Brian Ellis

(at KEGS 1948-1953) writing in 2020
Brian and Janet – taken in 2017 at their two grandsons’ graduation

Having left KEGS in 1953 I joined the local West Suffolk Weights and Measures Department in Bury St Edmunds. National Service crept up on me and whisked me away into the R.A.F. where I spent an excellent two years plying my trained skills in radar operation, watching over the Iron Curtain as we regularly scrambled fighters to persuade Russian aircraft to turn back. This period in my life saw the benefits of the CCF at KEGS and taught me team work as a radar operator.

I left the RAF in 1958 and joined H.M. Customs and Excise as an Officer, and after five months initial training was let loose on the trading community, making checks on most aspects of the revenues collected (and in some cases repaid). After a year or two of assisting seasoned staff, mainly in East Anglia, I became the fixed officiator for Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and two stations in Ipswich group. This itself was an interesting period as I grappled with the very differing personalities of the individual officers and our boss the “Surveyor” – one John Painter – who fitted in Mayoral duties as well as his management of the “Excise”!!

In my days here I found several small frauds which came to the notice of our Investigation Branch (IB). Subsequently in 1964, I was selected for and appointed to the London office of the IB. Here for the next five years I learned my new trade under an experienced Senior Investigator named Sam Charles. I gained experience in various revenue frauds and into the late 1980s we began to find ourselves working significant drug smuggling cases. Our enquiries took me abroad and we had several cases which culminated in court attendances at CCC (Central Criminal Court) Old Bailey. In 1969 I decided a career move was appropriate and I took the decision to take a newly created Investigation post in Brighton. There was a fair bit of revenue fraud there, principally purchase tax and betting duty and although I handled the smaller cases myself, I called in my former colleagues on the IB for those involving multiple premises and companies. In 1971 I was promoted to the Surveyor grade and embarked on a year relieving other surveyors in districts in London and some UK parts. In 1972 I was appointed as a fixed Surveyor in Cambridge where a principal role for me was educating businesses in the new VAT. It is fair to say that still the odd fraud came my way, including one of the first VAT frauds where an imprisonment sentence was handed out, and several cases in which I involved the colleagues on the IB.

The IB had become called the Investigation Division, and I returned there in 1976 as one of their “Intelligence” senior investigation officers. This was in the drugs field, and my responsibilities included the management of the Customs’ first drug detector dog teams, two RAF handlers and dogs retiring from their RAF service. As our intelligence became more sophisticated the detection work for the ID teams steadily grew and the staffing levels rose to match the increased demand. In 1979 I was promoted to a drugs branch management post (ACIO) which in 1980 was followed by a move to a VAT branch. In 1982 I was transferred to our HQ where I was given the responsibility of investigating staff irregularities. After 3 years I was appointed to an Assistant Collector post in Northampton where I had responsibility for Luton and Stansted airports, two Local VAT Offices and the Collection Investigation Unit. A very enjoyable rôle with many varied areas of interest.

My work in Northampton came to an end in 1991 when I was promoted to Deputy Collector London Central, where in addition to the overall management of several of the City Local VAT Offices and their Collection Investigation Unit (totalling some 450 staff ) I found myself almost purely managing. An interesting side issue was my rôle in dealing and negotiating with the trade union side. Thanks to Michael Portillo when he was First Secretary to the Treasury, and told the Board of Commissioners that they should shed some senior posts, after a most interesting 36 years career I managed to obtain early retirement in 1994. One of my achievements at the time of my retirement in the three years was that we never had a formal disagreement registered by the trade union side.

As I now approach some 25 years since retirement I look back on this part of my life, and consider the house restorations, foreign holiday travel, swimming pool construction, charity fundraising, choral singing, and bridge playing that have been a regular part of my life. Alongside this has been the support of my wife Janet throughout our varying homes (we are in our 17th) as she bore most of the burden of raising our two children and has also given support through the 25-year cycle of our 5 grandchildren. My career would not have been possible without her support.