ON THIS day in 1962, Avril Dibbens joined the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment two weeks after her 15th birthday as shorthand typist.
Fifty years later Mrs Dibbens, of Fareham, is believed to be the longest-serving Ministry of Defence civil servant – and is not planning to enjoy her retirement for at least another two years.
Mrs Dibbens has spent most of her career in Fareham including a long spell in Portsdown Main building, but has been based at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) site at Porton Down, since 2005.
Throughout her career, Avril has worked with senior members of the MoD’s leadership across a number of organisations, including spells in London, Portsmouth, Malvern and Farnborough.
Mrs Dibbens said: ‘I’ve always enjoyed my time because I’ve had lots of interesting jobs, though I have only had one employer.
‘I’ve worked with different people at different sites so it’s often felt like doing a new job.
‘I feel that IT has changed the most over the course of my career. I started off on typewriters and sending letters that you didn’t expect to arrive for two days, now everything is immediate with email and the internet so widely used.
‘There were no faxes, no computers or anything like that. It’s changed the way I worked. It has made it easier to alter things, but it has changed the pace of work.
‘In the old days you would post a letter and would have to wait for a reply, there was more time to think – now it’s a lot more reactive.’
In 1974, she was crowned national typing champion, typing 93 words per minute for 30 minutes, coming first for accuracy.
The 65-year-old said: ‘I still use shorthand as a means of recording though, I still think in shorthand, but I’m not quite at the 130 words per minute I was at when I left college in 1962.’
But she is not planning to retire just yet.
‘I am going to carry on for at least a couple more years and see how it goes,’ she added. ‘I’ve worked for 12 directors so far and they keep getting younger and younger.’
Her current role is executive assistant to infrastructure director Graham Balmer and finance director Mark Alexander.
Mr Balmer said: ‘They really broke the mould when they made Avril. I have rarely met anyone with her devotion to duty.
‘After five decades’ service in the MoD, her motivation, enthusiasm and dedication to duty are undiminished.’