Former Vickers-Armstrong worker’s plea to former colleagues after deadly mesothelioma diagnosis

Published by Swindon Advertiser 4th March 2015

A RETIRED factory worker who spent over 20 years working at the Vickers-Armstrong factory in South Marston is appealing to his former workmates for help in his legal battle after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – an incurable asbestos-related cancer. Jim Black, 77, a Swindon grandfather, was given the deadly diagnosis in November 2014, devastating him, his wife of 57 years and their family, including two children and four grandchildren.

Mr Black started to feel unwell in September 2014 when he developed a cough and started suffering from shortness of breath. Following a biopsy at the Great Western Hospital he was told that he had mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that has been widely linked to past asbestos exposure, which affects the lining of the lungs.

Mr Black believes he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust while working for Vickers-Armstrong. He started working at the factory at South Marston in 1962, installing rivets and fittings on aircraft. Promoted to service engineer two years’ later, he remained for a further 19 years, leaving the firm in 1983. During his time at Vickers-Armstrong, he was based in the fitters shop in South Marston but was also sent to work on board various cargo and passenger ships, mainly in the Southampton area.

Mr Black said: “The factory at South Marston was huge and there were new buildings being constructed at the airfield during my employment. There was a lot of pipework around the factory, some of which were hot steam pipes lagged with asbestos. The factory had its own maintenance team and there was always ongoing maintenance work on a daily basis. I was also routinely sent out to service passenger ships, small cargo vessels and banana boats, including the QE2 and the Oriana, working in the engine rooms where there was also asbestos lagging in the pipes. This lagging looked like a greyish white paste and I remember having to brush up against it while carrying out maintenance and engineering jobs in cramped, confined spaces for up to seven hours per day. It was always dusty in the engine rooms and myself and my tools would often end up covered in dust. At no time was I provided with any protective equipment and I was never warned about the dangers of working close to asbestos dust.”

Mr Black and his family have now instructed specialist asbestos disease lawyers at Novum Law to help him investigate the working conditions he endured and why he was exposed to the deadly dust during his time working at Vickers-Armstrong.

Helen Grady, an expert asbestos disease solicitor at Novum Law, specialising in mesothelioma cases, said: “Mesotheliomais a particularly aggressive and incurable cancer that causes a significant amount of suffering to victims, like Jim, and their families. It can take several decades from initial exposure to asbestos dust before symptoms develop, so we need help from Jim’s ex-workmates to gather as much information as possible about the working conditions there. It is well established that ships at this time contained a lot of asbestos, especially in the engine rooms, and other engineers may come forward. We are very hopeful that workers from Vickers-Armstrong’s South Marston factory will remember some details relating to the asbestos in the pipes. It is also highly likely that they were also completely unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Quite understandably, Jim and his family have been left shocked and devastated by his diagnosis and are worried about what the future holds. They are appealing to anyone who worked at Vickers-Armstrong from the 1960s up to the 1980s to come forward. The appeal is for anybody who worked at the South Marston factory in Swindon or who were sent to work on board vessels in the UK or abroad and in particular, workmen who were on the QE2.”

Anyone who can help should contact Helen Grady at Novum Law on freephone 0800 884 0555 or email

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