See also: List of Royal Navy shore establishments
A Royal Naval Armament Depot (RNAD) was an armament depot (or a group of depots) dedicated to supplying the needs of the Royal Navy (as well as, at various times, the Royal Air Force, the British Army and, by arrangement, foreign/commonwealth governments); they were sister depots of Royal Naval Cordite Factories, Royal Naval Torpedo and Royal Naval Mine Depots.
Historically, several of these depots played a key role in Britain's military history. In the early modern period, Britain's national defences were developed along different lines to those that emerged on the continent of Europe. Rather than focusing on having a large army and heavily fortified cities, England (and then Great Britain) built up its navy. Likewise, in this period, Britain's principal ordnance stores were planned with ease of access for the Navy in mind. Whereas, on the continent, guns and gunpowder were kept in fortified strongholds where they were accessible to the field armies and garrisons based there, in Britain they were stored as close as possible to the Royal Navy Dockyards, to facilitate the transfer of armaments between the depots and warships; but not too close to minimise the risk of any accident or explosion in the depot causing damage to warships.
Today, the term RNAD is no longer in use, except for RNAD Coulport which is the UK Strategic Weapon Facility for the Trident Missile System.
Under the Board of Ordnance
The earliest Ordnance Depots, several of which later became RNADs, were built by the Board of Ordnance (an autonomous office of the state, based at the Tower of London). The Board of Ordnance was responsible for all forts and armaments within the United Kingdom as well as the British Empire; it provided ordnance and ammunition for both naval and military uses.
In the Tudor period, the Board maintained 'gun wharves' close to each Royal Navy Dockyard and Anchorage where cannons, shot, small arms and other items were kept available ready for naval use. Gunpowder was stored separately (initially in nearby fortified structures such as Portsmouth's Square Tower, Plymouth's Royal Citadel and Upnor Castle on the River Medway). After 1671 the gun wharf at Woolwich Dockyard was extended to the east and by 1700 ammunition was being assembled on the site, which soon expanded to become the Board's principal manufacturing facility (later named the Royal Arsenal).
In the 1720s the Board of Ordnance consolidated its gunwharf activity within new, purpose-built sites at Chatham, Portsmouth and Devonport). Some years later, the Board began to design and build gunpowder magazine depots (nearby, but at a more-or-less safe distance): at Priddy's Hard near Gosport (from 1771) and at Keyham Point near Devonport (from 1775). The Thames dockyards were served by the Board's central magazine complex at Purfleet, as were the yards on the Medway (where Upnor Castle continued to serve as an interim store).
In times of conflict the demand for provision (and therefore storage) of gunpowder grew, so additional magazines were built during the French Revolutionary Wars at Tipner (from 1788) and Weedon (from 1802), and during the Napoleonic Wars at Upnor (from 1806) and Marchwood (from 1811). During the Crimean War a new magazine depot was begun in 1851 at Bull Point near Plymouth (replacing Keyham, where the site was required for Dockyard expansion); and at the same time new magazines were built at Tipner, Weedon, Upnor and Marchwood, more than doubling capacity in most cases. In addition to these (and a number of temporary magazines established when and where they were needed) significant use was made of obsolete warships to serve as floating magazines; (this strategy continued through to the Second World War, when Implacable and Foudroyant were thus employed).
Under the War Office
When the Board of Ordnance was abolished in 1855 control of its assets passed to the War Office; they were overseen by a series of different military authorities:
This period coincided with a revolution in naval ordnance, with new gun and shell technology being developed for a new generation of ironclad warships. An emphasis was placed on adapting the established depots to handling the new ammunition, rather than on establishing new depot sites (although much needed additional storage space was provided in 1875 when a new magazine complex was opened at Chattenden near Upnor).
Some depots began to develop a manufacturing role alongside that of storage: a factory opened on Portsmouth Gunwharf in 1863 for making gun carriages; together with the 'Royal Laboratory' across the harbour on Priddy's Hard, it was designated and managed as a Royal Ordnance Factory. Over the next two decades, the aforementioned Laboratory (established some years earlier for cartridge and small-arms ammunition manufacture) developed into a facility for shell-filling, an activity which soon outgrew its initial accommodation and spread into new purpose-built complexes at this and most of the other magazine depots.
