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Whats in Wapping

A look inside Tobacco Dock with the Olympic Army

A look inside Tobacco Dock with the Olympic Army

Around 1,500 members of the British military have now moved into Wapping and are living at Tobacco Dock in Pennington Street.

A further 1,000 will arrive over the next few days to make up the G4S shortfall and provide security at the Olympic Games.

In total 20 different regimental units and other units are represented here – the majority from the Army, but the Royal Navy, Territorial Army and Royal Air Force are also present.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced on 17th July that Tobacco Dock would become a base for 2,500 of the additional military personnel being deployed on Olympic security operations [view post].

Turning Tobacco Dock into a military base

The Commanding Officer in charge of Tobacco Dock is Lt Col RAC Askew of 17 Port & Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps (RLC).

In just a week, the empty Wapping warehouse has been transformed into temporary barracks with a capacity of 3,500.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Looking through the top floor of the Tobacco Dock military base in Wapping


‘Enablers’, that included troops from the RLC and “Sappers” (Royal Engineers) were among those first to move in last week and tasked with getting the exhibition space functional for a large military unit – as fast as they could.

Essentials including toilets and washing facilities arrived first, which were up and running on day one, but work continues each day to improve facilities for those living here.

Military sleeping quarters have been created in many of the rooms that lead off the large open central area within the Tobacco Dock building.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

An unoccupied room at Tobacco Dock military base is turned into sleeping quarters and awaits the next new arrivals


The challenge of feeding an Army of 3,500

A field kitchen has been constructed using mobile cooking units under huge tents in an open area at the side of Tobacco Dock. 54 chefs now work shifts around the clock and are determined to make sure everyone eats well. Food is very clearly the fuel here.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Troops work around the clock in the busy mobile military kitchen at Tobacco Dock


Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Food is prepared in the military kitchen at Tobacco Dock


The lively buzzing atmosphere and dedication to cooking in the Army kitchen looks and feels like a top restaurant – right down to the detail and that includes checking the spelling on the menu planning board.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Menu planning board outside the military kitchen at Tobacco Dock - attention to detail

Rest, recuperation and relaxation

Recreation facilities within the base are good and are constantly being improved now that essentials have been taken care of:

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

A games area has been created in the bar at the back of Tobacco Dock


Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Troops can relax in the bar area with large screen TV's, free pool, music and WiFi


Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

There are still quiet areas to be found within Tobacco Dock if soldiers want to be alone


Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

A self powered gym requiring no electricity has been created in the military base at Tobacco Dock


Olympic Duties for the Tobacco Dock military unit

This is of course the reason our troops are here.

Tobacco Dock Olympic military camp - 25 July 2012

Army uniform for Olympic duties - a purple velcro London 2012 badge worn on the left sleeve


Yesterday we met Lance Corporal Natasha Flintoft from 1 MI Battalion who carried out her first Olympic duty at the Olympic Park the previous day.

Duties at the Olympic Park went smoothly for L/Cpl Flintoft during her 6am-2pm shift and she was taken from Tobacco Dock by coach – which we’re pleased to report didn’t get stuck in traffic.

L/Cpl Flintoft was about to go for a jog when we spoke so we didn’t want to ask for a picture – but she was very positive about both her Olympic duties and living at Tobacco Dock although she is looking forward to taking some well-earned leave when she can.

A Wapping welcome and a thank you from the troops

The troops have brought the Olympics to Wapping. With the Olympic Route Network running along the top of the Highway, troops at Tobacco Dock and Wapping’s Marine Police Unit covering the River Thames on the other three sides surrounding us, everyone feels exceptionally safe.

Twitter is buzzing with excited tweets by local pubs and residents as they meet the troops and we’re hearing they’re rather taken with jogging around Wapping’s canals and taking our Boris bikes for a spin – albeit slightly faster than they’re used to.

