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Author Topic: Chatham War Diary Oct 1939  (Read 2572 times)

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Offline kyn

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Chatham War Diary Oct 1939
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2010, 11:53:41 »
PLACEDATEHOURSUMMERY OF EVENTS AND INFORMATIONREMARKS AND REFERENCES TO APPENDICES
OCT
CHATHAM20-10-39It is regretted that I have been unable to commence this war diary until today because the forms were not available or obtainable until this morning so that it would be futile to try and catalogue events daily since the outbreak of hostilities.  I have therefore decided to narrate a summery of events and happenings which I consider to be of interest from the date I arrived here.
It was approaching midnight on Sept. 1st when my train reached Chatham Station having started my journey from OMAGH in the north of Ireland where I had been a farmer for the past ten years having retired as a Captain since 1929 after seventeen and a half years service on the R.A.S.C.
It was pouring with rain and no means of transport was available and no one but the Station Master to tell me where to go.  It was almost an hour later that I found the gate to Southill Barracks.  The utter darkness and lack of any one about made it a rather hopeless task until by good luck I met a policeman who directed me.
I had no uniform but luckily the sentry believed me when I told him who I was, although at a time like this he should not have done without some proof.  I was so thankfull to get in that I willingly forgave him and did not think of it again until this moment.
I found a mess orderly and ascertained from him that all the quarters were occupied so I spent what was left of the night on a couch in the ante rooms.
At 06.30 hrs I got up and about 0800-hours met Major Woodhams a reemployed Mechanist Officer of over 60 years old.  He told me that the previous Commanding Officer had left to take up his mobilisation appointment and that I was to be the new O.C. R.A.S.C. Chatham area.
This I found out meant that I was to assume responsibility for all R.A.S.E. services to the troops commanded by the G.O.C. Chatham area.
The R.A.S.C. administrative staff in offices consisted of myself, Major P. Fleming as O.C. R.A.S.C. 2nd in command Major C. White R.A.R.O Major MO A.G. Woodhams retired - employed as officer in charge of supplies and transport Capt. (R.M.) R.W. Robinson as o/c Barracks Lt. H.S. Clemous and Capt. W.W. Thornton were on  the list of officers due to report on mobilisation but they had not arrived.
Lt. + Q? ??? W Spring was shown as in charge of SHOEBURYNESS sub district which is part of the CHATHAM area north of the THAMES.  Lt. V.G. Cole R.A.R.O. was shown as in charge of SHEERNESS sub district but he had not arrived + in any case SHEERNESS was not and is not now functioning as a sub district.  In the course of a few days Lt. Clemous and Lt. Cole arrived.  The former detailed to take over the barracks from Lt. T.T. Lee who in command of 18 Company R.A.S.C. was in the process of mobilising it as No.2 MOTOR AMBULANCE CONVOY.  Lt. COLE I detailed to take over as O/C R.A.S.C.  duties SHOEBURYNESS as the BAA + QMG had told me that Lt. SPRING was in difficulties.  The latter remained there as O/C Barracks.
Lt. LEE had five officers all Special Reserve Lt. Bullock O/C workshops 2nd Lts. Hockly, Fizzard, Mobbs + Knowcand (?) as section officers.
I obtained the G.O.C's authority to promote Lt. LEE to acting Captain to the vacancy in the establishment.
Mobilisation proceeded according to mob scheme.  Reservists began to arrive and very soon every nook + cranny was filled with men 198 in all.  The vehicles were drawn from Feltham V.R.D. on the appointed day but it was found that as they were all improvised - vehicles they had to be painted.  This kept the whole Company busy for about eight days during which the men where medically inspected and inoculated.  This incapacitated them in turn which rather upset things.  They had ante tetanus, jab and in some cases vaccination.
In the end Capt. LEE was warned that the Company would move on Sept 25th but 48 hours beforehand this was altered to the 24th which necessitated rather a rush at the last minute.
However in the end the whole Column consisting of one hundred and twenty lorries ambulances and cars moved off at 0715 hours on Sunday the 24th of Sept. I addressed men + officers on parade at 0630 hrs.
In the meantime Lt. Fisher had arrived instead of Captain Thornton who was sick.  Lt. Fisher was detailed to take over the workshop stores + Lt. Clemous who had been promoted acting Captain took up his duties as O/C Details with Lt. Fisher to assist him.
Nothing of interest from a historical point of view occurred from then till now but I feel I should record the fact that in my opinion things were greatly disorganised by the transfer on the Mob 2 of nearly all the experienced staff to other formations.  This I know was necessary but after ten years in retirement I found it very difficult to keep things running smoothly with an inexperienced staff most of them quite new to their jobs.  I also think that trying to maintain the peace time system of accounting during war is a mistake, and tends to make officers lose their perspective and concentration on the wrong things.  No officer under these circumstances can avoid making many mistakes and in trying to rectify them wastes time which might have been employed in doing more vital things.  I know that I found and still find my office work very heavy and I do think that with more foresight it could be arranged that administrative offices such as this should not be so completely deluded on the outbreak of war
