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Case study: Trevor Waddington

Trevor Waddington OBE, BA (Hons) History

“I joined the Royal Navy at 15 straight from school and spent 35 years as a weapons engineer. I was always interested in mechanical things and antiques. I’ve no idea where I got this interest in antiques from - we never had enough money for antiques when I was growing up! My love of mechanics and antiques came together after leaving the Navy when I took a diploma in the conservation and restoration of antique clocks. I then started my own business in antique clock restoring.

With the onset of the recession in the 2000s, I predicted that business would decline and, having had a life-long interest in history, decided to embark on an OU history degree course.

(Ironically business did not decline but, having started my academic studies, I was 'hooked' and driven to complete the course in five years.)

I was awarded an OBE for services to the Royal Navy during my final posting as the naval attaché at the British embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during the first Gulf War of 1991. I retired as a Commander and had a reasonable pension so I was able to fund my studies from that.

As I’d already had a successful career in the Royal Navy and then set up my own business I did the OU purely for personal reasons, but I learned a lot. Having been in engineering I’d never really studied the arts, at degree level or anything approaching it. So my first module, The Arts Past and Present, I was right out of my comfort zone. But it was a super module, I really enjoyed it.

I was out of my comfort zone on quite a number of parts of this module. For example, I had to do a textual analysis of a piece on Anthony and Cleopatra written by a Roman historian. I found textual analysis very difficult, but my tutor was very helpful and I struggled through. I also had to compare two impressionist paintings, one by Manet, the other by Matisse, and I didn’t like either of them! But there I was, doing art appreciation and I learned a lot.

I had no preconceived ideas at all about The Open University before I started. The documentation supplied is first class. They send you everything you need. That’s the amazing thing about The Open University: for anyone anywhere in the world, provided their English is up to it, they can do a degree with the OU. It was an enormous achievement for former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who founded the OU. I would recommend The Open University wholeheartedly to anyone.”

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