aquila | dumb procurement

Which is where everything has gone wrong. You often hear that the army has run into trouble because kit simply doesn’t work. Perhaps they should give up this “Smart Procurement” and return to the “Dumb Procurement” represented by Aquila - after all, it seemed to work.

© Simon Cornwell 2004-2005

"I just thought you may like to know about possibly the oldest fan of your websites. My father will be 90 next year and a few weeks ago I sent him a link to your Aquila website. He actually started and was in charge of the Standards and Calibration labs there in 1956 with just himself, one other bloke and others blokes girlfriend (later his wife) and virtually no budget. Father left in 1975 with staff of 137, 2 wings of Aquila and a budget of £4 million, a lot of money then. He left to set up a similar system in Malawi where he stayed until retiring, as I say 90 next year but fully computer literate and still driving a brand new bright lime green car! Anyway he e-mails me virtually every day to say he just cannot believe all those wonderful pictures of Aquila. Believe me you have made an old man very happy and I just wanted to thank you on his behalf." - Gill

"I just wanted to drop a line to join the myriad others on your site to thank you for the pictures from EQD Aquila. My grandfather, Jesse Supper, was the director of Aquila for eight years until 1975."

"I have photographs of him opening Block 4 (the apprentice centre, or 'Sixties monstrosity' -- actually Seventies!) and audio and photos from his retirement presentation in the dining room (eerily empty in the photographs you took, but still recognisable) so it's a bit of a shame you didn't manage to snap the dedication plaque in Block 4 now it's gone forever."

"My grandfather died last November aged 92. I wasn't born until 1977, so it's only now I've looked through some of his papers and photographs that I'm aware of the magnitude of his achievements and the scale of the operation over which he presided."

"I considered taking a trip to Chislehurst, just to walk around the perimeter of the site, but it's abundantly clear that it no longer exists, and as it seems to have been decommissioned years ago, it would have only depressed me were it still standing. I'm very pleased that you've preserved something of the memory of Aquila. We're feeling the absence of the hard work of the EQD, and the attitude it represented in training apprentices and promoting the importance of well-organised QA systems."

"It's probably all Thatcher's fault. Most things are." - Ben

"I was interested in your photos of the Aquila site. What puzzled me was that I worked for a year between October 1967 and 1968 as an 'Assistant Photographer' with the Ministry of Technology at this site, but I am almost certain that it was then called EID, being the Electrical Inspection Directorate. I couldn’t see any reference in your photos to finding darkrooms or anything resembling the remains of a photographic studio or litho-printing workshop so can only assume that that side of the business was discontinued some time between me leaving and your coverage. I do remember that it was a long haul to work each day from Paddington where I lived. Hence why I stayed for just the year." - Des

"I worked there from 1968 to 1987 moving from apprentice to principal engineer."

"The work of Jesse Supper is very noteworthy. Supper made his name working on RADAR during the war and later became the Director of EID (Electrical Inspection Directorate). He was an original thinker and defined the work of the establishment as Quality = fu (s) + fu (m) + fu (p). By this he meant that there were three contributing functions at the specification stage (in the project office), at the manufacturing stage (in the factory) and product verification once industry had constructed the equipment. To each of these functions he assigned staff and called them S men, M men and P men."

"As you will appreciate the Aquila site was the province of the P men and provided comprehensive test facilities the best in the country. However, Aquila also provided many staff who worked with project offices in London advising the MOD project manager of quality issues at the specification stage and there was a field force working full time either at or visiting defence suppliers."

"In total there were 6 inspection directorates in the MOD each having their own focus but only EID (later EQD) Aquila developed a comprehensive approach." - John

For further information about Aquila: Eye Spy UK Secrets.