Les Hilling

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Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
3 Mar 1993
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Les Hilling (LH) 

Laboratory, Props, Rigger, Printer (Technicolor, Twickenham Studios, Pinewood)

BECTU No.274 

Interviewers: Alan Lawson (AL), Syd Wilson (SW)

Date 03/03/93

1 Tape

Side 1

00:00:00 – 00:12:50 Introductions; born in Castelnau, Barnes, August 1914; school at Brackenbury Road, Hammersmith; left school at 14; took a job at a gents outfitters Charles Baker & Co, King Street, Hammersmith; put on the cash desk at 17; after being laid off in 1931/2 he was given a new job at Clapham Junction; he lived at Northfields, Ealing, at the time; stayed in the job at Clapham for 2 years.

00:12:50 – 00:21:30 LH had a lot of relatives working in the studios (12 Hillings in total) – mostly Gaumont British working as an electrician, wardrobe master & mistress, stagehands, or in the wood mill/timber store; an uncle was killed on location of a Jesse Matthews film; LH’s uncle Alfred (Lofty) Hilling worked in the camera department at Technicolor and worked on silent films at Lime Grove Studios; LH began at Gaumont when he was 19 when he had a number of jobs throughout the studio; LH remembers working on special effects for King Solomon’s Mines.

00:21:30 – 00:27:00 At 21 he took the job as stage hand; there was always a lot of overtime; LH met Paul Robeson, George Arliss, Margaret Lockwood at this time; other jobs were available at some of the other studios; the situation was bad in the studios at this point; started to work on the buses.

00:27:00 – 00:45:35 Married in September 1939 and was called up to the army a few months later; LH was in the army until 1946 – King Shropshire light infantry, training at Church Stretton; posted on the coast at Deal before the Battle of Britain; then moved to Yorkshire for brigade training; King Shropshire light infantry were changed over to artillery, moving to Harlech in Wales; LH moved to the Warwickshire barracks, Leicestershire regiment; LH began training small arms; became a five-point instructor 1944/5 due to suffering from bunions; demobbed in 1946 and went back to London transport as a bus driver.

00:45:35 – 00:48:00 After 6 months back on the buses, he met a friend [Ernest Steward?] who worked at Southall Studios; started out as camera grip/operator.

Side 2

00:00:00 – 00:04:30 LH continues a conversation started during the interval (mentions being a prop man at Pinewood and an unnamed French director); his next role was at Twickenham; then a period at Riverside Studios; then on to Pinewood where he got the role of charge hand prop; long hours and lived at Heston; left home at 6:20am finished work at 8pm; worked weekends also; LH also worked at Denham in his career; LH explains his journey into Pinewood.

00:04:30 – 00:18:00 LH started at Technicolor because it was closer to home; started there in 1952 working in the solutions department dealing with all the chemicals they need for the three dyes; requested a transfer to the print department; LH talks about job security and getting a mortgage on his home.

00:18:00 – 00:22:45 LH talks about his experiences in the print department; 16mm, 35mm and 70mm required different machines each had to be doubled up due to the print quantities; LH moved into his new house in 1959; LH received a gold watch for 25 years’ service (27 in total) and remained in printing for the remainder of his career.

00:22:45 – 00:23:40 Things changed when Eastmancolor was brought in; Technicolor had to have both systems operating in tandem; LH’s job didn’t change a great deal – easier in fact if you had knowledge of printing processes.

00:23:30 – 00: LH talks about his retirement – 18 months early in 1977; atmosphere had completely changed in the plant over the years; machines were running at much faster speeds; SW talks about how things changed in 1971 when Bill Ingram came into the plant; LH talks about his dissatisfaction with the Technicolor pension scheme. [Tape ends here with AL pausing the tape for a moment but no further audio is recorded]



274    Les Hilling    Interviewer: Alan Lawson, Syd Wilson    Synopsis

Born 1914, Castelnau, Barnes

Brackenbury Road School, Hammersmith. Left at 14 years.

Started work at gents’ outfitters Charles Barker & Co, Hammersmith - left at 17 years. £1 per week plus commission. 1932, started same type of  job at Clapham Junction, stayed 2 years.

12 relations working in studios – mainly Gaumont British – including father. First visit to studios age 12 – this was Lime Grove when it was all glass.

Started at Gaumont British at 19 – rate 1/- per hour. Worked for cousin Lofty Hilling.

Age 21 started as stage hand. ¼ ¾ S/D. Met Jessie Matthews, Paul Robeson, Margaret Lockwood, George Arliss.

Engaged to be married in late 1930s, married September 1939 – called up just after and in Army until 1946. During the war London Transport made money up for his wife. Joined King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – Church Stretton, Shropshire, for basic training. 1942, regiment changed to Royal Artillery. 17-pound anti-tank guns. 1943-1944 to Leicestershire Regiment at Warwick. 



Sent on small arms course, became full-time small arms instructor. Sick with swollen foot – large bunion, given special shoes. Became fire point instructor, 1944-1945 – still at Warwick. Also had gingivitis.

Demobbed 1946 - returned to London Transport, driving bus. Job lasted 6 months. Had all teeth extracted.

Started at Southall Studios as camera grip. Ernie Steward was camera operator.

Next at Twickenham, then Riverside Studios, then Pinewood as chargehand , props. Left home 6:20am, usually home 9pm or 10pm.

Joined Technicolor – phoned June Axton, personnel department 1952 – uncle in Camera Department. Offered job in Solutions Department. Approached Roy Mitchell for job in Printing Department. Interviewed and given job in Matrix Printing Department.

Started to buy house in 1955, aged 40. At Technicolor 27 years – received gold watch. Took early retirement December 1977.