Troops Barred from Brompton



FROM CHATHAM OBSERVER 23 8 1957 (Summary with quotations)

Brompton High Street traders are displeased with the Royal Engineers’ recently reiterated Garrison Order putting the High Street out of bounds to troops in working hours. They are afraid of possible adverse effects on trade; the existence of some businesses may be affected. Some traders think that the NAAFI is behind this, resentful of soldiers going out for tea etc rather than saying in. REs deny this.

W R POWELL, bookshop proprietor calls it, “a stranglehold on the traders. I deal in a lot of technical books and magazines which the Sappers need, but now, due to the Order, they cannot get out to buy them until after they have finished work, and it means I have a rush on my hands during the limited time before I close for the night. It makes it very difficult indeed, and if it is a question of the cafes, where at times there have been a couple of rowdies, why should the others suffer?”

Powell says that some traders were discussing a deputation to the Commandant of the SME, Brigadier GW Duke, and then the local MP.

D MILLER, hairdresser, gets 75% of his business from the barracks. His takings have dropped by 50%. “There is hardly any civilian population left in Brompton now, and I have to rely on the servicemen. I know we get trouble at night times and at weekends, but it is usually from outsiders who come into the area with the sole purpose of causing trouble, and the lads in the barracks get the blame every time”.

S J NEWMAN, grocer: “I have a lot of custom from the married families, but the husbands are not allowed into the High Street to do the shopping, and I have even seen some of them ordered back to barracks”.

MRS NEWMAN interrupted, saying that 50% of their trade came from the military. “It is not fair to have to live in a military town and be treated in such a way. At one time we used to get casual trade from the Sappers as they walked from one barracks to another, but now they either have to detour the High Street or are marched through it”.

AN UNNAMED MANAGERESS AT A BAKERS AND CONFECTIONERS said that previously she got quite a lot of trade from troops buying cakes and rolls, but that has now stopped. “I know the NAAFI is to blame, because some of the lads have told me so. Our prices were cheaper, and naturally enough, the lads preferred to buy them from the shop”.

A SPOKESMAN AT HQ SME said that Standing Orders stated that men must not leave barracks in working hours (8.30am to 12.30pm and 2.00pm to 6.30pm). This Order has been in operation for at least two years, and the situation prevailed even before WW2, but it was reiterated recently due to soldiers loitering in Brompton High Street in working hours. The spokesman said that allegations that the NAAFI was behind this were “absolute nonsense”, but admitted that the NAAFI canteen trade was not exceptional, because most soldiers preferred to use the NAAFI Club outside the barracks during their NAAFI break.


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