War on Wheels

War on Wheels
Book cover

COD Donnington - Kathleen Parton

I started work at the Central Ordnance Depot at Donnington in February 1940.  The London people who were moved from Woolwich Arsenal were more than a little dismayed at moving to a place where there was, in their words, “ nothing to do”.  I can understand the wrench it must have been uprooting themselves from their homes and relations, as well as moving from a city to very rural countryside.  Donnington was a very small village with only a few shops.

Many houses of all descriptions were built for Depot employees and the military but in the early stages local people in surrounding villages were asked to take in families until the houses were ready for occupation. My parents had a spare room and a civilian worker and his wife came to live with us remaining friends for several years after the war ended.

Living in the village of Hadley, about three miles from the Central Ordnance Depot,  I travelled to work either by bus or on my bicycle.  As double summertime had been introduced by the government this meant the mornings were very dark but it stayed light until midnight, enabling the farmers to put in longer working hours in order to grow all the crops needed to feed us.

There was an army camp (K Camp)  about half a mile from Donnington and I would pass the
soldiers marching to the Depot when cycling to work.  With the  mornings being so dark, a soldier at the front  of the column would be carrying a lantern, the same at the rear.

 I worked in Building 14 which was just inside the main gate, it was a huge building and housed many different departments including the typing pool where I worked under a Miss Wesley who was a fair but strict lady.   She had a small glass partitioned office where she could overlook the typing pool. Next door was another room which acted as a “Rest Room” if someone felt unwell    Occasionally we would be asked to work in the evenings if paper work was needed to cover goods going by convoy to Russia. The officer in charge of Building 14 was a Major Warnock.  Civilians had to carry gas masks wherever they went, and each day at the office we had to sit for an hour with our gas masks on, feeling a great relief when it was time to take them off.   Military working in the building had to do the same.

Some of the buildings, including ours, were un-heated as they had been erected quickly just before war started and had not been completed. We were allowed a ten minute break at intervals throughout the day to go to a building where there was heat to enable us to get warm, and have a hot drink.

Whilst still working there in 1942 we had a visit from King George and Queen Elizabeth,
we were all allowed a short time off to go outside to greet them.

I left the Depot in October 1942, having been married in the August of that year I wanted to live in Somerset to be with my soldier husband until his company were moved on.

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