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brother Stanley joined the company and became a director soon after.

When Wembley Hospital was being extended in 1930, Horace was made Honorary Secretary of the Building Extension Committee.

In 1931 James Comben had an operation. After the surgery, pneumonia a common complication, ensued resulting in James Comben’s death. Upon his father’s death, Horace was elected a member of the board of management and Honorary Treasurer. He later served on the Charing Cross Board of governors. In 1944 he became President of the National Federation of House Builders. an organisation formed in 1939 to combat ‘Jerry Building’ The organisation was closely linked with the National House Builders Registration Council and the Ministry of Health. He was awarded the C.B.E. for his services before retiring to Bournemouth in the 1960’s.

For many years the founders of the company lived side by side. The Combens resided at Dagmar House in Park Lane, Wembley,. the scene of many garden parties and fetes for charitable purposes.

The Wakelings lived at Tudor House next door to which they built High Trees for their daughter Muriel and her husband Arthur Moore. Alongside was Dagmar House where James Comben and his wife Poly, William’s sister lived. Sadly both houses have now been pulled down, and the company’s links with the founding families have now been broken.

Comben & Wakeling Ltd. became known as Comben Group Ltd., in 1972 under the name ‘Comben Homes’. The parent company has national coverage, developing through sixteen regional companies with over fifty site operations.

In France and Portugal they trade under the name Carlton Homes. Stanley Comben retired on August 1st.1972. At the time Leon Roydon was the group Chairman with his head office in Bristol. Mr. M.D. Mackenzie remained a director with the group.

So I was drawn by the pedigree of the company but the misgivings I had felt manifest themselves a short time later. I could see things were not all sunshine with this company, something was wrong. House building output was poor and a group of consultants, Urwick Ore had already been appointed to assess the situation. It was clear, from the papers I was able to read, that the directors wanted to float the company on the Stock Market but at that time profits were far too low.

Since those times I have read numerous letters on the subject and the profits seldom rose above three pre cent. The consultant advised these profits be raised to over fifteen percent and to achieve this, houses should be built quicker and in larger quantities. I now realised why I had been brought in.

I was qualified in Time and Motion and Work-Study. Using the new systems I introduced, we had house production up by nearly 50% within 18 months. We could expect a house to be completed and ready for occupation in less than three months. This was a huge achievement and yet I was being paid less than the average labourer whom we employed was. I couldn’t see the long-term plan the company had for me. If the company was sold on the open market and my father in law and his partners pulled out, could I expect to get on the board of the new company without already being a director?

Again I asked about my future only to be told as an answer—“Slowly, Slowly Catchee Monkey.” This was an old Indian expression meaning you will need all the patience it requires going out and catching a monkey.



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