Under the Admiralty
Naval Ordnance Store Department (1891-1918)
In 1891, the decision was taken to divide responsibility for armament provision (for the army and the navy respectively) between the War Office and the Admiralty, with assets (including premises, personnel, equipment and supply vessels) being divided between the two services. For their part, the Admiralty established a new Naval Ordnance Store Department, based at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and overseen by the Director of Naval Ordnance, to manage them.
As part of this process, the gunwharves at Portsmouth and Chatham were each divided in two between the Navy and the Army, as were storage facilities at Woolwich Arsenal; at Plymouth the Devonport gun wharf remained with the Army, so a new naval gunwharf was set up within part of the Royal William Victualling Yard. Other ordnance locations (including some which were initially divided) ended up either with one service or the other; those that remained with the Army included Purfleet, Tipner and Weedon ordnance depots.
A memorandum of 18 January 1892 stated that:
... the Official designations of the Naval Ordnance Depots at the undermentioned places will be as follows:
Woolwich: H.M. Naval Gunwharf, Woolwich Arsenal;
Priddy's Hard: H.M. Naval Magazine;
Portsmouth: H.M. Gunwharf;
Plymouth: H.M. Naval Gunwharf;
Bull Point, Devonport: H.M. Naval Magazine;
Chatham: H.M. Naval Gunwharf;
Upnor, Rochester: H.M. Naval Magazine.
By the start of the 20th century, however, all these facilities were officially known as Royal Naval Ordnance Depôts (as were the smaller depots belonging to the Admiralty, both at home and overseas).
It was only in the last decade of the nineteenth century that gunpowder began to lose its primacy in ordnance manufacture. Cordite was patented in 1889 and soon found widespread use as a smokelesspropellant; and from 1896 lyddite began to replace gunpowder in explosive shells. Guncotton (patented in 1846 but little used subsequently due to hazards inherent in its manufacture) eventually came to be used in naval mines and torpedoes. By the end of the century the ordnance depots were being expanded and adapted to provide specialist storage magazines for these explosives, alongside substantial separate storehouses for shells and mines. (Torpedoes, and later mines, were stored in their own separate depots.) The storage requirements of cordite and dry guncotton in particular led to the characteristic layout of depots in the twentieth century: as series of small, individually-traversed, lightly-roofed, single-storey buildings interlinked by narrow-gauge railways.
Several new Depots were established during, or in the run up to, the First World War, including a number in Scotland, where new naval dockyards had opened at Rosyth and Invergordon.
Armament Supply Department (1918-1964)
On 23 December 1918 the Naval Ordnance Store Department was renamed the Armament Supply Department and its depots were likewise renamed Royal Naval Armament Depots (RNAD) in 1920. The change of nomenclature recognised the inclusion of torpedoes and naval mines (which had been managed separately during the war) alongside ordnance as part of the new department's responsibilities.
The vulnerability of the armament depots to air strikes was now acknowledged, so the Admiralty explored the feasibility of building magazines underground, initially at Ernesettle (just north of Bull Point, Plymouth) where four such magazines were built and at the recently established RNAD Crombie (near HM Dockyard, Rosyth) where six were built. Despite the cost, and sustained resistance from HM Treasury, plans were then laid down for the development of several far larger subterranean depots, with sixty magazines proposed at Dean Hill (near Salisbury) and ninety at Trecŵn (near Fishguard). Approval for these was only given in 1938-39, when war seemed all but inevitable, and they took several years to build; in the meantime a temporary depot was established (and later made permanent) on the site of a former colliery at Broughton Moor in West Cumberland. Once war was declared, however, the development of similar underground complexes was abandoned in favour of faster solutions, with railway tunnels, warehouses and other improvised locations made use of. Thus, whereas in early 1939 only five home RNADs were listed in the Navy List (viz. Woolwich, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham and Crombie), by 1945 over thirty are mentioned, in addition to these five, with nine more RNADs in various locations listed as sub-depots of the 'Central Naval Armament Supply Depots, Wolverhampton'. Similarly overseas, the 1939 list of seven RNADs (Gibraltar, Malta, Hong Kong, Singapore, Simon's Town, Bermuda and Ceylon) had grown to a list of over twenty (with several more sub-depots in addition).
