The Example of Important Life’s

I read the obituaries in the Telegraph on a regular basis. It was Bill Conte, a building contractor, who in 1962 said “when I get up in the morning I read the obituaries. If I don’t see my name, I go to the office”.

I am not so well known to ever appear in the newspapers, but there are many, mainly not household names, who do. It allows us to share their experiences, amazing life’s and the contributions they have made to the world. Fergus Anckorn is one of those. If you ever feel down or unmotivated, I can recommend a daily energy boost in the columns of whatever newspaper comes your way.

Colin Watson



FERGUS ANCKORN, who has died aged 99, began his career as a conjurer called “Wizardus” aged 18 when he was the youngest member of the Magic Circle; by the time of his death he was its oldest and longest-serving member.

In later life Anckorn revealed how magic tricks had saved his life during three-and-a-half years of captivity as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, during which he became known as “the conjurer on the River Kwai”. He survived several brushes with death including one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century – the massacre of patients and medical staff by Japanese soldiers at the Alexandra Military Hospital, Singapore.


One of four children of a journalist, and one of boy-girl twins, Fergus Gordon Anckorn was born on December 10 1918 at Dunton Green, near Sevenoaks. At the age of four he was given a magic set by his mother and as a young boy would perform tricks at parties. In 1936, after education at the Judd School, Tonbridge, he became the youngest member of the Magic Circle.

Encouraged by his father, he took a course in journalism, but never pursued it as a career. Instead he worked as a clerk at the Marley Tile Co in Sevenoaks until the outbreak of war in 1939.

He enlisted as a gunner in the 118th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, where he met the artist Ronald Searle. Soon afterwards he became ill with a serious skin condition and spent time in Joyce Green hospital, Dartford, where he met his wife to be, Lucille Hose, a nurse. While still stationed in Britain, he and Searle organised concert parties before they were both shipped out to the Far East, arriving in Singapore in early February 1942.

Anckorn had his first narrow escape two days after his arrival when, on duty at the docks, he and his colleagues were dive-bombed by the Japanese. With no time to reach shelter, he plunged into the sea, re-emerging to find that five of his companions had been blown to pieces.

A few days later, shortly before the fall of Singapore, he was ordered to drive a lorry carrying a live shell which had become jammed. He ran straight into an air raid and the shell exploded. He was eventually found lying in a storm drain, so badly wounded that his dog-tags had already been removed and handed in.

Barely alive, suffering from burns and shrapnel wounds, and with his right hand dangling from his arm by a piece of skin, Anckorn was taken to Alexandra Military Hospital where a surgeon decided not to amputate after discovering that he was a conjurer.

Anckorn was unaware that a Japanese salient had been driven deep into the British defence line and the hospital had become isolated in the middle of no-man’s land. On the morning of February 14 Japanese troops entered the building in force and unleashed an indiscriminate orgy of killing, shooting or bayoneting patients and staff.

Semi-conscious and covered in blood, Anckorn was in a ward on the ground floor when he heard a commotion and saw the flash of blades as Japanese soldiers in full battle-gear moved from bed to bed, bayoneting the occupants. Convinced he was about to die, he muttered to himself, “poor Mum” and pulled a pillow over his head, not wanting to witness “the moment of penetration”.

Instead, he was astonished when, instead of the searing pain he was expecting, he heard the cries of the man in the next bed; the Japanese, apparently thinking that he must be dead, had passed him by: “When I came up for air, I discovered I was one of four men who were still alive. The other 72 in my ward had been murdered. The ground floor was a scene of total carnage while, upstairs, the killing continued.”

By the time the Japanese left, about 200, mostly British, victims had been murdered.

The survivors were taken to Changi Jail, where Anckorn somehow managed to survive with his crippled leg and smashed right arm (saved by introducing maggots to devour the gangrene) for several weeks before he was sent north with thousands of others to work on the Burma Railway.

There, though still weak from his injuries and lack of food, he was put to work on the Wampo viaduct. He had another miraculous escape when, ordered to carry scalding creosote up the viaduct, he had an attack of vertigo and found himself unable to move, whereupon a Japanese guard emptied the creosote over him, causing his skin to blister and swell.

