Gaza Barracks

GAZA BARRACKS

By Dennis Billett O.B.E.

The Author:  The late Dennis Billett O.B.E. lived in Church Road, Weald.  When he retired from the Ministry of Defence be became interested in local history – including the research into the Gaza Barracks.  His wife, Jean Billett, has given permission for this article, written in 2000, to be published.  (Currently none of the photos etc referred to in the article have been found).

Chris Rowley

Jan 2012

 

INTRODUCTION

Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler in September 1938 with the aim of averting a second Anglo-German war.  What he did achieve was a signed joint declaration stating the desire of the two peoples never to go to war with one another again.  When Chamberlain reached Downing Street on his return from Munich, he waved the signed declaration and used these words.  ‘This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time’.

Britain had just begun to prepare for war.  During 1937-38 the total British military expenditure was £234 million.  Between 1938 and 1939 it rose to £304 million and in 1939-40 to £367 million.  At the same time the rate of Germany was of the order of £1,500 million and it had been at that level for some three years.  Britain had a long way to catch up.

The British Army in 1938 was relatively small and housed in permanent barracks spread throughout the country, with some detachments serving overseas.  It consisted of Guards and County Regiments which made up the Infantry, together with the specialized regiments such as the Artillery, Tank, Signals and Engineers.  During the 1930s many young men had joined Territorial Units which in the main were attached to the County Regiments, meeting two or three times a week in Territorial Halls.  This group made up the army reserves.  However, they were civilians living at home, either with their parents or their wives and families.

If and when mobilisation came, there would be a great demand for additional army accommodation.  So in late 1938, with the imminent threat of war, many new army barracks were hurriedly built.  Gaza Barracks was typical of the type which was built all over the country during this period and after the outbreak of war in September 1939.

At the end of the war the plan was to demolish such barracks and return the land to its original use.  As it happened, Gaza Barracks escaped this fate for reasons which will be explained later in the text.

It has proved far more difficult to gather information about Gaza Barracks than it was first thought.  After over fifty years, only scant War Office records still existed.  The Imperial War Museum and the Invicta Lines at Maidstone could give no definitive information concerning the activities at Gaza Barracks during the War.  The small number of soldiers who have been traced and interviewed could not recall in detail their experiences whilst stationed there.  Some were only at Gaza Barracks for a very short period, and when one takes into account that most soldiers were stationed at many different locations in this country and overseas during the war, it is not difficult to understand the problem.  However, three ex-soldiers, who were interviewed, had all been in the Royal Pioneer Corps.  So contact was made with the secretary of their Old Comrades Association.  He kindly placed a notice in their magazine asking for information from anyone stationed at Gaza Barracks.  Unfortunately there was not one reply.  BBC Radio 2 had a programme on Sunday afternoons hosted by Charlie Chester.  During the programme he broadcast requests for information concerning lost friends and old comrades.  After he had mentioned my request for any information on Gaza Barracks, three replies were received.  Then a chance meeting whilst on holiday yielded much detailed and interesting insight into the period of the Blitz in 1941-42.

Useful information has come from residents living in and around the village during and after the war.  And thanks go to Mr John Hodson and Mrs Eve Lucas for the loan of documents concerning the transfer to private ownership from the War Department in 1960.

LAND ACQUISITION

Just prior to 1938 the land to the south of Sevenoaks Weald consisted of farms and one small private estate.  The farms being: Stidoph, Pitt, Blue House, Westwood, Eastwood and Priory.  The small estate called Southwood was owned by the Gordon family (of Gordon’s Gin).  Eastwood was one of the smaller farms and at the time owned by Mr Trotter.  He had previously been the manager at Wickhurst Priory Farm which had been sold in 1936.  He had then purchased Eastwood where he was building up a milking herd together with other farm animals.  It was part of this farm, consisting of 13.5 acres which was compulsorily purchased in 1938 by the War Department.  Building on this site began almost immediately.

