LONDON – In a small military clothing outlet on the south coast of England, a group of volunteers are racing to meet the demand from Ukrainians who are sourcing equipment in Britain to send back home for civilian fighters.
A former British soldier who only gave his name as Wozza was sorting through piles of boots, jackets, rucksacks and body armour to sell to Ukrainians, and the odd former British soldier, who are looking for protective equipment.
Such was the demand, he has struggled to fulfil some of the requests, such as one order for 6,000 boots. He said British military fatigues were similar in colour to those worn by Ukraine’s army and therefore popular with civilian fighters.
On Wednesday morning they were visited by two Ukrainian men who declined to give their details to Reuters, and 30-year-old former British soldier George Parker, who said he was collecting equipment before travelling through Poland to Ukraine to fight.
“I just can’t sit around doing nothing watching the news when I’ve got skills and experience, when I can actually go and help people,” the veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan told Reuters.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stunned much of Europe, with volunteers across Britain collecting warm clothing and items that could be sent to help those pouring across the border after a week of intense fighting.
The UK government has also said it will match donations from the public, pound-for-pound, starting with 20 million pounds ($27 million).
The 52-year-old Wozza, who runs the military surplus clothing outlet in Folkestone, said they were first removing British flags from the clothing or any labels that would denote a regiment, for the protection of whoever wore it next.
“It’s for the civilians that are now enlisting into the Ukrainian army, because they’ve been called to arms, and they have no uniform,” he said.
($1 = 0.7476 pounds)