Huthwaite CWS

Royal Navy Medical Supply Depot

Situated in the Midlands adjacent quiet countryside ranked Huthwaite amongst the safer localities through two World Wars. Remote from coastal defences and blitzing of nearer industrial city centres, here obviously still shared in the nations loss of service personnel while commonly supporting other WWII efforts. But its inland positioning also led Huthwaite into becoming a base for some other secretive military operations.

Drilling trainee troops alongside a Home Guard could barely be locally hidden, and there was some joy by affording homes for refugee children. Mystery did surround a prisoner of war camp, guarding fact German troops had later been mixed with remembered, friendlier Italian workers cheerfully marched for labour duty. Again aided by first hand experience, its only in recent years that available records are exposing what must prove being one of the best kept secrets in Huthwaite. And that turns more attention onto the CWS Factory.1937 Block1937 Block

The Cooperative Wholesale Society added a rear corner wing to their Huthwaite hosiery factory in 1937. My photos from 2004 show it under adopted use as a last favoured part of the entire old building, and reveals larger windows clearly benefiting from modern construction techniques. Nonetheless, this four storey block secretively claimed first adopted use by safely relocating a London depot for Royal Navy Medical Supplies.

Bernard was only three years old when his fathers career first transferred them from the Greenwich area into Huthwaite North Street lodgings. Thomas O'Connor was a Royal Naval Storeman in Medical Supplies department. He must have been dependable, because after the war he was further posted to later depots. Always accompanied by his wife and son, their years in Huthwaite are recalled from 1941. That year dates relocation of a main depot, which historically appears long based amidst a Deptford Royal Naval dockyard.

The photograph of a Mr Lee shows precaution of sandbagging just that part of the CWS factory. Any records of it serving extra purpose have long been kept secret, CWS Sandbagged until discovering archives of some highly classified material finally published by the Royal Australian Navy. Quoting these revealing entries, both are from dated top rank Admiralty Fleet Orders

1592 - Wand's Local Anaesthetic - Dental
(M.D.G. 2898/42. - 2nd April 1942.)
Owing to the use of a special vaccine type of cap having a central diaphragm of soft rubber, which has proved unsuitable for the purpose, the anaesthetic effect of certain batches of Wand's 3 per cent, local anaesthetic solution has deteriorated by hydrolysis and oxidation. The use of this type of cap has been discontinued and any stocks of the earlier supplies found to be discoloured or lacking in anaesthetic properties should be returned to the Technical Assistant, R.N. Medical Depot, Huthwaite, Mansfield, Notts, for replacement.

3874 - Despatch of Medical Stores from Home and Abroad to the R.N. Medical Depot, Huthwaite - Invoices, Packing Notes and Bills of Lading (M.D.G. 35922/44.- 20th July 1944.)
  All cases and packages of medical and dental stores sent to the Naval Medical Depot, Huthwaite, or to other medical establishments, are to be clearly marked on the outside, indicating the character of the contents, consigning officer and name of ship or establishment, together with the date of despatch. Invoices in triplicate are to be posted immediately showing the same date and other identification marks.
  2. Packing notes are to be enclosed in each particular case or package showing its contents in detail, except those packages containing definite quantities of stores, e.g. medicine chests, bales of dressings, etc., packed to scale.
  3. Stores shipped from establishments at home or abroad to the Medical Dept, Huthwaite, consigned through the Naval Store or victualling departments are to be shown on separate "bills" of lading and an extra copy of the bill is to be forwarded to the Technical Assistant to the Medical Director General, R.N. Medical Depot, Huthwaite, Mansfield, Notts.
  4. All cases so consigned should bear distinguishing numbers and identification marks showing their origin. Such numbers and marks are to be inserted on the bills of lading.

A titled Technical Assistant to Medical Director General of the Royal Navy, through whom all parcels were formally addressed at the Huthwaite Medical Depot was namely Richard Rodney Wales Edward Esq. His command is found recognised in the sixth supplement to the London Gazette published 9th January 1946 on page 292. A long list all receiving distinction of appointment by the King to the "Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood".

Victoriously heralding end of European conflict, May 1945 saw Huthwaite celebrations much like everywhere. In times of peace this central Royal Navy depot would be swiftly retired. So when issuing commanding officers the official Navy List dated 30th June 1945, the following list of names given would represent the final staff of officers.

Royal Navy Medical Depot, Huthwaite.
Tech Asst to MDG - R R Wales Edward, Esq 25 Aug 41
Superintending Pharmacist - A W L Harry, Esq. (act)
Senior Pharmacist - E H Fagg, Esq. (act) 21 July 41
Temporary Pharmacist - R. H. Drinnan 12 May 44
Temporary Pharmacist - C. R. Eynon 27 Aug 43
Temporary Pharmacist - S. A. Taylor, Esq 12 Apr 43
NMD Civil Officer - T D Pearson

Plus an Army Stores?

Considering that the huge CWS corporation was already recognised as an international shipping giant, its easy to see why this factory managed to securely handle parcel post for the Royal Navy medical supplies. This may therefore also answer question to where trainee soldiers had been locally collecting their full army kit. They recalled being marched from the Drill Hall only to some vague nearby army store issuing regular battle kit and weapons. So this large Huthwaite factory not only had capacity, but trust for potentially serving two military forces, while regular workers were continuing production providing their clothing.

This only invites more research into covering barely known war efforts uniquely made by a Huthwaite CWS hosiery factory. Closing this page presents good opportunity to fully thank Bernard O'Connor for his emails containing memories of Huthwaite. They originated from the Greenwich area. Transferred from Huthwaite briefly to Yorkshire, by 1946 work sent them to Salford, Manchester. Obviously oblivious to what went on inside the nearby factory where his father worked, his young age found more interest amongst those whom they lodged with. His family noted address at 4 North Street, personally remembering they had an alsatian and the man spent time chopping wood. Riding his barrow delivering kindling and coal bags does support small trade of haulier at time, when commercial directories identify tenancy of Mrs Sarah and Mr G Barnes.


Written 25 Jul 14 Revised 22 Feb 15 © by Gary Elliott