After saying goodbye to his friends, he was taken to the hospital at Chungkai camp in Thailand: “Three weeks later they were all dead. If I hadn’t been burnt I would have been dead as well.”

His wounds began to heal and as he gained strength he began to do some simple magic tricks to entertain his fellow prisoners. Word reached the camp commandant, Osato Yoshio, who, despite his reputation as a sadist, turned out to be a devotee of magic.

Osato summoned Anckorn to his office, handed him a coin and was amused to see it disappear – then reappear in an opened tin of fish he had sitting on his table. Since the Japanese would never touch any food “contaminated” by the prisoners, Osato then gave Anckorn the half-empty tin.

Realising that if he continued to do magic with food he could supplement his meagre rations and those of his friends, he asked for more food to use as props.

If you got caught stealing a potato you could have your head cut off,” he recalled. “But the guards did like magic and I’d often manage to get food from them by making it ‘disappear’.”

On one occasion he almost overreached himself when he performed a vanishing egg trick for a visiting general. Camp commandant Osato had written him a note so that he could obtain an egg from the Japanese soldiers’ kitchen. The note did not specify a single egg, so Anckorn asked for 50, all but one of which he gave to his friends.

The performance went well, but the next day he was summoned by Osato to explain what had happened to the other 49 eggs. After a brief moment of panic, he improvised, “Your show was so important, I was rehearsing all day.”


“He nodded and let me go,” Anckorn recalled. “I think to this day he probably knew that I was lying but it was enough to save his face … I couldn’t perform that trick again for 40 years. My knees would knock even thinking about it.”

Anckorn continued to perform magic tricks as he was transferred to other camps. One day in 1945, however, he thought his luck had run out when Japanese guards took him out into the jungle with four fellow soldiers, stood them up against trees and trained a machine gun on them: “We waited for the bullets for 10 minutes … then for some reason [they] thought better of it.” When the prisoners got back to the camp they found the war had been over for three days.

Despite being away from England for years, Anckorn was detained in Rangoon for three months as he “looked too horrible” and needed fattening up, though by the time he arrived in Liverpool on the SS Orbita Rangoon, he still only weighed six stone.

To begin with he found freedom almost too hard to bear. He became something of a recluse and suffered nightmares for many years until he revisited Singapore in 2005 and finally banished his demons.

Shortly after the war he had married his sweetheart Lucille, with whom he had a son and daughter. In 1951 the nerves in his injured hands were reconstructed by surgery and he went on to make a complete recovery.

As well as performing as a magician, Anckorn, an old-fashioned gentleman who rarely left his house without a tie, worked as a teacher at West Kent College.

In 2016, during the 10th series of Britain’s Got Talent, he was featured, aged 97, during the final act of the magician Richard Jones, a serving soldier in the Household Cavalry, who went on win the series.

“I am probably the luckiest man alive. I’ve been blown up, I’ve been shot. I’ve survived a massacre and I also got away with that egg trick,” Anckorn said. “Every day is a wonder to me.”

Anckorn’s wife, Lucille, predeceased him. His children survive him.

Fergus Anckorn, born December 10 1918, died March 22 2018

You can find the original Article below

Social Media of Top 100 European Workplace manufacturers reviewed

At Watson King we surveyed the websites of the *Top 100 European manufacturers of Workplace furnishing products. The results showed that 13% use no form of Social Media at all and 25% use less than three types. There are also some surprising results on which the most popular channels are.

There is evidence to suggest that some companies are unsure about the most effective way to use social media channels and which ones may be the most appropriate to select. Also, there appears to be fundamental issues on how to integrate social media and communication channels to get the best results.

Social Media Types
13% of Top European Manufacturers use no social media

The way in which companies set up to communicate with their clients, tends to follow very traditional methods and separate the three key elements in Social Media and Communication (Smac).

