Old friends of Royal Army Ordnance Corps/Royal Logistic Corps reunite for first time in 30 years

OLD friends who had not seen each other for 30 years since serving together held an emotional reunion.

By Steve Deeks
Sunday, 8th May 2022, 12:44 pm

Familiar faces of the Portsmouth and Southampton Royal Army Ordnance Corps/Royal Logistic Corps Territorial Army Petroleum Units were reunited on Friday and Saturday.

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Having served in all operational conflicts throughout the world, the RAOC - which amalgamated with other corps to form the RLC in 1993 - has a long standing link with Portsmouth and many important connections with the area.

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The organisers of the reunion. Pictured: Chris May (69, Staff Sergeant retired), Alan Miller (79, Warrant Officer retired), Charlie Cannings (68, Warrant officer retired) and Geoffrey Salvetti (72, Major retired - former Officer Commanding). Picture: Mike Cooter (070522)

Around 35 of the former service personnel turned up for the event and toured Fort Nelson and enjoyed a dinner at the Premier Inn at Port Solent.

Event organisers Chris May, Geoffrey Salvetti, Mike Woodford and Charlie Cannings were pleased to see their former comrades with whom they have lost contact with over the years.

Geoffrey said: ‘It’s been nice to see so many people we’ve not seen in 30 years. This is the first time we have been in the same room together since then.

‘We went to Fort Nelson and enjoyed catching up with each other over drinks and a meal.’

Retired members of the RAOC/RLC Petroleum Units of Portsmouth at the reunion. Centre row middle, Chris May (69, organiser - Staff Sergeant retired) and Geoffrey Salvetti (72, Major retired - former Officer Commanding). Picture: Mike Cooter (070522)

Chris, 69, said: ‘It’s been brilliant. We were talking on Facebook about a reunion and saying we should do it as we may not be around for much longer.

‘It’s been nice to see so many faces - I recognise everyone. Some have come from as far as Scotland and others were due to come from France but couldn’t due to having Covid.

‘It’s been nice to talk about the old times when we were out on exercise. You talk about those times when you were out and it was freezing and you’re in a puddle - and then you have a laugh about it.

‘There’s real camaraderie between us.’

Chris, of Leigh Park, paid tribute to his wife - a chef in the unit - who is ill and was not able to attend. ‘She insisted on me being here,’ he said.

Dave Batchelor, 57, of Fratton, who was a petroleum operator, said: ‘It was a long time ago when we last saw each other.

‘There’s so many faces, I don’t recognise everyone.

‘It’s nice to get everyone together. Hats off to those who organised it.

‘I thought it would be nice to pop down and show my face and say hello.

‘I loved my time in service. If I had my youth then I would do it all over again. You meet all sorts of people.’

In 1923, the RAOC Headquarters moved from Woolwich Barracks to Hilsea Barracks and established a major HQ, a training depot and large Ordnance Stores Depot and workshops.

Fort Nelson was a Regional Ammunition Depot from 1938 until the early 1950s, holding stocks of about 42,000 rounds of ammunition for the anti-aircraft batteries in Portsmouth and Southampton together with its sister depot at Fort Wallington.

Following the Second World War, four local RAOC Territorial Army Petroleum Units were formed: 383 and 183 Petroleum Platoons in Portsmouth and 383 and 783 at Southampton.

The Petroleum Platoons were originally required for BAOR operational tasks during the Cold War in West Germany.

The role of the petroleum units was to hold and issue bulk fuels in camouflaged field installations and to provide aviation fuel for helicopters, and diesel and petrol for tanks and other vehicles.