The blue arc was mesmerising…….the smoke from the melting flux on the electrode filling my senses.  I was once again in my own world, listening to the gleeful crackling of electricity as I carefully married the two pieces of steel together, gritting my teeth when an errant spark found its way inside my overalls.

Those of you that have welded for long periods in claustrophobic spaces will know the feeling…….isolation and some level of apprehension of not knowing what was happening outside of your private bit of space.  You could hear the noises of a heavy workshop all around you but never really knew if they were about to impact your domain.  In many ways you had to trust the men around you.


What I found really annoying was when some clever asshole gave me a shove to get my attention while I was doing my very best to put down the perfect bead of molten metal.  That’s exactly what happened next and I swore into my welding helmet.  I broke the arc, executed a well-practiced 180 pirouette while lifting my visor, and ensured the red-hot tip of the electrode made contact with clever assholes skin.  The resulting smell of burning flesh and a curse indicated I had been successful.

I made a half-hearted apology to the man with a burnt arm as he informed me sullenly that Titch Tyzack, the Welding Foreman, wanted to see me.  As I made my way across the dozens of railway lines, inspection pits and other ambush spots that inhabit a major railway repair workshop floor, I wondered what my sins was this time.  I couldn’t think of anything.

As I remember him, Titch Tyzack was a true gentleman.  He was not a very big man, had a good heart and always treated me fairly no matter what I had done.  As I climbed the stairs to his office in the Welding Shop I decided that while I was here I may as well ask him for some of the new oxy-acetyline guages I had seen floating around.  Mine were knackered and this was an opportunity to get some shiny new kit.

As it was I would not be needing any welding kit for quite a while.

Titch had called me over to let me know I was to report to Brady Barracks that evening for a briefing and that he was giving me the rest of the day off to sort my things out.  He knew more but wasn’t saying anything else.  Without any further ado I went back to my workplace, and told my assistant to switch off all the kit and lock everything away.

The last thing to do before leaving was to let my journeyman know I was on my way.  The two of us sat down outside of the Wagon Shop, next to the locomotive graveyard and had a smoke and cup of tea.   It was a sad, lonely place and somehow I wanted to be on my way as quickly as I could.

Rhodesia Railways locomotive graveyard, Bulawayo

Rhodesia Railways locomotive graveyard, Bulawayo

There was not much more to say…..I stood up indicating I was ready to go.  We shook hands, said our goodbyes and I was on my way.

Please also have a look at my website dedicated to Rhodesian and South African Military Engineers.  Please join us on the forums by using the following link:


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