War on the Wheels

War on the Wheels
The story of the people

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tanks for Russia

On 22 June 1941 the German-Russian pact came to an end and Russia joined the war against Germany.

Both Prime Minister Churchill and the Minister of Supply, Lord Beaverbrook, placed a high priority on making materiel available to the Russians notwithstanding the relative insecurity of the British Isles.  It follows that supplies to Russia were an important feature of the Donnington depot’s work, as John Bull magazine reported:

'Ah, here was a man just back from Russia. He braved the Arctic seas and the German dive-bombers to take tanks  to our  Allies. With the thermometer  at more than forty below freezing, our ordnance lads worked twenty-four hours a day to clear the ships before another convoy arrived. It was dawn at 10.30 a.m. and dusk at three - so they had to work with lights on even with " Jerry " overhead. And men of the RAOC manned the light anti­ aircraft guns.

'And here was another man from Russia. He had gone to teach the Russians all about our tanks and the multitudinous spare parts accompanying them. “Loveable” was his word for these people. They surrender their  cold reserve slowly, and then become the friendliest people in the world.

'As one instance of the all-outness of Russia in the war effort, he said that women are being sent into the munition factories to work alongside their husbands. When they have learned the job themselves, their menfolk go into the army. Yet the one ambition of the woman is to learn as quickly as possible, and of the men to teach them with all speed.


Another story about tanks for Russia concerns Brigadier de Wolff at Donnington who used the knowledge that he had gained of Russian ways in WW1 to smooth the process. All in chapter 4 of War on Wheels.
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