War on the Wheels

War on the Wheels
The story of the people

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A square mile of weeds and rubbish

Eighty years ago this month, my father,  temporary Lieutenant Colonel Bill Williams, was summoned from Catterick Camp in Yorkshire by the War Office to visit a derelict shell filling factory just outside Nottingham. He stood on a hill surveying the site and saw a square mile of weeds and rubbish. Yet, it was in the right place: good road and rail links, a plentiful supply of staff, but above all Coventry. Chilwell, on the outskirts of Nottingham was near the motor industry and that held the key. Wars in the middle of the 20th century would be fought on wheels.

The factory, which had been the largest shell filling factory in Britain, was said to have supplied most of the ammunition fired on the Western Front. It had been created by Viscount Chetwynd, a man of great vision, but in 1918 it suffered a disastrous explosion which cost the lives of 134 munition workers and rendered most of the site useless.  One of Bill’s first acts on taking command was to put in place a tradition of honouring these men on each Armistice Day. After the war what remained of the site  became a general Ordnance depot until it closed in 1926.

When Bill returned to Catterick his mind was buzzing. The War Office had asked him to create an Ordnance Depot specifically for Motor Transport.

The full story is told in War on Wheels
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