Major landmark for Doncaster war zone heroes

TA soldiers at Scarborough Barracks in Doncaster marking 100 years of the Doncaster logistics corps unit.
TA soldiers at Scarborough Barracks in Doncaster marking 100 years of the Doncaster logistics corps unit.

It has been involved in two world wars, and now one of Doncaster's oldest military institutions has notched a new landmark.

Now based in a barracks building dating back to the 1970s, 219 squadron, of 150 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, was first set up back in World War One, to provide supplies to the troops.

The squadron as it was in 1917

The squadron as it was in 1917

Originally set up as the 906th mechanical Transport Company, Army Service Corp, the unit has seen its name change a fair few times over the years, but is still going strong 100 years on from its formation in 1917, and performing the same key tasks.

And it is still sending troops out across the world as a territorial army unit, made up of part time soldiers who do the job in their spare time.

The troops will mark the centenary with a ceremonial meal at their base, Scarbrough Barracks, on Sandford Road, Balby, in October. It will see all the squadron's troops donning their formal dress uniforms to celebrate the historical landmark.

Private Mark Hayes is among those looking forward to the event. It is the first time he has taken part in such a formal event with the regiment since he joined, and he said such events were unusual.

Aged 51, Mark reckons he is the oldest in the squadron, and joined the TA two years ago after a change in the rules governing age limits. He also serves as an unofficial squadron historian.

He had been in the TA as a young man, but left because of work commitments in civilian life. But he decided to join again at the age of 49 when he found he had the time available again.

He was sworn in in 2015 and has tried to get as much as he can out of the experience.

After passing the physical, medicals and written test, he was sent for his basic training in soldiering and first aid.

After that come the driving training, firstly the basic civilian HGV licence, and then specialist army training.

"They taught us to drive in convoy, and to do camouflage, and how to drive them off-road. After that they let us take them on the proper roads.

"There are opportunities to go away all the time if you want to do it. I went to Kenya in June, working with regular soldiers. I just slotted in and away I went. There are also people in Cyprus doing peacekeeping duties.

"The opportunity for travel is amazing. I wouldn't have gone to Kenya otherwise."While I was there I just slept in the back of the wagon, because it was so hot. It was still red hot at 3am.

"But our role is logistics. It is supporting exercising troops doing supply runs with things like food and ammo."

"But at the end I had a chance to do white water rafting there under what we call 'adventure training'.

"I don't think I would have done that and been paid to do it any other way.

"It may be 100 years on now, but we are still providing the same sort of logistics service now that those soldiers were in 1917."

HISTORY

Back in 1917, the unit was first sent into action in Egypt. The troops and their lorries were put onto a ship called the Transylvania, taking with them 78 four ton trucks, three cars and six motorbikes.

Things did not start too well. The Transylvania was torpedoed during its journey to the from Marseille to Alexandria, with the loss of 412 lives, although not all of these were from the regiment.

Serving in what was then Palestine and Egypt, records show that in March, 1918, they drove 69,130 miles using 27.07 gallons of petrol per 100 miles, running regular supply routes between Beersheba, Gaza, Latron, El Kustineh, Jerusalem and Jericho. It included taking food to civilians.

By World War Two, the unit had become 14 Reserve Motor Transport Company, Royal Army Service Corps, with Royal having been added to the name of the regiment. In July 1940, they were sent out to North Africa, but their bad fortune at sea struck again, as their ship was sunk, fortunately with few casualties; and in 1941 they were again named 906 Company, Royal Army Service Corps.

They remained in North Africa, but in 1941 were surrounded and captured by the enemy and taken prisoners of war.

That was not the end of the war for all of them though. Sgt William Dixon from the unit refused to accept being a prisoner of war and tried to escape three times. On the third attempt he succeeded was awarded the Military Medal for his efforts.

In 1947, the unit changes its name again, becoming 906 (anti-aircraft command) Transport Company RASC(TA), and moved to the then Scarbrough Barracks on South Parade, Doncaster, which has since been demolished. Before finally moving into their current site, as 219 West Riding Squadron, Royal Corp of Transport (Volunteers) they also spent time based at York Road.

Today, soldiers based at the barracks are still taking part in army operations.

Some troops from the unit served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but most of the current work sees them involved in training operations in countries around the world.

ESCAPE HERO

William Dixon become a regimental hero when he escaped from the Germans in 1944.

The commendation which accompanied the military medal he was later awarded for his brave escape told how he made it away.

It stated: "He was imprisoned at Monturano but escaped by cutting the wire when allied aircraft attacked the nearby road and station. After an attempt to get to Allied lines Dixon was recaptured by Fascists. Although fired upon, he made good his escape by jumping out of a window. Trying to pass the German lines on June 3 1944, he was apprehended but escaped at Guilanova on June 13 1944. Two days later he met British Troops."