CHATHAM21-10-39Received a notification.  O.C. F Company R.A.S.C. Woolwich that two bakers were being posted here this will enable me to dispense with two hired civilians.
They arrived this evening.
22-10-39Rally - up the Adjt R.A.S.C. Woolwich concerning posting of drivers to relieve civilians at present driving several vehicles hired under the emergency contract he said he would be able to help me.  
23rdReceived instructions from the D D of S + T to post Major C. White to take over duties as O/C R.A.S.C. duties EAST GRINSTEAD.  I telephoned the Adjt. At WOOLWICH and it was arranged that he should report there tomorrow.  He was doing duty as 2nd in command here and O/C P.A.D. duties
24thMajor White left this morning at 0930 hours to report to Woolwich.
His removal leaves me very short handed.
CHATHAM25thI received verbal information from WOOLWICH that 6 drivers and 6 other ranks were being posted to me this will considerably relieve the situation.
26thThe above mentioned men arrived today but as follows:-
6 Drivers MT from No. 84 Co Woolwich
6 Bakers            "          F Co              "
3 Issuers           "          F Co              "
3 Butchers         "          F Co              "
We are now getting rather to many bakers however I shall use them as Issuers + dispose
of civilians.
27thI telephoned Lt. Cole at SHOEBURYNESS on the subject of an important section which he promised to let me have tomorrow.  It is on the subject of reserve supplies and is required by the DDS + T
28thThe G.O.C. of this area rang me up on the telephone this morning on the subject of supplies + wanted to know if there as any reason why the A.A.Batteries should not be supplied from the command and supply depot here instead of from No. 921 Company?s detail issue store at Wrotham.  I told him that there was not and that I had recently written to the D.D.S. + T Eastern Command on the subject which had been raised by him.
Received twenty learner clerks from Woolwich today.  I don?t know how we shall be able to teach them anything here as all the offices are full and the real clerks too busy to give instruction.  That makes forty of these learn
er clerks here and sixteen more to come.
The strength which O/C details has to administer for ?? rationing and every thing is now over 100 and he is struggling along without any establishment and therefore no C.S.M. or C.A.N.S to say nothing of other N.C.O.S I have made a few Corporals and Lance Corporals (acting) which considering that they have only been in the army for a few weeks are doing well.
29-10-39Sunday.  Things quiet on the whole.  Got special return off the DD of S + T for submission to the War Office on the subject of reserve supplies.  Seven days reserve is to be held for total feeding strength in addition to about 15 days working reserve.
The B A A + ??? rang up yesterday to ask how many lorries we could turn out at a moments notice.  I told him we had no military lorries but that I could probably turn out 9 hired vehicles in two hours notice driven by civilians.  The position is really not satisfactory regarding Mechanical transport.
30thThe G.O.C. area sent for me this morning to enquire about transport I told him we would probably be able to get quite a lot of buses in a fairly short time.  He had in view the possibility of having to move bodies of troops at short notice in case the enemy tried to land from the air in any sort of strength.
Aircraft gave been active today I suppose on that account the moon is nearly full and there is quite a frost at night.  I have issued orders concerning precautions to be taken in case of frost.
Sent for NAAFS manager today and asked him to arrange to administer naafi at Maidstone because I want to close the large school which the HH Division had there if possible.  He said he would write to his H.Q. about it.
31st Oct 1939Received an U.P.T. from the D.D.S. + T. on the subject of hired transp
ort.  He wanted to know what rates were being paid for the various categories i.e. buses, three ton lorries etc.  I sent off the information asked for but I can?t help feeling that he will consider our rates here in Chatham too high.  I am assured by the transport office that they are not.  We shall see.
The B A A + ??? rang me up + gave verbal authority for the bridging lorries to be used in the O/C Wouldham Camp as and when required for training purposes.  I rang up the transport office + left a message there for Major Woodhams.
Major Woodhams and I went over to MAIDSTONE this morning to see the managing director of the M + D Bus Company he promised he would do all he could to let us have approximately 10 buses at GRAVESEND to move 300 men and 27 buses at CHATHAM to move 800 men as soon as possible after notification either by day or by night.
We also visited the school recently used by the 44th Division R.A.S.C. as a supply depot.  The latter has been closed as such and the school has been handed back to the Educational Committee by Eastern Command apparently so I told the NAAFI manager that he should arrange with his area manager and the CHATHAM area manager to vacate the portion of the building still occupied.

 

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