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.
‘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.
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.
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.
Rest, recuperation and relaxation
Recreation facilities within the base are good and are constantly being improved now that essentials have been taken care of:
Olympic Duties for the Tobacco Dock military unit
This is of course the reason our troops are here.
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:
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.