CONSTRUCTION

All the roads and services were constructed by the Royal Engineers which included not only the parade ground but a small sewerage treatment plant.  Although a contractor was employed to complete the barracks, the design and supervision of the construction was carried out by the Royal Engineers on behalf of the War Department.

The main contract for the buildings and remaining services was awarded to a Maidstone company called William Blay.  With the exception of the transport buildings, the generator house and some storage buildings, all the others were constructed in prefabricated form from timber with corrugated asbestos roofing.  This method must have speeded up the work, as urgency was the order of the day.  The timber buildings were prefabricated by Thorns of Bexley, and some buildings still carry the manufacturer’s small name plates.

One of the carpenters who worked on the erection of the timber buildings still lives locally.  Now (2000) in his eighties, Mr Charles Humphy lives with his wife in Rean Cottage, Lower Street, Hildenborough, see photograph 1.

The transport garages and workshops which back on to the road are of a more robust construction.  They have steel frames and are clad with corrugated asbestos sheets.  The large doors are clad with corrugated iron sheets.  A crude concrete pillbox is situated at one corner of the parade ground, but there is no reference to it on the original site plan.  A copy of the site plan is shown in Appendix A.

The William Blay contract was for £46,830 and additions in 1944 amounted to a further £4,000.

WHY THE NAME GAZA BARRACKS?

Many British Army Barracks have traditionally been named either after battles or generals.  The completed barracks built on the site at Eastwood farm was apparently given the name Gaza after the victory over the Turks at Gaza by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in June 1917 under the command of Field Marshal Allenby.

ACCOMMODATION

The original plans for the barracks detailed the accommodation as follow:

Men:     8 Officers

10 Warrant Officers and Sergeants

158 Other Ranks

*ATS:    2 Officers

2 Warrant Officers and Sergeants

36 Other Ranks

There was also accommodation for 8 NAFFI personnel.

*Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Services

This fits very closely with the figures given by the Imperial War Museum for the Royal Army Service Corps No 5 Lines of Communication Motor Transport Company stationed in the Sevenoaks area in 1940 consisting of the following personnel:

Men:     7 Officers

9 WOs and Sergeants

169 Other Ranks

*ATS:    2 Officer

34 Other Ranks

THE WAR YEARS

The existence of the large transport garages and workshops confirms that Gaza Barracks was designed for a Transport Company.  Also on site was a well protected communications building and a radio repair workshop, further support for this being that Beechmont House up at the top of the hill on Gracious Lane had also been taken over by the Army and was now occupied by a Traffic Control Company manned in the main by the ATS.  There is also evidence that soldiers and ATS were taught to drive motor vehicles: and the site plan does show instruction classrooms.

In late 1940 searchlights were seen at the Barracks.  Local inhabitants said that they appeared to be stored and repaired there.  These observations were correct.  In the first instance Mr K A Wilkes who wrote from Hailsham after hearing the Charlie Chester broadcast said that he was stationed for a time at the HQ of the 4th Battery of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Artillery which was situated in a large house opposite the C of E Church in Hildenborough.  This must have been the house now occupied by the Sackville School.  He said this Unit operated searchlights and in the course of his duties he often had to visit Gaza Barracks.

Then, through a chance meeting whilst on holiday in Majorca, Mr D V Sykes happened to say that he had, during the war, been ‘arrested’ in Weald.  It transpired he had been stationed at Gaza Barracks during 1941-42.  He said he was commissioned in 1940 and then sent to South Wales to join the 1st Searchlight Regiment which had just returned from Dunkirk.  In late 1940, Germany, having been defeated in the air during the Battle of Britain, changed their tactics.  They switched to night bombing raids, principally directed against London.  The Blitz had begun.  The 1st Searchlight Regiment was transferred to Kent to help protect London.  Lt. Sykes arrived at Gaza Barracks. This became a very active time at Gaza Barracks with a vital role to play in the defence of London.  The story of his arrest is given as a postscript at the end of this article.