Captain Di Youngman, adjutant at Tobacco Dock and Lance Corporal Oliver Keith who helped arrange our visit yesterday urged us to pass on a special message of thanks and appreciation to the entire Wapping community on behalf of the troops.

The Army have been overwhelmed with the welcome they’ve received from E1W – from residents and local businesses through to Tower Hamlets Borough Council, who has given free access to nearby St George sports centre and swimming pool.

These feelings are shared by Wapping’s children who were seen out last weekend making new military friends in the park:

An Olympic tribute to Dennis St Croix in Wapping Gardens - 21 July 2012

Captain Craig Morgan and WO1 RSM Bierton chatted to local children in Wapping Gardens - 21st July 2012


Residents who require further information about the Armed Forces at Tobacco Dock can view this MoD residents leaflet [coming soon], contact the MOD Olympics information line on 07879 603506 or send an e-mail to LONDIST-MoDOlympicsEnquiries@mod.uk.

What’s in Wapping again very warmly welcomes all 1,500 troopers to E1W and also the additional 1,000 troops who are expected to arrive at Tobacco Dock this week.

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  • Rob Mabey

    Am I the only one to be angry at the civvies who can’t even turn up for work or to take responibility for there own income and are always the ones to have a go at those that lay it on the line for Queen and country,I am not a military person but boy they do a great job not for money or fame but in the line of duty to those they share this Isle with.Lets hope that these games can show some real values of public service and that to achieve real things of good takes work and dedication  not just a spot on big brother or a boob job
    well done boys and girls you got us out of a hole again,you deserve all the plaudits and as many free tickets as you can handle
    a proud citizen.

  • Susshmm

    Pull your head in Pquirk.  No need to be nasty.

    I come from a military family, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone not being enamoured of the troops. I live not far from Discovery Walk and there has been a bit of noise.  Frankly, the kids next door have made more, but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t entitled to complain about the impact on them. 

    Bit hypocritical of the largely complaining Whatsinwapping commenters to complain about someone complaining.

  • Sue Adlington

    I don’t live in Wapping but have been staying with a friend who lives opposite Tobacco Dock for the last week and haven’t seen or heard any problems. Given the number of troops there I actually think it’s surprising how little noise they make and the pub gardens in Wapping and river boats along the river are noisy until midnight or beyond, but by this time you can hardly hear a sound from Tobacco Dock.

    I spoke to two of them yesterday and discovered both had arrived back in the UK from long operations abroad where they had no rest days. They are now working 12 hour shifts in London because of the G4S shambles, again with no days off, but weren’t complaining about it. So I am shocked that Anon has a problem with these men and women letting their hair down so to speak for a few hours until 11pm when the pubs and party boats are still going strong and blaring out loud music, which from what I’ve heard happens every night throughout the summer. 

    We should be thanking these troops and admiring their ability to get an empty warehouse for 2,500 up and running in less than a week so they can step in and deal with anything and everything G4S can’t. During my stay in Wapping I’ve spoken to a few other people living nearby and they feel the same so I personally think that Anon is just a (vocal and complaining – there’s always a few, lets’ face it!) minority.

  • Rooneypoos

    My brother’s a squaddie and he, along with all his mates, refer to themselves as squaddies and others a civvies. I don’t think it’s seen as a derogartory term by the bulk of those in the army at least.

  • http://twitter.com/SredniVashtari SredniVashtari

    If Tobacco Dock were functioning as originally intended, a shopping mall, eateries, wine bar kinda place, there would be noise there most of the time, inc deliveries as well as late night revellers. How noisy is it around St Kath’s Docks at night? TD was supposed to be open beyond its shops’ hours, perhaps like West India Quay. Many here wish it was, instead of a dead space most of the time.

    BTW I used term ‘squaddies’ recently and thought afterwards it sounded a bit rude, though meant affectionately, so thanks for clearing that up MB, now we know.

  • WM

    NH sounds like a nice person – just wants everyone to be friends. NH we should go for a beer….
    Tobacco Dock?

