Lifetime Achievement Award

Open Award, Membership Award 

The Lifetime Achievement Award was introduced in 2014 to recognise a valuable and extensive contribution to the British Institute of NDT and the wider NDT/CM community by an individual who has spent most of their career in NDT/CM and who has been an active member of the Institute for an extensive period of time.

2019 winner:
Dennis Wells

Dennis started in non-destructive testing (NDT) with his first job after national service at Whessoe Ltd, Darlington, in 1952. Staying there for four years, his work focused in particular on ultrasonically testing the steel plate at the steel mill and the subsequent radiography of welds and their repairs for the Calder Hall, Chapelcross and Bradwell nuclear reactors. He then joined Solus Schall, in London, for seven years, where he had sales responsibility for the Krautkramer ultrasonic flaw detector franchise. These were the early days and he was involved with experimental site testing and demonstrations of the ultrasonic possibilities in all kinds of applications. With Caltex, he established the pulse-echo wall thickness measurement method as the preferred method for wall thicknesses on ocean-going oil tankers rather than the use of ultrasonic resonance technique equipment, in particular for corroded surfaces.

In 1963, Dennis started Wells Krautkramer Ltd in Letchworth Garden City with the Krautkramer franchise. This was followed later with sales of X-ray, magnetic and eddy current equipment. Following the Hither Green rail crash of 1967, which resulted in the major loss of life due to a broken rail, Dennis started a systems division with a contract for an ultrasonic rail testing system with British Rail. This twin coach testing unit travelled at 20 mph, testing the rail ultrasonically and recording all defects and their locations on film. This was very successful and ran for many years during the night because of speed limitations. The film evaluation unit was at Paddington.

Dennis started the WK Training School in 1965 for ultrasonic testing and later other NDT disciplines. He recalls how, after several years, John Young of The Welding Institute came to see the school and subsequently set up the School of Applied Non-Destructive Testing (SANDT) at Abington!

Dennis joined the Non-Destructive Testing Society of Great Britain (NDTS) in 1955 and believes he is the longest serving member of the Institute (according to the ‘List of Individual Members’ in the BINDT Yearbook). He joined the Society of Non-Destructive Examination (SONDE) around 1969 and was President from 1974 to 1975. It was around this time that Haydn Webborn persuaded Dennis to join the Finance & General Purposes Committee of the NDT Society as it was in need of some business experience. Then, while still President of SONDE, Dennis, Haydn, Ron Halmshaw and Harry Stanger began to discuss the possibility of joining the two societies, which eventually happened in 1976 forming the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT). Along with Ian Barnes, Dennis went to the College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street, London, to discuss the design of a coat of arms, which would later be used by the Institute. As a result, Dennis states that he is the only member of the Institute who is officially recorded as a ‘gentleman’!

What happened next is important. Page 7 of the Yearbook simply refers to the new Institute ‘consolidating’ its financial position. What actually happened is far more interesting. The annual conference had a table-top equipment exhibition added on and exhibitors had to pay £25 for a 6 ft table. Dennis recalls how all of the exhibitors, himself included, were not happy with this as they wanted a proper professional exhibition independent of the conference. Council would not budge and so, apart from one company (Brent Chemicals), they all boycotted the next conference. Next, they got together as a trade group (Geoff Jamieson and Pat Long were active in this) and organised the first professional exhibition of NDT equipment at the Horticultural Hall in London (circa 1979). At the exhibition organisation meetings, Dennis insisted that commercial rates should be charged for exhibition space and any profits should go to the Institute, which was agreed. The exhibition was a success and Dennis believes they made about £70k, which was paid over to the Institute. The next exhibition took place at the NEC and the Materials Testing Exhibition was now established as an Institute function organised by the Trade Group and the table-top position of Council was quietly dropped!

At the time, the Institute was based in rented offices in Southend-on-Sea. A new headquarters in a central location was needed and, after looking around, Northampton was eventually settled on. It was here that 1 Spencer Parade, a somewhat dilapidated, run-down ex-rating office with ‘potential’ was available for £50k. The quote for the redevelopment of this site as headquarters for the Institute was £74k. There were only a few thousand pounds in the bank and the account was with Lloyds Bank in Southend-on-Sea, who only offered a long-term mortgage arrangement. This was not very helpful so the account was changed to the Midland at Welwyn Garden City, where Dennis had the WK company account and arranged for a simple overdraft of £125k. He recalls telling the manager that this would be paid off within three years from the profits of the Materials Testing Exhibition. He thinks it was actually paid off within two years.

Then there was a hiccup. During the renovations at Spencer Parade, a vertical crack appeared above the ground floor bay window, which was serious as the front of the building could have collapsed. The problem was that the lintel above the ground floor front window was non-existent. It had been made of wood but had rotted away so a new steel lintel was needed, and fast. This cost another £12k. Dennis recalls how at this point in the renovation it was possible to stand in the hallway and look up through the ceiling to the sky. They pressed on with the renovations, which included an increased overdraft for the £12k, and all went well.

It should be remembered that without the unofficial Trade Group independently starting a separate professional exhibition and their decision to give whatever profit from that to BINDT, it would not have been possible to fund the purchase and redevelopment of 1 Spencer Parade.

As well as being President of SONDE from 1974 to 1975, Dennis was also President of BINDT from 1976 to 1978 and Honorary Treasurer of the Institute from 1979 to 1993. He gave the President’s Honour Lecture in 1992 and the SANDT Annual Lecture in 1993. Dennis retired from WK in 1995 and BINDT Council in 1996. 

Past winners:
2014    Mr M R Dawson
2015    Dr W E Gardner
2016    Dr J M Farley
2017    Gail Long

2018    Prof Tony Hope

A nomination form can be downloaded here.

Details of all Institute awards can be found here.