Aircraft detection systems at the outbreak of war had used outdated acoustic methods to located aircraft and calculate the height and direction of flight.  These systems were soon replaced by early short range Radar systems.  The task allocated to the Searchlight Regiment was to locate and track the German aircraft taking off from northern France en route for London.  The area covered under the command of Gaza Barracks was known as the West Malling Nightfighter Box.  The nightfighters were stationed at the West Malling airfield, and at the time were twin engined Bristol Beaufighters under the command of Wing Commander ‘Cats-Eyes’ Cunningham.

Lt Sykes was a Troop Commander in the No. 1 Battery of the 1st Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.  He was responsible for six searchlight sites all equipped with the new Radar systems.  The Troop HQ was situated at Brasted.  The other sites were at Ide Hill, Oxted, Ightham, Edenbridge and Borough Green.

Each site was manned by a crew of 12 soldiers making 72 in a Troop.  The sites were all self-contained and included Telephone Operators, a Cook, a Clerk and a Driver.  Rations were drawn daily from Gaza Barracks.  Power was supplied for the Searchlight and Radar by diesel generators.  In the beginning the soldiers lived under canvas, but later they were provided with huts which they had to erect themselves.  They also had to construct roadways and build sandbag emplacements.

During a night air raid each site would search the sky with its Radar.  If and when an aircraft was located, the Radar would be locked on to it.  The Range, Height, Elevation and Bearing would be displayed on a screen.  This information was then used to direct the searchlight on to the target using powerful binoculars, which in turn controlled the searchlight via a series of sensors and electric motors to illuminate the aircraft if cloud conditions allowed.  At the same time the information from the Radar screen would be telephoned through to the Plotting Room at Gaza Barracks which was manned by ATS personnel.  All six sites would be feeding their data into the Plotting Room.  The aircraft positions would then be passed to the RAF at Biggin Hill and then on to the Air Controller at West Malling.  The nightfighters would already be in the air patrolling in known positions ready to receive instructions as to the position of the German aircraft.  If conditions were ideal, the German aircraft would still be held in the searchlight beams.  This whole operation only took a matter of minutes from the time the sights picked up the German aircraft until the nightfighter was given the aircraft’s position.  So the RAF nightfighter successes were not due to the pilots eating carrots, but in part to the skill of the soldiers and ATS stationed at Gaza Barracks.

Mr Sykes relates one incident when he watched the whole operation.  The searchlight, having locked on to a Dornier 127, held it in its beam until it was shot down by a Beaufighter.  It crashed into a hillside just north of Brasted.  The bombs it was carrying detonated on impact with the ground, making a crater 50ft across and some 40ft deep.

During the Blitz, Gaza Barracks was a centre of great activity as it had four Searchlight Troops under its command – that is 288 soldiers and 24 searchlights.  Most of the sites were to the south and east of Weald.  The Barracks’ staff was made up of the CO with the rank of Major.  The 2i/c was a Captain, who was also the Training Officer.  Another Captain was responsible for all transport and their maintenance.  A further Officer was in charge of the general running of the Barracks.  And a REME Officer was in charge of the Technicians who serviced the searchlights, radar equipment and radios.  Two ATS Officers were in charge of the important Plotting Room and the soldiers who did all the clerical work.

Throughout the period of the Blitz, the searchlight crews had to be at readiness during the hours of darkness.  There was also very little respite during the day as the equipment had to be serviced or repaired. Then there were exercises with the RAF, Observer Corps and the Home Guard.  Consequently morale became very low at times due to the lack of sleep and the heavy workload.  The soldiers stationed at the Barracks had a slightly easier time, but the ATS Plotters had the hardest job there, as they had to be on duty from dusk until dawn every night.

Notwithstanding the heavy workload, every item and piece of equipment had to be kept clean and where necessary polished, not only at the Barracks but out on the searchlight sites as well.  On one occasion a furious exchange took place between an inspecting Brigadier and a Battery Commander on the site at Ide Hill.  The site happened to be immaculate and the poor Brigadier could find nothing to complain about, so he finally called for the ‘Bath Book’.  This book was a record as to when each soldier took a bath.  As the soldiers were not in Barracks, the form was to take baths in neighbouring houses.  The men had forgotten to keep the book up to date, or, as happened more frequently to forge all the signatures.  This sent the Brigadier into a rage and it looked like a case of a Court Martial for the Battery Commander before the Brigadier calmed down.

