Removals firm that offered its vans during the war celebrates 90th birthday

Hadley and Ottoway staff raise a glass to 90 years. Picture: Hadley and Ottoway

Hadley and Ottoway staff raise a glass to 90 years. Picture: Hadley and Ottoway

Hadley and Ottoway

A removals firm which carried Second World War pilots around the country and survived three recessions has celebrated its 90th birthday. Hadley and Ottaway removals was founded in Norfolk in 1928 by Jack Hadley and Herbert Ottaway, who with their single van began moving families around Norwich.

More than a decade later the company offered its box vans to the war effort, transporting RAF pilots and their equipment from Norfolk to Lincolnshire.

In that period the firm also made its first international move. David Galer, the company’s managing director, said the business had needed to adapt to survive. “Following the world war a man named Lee Palmer bought out all the other shareholders and moved the business to an old shoe factory in Norwich,” he said.

“Then the 1970s recession hit and the removals business suffered a downturn, so he diversified into haulage by purchasing some second-hand vehicles and pallets.

“Haulage then outgrew the removals premises, and when the removals trade picked up Palmer sold the haulage side off and went back to that.”

Having taken over after a management buyout 14 years ago, Mr Galer has also been faced with critical decisions.

“During the recession in 2008 I made the decision to move the company out of Norwich to Watton, for cheaper rent and lower business rates,” he said.

“The main trends we have seen come in and out is European moves. We used to do a lot of them but since we moved more into the middle and high-end property market we’re seeing fewer of these, as we tend to be working with established families.

“I think that’s why Brexit could go either way for us – we could see new customers wanting to move back to Europe.” The company is now operating with a £1.5m turnover, with 30 members of staff, around 20 of whom are drivers.

Mr Galer said: “Our company has evolved over the years, but core to everything is ensuring we provide the highest levels of service. “For example we recently collected a customer’s effects and during the pre-move survey the customer asked ‘Would you be able to move my cow?’ “Our sales director apologised and said we can’t move livestock, at which point she led him to the back garden where he was presented with a life-size model of a cow. That we can move.”

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