10 OCTOBER 1970, Page 18

In the groove

Sir: Dr Rowan Wilson, writing on change of jobs in middle life (26 September) ignores historical bias in his evidence.

People born between (approxi- mately) 1905 and 1917 are likely to have encountered a period when vocational guidance was deficient, unemployment rife, and they were lucky if they got any job however unsuitable. From 1939 many were torn away to war service which virtually meant a return to square one. Whereas after the First World War bonuses were distributed in money to all ex-Servicemen, after the second they were mainly in kind and limited to those under age twenty-eight the best possible for the older men was to get their 1939 jobs back, often to find that younger people 'reserved' had passed over their heads. Moreover they found a changed fashion; whereas in 1939 you were considered too young for promotion to a senior post till you were forty by 1945 you were too old at thirty-five. Among people of this period who have com- mented autobiographically are the late Mr Gilbert Harding and Mr Alvar Liddall. A very few person- nel managers in business have since realised that among this genera- tion misplacement and under-un- employment were so rife that high quality could be acquired very cheaply, but most, and this seems to go for all public bodies, have been content to follow the current craze for youth regardless of other factors.

The following generation (those born from 1918 until at least 1928) suffered psychologically rather than economically from the war. As an experience it distorted a good many career choices. It created very artificial differences between those who happened to be 'reserved', those who rose to high rank through military accident and made contacts, and those who were held back by the irrelevance of their postings or duties. Among people of this period are Mr Harold Wilson and Mr Enoch Powell. Continuation of military service for ten years after 1945 may have continued the same problems in a much diluted form.

This is not to dispute completely the validity of Dr Rowan Wilson's thesis. It is to point out that those of us who have had to solve these problems as well as enunciate them always need to establish their magnitude as compared with associated difficulties, and deter- mine a degree of priority. We are in fact only just beginning to see people who have completed this 'twenty year period' in terms of a normally chosen and uninterrupted career, i.e. without unemployment or military service. In these cir- cumstances it is impossible to decide how much arises from bore- dom inherent in the situation, and how much is the pay-off of a pre- viously disturbed set-up.

Douglas W. Franklin Dhoon Plat, Maughold, Ramsey, Isle of Man