20 Dec 05. Our story this year comes from the operations conducted by UK and Australian Forces in East Timor in 1999. The Staff College model for the East Timor Operation was based on ‘Lessons Learnt from Operations In Gallipoli’ during WW1, a worrying omen.
A satellite receiver system was deployed for communications with the UK. However due to the footprint of the satellite concerned, a request for urgent spares was sent to the UK. Duly a Hercules was deployed with a general load of spares and equipment for East Timor with the urgent satellite spares placed in the front so that they would be unloaded first.
On the ground there appeared to be some friction developing between the British and Australian troops with the British appearing to question the training of their opposite Australian numbers.
Unbeknown to the signal squadron in the U.K., the Royal Marines, also deployed to East Timor, had another urgent requirement, toilet paper! The Marines were not happy with their ‘British Issue’ paper and put in a request for a shipment of the softer variety. Fearful that the tabloid press would pick up on this story of the rough military issue toilet paper, the Royal marine Quartermaster concerned ordered a shipment of soft paper for deployment on the same Hercules as the satellite spares.
The RAF Loadmaster was told of the urgency of the paper shipment and thus the first item in the Hercules was removed in favour of the toilet paper.
Thus when the ‘Urgent Satellite Supplies’ arrived and the Signals contingent rushed forward to deploy these spares they were met with a shipment of Royal Marine soft toilet paper! At least the Gallipoli exercise proved the point that logistics still proves to be a nightmare over 80 years later!