The Armament Supply Department continued in operation until 1965.
Under the Ministry of Defence
On 1 January 1965 control of the naval armament depots passed to the Ministry of Defence and they became part of the Royal Naval Supply and Transport Service (RNSTS). The RNSTS was formed from an amalgamation of the Directorates of Naval Stores, Victualling, Armament Supply, and Movements.
On 1 April 1994, the RNSTS ceased to exist and was absorbed into the Naval Support Command. At first renamed the 'Warship Support Agency', it went on to form part of the tri-service Defence Logistics Organisation, which is now part of the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) conglomerate. The RNADs also lost their independence; those RNADs that are still in use today are known as Defence Munitions centres (DM, e.g. DM Beith), with the aforementioned exception of RNAD Coulport.
List of RNADs and their status
In Britain and Ireland
|Name||City or district||Country||Years active||Status||Notes|
|RNAD Butcher Island||Bombay||Closed|
|RNAD Corradino||Paola||Malta||1893-||Closed||Underground magazine complex|
|RNAD Gibraltar||1905-||Closed||Underground magazine depot|
|RNAD Hong Kong||Closed|
|RNAD Port Said||Closed|
|RNAD Spectacle Island||Sydney||Australia||1884-1913||Closed||Established by the government of New South Wales in 1865; in Royal Navy ownership 1884-1913, then transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, which still uses the site as a Naval repository.|
|RNAD Simon's Town||South Africa||Closed|
|RNTD Gibraltar||Closed||Torpedo Depot|
|RNTD Hong Kong||Closed||Torpedo Depot|
|RNTD Kalagrama||Malta||Closed||Torpedo Depot|
- W N Mansfield (1995), "Priddy's Hard 1846 - 1906 - The site impact of the introduction of modern chemical explosives" - BSc (Hons) Archaeology dissertation.
- Semark, H.W. (1997). The Royal Naval Armaments Depots of Priddy's Hard, Elson, Frater and Bedebham (Gosport, Hampshire) 1768 to 1977. Winchester: Hampshire County Council. ISBN 1-85975-132-6.
Dr Alwin Caesar Gerson, born on August 24, 1866; deported to Theresienstadt on February 24, 1943, where he died on April 11, 1943.
Schleusenredder 23, Wohldorf-Ohlstedt
People who visit the former house of Alwin C. Gerson in Wohldorf may ask themselves how he had come to live in this remote place surrounded by forest and meadows. Was it the contemplative country life that appealed to him or was he driven by other ambitions?
When, in 1900 he settled down in the village with its approx. 500 inhabitants, he was 34 years of age and had just received a doctor’s degree as a general practitioner. With his career choice Gerson continued the tradition of his male ancestors who had been doctors in Hamburg and Altona since the 17th century. One of them was Hartog Hirsch Gerson who had joined the philosophers of the enlightenment circle influenced by Spinoza.
Alwin Caesar Gerson was born in Hamburg-Rotherbaum 23 on August 24, 1866. His father, Hartog Caesar Gerson, who was also born in Hamburg, had a doctor’s degree and practiced as a surgeon and ophthalmologist. His mother Julia, née Jonassohn, was 34 years old and born in Sunderland, Great Britain. The wedding ceremony of his parents had taken place in London in 1861; two years after Hartog C. Gerson had taken an oath to be acknowledged as citizen of Hamburg. Though it cannot be proved by reliable sources, it can be assumed that Gerson’s parents belonged to a Christian religion. Their son was baptized and later he was sent to the renowned Johanneum High School.
After having finished his studies and fulfilled part of his military service in the infantry regiment no. 116 in Gießen, serving as reserve assistant in the military hospital, he had returned to Hamburg in 1893. As “Candidatus Medicinae,” i. e. a student who has passed his first state examination, he lived as subtenant until his final exams and applied for German citizenship. In 1896 he obtained the license to practice medicine. Afterwards he completed his military service as volunteer for 12 months in the infantry regiment no. 76 in Hamburg. In 1900 he earned the doctor’s degree with a dissertation on the issue “The frequency of vesical calculus affliction in Thuringia along with remarks about its treatment”. In the same year he settled down in Wohldorf, a commune situated in the Hamburg woodland called “Walddörfer”. Perhaps there had already been enough doctors in Hamburg and Wandsbek, but it is also possible that young Alwin Gerson had a rather popular natu
re and tried to escape from the formal Hamburg bourgeoisie with its social necessities. Another reason might be that he wanted to live near the Hamburg lunatic asylum in Langenhorn, founded in 1899 as a branch of the asylum Friedrichsberg, in order to study a new medical field: psychiatry.
