5:45pm Saturday 15th February 2014
By James Connell
THE Army ferried shoppers across treacherous flood water to show Upton was still very open for business and checked on the most vulnerable people hit by the crisis.
Soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment earned a rapturous reception from the public as they took people over the flood water and into Upton in a troop carrier vehicle (TVC) today.
The 16-seater TVCs began running at 8am and carried on until the shops closed this evening, navigating a quarter of a mile stretch of flood water blocking entry to the town from the A4104, preventing access to Upton from Holly Green and Ryall. People got on the truck via step ladders, helped by the troops including colour sergeant Neil Horner. The troops literally helped bring home the bread by transporting goods from a Warburton's van to the Co-op in Upton.
The water was between two feet and two and half feet deep but in some places soldiers estimated the depth rose to between 1 metre and 1.5 metres. The TVCs have a high ground clearance of around 1.5 metres but are also snorkeled which means the engines are protected, allowing them to reach a depth of between 2 and 2.5 metres, effectively going right up to the cab in flood water if need be.
Peter Kearney, aged 74, of The Beaches in Holly Green, was one of those to climb aboard. He said: "I didn't know it was operating. I think it's a good idea. I need a couple of bits of shopping and a newspaper. I waited to get the bus to Tewkesbury but it never turned up. I don't know what's happened to it. Then someone said there's an army lorry running backwards and forwards to Upton. I was in the Territorial Army so I'm used to all this."
Mother-of-two Natalie Aylward of Holly Green said: "I got a text from a friend saying the service was on. I think it's fantastic. I just wish they could have done it earlier so the kids could have gone to school. I'm going to go and get some money and some alcoholic refreshments."
Her children, Keelan, 12, and Mannon, nine, had four days off because their schools, Hanley Castle High School and Upton Primary School were closed because of the floods.
Sarah Nauls of Naunton and 10-year-old daughter Jessica also made the journey. Jessica was excited because she is studying World War Two at school and this was a chance to go in a military vehicle.
Her mum said: "It is fantastic. I heard about it through word of mouth. It has been a 32 mile round trip to get my daughter to school in Hanley Swan. I have been doing that for four days because the school did not shut."
Michelle Brennan of Ryall Grove, another passenger on the truck, said: "I think this is fabulous. It is supporting Upton. It gives the message that the town is open. After the floods of 2007 Upton has been like a ghost town."
Robert Stockley, aged 61, of Ryall and five-year-old springer spaniel Toby also made the trip out to the soggy town. He said: "The flood defences are holding pretty well. They used a tractor to get across the flood water in 2007."
Beryl Hicks, aged 85 of The Beeches, Holly Green, said: "I've done some shopping, just basic food shopping. We haven't been able to get down for a week. I've been popping into Worcester for shopping or just living on what we have in the freezer. I do most of my shopping in Upton and I try to keep the shops going. I would rather shop locally. This service is a wonderful idea."
Major Darren McCleery, OC of B company of the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment said he had a company of 100 men working on flood relief between the south of the main bridge in Worcester and The Mythe near Tewkesbury, taking in many flood-hit areas along the river Severn, including Severn Stoke, Kempsey, Upton and Bushley. To help the troops cover more ground they have been divided into 12 men groups or "multiples".
He said: "We have been focusing on the elderly and the vulnerable, making sure they are okay. People think it's great that the guys are here and they are happy to be here because it is something different. They are happy to help people where they can.
"People have been making the men cups of tea and bringing them food which is very kind. Our guys are happy to help. That is the main message that we're trying to get out. These transports will run until the shops close at 5.30pm.
"We have been knocking on doors in Holly Green where there are pensioners and making sure people are all right and letting them know we're providing this service today. There's an element of the boys thinking on their feet. We have been focusing on the main centres of population which are underwater."
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