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Rubber by Royal Command

Rubber by Royal Command

As an engineer, it’s not every day that you get asked to solve a problem for the most senior members of the royal family, particularly when that request results in an invitation into the Queen’s private chambers. Okay, so Her Majesty wasn’t present at the time – but it makes for a pretty good anecdote. The lucky man in question was Brian Hooper, the late father of Adam and Paul who run Martin’s Rubber. Here, Adam recounts the story his father told of the time he was called aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia to solve two rubber-related problems for Prince Philip and the Queen.

Dockyard daydreaming

‘In the 1960’s I was often taken out on deliveries to Portsmouth Naval Dockyard by my father during school holidays. I spent the majority of my time sitting in the car very bored while he “popped in” to some anonymous building with mouldings or hoses that had been made at Martin’s. The reward for me was the chance to glimpse some of her majesty’s finest ships in port on our circuitous route around the dockyard. As a fully qualified marine engineer, my father was often called in to the dockyard to solve various issues requiring rubber mouldings or seals, but I recall him coming home particularly excited after one such request for urgent assistance. Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia was in port and the Chief Engineer had called my father to come on board to help solve a problem before the next sailing.

Prince Philip’s porthole predicament

‘Having been met at the top of the gangway by the Chief, my father was somewhat bemused when rather than going below decks, he was escorted to the royal chambers. The Chief took him over to a porthole and explained that, following some over enthusiastic oiling of the porthole latches by the crew, Prince Philip had unfortunately got oil all over his dress uniform when he had opened the Porthole and that had resulted in an emergency wardrobe change. The challenge was for Martin’s Rubber to come up with a suitable rubber moulding to cover the offending latches and ensure no repeat of the regrettable incident.

Be prepared!

‘Father was always armed with a pocket rule, paper and pencil, and between them he and the Chief sketched up a suitable design that could be tooled for the necessary parts to be moulded before the next sailing. Satisfied that this issue was now under control, the Chief then asked if my Father could help with a second problem – of an even more sensitive nature.

Good vibrations and a state secret

‘Following the Chief even further into the Royal Quarters, my Father, to his surprise, soon found himself in the Queen’s bedroom. It turned out that Her Majesty had complained of vibrations from the engines disturbing her sleep whilst at sea… out with pencil and paper again, my father and the Chief sketched up some suitable rubber foot designs to fit the legs of the royal bed.

‘Ever the engineer, my father asked, “and what loadings might I need to consider in specifying the correct material for these mouldings Chief?”

‘“I’m sorry sir, that is a state secret,” came the diplomatic reply, with a twinkle in the Chief’s eye…’

 

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