Alwin Gerson and his wife Elsa, née Behrmann, moved into the recently completed house in 23 Schleusenredder. In December, their son Alwin Caesar Joachim was born and two years later their daughter Elsa. The family was member of the Protestant Reformed Church. In 1901 Alwin Gerson acquired the Hamburg citizenship.
In spring 1900 he applied for the permission to set up a private hospital for convalescent patients who suffered from neuropathy. Apparently he favored the concept of a double –tracked base for practicing his profession: on the one hand he worked as a country doctor with a rather low income, although in the rural area where he lived there was always plenty of work for a general practitioner, obstetrician and surgeon; on the other hand he treated mentally ill, well-off patients who preferred the loneliness of the Wohldorf forest to the asylum in Friedrichsberg or Langenhorn – hoping to find peace and health and thus providing extra revenues for their doctor.
The concerns over the hospital raised by the Wohldorf municipality and the district admini-stration (Landherrenschaft) were settled quite soon and the authorization given on the “grounds that no new building was planned for the hospital, but rather it was to be integrated in the house of Dr Gerson and accommodate only about five patients.” The estate comprised a horse stable, a carriage depot and an accommodation for the coachman. There are no reports about complaints of the villagers concerning the hospital; it seems that the distance between the estate and the village center was far enough. Gerson wanted to treat “persons suffering from neuropathy, convalescent patients, patients with mental diseases, persons suffering from slight epilepsy and inoffensive aments. Persons with acute psychoses will not be accepted.”
A representative of the medicinal council (Hamburg public health authority) came once a year in order to check the medical care of the patients. The reports, always stating the unob-jectionable state of the patients’ rooms, also contained the number of patients in treatment: at the beginning the “Villa Elsa” accommodated two to three regular female patients, one of them being mentioned as longtime patient. In 1909 two female patients were recorded as living in Schleusenredder. Between 1910 and 1914 only one female patient lived in the house, in a living room and bedroom of considerable dimensions. The corresponding report stated as follows: “Presently, only, a deaf-mute, degenerated psychosis, a young relative, has been looked after for a long time.”
The construction of the local railway Alt-Rahlstedt – Wohldorf did not seem to affect the hospital business, although from 1907 there was a large terminal station nearly opposite the estate, consisting of goods dispatching facilities, a carriage hall and a switching railway track system. In 1909 Gerson had the villa reconstructed, more precisely, he had another gable added, and thus giving it the symmetrical look which still today is a distinguishing feature.
The living space was enlarged by adding a conservatory on the west side of the house. The reconstruction plans were designed by the architect Fritz Hoeger who later also built the Chile-House in Hamburg and the cigarettes factory Haus Neuerburg in Wandsbek. At the beginning of World War I Gerson shut down the hospital. It remains unclear when Alwin and Elsa Gerson started to grow away from each other; finally they got a divorce. In the 1920ies Elsa Gerson lived in Armgartstraße, together with her son who meanwhile had began to study law. Alwin Gerson stayed in Wohldorf and married his second wife, Hildegart, née Bodendieck. This marriage as well resulted in a divorce.
From 1911 the Wohldorf doctor also practiced as district physician for Wohldorf-Ohlstedt as well as Gross-Hansdorf and Schmalenbeck; these two villages belonged to Hamburg at that time. Also Hoisbuettel was part of this district. Up to the end of the 1920ies Alwin Gerson was the only doctor in Wohldorf. There are some families who still remember him today: “My grandparents’ family doctor was Dr Gerson …. My grandfather was the parson of Tangstedt (1896 to 1930) and then moved to Hoisbuettel …. Dr Gerson also had other patients in Hoisbuettel. … If I remember well, he practiced as doctor as long as possible … When the keyword “Schleusenredder” was mentioned, we were told that Dr Gerson used to live there and we were also reminded of him when we walked past his former house. Thus, the name of Gerson was always present.”
