Alfred Robert “Bob” Mellows - Precision Engineer
Biography by Malcolm Mellows
The photograph of Bob Mellows was taken during his service at the
De-Havilland aircraft Co., in the late 1940's to mid-1950's at the
time when the idea for the model was first conceived. Having shown
an aptitude for engineering, in his teen years he was granted an
apprenticeship at the Holbrook Machine Tool Co, which was located
near to his home in London.
At the outbreak of World War Two, he volunteered for service in
engineering with the Royal Navy, but was turned down, having been
told that it was better to finish his apprenticeship first, then
come back and re-apply to the military when qualified. Having
completed his training as instructed, he returned to volunteer
again, only to be told that the services no longer required so many
engineers, and that he would better serve in industry. With that he
was sent to the De-Havilland aircraft manufacturing plant, as that
was also in London and within easy travelling distance of home.
(Subject of course to the train not being hit by a German bomb,
which was not impossible at the time ). Strangely enough, Goering,
the head of the German Luftwaffe, was so worried about the awesome
De-Havilland Mosquito fighter bomber, for which he had no
equivalent, that maybe Dad did better service at DH than had he
joined the forces.
Whilst working, he decided in his free time to make a small model of
a Holbrook lathe, but was teased by his workmates because it was of
no use as it did not function. With that, he took up the challenge
and resolved to make a fully working scale model, which would be as
if the real thing had been shrunk to a small scale, and decided that
he would complete it however long it took him. In fact it took him
the rest of his busy life to complete, working whenever he could.
On leaving De-Havilland in the mid 1950's, Dad worked for a variety
of engineering firms, but was often consulted by a previous employer
and asked to return and solve a machinery problem that could not be
rectified by their current engineers. He was much admired and
respected for his expertise, and his right arm and instinct was
trusted more than a proper torque wrench.
His work on his own cars was something else. He would dispute the
machined tolerances on factory fitted mechanical parts, and re-work
them to his own satisfaction.
In retirement, he decided that the completion of his model would be
his motivation to "get up on the morning, “and keep his mind active.
He converted his garage into a workshop, bought himself a small
lathe, plus a modelers' size vertical drilling machine, and various
other gadgets, and set about finishing his model. Ironically, and
tragically, he completed work just a few short weeks before he
passed away in 2003, after telling me that all he had to do was make
a few connections here and there.
During the latter years, Model Engineers' Workshop magazine
followed the final build stages with articles in several issues,
after having seen it at the model engineering exhibitions.
For myself as his only son, and inheritor of
this unusual piece, I regret that I did not know much about the
model, and what were Dad's intentions for it on completion, having
myself not followed in his footsteps in engineering, and so I
suppose my Dad assumed that I was not too interested, so he did not
confide details to me to any great extent, much to my regret now.