Searchlights were also used to guide returning RAF bombers back to their bases.  On other occasions the crews were called upon to lay out paraffin flares in open country to simulate an airfield hoping it would attract an attack from German bombers.  This particular ploy was very unpopular with residents in the area selected.

Every Saturday evening, enemy action permitting, a dance was held in the NAFFI at Gaza Barracks with music supplied by the Battery Dance Band.  And every so often there would be an ENSA Concert.  Apparently these were so awful that the soldiers and ATS girls at the Barracks had to be detailed, or ordered to attend by the Battery Sergeant Major.

At the end of 1942 the 1st Searchlight Regiment was transferred from Gaza Barracks to the Dover area near Kearsney Abbey.  Also at this time in the war a great number of Infantry Officers fighting in North Africa had been killed.  So with the Blitz coming to an end, many of the A1 physically fit Officers from the Searchlight Regiment were transferred to the Infantry to make good the losses.

There was, as recalled by Francis Hamlyn, the farmer at Westwood Farm, a strange installation situated in a field opposite Gaza Barracks manned by civilians.  It must have been a new aircraft locating Radar, most likely on final development trials.  The story goes that one of the civilians would spend many hours working in the cabin, not even stopping to have any meals.  However, when he did emerge he would head straight for the Chequers Inn.  After some hours of heavy drinking be became legless and had to be carried back to Gaza Barracks to sleep it off.

Some years ago, Mr John Hodson (brother-in-law to Eve Lucas and the first manager of the Gaza Trading Estate wood yard after 1960) said he had a visit from some American ex-soldiers who said that they had been stationed at Gaza Barracks for a short period during the War.  It transpired that they had been working on aircraft locating systems which may have been the same installation that was recalled by Francis Hamlyn.

After the end of 1942 there is a paucity in the information concerning the activities at Gaza Barracks until the 1945-46 period.  During 1943 with the Americans flooding into this country, the war effort was being directed towards the preparations for the invasion of Europe. Southern England was becoming one huge warehouse.  A detachment of the Royal Army Service Corps was stationed at Weald Place, a large house above Weald off Gracious Lane.  Additionally, Sevenoaks Common, beside Gracious Lane, became an Ammunition Dump.  It is likely that Gaza Barracks reverted back to its original role as a centre providing transport for the area.  The Traffic Control Centre at Beechmont House was still operational and there may have been liaison with the Army vehicle workshops situated in the Caffyns garage near Sevenoaks Railway Station which had been requisitioned during the War as a vehicle maintenance facility.

Two soldiers were interviewed who were stationed at Gaza Barracks between 1945 and 1946.  They both served in the Royal Pioneer Corps.  One was Mr Jock Sims.  He married Joyce Betteridge who lived in Sevenoaks Weald and is now (2000) living just off Dry Hill Road in Tonbridge.  He had been a Corporal working in the QM stores whilst at Gaza Barracks.  The other soldier was Mr Joe Evans now living in Edenbridge, see photograph 2.  He was a Driver and his duties included supplying various Army Camps with food rations distributed from Hobbs Barracks at Felbridge near East Grinstead.

There is evidence of Gaza Barracks being used to store bulldozers and earth-moving equipment.  This could have been at the time of the build up to D-Day and it is perhaps further evidence of the Royal Pioneer Corps being stationed at Gaza Barracks before the end of the War.

The Royal Pioneer no longer exists.  It was absorbed into the Royal Service Corps and the Royal Engineers.  This was confirmed by Mr Allan Fuller, now living at Halstead.  He was stationed at Invicta Lines at Maidstone between 1949 and 1951 during his National Service.  He was a Dispatch Rider attached to the 36th Field Regiment of Royal Engineers and often had to visit Gaza Barracks.  He recalls that at that time Gaza Barracks was used as Married Quarters.  Soldiers travelled daily between Sevenoaks Weald and Maidstone.

