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Memories of the Army Field Stores Aldershot by Ann Gray

I started work at the Field stores in 1964. My Mum worked there in the office and told me that there was a vacancy going. My job title was ‘skilled labourer’. The big artic lorries delivered the furniture, tables, chairs, sofas ,beds, mattresses, garden equipment, dustbins , crockery, cutlery, you name it we unloaded it and took it all to be stored in the relevant huge sheds. It was all the equipment needed for the Army married quarters and other depots. The sheds had lifts as a lot of them had 3 storeys and they were huge draughty and cold places to work in even in the summer but it was very physical work so managed to keep fairly warm. As well as unloading all the lorries, we also had to select all the items on the order sheets for dispatch to the individual married quarters, wrap and pack carefully all the items separately which were needed for each married quarter, issuing everything from a dustbin to a teaspoon.

Picture of Field Stores 19thC

We selected the contents for about ten houses a day, There were different departments inside the vast sheds, Mum was on crockery, I was on dustbins, gardening tools, all kitchen utensils,bathrooms, clocks you name it they got it,even down to the mustard pots and mustard spoons. Then we had to load the orders out again onto the lorries. The field stores was a vast place with many roads and many many large old buildings and giant warehouse sheds.

This place is where my muscles were built up,I will always remember my first day when mattresses were thrown down from a barn type building and we had to carry them to up a path to the lorries. I was so shocked to see these ladies doing it all themselves sometimes with no men in sight. One of the strongest ladies was Grace Joblin. Yes, I got very strong very quickly working there and I LOVED every minute of it.

I worked at the field stores for almost 4 years, the reason I left was because the field stores was closing down . In 1968 they were opening up a brand new depot about 20 miles away. So we all had to leave, must have been more than a thousand people made redundant, it was so so sad. I just did not want to go. We were all given a mug commemorating the closure of the field stores,I still have mine. The field stores was left with a skeleton staff of about 20 people, they were kept on to unload the equipment from the trains and lorries that came into the sidings and then got ready for redistribution to other army depots. ( My Mum was one of the few workers kept on, she worked in the office).

5 years later in 1973 there became a vacancy at the sidings and I jumped at the chance to work there again. I applied and got the job. I loved it. Unloading the lorries and railway wagons kept you so fit. The sidings were a bit like the Russian front in the winter, no warm fleeces in those day just a long army mac.

Then sadly in 1978 we heard that the Field Stores was to close down for the final time. I was so sad to leave. I think I was the only person ever to become redundant from the Field stores twice. I loved my 9 years working there and the Field stores will always have a very special place in my heart.

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Field Stores Shed 28 Click to Change Picture

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GOODBYE OLD FRIEND. (The field stores)1978
Written by Ann's Mum Edna May Anderson

On a dark and rainy morning as I come near the old Field Stores
My heart sinks heavy within me as I hear broken rattling doors.
They tug on their broken hinges, windows rattle in sympathy too;
Roof tiles lay smashed on the gravel – as I think of the many who
For years have constantly worked here, happy groups at each storehouse door.
Banging of time-clocks, laughs, merry greetings, to every friend that we saw
Outside, sheds, square and protective made of brick mellow with age;
Inside we’d light iron stoves roaring with heat inside their cage.

Some work and a chat till the break-time, when out would come kettles and tea.
Toast, and more gossip in comfort, then busy again as spry bees!
Fork lifters charge gaily all day, from drivers a wave or a joke.
Nearly home-time already? Then go off for a wash and a smoke.
Then one day it was all over. Sadly we wait a reprieve.
One by one we went through the gate, reluctant at having to leave.
Our love kept the old walls upright, sadly now they begin to lean.
Leaves from last Spring heaped mouldering, once they were swept up green.

The goldfish tank is now murky. Young trees and weeds growing fast.
Many hearts even now still aching for happy days, now gone past.
What tales if this place could speak, this now still and silent yard.
Of love, and grief, parties gay, and work – at times so hard.
Young leaves are shooting out again, but on what a different scene,
Though a few wander here still, the Field Stores might never have been.
And as I pass the derelict sheds, I can almost hear them sigh,
Ghosts of many faithful workers haunting this place ‘til they die.

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