Bill Hirst, JCB’s third employee, passed away on Sunday night at the age of 86.
Hirst joined the fledgling company in 1947 as a 14 year old tea boy on a salary of £1 a week, at the company’s original facility in stables at Crakemarsh, three miles from JCB’s current headquarters in Rocester.
Hirst was instrumental in the relocation to Rocester in 1950 knowing that JCB founder Joseph Cyril Bamford was looking for a site for a new larger facility. He therefore suggested the site of an old cheese factory in Rocester, as it was closer to his home and would therefore give him extra time in bed each morning.
He started his National Service in 1951 and was posted to Kenya as a military policeman, returning to JCB two years later. He married his wife Jean in 1955 and the couple had four children.
On his return to JCB he spent 10 years as welding foreman, five years in research and development and then joined the service and spare parts department as a service engineer, later becoming warranty and final inspection manager. He was awarded an MBE for services to export in 1975 and became technical services director in 1981. Bill retired in 1991 before serving as president of the local Royal British Legion branch in retirement.