The three are

  • requesting “Please Follow us” so we can tell you important things
  • please “Share our information” so important information goes to your network
  • here is how we can “Make Contact” so we can talk and help you

Having these functions in separate places on a web site is inefficient and with a little creativity could be much more effective.

So, does all this really matter? Well some companies without Social Media content are very successful, but the exception to the rule only really works if you are seasoned marketeers.

If you were thinking “what is the most popular Social Media tool”, you are quite likely to say it’s Twitter, but you would be wrong, just like me……. its Facebook with 72% of companies using it. That was a surprise, as many consider it more relevant for personal use and sharing what you had for breakfast.

The next in line then must surely be Twitter, but again wrong, at 59% it is LinkedIn, once more something of a turn up for the books. So of course, the favourite tool of many a twit, must be in third place and the proud recipient of the bronze medal, but no, yet another surprise as it goes to You Tube, with 56% of the companies surveyed using it.

So, let’s see who could possibly be in fourth place. Taking a wild guess, it may be, ………perhaps Amazon. Well would you believe it, wrong again, at long last, its Twitter, with 47%.


Looking at the others, it is neck and neck with Pintrest on 44% and Instagram scoring 43%. Then a sizeable gap to Company Blogs which reached a reserved 17%, and the one-time great white hope Google+ with 14%, which shows that it appears to have missed the boat. The final score goes to Xing at 11%, and if you are in Germany it will be familiar, otherwise you may not have heard about it. There is then a smattering of other channels such as Tumblr, Reddit, Flikr, Myspace, Vimeo and Foursquare but these are used by only one or two companies.

So, what do you think about that?  We conclude that are there too many options and does everyone really have enough time for them. Frankly though, it doesn’t really matter as the recipients will tune into whatever they think is right for them and you should probably cater for that.

When reviewing all these web sites, it is not obvious if there has been in-depth consideration of which Smac tools are best to use, and in some cases, there may be little analysis at all, but a decision taken to do them all and hope for the best.  And some companies, it appears, are oblivious to social media and just ignore it. Whatever the reason there is a case for looking at this more carefully.

Are They all the Same and Do They Work? Of course, when you come to select, it is important to remember that these tools do not all do the same thing. You Tube is a place to store video output and Twitter tells you where to go, sometimes quite literally. Pintrest is a photo library and Instagram similar with added commentary. LinkedIn is a great business and person search engine and distributes news and information professionally.

So, when the analysis is done and dusted, the final selection should really form part of a strategy that is driven by Marketing objectives, and communication targets. I would say that the process needs to be thought about, not left to chance and it would benefit from some good professional advice.

It is also true that the more social media you use the more you must keep up to date, but again with the right strategy and tools like Hootsuite, you can plan a week or a month ahead and distribute information and communication automatically.

Our recommendation in the selection of social media should cover most bases, perhaps not Google+ but include a company Blog. The figures in our study do seem low, but as an option it can be a good addition and will link with your other social media content.

Company or Personal. Having a Company specific social media platform is important for many reasons, but it is important to  consider the “unintended” consequences when this strategy becomes blurred.

Protect your business contacts

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in particular, are also popular with individuals.During someone’s career they can build a very large following and this is usually courtesy of their company.  When they leave they may well take with them, your social media property. Do we hear some voices, mainly those in charge, saying naughty, naughty, and other saying no please don’t mention that. Ooops too late.

Is My Web Site Important? With the popularity of social media and online portals, some may believe that the web site has taken on a less important role. Well, in our opinion it is quite the opposite. The website is and should always be the core of any company’s commercial activity. It is where you want clientele to go and stay for as long as possible. Where they can extract information, find out about you and how you can help them, becoming a good and familiar friend. More time with you and less with competitors.

The website is the businesses library and knowledge centre. If you like, it is the brain and so needs to be exercised regularly. And, as our attention spans are short it must dispense information efficiently which means being intuitive and simple to understand.

The website is a company’s intelligence centre

Having reviewed so many web sites there are obviously quite a few sights. The good, the bad and the downright ugly, and oh yes there is also the plain. But generally, we have concluded that most are above average, with some very good and about 15% in the category of “please stay behind and see me after class”. There are areas for most to improve.

