of it was nasty, especially after D-Day when we were patching up landing craft with no idea if they would come back.’