All 4 Guns at Firepower Museum
This event started for me with the drive up from Crawley, West Sussex to Tilbury Fort, Essex in my new 1942 Chevrolet Field Artillery Tractor. An event in itself as I had only taken delivery of the said tractor a couple of days before. I decided to leave plenty of time for the drive Friday afternoon, as my recent experience of motorway driving in these old military vehicles was somewhat traumatic. (and that's an understatement.) Arriving at the fort some two hours later after a pretty uneventful journey was a great relief. Some members had already started to gather, and I think were quite surprised at the sight of the Chevrolet. It was quickly hitched up to Jonathans limber and gun whilst he was off filling his tractor with petrol. What a sight, it was looking good, several photographs later we adjourned for some of Fred's excellent tea. By now the troops were massing, and it was time for a rehearsal of the weekends events. After this and some more preparation it was off to the local pub for the evening meal and a few drinkies. Here Dave and the future Mrs Dave joined us for a few more drinkies. Closing time brought an end to the fun, and it was back to the haunted accommodation for sleep. About 6 or 7 of us stayed overnight in the fort, and not one single ghost was seen. I think Fred's snoring must of kept them away, or was it Gary's television going through the night.
Next morning up early for an 0830 departure, I was ready on time, honest!! My tractor was connected up to Graham's gun and limber and we were off. Dave Petters only just made it, having had mechanical problems. Luckily we had arranged to borrow Keith Booker's Morris C8. The convoy was off heading for the Woolwich ferry some 20 miles or so away. That's 4 Tractors, 4 25pdr field guns and limbers and assorted support vehicles. It soon became obvious with my slow tractor, that we would be unable to keep up, Keith did his best from the back seat in my Quad, but no matter how much he shouted we couldn't go any faster. Eventually we all made it to the ferry and crossed bang on time, all modern lights etc. were removed at this time ready for our performance at the Woolwich Artillery Museum. As we drew up to the museum, I could see how small the display arena was. It was going to be tight manoeuvring the tractors in this space I thought. After a short wait it was time to give the display. First the recce party moved forward with Ian Hagger and Gavin Cooper, then the no1's from each gun were called forward to receive their instructions. They ran to there positions on the gun line and called the guns forward. We moved off quick time into position and unhitched the guns and limbers, tractors were parked up. Then each gun became ready to receive laying instructions. The script called for a smoke screen, however due to lack of smoke ammunition a re-supply was called for. Our friends from the Essex Regiment duly obliged with there Austin truck. Then the fire mission began, about this time Ian had jumped forward in the script, but nobody seemed to notice. All went well, and I think the public enjoyed the display. We came out of action and started to set up in the accommodation, Fred and Dave in the kitchen making the tea and sandwich's.
All Lined up ready to depart F troop, 489 Bty, 124th Fd Regiment RA Detachments Front 99% of the troop preformed well but were let down by the actions of just one. The TC blames himself for not conveying to this solder what is expected.
Later the same day we had a chance to put right any mistakes from the mornings performance. This time things went a lot smoother. As guests of the museum we benefited from free access to their excellent museum, and spent much time wandering through the galleries. During the evening a visit to the local Pizza Hut ensured everybody got stuffed!! It had been quite a hard day so early to bed for me, but on looking around the building we were staying in, I was surprised to find that the Duke Of Wellington had done some of his artillery schooling in the very room that I was going to sleep in. More ghosts, perhaps!!
Next morning I was awoken to the smell of breakfast, and another dry and windy day. After that and a constitutional, it was off to recover my tractor from the storage compound around the corner. Things were squared away ready for another days displaying. By now everybody was familiar with what was going on and another two good displays later, it was time to clear up and get ready for the drive home. The museum seemed to be happy with our performance, and I'm sure would invite us back in the future. After a debrief to thank everybody especially the Essex and other non Garrison members, it was time to drive home. Graham was going to tow his own gun back, so I went straight home to Crawley through the outskirts of London. I had only gone 500yds when I came across Dave's broken down Morris Quad. I stopped but everything was in hand, and he was soon on his way home.
Anyway a fine weekend to introduce my Chevrolet Field Artillery Tractor to everyone, and I'm looking forward to the next event.
p.s. carpet slippers please in my quad, hobnails don't half scratch!!!!!!!