A researcher is hoping to tap into the memories of thousands of Salopians who served at the massive Central Ordnance Depot in Donnington so that he can tell the story of the men and women who provided the vital back-up for the front line troops and helped the Allies win the war. Phil Williams has a family connection with that story, as his late mother Betty Williams, nee Perks, worked in the War Office with his late father Major-General Williams, who led the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the war and who visited Donnington periodically. His mother compiled some fascinating scrapbooks, but Phil is after more.
What would bring the story alive, though, would be the words of those people who were there, said Phil, who is from Lincoln. Many stories have been told of World War Two, but I don t see in the bookshops the wider story of those who supplied the troops, often at great personal danger. I want to tell that story.
He is appealing to anyone who has a story to tell, or a written account, to contact him at 07761 836555 or by email at [email protected] I am writing the story of a quiet revolution which transformed a vital part of the British Army, in the inter-war years made moribund by cautious civil servants and dithering politicians, into the muscular artery which ensured the troops landing on D Day had all they needed to do their job. The organisation was the Royal Army Ordnance Corps whose job it was to supply the Army with all it needed, apart from food and fuel, he said.
He said the Donnington site began with a need to move the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich to a location where it would be safe from German bombers. Donnington in the Shropshire countryside had been chosen by the War Office as the perfect site. Under the command of Brigadier de Wolff, Donnington grew into a huge depot employing some 15,000 soldiers, 3,200 ATS, 2,000 Italian prisoners of war and 4,000 civilians.
It was state-of-the-art and hugely effective in doing its job. It suppled many tanks to Russia. It had some of the first mobile radar.
De Wolff had reputation for discipline and he used this well as he blended together the essential business skills of warehousing and distribution with soldiering.
Did you or did anyone you know work there?
Major Paul Lodge and Captain Chris Willett are both reservist members of the Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG). In their civilian jobs, Paul is a Project Manager and Chris is a Police Officer. For two weeks, they are deployed on Exercise Civil Bridge, an MSSG overseas training exercise which this year is taking place in Jakarta the first joint exercise of its kind to involve the British and Indonesian Army.
Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right) Day two s highlight was meeting with the Mayor of East Jakarta, who even laid on some cake for us. A piece of sponge in a bag was going down well when the room went quiet and our hosts stared at one of my colleagues. The Mayor who knew no English managed to say we don t eat the chilli as a green wedge disappeared down with the cake.
The ice was broken The gathered masses sat back to see the result as they all agreed, no we never eat the chilli; it s hotter than red ones only to flavour the cake in the bag . To spare any blushes I ll say no more but it s fair to say the ice was broken. We had a busy morning of meetings planned.
After the interviews with Mayors we got out to meet more people. First up, the local police who, after the formal presentation, took us outside for a more relaxed demonstration of their inflatable rescue equipment. In front of about 100 officers and the station s car park attendants I was in high demand for photo opportunities.
That lasted until they realised WOII Chris Parsons is a stunt double for Michael Owen and I was side-lined as they clambered to have a photo with him instead most undignified! Taking notes on the tablet while having tea and cake with the Mayor complete with super-spicy chillies Dealing with the rainy season It actually took some time to extract from the Police who kindly offered to visit us when we next have floods. They struggled to grasp that we don t have a rainy season or more accurately a non- rainy season and that we have no idea when or where we will have floods!!
They have a complex system of pumps and gates which to be blunt directs flood water to a low lying shanty town across the road from the station. The city evacuates the residents, the area gets wiped out and they efficiently clean up the mud salvaging enough wriggly tin to rebuild it. Have we considered doing that?
Hmmm answers on a postcard as to where you would recommend we trial the concept. The partial construction of colossal high density housing projects suggests an effort to alleviate the problem of shanty towns but I suspect the current pace of economic development will draw people into the city to fill any space vacated by those already there. The police give a dry-run demonstration of their rescue equipment A five minute walk brought us to the local health department where we had another exceptionally warm welcome.
Offered fruit instead of cake (naturally) we were frankly amazed at what they can deliver with so little. Accommodating 500 displaced locals in the foyer and another 400 in the basement (rooms, which aren t big at all) . for a month with food, clean water and health care etc while not 50 metres away the flood waters wash away the neighbourhood and wash in rubbish and toxic waste from across the city.
Of course the rats and other vermin have the same idea when their homes are flooded. Impressed? Just a bit!
After all that hard work we needed a bit of local situational awareness and headed for the old town from where the Dutch ran the country as their colony in the late 18th century. Walking past a line of school children waiting to enter a museum caused carnage when they all decided they wanted a piece of Michael Owen and followed us down the street. What must their teachers have thought?
Go away, I am not the Messiah! This entry was posted in Army 1 , MSSG 2 , MSSG Military Stabilisation and Support Group 3 and tagged British Embassy Jakarta 4 , Disaster Relief 5 , embassy 6 , Flooding 7 , Humanitarian Assistance 8 , Indonesia 9 , Indonesian Army 10 , military stabilisation support group 11 , Queen’s Birthday Party 12 , TNI-AD 13 . Bookmark the permalink 14 .
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Jakarta: An exercise in disaster management Pt4