Quality not Quantity Social media tools are the messengers issuing invitations to come to the party (on the website) and we all want to go to the best parties. These messages have to say “I have something interesting to show you, to tell you. Come and have a look”. But this is not always the case, in fact in our experience a large amount of the posts on social media are a waste, totally boring, saying the same as many others and the fact that very often few people actually like or share a post is a failure. Receiving an endless stream of news about the latest product update, a new work practice blueprint found buried in a Cologne bar, lots of people drinking at our party last night, and others like this, are in our view counterproductive. When you become trusted to provide really good information you have more chance of being noticed, even if this is on a less frequent cycle. Quality not quantity.

The Big Issue. One criticism we have with many websites, is the almost universal lack of coordination of Social Media and Communication (Smac).

Trill PS
Tweeting not just for the birds

Links to social media and ways for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry are seldom in the same place and certainly don’t seem to have the same priority or quality as other more visual areas. Link Buttons are not always obvious and generally positioned at the bottom section of the web site. The “Contact Us” section is generally poorly designed, bland and if there is an extensive form to fill in it can put off visitors.

Our recommendation for a more effective web site, is to have in one place a Smac area where visitors can see what is available, what benefits they will get from being involved. Include attractive invitations to subscribe to your social media channels and how they can contact you and vice versa.  This area should be the clearly visible and visually appealing, and no matter where you are on the site it should only be one click away. The objective should always be to gain the maximum interaction which leads to the generation of business.

* The Top 100 Office Furniture Manufacturers Report, which lists the top 100 companies, is produced on a quarterly basis by the FEMB (European Office Furniture Manufacturers Federation). It is available to the members of the FEMB.

Standing Desks do more harm than good.

An article in the Telegraph on Saturday 24 February suggested that “Standing desks do more harm than good” and that they “increase lower body pain and slow down people’s cognitive functions at work”. Experts also warned that the “feverish” trend towards adopting the adjustable desks has little evidence to support their use.

The study, was published by the journal Ergonomics where researchers at Curtin University in Australia observed 20 people working at standing desks for two hours! Also, Professor Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University said: “The bottom line is that this expansion has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence”

Oh, I do love academia when they don’t understand the context, so I just had to write to the Telegraph.

Dear Sirs

The article in Saturdays Telegraph reporting on research that suggested Standing Desks do more harm than good is interesting, but the source and interpretation of the information lacks one key element, and that is common sense. If you are going to stand at work at a desk for long periods of time it is of course going to be tiring, and it may well cause discomfort in various body parts. This will certainly make concentration more difficult. Moving around is more important than the process of only standing on the spot for long periods of time. And who precisely is suggesting that office workers should do this.

These height adjustable products are not designed to replace sitting but give the user the opportunity to adopt a way of working that suits them best. The very fact that they can be adjusted will accommodate different sizes and heights of people including those who use wheelchairs. Often called “sit stand desks” (the function is in the name) they provide the facility to sit, and when required to stand, such as meetings for small groups. It is a well-known fact that meetings held when standing are concluded more quickly.5e08e1923d1c830cca0544222fafc889

The efficiency of the workforce relies on a workplace that provides an environment that is flexible to support working on different tasks and in different ways, whether that is on one’s own, or interacting with others. This means having furniture that allows a choice on how to work, and employers adopting enlightened practices that are in tune with their business, and their employees. The common-sense solution to physical well-being, is to adopt and encourage a routine that includes cycles of movement.

I was once asked the question on the Radio 4 PM show hosted by Eddie Mair, “would the trend of standing in the office be the end for the office chair”. They put this to the test by standing throughout the whole show. My answer then was, you can sit, you can stand, you should certainly move around, and you really must use common sense. As for the cost of office furniture (something also raised in the Telegraph), especially the chair and an adjustable work surface? Well, employers should invest in the best possible products that provide efficiency and comfort. Workers will be more effective and after all they probably spend more time at work than they do in bed – and would anyone, given the choice, want to sleep in an uncomfortable bed?

