Ordnance

Ordnance
Stokes Mortar - one of the simplest inventions

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A shortage of published material

I have been working on War on Wheels for nearly two years and have amassed some fascinating material.

Some of this will be included in the book, but I have set up a new blog waronwheels.org for stories that came too late.

I was recently asked about COD Donnington, which is now MOD Donnington. COD Bicester and COD Chilwell are shadows of their former selves. Some have gone altogether: COD Feltham and COD Greenford to name but two. They were all hives of activity in WW2 and the immediate postwar years; thousands of young people all working with the focus of winning the war. One of those stories of WW2 that has never been told. It needs to be.

COD Chilwell with thanks to the RLC Archive

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

How I found the story

I discovered the story in some albums my Mum had kept. I had always known the albums were there, but I’d never really looked at them.

They were of my Dad’s war.

My Dad, Major General Sir Leslie (“Bill”) Williams, had been Controller of Ordnance Services and Director of Warlike Stores. The albums in total are about three feet thick; they’re scrap books really, with press cuttings, copies of speeches, many photographs and all kinds of documents from menu cards and invitations to formal reports - all about the Royal Army Ordnance Corps whose job it was to supply vehicles and armaments, indeed everything soldiers need part from food and fuel. I supplemented what I discovered in the albums with research at the National Archive, British Library, the National Motor Museum and Imperial War Museum, including listening to many accounts of their war by RAOC men and women.

The story I found was no small beer; the army went from, in 1934, having 4,000 vehicles left over from WW1 to holding some 1.5 million in 1945, ranging from giant tank transporters and trucks, to tanks and armoured cars down to motor bikes and utility vehicles.

At the same time the way in which the Army was provided with all it needed was transformed: arms and ammunition, to say nothing of radio, clothing and places to sleep and to wash. For D Day, some 375 million items were packed ready for the invasion force to use.

The driving force behind mechanisation was the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the 250,000 soldiers, ATS and civilians who worked in over one hundred massive depots in the UK and in the theatres of war worldwide.