Mr Fuller also said that when Gatwick Airport was being developed, a pipeline to supply aviation fuel was laid between a Thameside Oil Refinery and the Airport.  During the construction of the pipeline the site at Gaza Barracks was used to store much of the material used by the contractors, such as lengths of pipe, valves and the equipment used to dig the trench.  The pipeline is marked on Ordnance Survey Map Sheet TO54NW, which shows a line of posts marking the pipeline from Durhams Farm in Eggpie Lane out to Winkhurst, west of Bore Place and passes between the south boundary of Gaza Barracks and St Andrew Cottage.

Eventually Gaza Barracks became a War Department Storage Depot and remained as such until late 1960.  One of the maintenance staff employed there at the time was Mr Nobby Holman, Mrs Joan Day’s father.

OTHER WAR DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA

The Southwood Estate, just down the road from Gaza Barracks, owned by the Gordon family, was also requisitioned by the War Department.  The house was turned into an Officers’ Mess and huts were erected in the grounds to accommodate the soldiers and NCOs.  Between 1943 and 1944 Southwood was occupied by the No. 44 Reconnaissance Company, the Blues and Royals.  The CO at the time was a member of the family who owned the Crawford Biscuit Company.  Later it was taken over by part of the 52nd Division of Infantry.  This must have been just before D-Day.  Unfortunately, the house was so badly damaged by its Army occupants that the only solution was to demolish it after the War.  [Note: the descendants of the Gordon family have a slightly different version]

Francis Hamlyn recalls that Royal Engineer Officers were billeted at Westwood Farm for about three years: and during the Blitz an Anti-Aircraft Gun was moved on to the farm.  It was only there for a few days, so it was probably to assure the civilian population that we were fighting back and hence boost morale.

During the night of the 13th June 1944 a strange noise was heard for the first time in the skies over Southern England.  It came from the Pulse Jet Engine fitted to Hitler’s first Vengeance Weapon, designated by Germany as the V1 and soon to be called by the British the ‘Doodle Bug’.  The V1 was the first of a generation of weapons which are now called Cruise Missiles.  The V1 was very small, judged by aircraft standards.  It only had a wing span of 16.5ft.  It travelled at 400mph and carried 1,000 kg of high explosive.  However, it did not fly very high, only between 3,000ft and 4,000ft.  London and Southern England remained under attack from these weapons until 29th March 1945, when all the launch sites were at last overrun in France, Belgium and Holland.  A total of 1,444 V1s fell on Kent during this period of the war.  [See Morgan Witzel’s booklet “Leigh at War”]

In order to offer London some protection against the V1s, a line of Barrage Balloons was quickly established.  The line was over three miles deep and went from Redhill to the west to Chatham in the east.  Each Balloon was 25ft in diameter and 62ft long.  It was filled with 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen.  The optimum operational height was 5,000ft, which was just above the height of the V1s.  Once launched the V1 flew in a straight line towards the target, so there was a possible chance of it hitting a Balloon or the cable which attached it to the ground.  Sevenoaks Weald happened to be within the area of the defensive line of Balloons.  There were 12 Balloons in the area, seven of which were in the village.  There was one in each of the following locations: Southwood, Westwood, Chequers Field, the Recreation field, Elses Farm, the Scout Hut field, and one of the fields which is now Weald Close.  The Balloons were operated by RAF crews who, whilst in the area either lived under canvas or were billeted in Weald.  As Gaza Barracks were so close, some of the Barracks’ facilities must have been used by the RAF men.  There was always a danger that if a V1 hit a Balloon or was caught by a Balloon cable, it would crash on the village.  One such incident did occur.  A V1 hit the cable of the Balloon at Southwood.  This must have damaged the flight control mechanism as it was thrown off course and finally crashed at Shoreham.  Another did fall directly on Beechmont killing many ATS girls.  [Note: there were anti-aircraft guns and other Balloons in Powder Mill Lane, Leigh]

