Tuesday, 15 July 2014
The Derby Evening Telegraph reported on 31 July 1943 how, in the run up to D Day, Derby school children packed stores which would be landed with the troops on the Normandy beaches. The children were volunteering to help the Royal Army Ordnance Corps with the huge task it was given to pack some 375 million items ready for the invasion. It wasn't only children, but all sorts of volunteer groups.
Turning to the central ordnance depot, I found a daily news sheet first published on 4th October 1943 to give soldiers, ATS and civilians at the Derby RAOC sites news of the war, topics about the depot and forthcoming entertainment, sport and recreation. Just a few examples paint a picture.
Operation Market Garden, the Arnhem mission, is described day by day without any hype and not hiding the terrible losses. An earlier edition had piece about gaskets and how they have to be handled carefully (later there is a piece telling how, in view of shortages, some gaskets were being made from wrapping paper.) On the subject of paper a new recruit is quoted as asking why there is so much paperwork - the answer, ‘it’s all about checking; if everyone took more care it wouldn’t be needed!’ Entertainments were the expected round of films and dances, but interestingly also discussion groups - on 20 October 1943 one on science and religion.
Also from COD Derby is a thick book setting out the system and organisation of the depot. Here the reason for all the paperwork becomes clear. Supplies come in from manufacturers (who need paying) but also USA and Canada. The depot needs to be able to predict usage of individual items so that re-ordering can be done before the stock runs out and without excessive stock being held. All this without computers. It must have been like some sort of Amazon warehouse, but seventy years earlier. The depot produced a wonderful little book entitled ‘Good Storekeeping’, all aimed at accuracy and methodical working.
Phil Hamlyn Williams's current project is a book entitled Ordnance telling the story of how the British Army was equipped for the Great War. It is to be published by The History Press in June 2018. His previous book, War on Wheels, tells the story of the thousands of ordinary men and women who together worked to mechanise the British Army in WW2. It was published by The History Press on 8 September 2016. He writes regularly on contemporary issues for a number of periodicals and his own blogs. He has written the story of the MacRobert's Reply collaborating with Story Terrace, published in December 2016. He was awarded an MA in Professional Writing at University College Falmouth in 2009. As a result of the this course, he wrote a novel, Broken Bonds, on human dimension of the Banking Crisis. His He has been writing for fifteen years, having spent much of his career in professional services and the not for profit sector.