  • Louis MacKinnon

    Not everyone is as hungry for fame as you sunshine

    You have more Twitter followers than me though – heartbreak!

    To be fair I thought troops in TD would be a disaster, so far, so quiet for me

    Helicopters noisy last night though!

  • KR

    I also live on Discovery Walk, with bedroom windows facing Tobacco Dock and I also have an early start to my working day.  Yes, they are noisy and have been playing music in the evenings, but they’re not threatening, they stay on their side of the canal, and as far as I can tell they do seem to have a cut-off point. The music is always off or no longer audible to us by 10pm and things start to quieten down quickly, although after that I’m usually no longer awake, on occasions when I’ve woken up around midnight the most I’ve heard is a few voices. I usually have little patience for noise but considering the circumstances I really don’t find the new neighbours a problem.

  • Spacy Dave

    Can women not be soldiers? Or professional? Explain your self Corporal Baynes, you’re in danger of sounding like a complete muppet.  

  • Nscrisp

     Certainly not boo hoo hoo Spacy Dave. I am not complaining about my son’s situation merely pointing out the facts about which many civilians are in the dark. This is all part of his job of which I am extremely proud. I don’t expect, nor have I asked for any sympathy from you or anyone else and neither does my son. If you are going to make such ridiculous and personal statements perhaps be best to get your facts straight first and not make such enormous presumptions – ‘signing your life away’ contracts being another one of them. Yes NH couldn’t agree with you more on both counts

  • http://twitter.com/baynesmedia Baynes Media

    Firstly I have no respect whatsoever for those who hide behind ‘Anon’ when expressing their views. 

    Having said that – Get Over It! We all live in one of the biggest and busiest world capitals. If you want peace and quiet move to the country. 

    Yes Wapping usually is fairly quiet, but it is still in the middle of London.

    Oh and I really do not like anyone use the term ‘squaddies’ It is a derisory term. 

    Don’t use it unless you are prepared to use it face to face with one of the professional soldiers (and seamen and airmen and women) who are protecting us and our country.

    I make a point of personally welcoming any of the troops I meet and thanking them. Maybe you should try the same Anon – whoever you are.

    Mark Baynes 

  • NH

    PS – to Anon and anyone else disturbed by soldiers …has anyone tried popping across the canal and asking the soldiers to ‘keep it down a bit’? It’s extremely bad PR for them if they are accused of upsetting locals, so I bet you’d get a positive response from those in charge. Worth a try I think

  • NH

    Isn’t it great to see Tobacco Dock actually IN USE for once? I’m sorry for anyone whose sleep is disturbed, I could do with fewer helicopters myself, but I do think it’s great for our local economy that the troops are here and I’m always pleased to see Tob Dock lively and busy not derelict and spooky.

  • Spacy Dave

    Boo hoo hoo. Perhaps your son should have taken a civilian job then. One of the more pointless things I’ve read this year. Is this kind of thing not w@d5bf1e9a53a95a728cd9fc1bab7652ab:disqus 
    written into his ’sign my life away’ contract?  Having leave postponed shouldnt be a catalyst to yobbish behaviour


  • Nscrisp

     They might be representatives of Queen and country but they are human beings like you and I. I’m sorry if their joviality offends you but after a MINIMUM 12 hour shift they are entitled to a bit of R & R. Perhaps you should try sleeping in a makeshift room on a camp bed with over 100 soldiers in it I would think sleep is something the soldiers get very little of. I would imagine 2500 people from any backgrounds and jobs would make a
    lot of noise be they Council workers, Bankers or Checkout Operators from Tescos -  it is the number that is the problem.

    Remember also most of these 2500 soldiers should currently be on well earned leave with their families which has been cancelled until after the Olympics, so holidays with children who are currently on school holidays are lost for this year. Can you imagine doing that to a normal civilian person? If G4S had done their job properly then this situation would not have occurred so blame them or the organisers of the Games not the soldiers. Perhaps the solution would have been to cancel the Games due to lack of security after years of planning and millions of pounds?