THE EFFECT OF GAZA BARRACKS ON LIFE IN THE VILLAGE

Many of the men from Weald had been called up and were away in the services.  Those not of call- up age were often working on the farms in the area, helping to produce as much food as possible.  Land Army girls were also working on the farms with many of them billeted in Weald or Leigh.  The others were engaged in their wartime tasks.  Not many of the local inhabitants were aware of what was going on at Gaza Barracks.  Of course, Army lorries were seen daily on the roads and the soldiers were seen in the local pubs and churches.  The local girls were invited to the Gaza dances held in the NAFFI, and there is evidence of dances and cinema shows being held at the Barracks during and after the War.  Mr Colin Burchet, who lived next to the Greyhound at Charcott, remembers a bus which used to pick up villagers who went to see popular films at Gaza Barracks on Friday nights as late as 1953.

Gaza Barracks was often used by the local Home Guard for their parades.  The parade ground was most suitable for foot drill and marching practice, and on most occasions this led to a ‘cheap’ pint in the NAFFI afterwards.  However, there are no records of the Home Guard being forced to stay and attend ENSA concerts!!

One of the few mentions of the War in the Weald Parish Council Meeting minutes refers to a request made to the CO of Gaza Barracks asking if the soldiers could help to fill in craters.  There was no reference as to where these craters were.  The CO replied his soldiers were far too busy to offer any assistance.

No doubt over the war years there were many romances and few broken hearts.  One romantic story has come to light.  It concerned a Land Army girl who had been billeted with Mrs Kath Smith who still lives at 3 Patience Cottage, Weald (2000).  The girl met a soldier stationed at Gaza Barracks.  Their romance developed and they decided to get married.  Clothing, of course, was rationed, but the girl wanted a white wedding which presented a problem.  Mrs Smith came to the rescue.  She acquired some parachute material and made it up into a wedding dress, and an old pair of sandals were painted silver to go with the dress.  There was just one further problem:  where to go for the Honeymoon?  Here again Mrs Smith had the answer.  Her husband was away in the Army so she offered her cottage.  The wedding was held in the girl’s home town of Bromley; Mrs Smith moved in with a friend, and the couple spent their Honeymoon staying in Sevenoaks Weald, where they are still happily married today (2000).

POST WAR PERIOD

At the end of the War a huge amount of redundant military equipment was scattered all over the country.  A great deal of this hardware would not be required by the peace-time Armed Forces.  Consequently it either had to be stored, scrapped or sold.  Sites had to be found where the redundant equipment could be stored until it could be disposed of.  Gaza Barracks was selected as one of these sites, and it was quickly converted into a storage depot administered by the War Department.  Much of the equipment which could be used to help re-build industry was sold off at public auction, such as those sales held at Great Missenden.  Lorries, cranes, earthmoving machinery and motor cycles sold well.  The Gaza Barracks site remained as a Storage Depot until 1960.

The War Department was also responsible for returning Army Caps and Airfields which had been built on agricultural land back to its original use.  As the work progressed it was realized that in many cases the cost of demolishing buildings and ripping up concrete was very expensive.  Therefore, a change in policy was called for.  The less expensive option was to sell off the sites as they stood at public auction to the highest bidder.

Gaza Barracks was one of the first site to be sold off in this way.  The auction was held at the Rose and Crown in Tonbridge on 4th October 1960.  It was purchased for £10,000 by Bill and Eve Lucas.  The original intention was to turn it into a poultry farm, but over the following years the new owners came into conflict over a number of ideas which were proposed to develop the site.  Finally, after a legal battle the buildings were allowed to remain providing the site was used for storage purposes only.

So Gaza Barracks still stands today (2000), almost as it was when it was built over fifty years ago.  A few buildings have been demolished because they were too difficult to maintain.  The Army Company Offices and some of the soldiers’ living quarters have gone but the remaining buildings still stand and are well maintained by the present owners.