Alwin Gerson was also active in local politics. As “commune deputy of the right wing” he was member of the local executive body of Wohldorf-Ohlstedt, probably as a member of the DNVP, the “Deutschnationale Volkspartei” (German National People`s Party), which was strongly oriented towards the Imperial Era. He was also member of the so-called “Steel Helmet”, an association of front-line soldiers and a paramilitary organization of the DNVP where Jewish front-line soldiers were not admitted. Furthermore, Alwin Gerson held municipal honorary posts such as commissioner for lodging and treatment and at last also as president of the public welfare office. Temporarily, he probably also worked as police doctor in the Prussian area (possibly in Wandsbek). However, he lost this job for political reasons as he was reputed to be against the democratic system. Due to his right-wing political commitment he thought his position as district doctor at risk and assumed that only his
good relations to the district administration (Landherrenschaft) protected him from being dismissed. The “Walddörfer” belonged to the district administration of the Geestlande and were governed by the county of Hamburg; however they did not belong to the city of Hamburg.
Most likely, Gerson was not particularly alarmed by the National Socialism, as his attitude was more in line with the new powers than with the politics of the unloved republic. However, his political attitude and his religious denomination could not prevent him from being hit by the “Nuremberg Race Laws” in 1935, and he had to give up his post as district doctor. He was succeeded by the physician Heinrich Fleck, a colleague who temporarily had cooperated with him in his house. Gerson’s old age pension was converted into a so-called pension of mercy in 1935 and allotted to him until further notice by the Hamburg Gauleiter Karl Kauf-mann. As a consequence of this deprivation of personal rights, Gerson fell into a serious crisis, as now he had to learn that neither religious nor political attitude protected him from becoming a social outcast. In 1936 he had a nervous breakdown which took him rather long to recover so that he was forced to give up his practice. All his meri
ts – his own and those of his ancestors – suddenly seemed to have become worthless and, what was more, his financial situation was endangered. Owing to his tenuous health condition and economic circumstances he could no longer keep the house in Schleusenredder and, on September 29, 1937 Alwin Gerson left his longtime domicile. However, he stayed in his adopted region and moved to Ohlstedt, where he lived as subtenant in the house of “Frl.” (Miss) Walsberg in 2, Korte Blök.
Obviously, he led a rather isolated life. From time to time he visited former patients; maybe they gave him financial support. In fact, the law enforced in 1938, depriving all Jewish doctors of their license to practice medicine, should have remained without any conse-quences for him, as he had already shut down his practice. However, this very law was the reason that the 75 year old doctor without a practice and without any criminal record so far, should be convicted.
What had happened? Gerson often went to see a former patient, the farmer Karl Bruhn who had become his friend. In September 1940 Bruhn had him called to his farm Ziegelhof in Duvenstedt, because he had heart troubles. The doctor wrote a prescription in his name and provided the necessary drugs from the pharmacy Piepenbring in Poppenbüttel. Gerson called again on his patient in the morning of September 14. Two hours later, Bruhn’s son informed him that his father had suddenly died and he asked him to make out the death certificate. Gerson refused to do so and referred him to two other doctors. However, one of them was out of town; the other, a female doctor declined the request, as the deceased had not been her patient. Thus, the health office in Wandsbek had to be contacted, and the medical officer (Medizinalrat) Dr Mainz instructed Gerson to make out the death certificate. Gerson had to admit that he was not allowed to do so, because he was “non-Arian” (i. e. Jew). Fi
nally, Dr Mainz made out the death certificate; however, on the same day he also sent a report to the public health officer of the health office in Wandsbek. He described the incidents as follows: “I drove to Duvenstedt and the son, who was wearing the campaign button (of the NSDAP; A. L.), led me to the body of his father.” The son had told him that Alwin Gerson had visited his father once a week, in order to pass his time. When his father fell ill, he had insisted on being medicated by Dr Gerson and nobody else. “Mr Bruhn claimed that he could not do anything against his father’s will. Apart from the fact that a former, non-Arian doctor has medicated an ethnic German (Volksgenosse), it also has to be mentioned that a pharmacy actually had agreed to prepare the prescription of the said person.” The physician Mainz reported the incident to the medical association in Hamburg where it was confirmed that Gerson was not registered as “somebody who treated sick people
” (i. e. a doctor who had the permission to treat only Jewish patients). The leader of the medical association, Lochmann, forwarded the report of Dr Mainz to the Public Prosecutor’s Department of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court with the request “to take further steps”. Thus the denunciation had become a legal case. On October 28, 1940 a police officer came to take Alwin Gerson’s personal data, on December 18, the senior prosecutor asked the Local Court to remit a penalty order and on January 6, 1941 a fine of 50 RM (reichsmark) was remitted plus process costs, on account of illegal practice of medicine (after revocation of the license).