    You say Wapping doesn’t ‘deserve’ this sort of behaviour but where else would you suggest placing 2500 troops at 5 minutes notice? This attitude smacks of NIMBY syndrome to me.

    Harsh as it might sound, you are just going to have to sit it out or go stay elsewhere for the duration of the Games. This is a once in a lifetime situation so it will never happen again.

    I am looking forward to seeing my 18 year old son at ‘some point’ this Summer after he has finished his additional job for Queen and Country in Tobacco Dock and had his leave dates changed more times than I care to mention, affecting not only the holiday dates for my husband myself and my younger son but also my colleagues and employees at work.

  • Spacy Dave

    I’m more worried about the terrorist threat of having all our troops in one place. I hope no Al Qaede choose this time to strike revenge. Thats whats keeping me awake, that and amphetamine.

  • ParryJames

    No part of London will be quiet during the Olympics – you’re living in a dream Anon! 

    Welcome to Wapping troops – thank you for giving up your leave at short notice to make the Olympics safe. I hope you enjoy your stay and encounter the 99% residents who welcome you with open arms.

    As an aside, anyone who lives near a pub in Wapping, or the river with the party boats expects noise, music and partying until midnight. We live in a buzzing City that works hard and plays hard so if you don’t like it you should move to the countryside and stop moaning. Oh and as I type this I can hear a loud boat with blaring music going down the river and it’s five past midnight – I hope they’re enjoying themselves and the Olympic spirit which will never return in our lifetimes.

  • http://twitter.com/SredniVashtari SredniVashtari

    The noise ends at 11 pm? Blimey, my civilian cityboy early-rising white middle class drunken neighbours shout and holler until 2 am most nights. Then they wake us all up again a few hours later power-showering in unison. Think I’ll move to the relative peace of Tobacco Dock.

  • Anon

    I live in Discovery Walk, directly opposite Tobacco Dock. For those of you that made previous comments with regards to your excitement of having the troops housed in the building and Wapping, I urge you to spend an evening where I live and listen to the ubelievable amount of noise being generated by the soldiers.

    Its currently 9:30pm and for the 4th night in a row this week, we are having to endure the loud shouts and screams of obviously drunk youngsters. Regardless of what badges and uniforms they wear or which countries they have recently been fighting in, I still have a life to live during the Olympic period. Unfortunately this nonesense – every single night – is making it incredibly difficult.

    Both I and my partner work from 5am and often don’t finish until 7pm. As it is incredibly warm outside we obviously have to have our windows open in the evenings. Unfortunately the bulk of our windows open directly on to Tobacco dock where the troops congregate and begin to get drunk.

    Firstly, I am amazed by the fact that the soldiers get drunk every night. I myself enjoy a drink with friends after work. But not every single day – it’s also worth noting that I am not an ambassodor for Queen and Country!

    We don’t mind hearing the occasional laughter and sounds of people having fun. But when all I can hear is chanting (mostly groups of troops shouting ‘Drink, Drink, Drink, Drink’) while egging each other on to get as drunk as possible, it becomes beyond a joke.

    Wapping is a quiet and tranquil area and Tobacco Dock is Grade 1 Listed building – neither of which deserve the rowdy noises and drinking culture coming from the squaddies housed there.

    We are obviously not the only residents directly opposite Tobacco Dock not enjoying their stay as over the last couple of days signs have been erected around Tobacco Dock stating: “Residents live directly opposite, please be quiet” – but this obviously has had no impact.

    Again, before you remind me of their action in battle during Afghanistan and Iraq and how much they do for this country – this does not change the fact that the noise will not end until 11pm tonight (as it has every night this week).

    Once again, as representatives of Queen and Country – I am amazed by what I can hear and see.