POSTSCRIPT

The story concerned with the ‘Arrest in Weald’ came about in this way.  There had been a meeting of Troop Commanders at Gaza Barracks and Lt Sykes had taken some of the soldiers with him so that they could spend the evening in the Chequers.  After the meeting was over, he picked them up from the pub to take them back to Brasted.  On the way back through Weald their lorry was stopped by a group of soldiers with fixed bayonets and wearing steel helmets.  They were ordered down on to the road and asked to produce their Army identification papers.  The soldiers who had stopped them turned out to be a local Home Guard Patrol. Being asked for their identifications papers did not go down well with the Royal Artillery, especially after an evening at the Chequers.  So to cool the situation, Lt Sykes said, why don’t you arrest us?  And that is what happened.  They were all taken back to the Home Guard HQ where explanations were made and there were apologies on both sides.  It so happened that the Home Guard had been called out on an invasion exercise and they were not going to be put off by Germans dressed in British Army uniforms.  Lt Sykes said he was very impressed by the local Home Guard.  They were very well organized and they knew exactly where they would engage the Germans if and when they arrived.  [Note:  coincidentally the officer in charge of the Home Guard during this incident was almost certainly Major Brian Dixon, who was in charge of the Home Guard in this area.  He lived in Bidborough at this time and was a language teacher at Tonbridge School both before and after the War.  He was a crack shot; spoke fluent French; and commanded the School Cadet Force.  He expected to be parachuted into occupied France and was a little surprised to be told he was to be head of the Home Guard, responsible for stopping the German Army from crossing the Medway.  After the War he came to live at Old Wood Cottage on the Green at Leigh]

A TOUR OF GAZA BARRACKS

This walk around the Camp represents the state of the roads and buildings as they were in July 1944.  Starting at the main gate (Photograph 3), on the right inside the gate is a Sentry Box, beyond on the right is a long building.  The first section is the Guardroom and the remainder of the Company Offices (Photograph 4).  The road which leads to the Parade Ground is lined with trees.  As we reach the Parade Ground, we turn right.  And immediately on our right is the Instruction Hut (Photographs 5 and 6), inside the Hut is divided into two Lecture halls.  Behind this building and to the right is the Sergeants Mess (Photograph 7).  Continue on to the end for the road and we come to the Communication building protected by thick brick walls (photograph 8).  Walking back along the road we take the first right.  On the corner is the Quartermaster’s Stores (Photograph 9).  The next building on the right is the Officers Mess (Photographs 10 and 11). Continuing on, turn at the next corner, on the right is a concrete path leading to the Engine Room, which houses the Diesel Generator supplying electricity to the Camp (photograph 12).  Now following the road round to the left the next large building on the right is the Regimental Institute, a posh name for the NAFFI (photograph 13).  This is for general recreation purposes, having a cafeteria, dance hall with stage and also served as a cinema.  At the next corner we come to the main accommodation area, five long buildings which contain the NCOs and Soldiers’ billets and ablutions all connected by concrete pathways (photographs 14 and 15).  Following the road right and left leads to the ATS accommodation area.  These are smaller buildings, first on the right laying well back is an Office (photograph 16), then near the road the ATS Recreation Hut (photograph17) and next to it the Medical Hut (photograph 18).  Then behind these is the ATS Officer accommodation.  Further along the road on the right an office building and behind that the ATS billet and ablutions (photograph 19).  Walking on to the end of the road against the boundary fence on the right is the Petrol Store (photograph 20) and some way behind it the Wireless Repair Shop.  Immediately to the left is the Coal and Coke Store (photograph 21).  Now retracing our steps and taking the first right, we see the long expanse of the Transport Garages and Workshops (photographs 22 and 230.  Opposite these on the left is the Food Store, Cook House and Mess Room (photographs 24, 25, 26 and 27).  On the other side of the road nearly opposite the Medical Hut is a further Recreational Hut and a small store. On the North Western boundary is the Sewerage Treatment plant and in the other corner against Scabharbour Road and the North Western boundary is a fenced area designated a Dump.  Finally there is a small Pillbox, just off the Parade ground (photograph 28).

 

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