However, Gerson was not prepared to accept the fine and ten days later he appealed to the department of mercy of the Public Prosecutor’s Department. “I am 75 years of age, have practiced as a doctor in Wohldorf-Ohlstedt for 41 years and as a district doctor for 22 years. I have been doctor in Hamburg in 5th generation and I am leading a decent live in my home town Wohldorf-Ohlstedt … I have never been informed by the medical association that I was listed as non-Arian doctor. I got to know the wording of the respective law only a short while ago in connection of the present case. I put my heart and soul in practicing as a country doctor and, after all, the difference between a big-city doctor and a country doctor is his personal relationship to his patients. During my longtime practice I made friends with many people among the rural population and they even gave me the nickname of ‘farmer’s doctor’… And now I shall be punished because I wanted to help an old frie
nd of mine without charging him? Already today I am heavily punished without being responsible of the slightest fault and now I shall be punished once more. I do not know how to cope with this situation. I am paid a pre-tax pension of 100 RM, i. e. 85 RM net. I have no property and have to manage with the money of my pension to pay for food, clothing and lodging. Therefore, I urgently appeal to the committee of mercy to exempt me from paying the fine and allow me to quietly spend my remaining years in decent circumstances. I will try not to act against the law anymore, although this will be very difficult for me. Heil Hitler Dr. Alwin Gerson, ex district doctor.”
Two weeks later he received news from district judge Hartert that his fine was adjourned until March 31, 1943 on the condition that “you lead an impeccable life during the probation period and particularly do not commit any further criminal acts.”
On April 18, 1942 Alwin Gerson had to leave this home. He moved to Hamburg into the Jewish rest and nursing home, 29 Schäferkampsallee that meanwhile was used as so-called Jews house. He spent approx. 10 months there until he was deported to the ghetto Theresienstadt on February 24, 1943. A few weeks later, on April 11, 1943 he died at the age of 77.
Three days before his death a written notice was sent to him by the district court announcing his “final amnesty after the end of the probation period.” The letter was returned with the comment “address unknown”.
His son, Alwin Caesar Joachim Gerson had participated in World War I and since 1927 he had worked as a lawyer PhD in a partnership with C. Staelin, 12/14 Große Bleichen. Due to his “non-Arian descent” he risked to lose his accreditation in 1933. However, owing to his political attitude – he had taken part in fightings against “Spartacists” – his accreditation continued and he worked as advocate for many “Mischlinge” (people related to Jews by marriage etc.). Nevertheless, after 1933 he had to give up all honorary posts which entailed negative consequences on his activities as a lawyer. Alwin Gerson joined the Hamburg district group of the “National Association of Christian-German citizens of non-Arian Descent” (later National Association of non-Arian Christians, Paulus Bund), which, later on he also presided for some time. He was married and lived in Krohnskamp. The place of residence of his mother and his sister Elsa, a secretary, was registered in Schl
ankreye in the end of the 1930ies.
After the beginning of World War II Alwin Gerson was drafted as “Mischling 1. Grades“ (first-degree relationship with Jews), but in 1941 he was dismissed from military service for “racial reasons”. In 1944 the assignment for forced laborer was ordered for “Mischlinge” and “jüdisch Versippte“ (persons from mixed relationships). Gerson and his wife escaped from this order by going underground. After the end of the war in 1945 he became member of the self-help organization “Emergency Association of the People Affected by the Nuremberg Laws”. He died in Hamburg on October 12, 1980.
Translator: Eva Gehle