JCB – Joseph Cyril Bamford


In the UK “JCB” is often used colloquially as a generic description for mechanical diggers and excavators and the abbreviation now appears in the Oxford English Dictionary.

JCB stands for J C Bamford Excavators Limited which is a British multinational corporation with headquarters in Rochester, United Kingdom. They are seemingly the world’s third largest construction equipment manufacturer and produce over 300 types of machines including diggers, excavators, tractors and various diesel engines. With around 18 factories across Asia, Europe, North America, and South America the company’s products are sold in over 150 countries.

The firm was founded in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford, after whom it is named.

Every time I see one of these somewhat iconic yellow machines I think of a neighbour of my parents who worked for the company in the 1960’s. He was rugged sort of chap and an ex fighter pilot by the name of Bill Pender.
He had flown Hurricanes during the latter part of WW2 and had witnessed the test flights of the first British jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor.

After the war Bill travelled the world selling the JCB company’s products and often brought back both souvenirs and lurid tales of daring-do from various county’s including Tito’s Jugoslavia.

After one such trip, to the Socialist Republic of Jugoslavia, he brought back several bottles of the local spirit, something called Slivovitz.
It’s a fiery Serbian spirit seemingly known locally as шљивовица. It’s made from plums and has been compared unfavourably to cough syrup.

 My father helped him evaluate the stuff and was ill for days afterwards. It was the only time I ever saw him drunk.

My other memory of the JCB is less romantic. I was given a loan of one by a local farmer in order to demolish an old chicken shed. After 5 minutes of concentrated instruction I was let loose with the thing. When the farmer came back several hours later the shed was still standing but there were several neat very holes in the ground beside it.


About Duncan Harley

Author, photographer and feature writer.
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