Continuing our posts showing the work staff and cadets from the Wing gave during the two storms to hit our Wing area “Desmond” & “Frank” we hear from Wing Staff Officer and former Commanding Officer of 1862 (City of Carlisle) Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Brian White.
Brian has been staff at 1862 Sqn since 2006, he is also a Past President of the Rotary Club of Carlisle South and an Officer with Rotary district 1190 which covers roughly the same area as the Cumbria & Lancashire Wing. Brian is also a professional musician and singer.
This is his story:-
It was not looking good to put it mildly. I was due to drive out to perform in my main job as a singer out in the West of Cumbria at Egremont.
Looking at the weather forecast it seemed that may be a drive too far. A few phone calles to my agent and I’d swapped my gig to one in Haltwhistle in Northumberland.
I realised just how bad things were going when the main A69 Carlisle to Newcastle road was closed at Greenhead. I diverted to the old military road where I immediately realised how bad things were. Trees blown down everywhere, 2 foot deep rivers of water flowing across the road to ford, sheep and cattle on the road after escaping from their fields and obviously worried.
Hearing the reports on BBC Radio Cumbria it seemed that the flood defences were expected to protect Carlisle only until the early hours of the Morning. This was 2005 all over again.
Next morning, after an ‘interesting’ drive home, I awoke to find several messages on my phone calling the members of the four Rotary clubs in Carlisle to arms and help in the rescue efforts.
Carlisle had flooded and flooded badly. Many of the defences built to keep the water out had failed and were now holding the water in.
“Meet at the Richard Rose Central Academy at 10am” the text said. District 1190 decided after the bad floods of 2005 and 2009 that our members had some unique skills to offer the emergency services and planners. Our job was to man and administer the flood shelters, noting who was who, where they were from and what help they needed then to direct them to that help.
So, warm clothing & boots on, Hi-Viz at the ready and off I go to be met by ………. a flooded building! Even the emergency shelter point was flooded out.”
A relocation to the other Richard Rose Academy at Morton on the West side of the city. I was met by several of my colleagues and a wall of donated items all brought in by well meaning members of the public.
There were not many people arriving at the centre. This was a great tribute to the people at the sharp end as they were managing to relocate people into hotels and relatives very quickly.
Next was a trip to the Greystone Community Centre in the middle of the city.
Driving into the city was like a post apocalypse movie set. Devastation everywhere. The water level was still high and carried with it personal possessions, furniture, flotsam and jetsam, and most worrying, a great deal of dirty, smelly sewerage. The Duke of Lancs Regiment had arrived on the scene, all in their combat uniforms, adding to the scene.
Greystone was a busy place, and getting busier by the minute. Our job had changed from people co-ordination to pure logistics. The amount of aid being donated by companies, aid agencies and the general public was amazing but threatened to swamp the team.
Small businesses from over the border in Scotland and even down to London were bringing hot food to the area, Burger & Pizza from Gretna, piping hot coffee from a mobile vendor from Carlisle, curry from Coventry and Chinese food from a London company, all donated free along with their time and effort.
Talking with the OC of Carlisle Squadron later that night it was decided to see if the Staff and Cadets from the Squadron could “do their bit” several cadets had been victim of the water and it seemed right that we should help.
By now the logistic centre for flood relief had moved to the gymnasium at the University of Cumbria along with a huge warehouse at Kingmore Park on the North side of the City, the site of the former 14 Maintenance Unit RAF Carlisle and where 1862 Squadron is based.
Manning the gym was a sobering experience. People from all walks of life were brought to a common level. All had their stories to tell of what they had lost, where they were staying and how they were surviving.
The Squadron were all in attendance, helping to manage the ever growing mountain of donated goods into the different sections, clothing over here, non perishable food over there, perishable goods by the door and cleaning materials in the centre.
My duties with Rotary were to log people in and ensure that they had all they needed to get through the next few difficult days. I spent several hours transporting families from the shelter areas to accommodation in hotels, hostels and families houses.
In all there were many days spent distributing the aid before the gym returned to its original state on the 23rd of December some two weeks after Storm Desmond……..then came Storm Frank……..