The recent correspondence about Oh What A Lovely War in your letters page reminded me of the making of the film.

As a newly-qualified gas fitter with the South Eastern Gas Board, and with an experienced fitter, Bill Ross, I was involved in making the gas lights at the Black Rock yard and then installing them in the theatre on the Palace Pier.

In those days, gas board installation fitters were expected to use push-bikes for their everyday chores, hardly a mode of transport to take on the pier.

So I was allowed to drive my own mini-van along the pier, laden with all the pipes, fitting tools, dies and vices necessary for setting up the lights.

The Palace Pier theatre was the setting for the scenes involving Maggie Smith and David Lodge, encouraging young men to enlist for the "King's shilling".

When the lights were first lit it was found that the "fishtail" burners burnt with a blue flame and gave off no illumination.

The town's gas of 1968 was not natural gas but came from a hydrocarbon reforming plant in Portslade, which meant that it was necessary to pass the gas through a sealed container full of benzoline to obtain the necessary yellow flame.

The first day's filming was delayed because the theatre's own gas meter, which was situated in the "flies", had never passed so much gas in such a short time so gave off a terrible groaning.

To operate the lights from the side of the stage involved turning about 12 gas taps to illuminate the section of the auditorium.

For this we had to don top hats in case we were caught by the camera during filming (March 27-31, 1968).

According the SEGAS journal of May 1968, the fittings and brackets made at Black Rock works proved so successful that another film company bought them.

-Jeff Gillam, Woodingdean