Major Wood Retires

Major Wood Retires

25 May 2022

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

Major James Wood has retired as Officer Commanding 4 Company, after more than 45 years in uniform. He will continue with us as a Non-Uniformed Volunteer.

Major Wood’s military experience began as an army cadet at school in the 1970s. His experience there inspired him to join the army, and he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1977. His army career proved interesting and varied, initially serving in Germany and the UK working with tanks and armoured vehicle-launched bridges. He became a bomb disposal officer, a line of work that subsequently took him to the Soloman islands in 1985. Here he conducted reconnaissance work to assess unexploded American and Japanese munitions from the Second World War. He said; ‘we visited the local museum and noticed that two of their exhibits, artillery shells, were still live. The museum staff weren’t very happy when we took them away and destroyed them!’

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Front middle with sword, JNCO Cadre Officer 1979

He returned to Germany in the mid 1980s, joining the HQ 1 Armoured Division, during which time he was promoted to Major. He worked with 12 Engineer Brigade at Waterbeach Barracks, using the old runway of RAF Waterbeach for training to repair bomb damaged runways.

In 1990 he deployed to the Gulf as part of the allied build up in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and served throughout the Gulf War, commanding 45 Field Support Squadron, an experience he said reinforced to him ‘the vital importance of good teamwork.’ This proved interesting, but was dogged by constant (unrealised) concerns over the possible Iraqi use of chemical weapons. Nevertheless, he enjoyed being in the Gulf and recounts the ‘great experience of being part of such a big military force, and thinking it will take a lot to stop all this!’ Nothing did; starting in Saudi Arabia, he moved into Northern Iraq and finally Kuwait as the war progressed.

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Right, Persian Gulf, 1990.

In 2003 he returned to Iraq shortly after the successful allied invasion, where he worked within Baghdad’s Green Zone, helping to restore the electricity supply to the country after power lines has been destroyed by fighting and looting by local criminals.

Back in the UK, he worked with the Defence Evaluation Research Agency, developing mine detection systems, and served in Sarajevo and Kosovo working on mine-clearance.

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Back middle left, Sarajevo, 2000

His bomb disposal experience, good character and steady decision making led directly to important postings at The Ministry of Defence, where he worked on Target Identification, and with UK Trade and Investment, supplying bridging and mine detection equipment to friendly foreign governments. His final role was with the Home Office working on Counter Terrorism including for the 2012 Olympic Games.

He said; ‘I Have been very lucky to have had such a varied and interesting military career, with interesting deployments and the opportunity to work within three different Departments of State.’

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Sarajevo 2000, with SoS for Defence & Gen Dannat

He retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2012, and almost immediately joined Cambridgeshire ACF. He said; ‘I had wanted to work with young people for a long time. I chose the ACF because of the way it develops young people and gives them confidence, whatever their career aspirations.’

With the rank of Lt Colonel he served as Deputy Commandant, before reverting to the rank of Captain and serving as Assistant County Public Relations Officer. As a Major, he was Officer Commanding 4 Company for four years. He will now continue to support Cambs ACF as a Non-Uniformed Volunteer.

Cambs ACF Commandant Colonel Deacon said: ‘Major Wood has bought an extraordinary level of experience to Cambs ACF. His knowledge and skill in teamwork and leadership have proved of great benefit to our organisation, and I would like to thank him for his many years of uniformed service in the Army and ACF and look forward to his continuing support as a non-uniformed volunteer'

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Major Wood addresses an ACF award ceremony, 2019

Text by SI Doug Stuart