I am quite sure that the Workplace industries are encouraging their clients to use these excellent products in the most effective ways, and when necessary further advising the Experts in academia.

Colin Watson

Secretary General: The European Office Furniture Federationfemb_Logo_GB_2_RGB_150dpi

BBC Interview 


I’D Rather Sit

The suggestion that we should all stand for at least two hours or even up to four hours a day in the office has been suggested by an article in the Guardian (say no more). p04k7jkc

In the Radio 4 PM show hosted by Eddie Mair, they put this to the test by standing throughout the whole show. The question it raised was, would this trend really be the end of the road for the office chair. And was it a bright new future for “sit stand” desks

Well, they asked my opinion and we had a wee chat about it.

The Naked Designer

“All Business and Life are about Selling”. Well that’s what Mark Price (Lord Price) the previous Managing Director of Waitrose and former Minister with the Department for International Trade said in a recent book, Workplace Fables: 147 True Life Stories. I like Mark Price and his writings but certainly don’t agree with his view about selling.9ec8afdb0e3df837587417d1de27faaf

To me business and life are about Design. Just close your eyes and imagine life without it. If your imagination could handle this, then when you opened your eyes, you would be standing in a field stark naked, because nothing apart from nature would exist. If you had bad eyesight things would be blurred and any illnesses could not be medicated. You may even have trouble eating unless you found some palatable vegetation or a creature willing to be caught, unless of course it did not eat you first.

The point is, everything is first designed, then engineered, prepared for production and then comes the marketing bit, which includes selling. All the engineering, manufacturing and marking elements are also driven by design. Without creativity you don’t even get to the starting gate.

I believe that every company should place design and creativity on their board agenda and ensure it has a champion. Companies who innovate in all aspects of their business are more likely to compete at a more consistent level. The creative champion, who I believe should have a strong influence on Marketing and Design, should also understand the commercial aspects of creativity and what customers need.

Touch Gold 001
Design is the Midas touch.

The word “need” is hugely relevant, as what a customer wants to buy, they do not always know. Take the popular anecdote about why you buy a power drill, is it for the drill? No, you are buying holes. In which case any device that makes accurate holes in the most effective way, is what they want.

So, understanding customer needs before, during and after the design process is why design and marketing are so closely related – “Anticipating, identifying and satisfying customer needs profitably” was the foundation of my business education.

The design champion on the Board should also establish, protect and promote the ethics of original design. For some reason the legal protection of “design rights” in products has struggled to reach the same standard as Patent and Copyright © legislation, even after years of campaigning, and the process of protecting original design is particularly challenging for smaller companies.

Designers may at times conjure from their imagination things they have seen in the past through education and experience, but the real source of many breaches are intentional, and in my experience, have been driven by a demand to make original designs at a lower cost. Any business accepting a request to plagiarise an original design, even when subterfuge is employed, cannot plead innocence, as what they must do as a routine, is confirm design ownership. DiageoAukett 007

Registering designs is highly advisable as the intentional infringement of a registered design is now a crime enshrined in 2014 IP Act. Section 53 of the CPDA (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act). Registration can be done at the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) now relatively easily with online registration, although you need finance to enforce!  There is also a very useful service available from ACID (Anti Copying in Design) who can store designs on their IP Database and have additional services to support the protection and the marketing of designs. Worth exploring, I think.

There is really no need for designers to experience the chill of being naked. By raising the importance of design to Board level and taking a proactive stance with the process of designing new products, these valuable assets can achieve the reward they deserve.

In a future article I will look at how to develop profitable new products with a tried and test process, which is applicable to companies of any size.

Useful Contacts

Lord, is it That Time Already?

As a young businessman I was told about the importance of Time Management and was trained accordingly. The methods to manage your time were mainly mechanical and TMI (Time Management International) were the leaders in the paper based system. Some may remember the leather-bound compendiums that were a couple of steps above the more common Filofax. You had to work at it to schedule your time and activities. Continue reading “Lord, is it That Time Already?”