The Williams home in Wheatley

The Williams home in Wheatley
The home of William Smith Williams' family in Wheatley

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Class of '21 and the Ordnance supply success on D Day

This photograph has accompanied me all my life. I have always known who one of the young men was, my father then known as Bill Williams although he had been baptised Leslie. Of the others, I could recognise the Duke of York and the largest man in the front row, as a child, I named , ‘prawns’, I suppose because of magnificent moustache. 

When it was taken or where I didn’t know, any more than I knew the names of the other young and not so young men. All was partially revealed in 2015 when I found the same photograph in the archive of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps annotated with names. I say partially revealed because whilst the names were there, I still didn’t know who they were, whence they had come or whither they would go. 

The photograph was taken on 2 May 1922 at the then HQ of the RAOC at Hilsea and many of those in the picture were on the very first Ordnance officers course. That course, comprising two dozen men from the RAOC but also the RA and Indian and Canadian Ordnance, produced no fewer than five Major-Generals and eleven Brigadiers. 

I am now embarked on a quest and, just in case it may seem to the reader a rather pointless quest, I can reveal that from this group would emerge the small group who masterminded the Ordnance supply success of D Day.


This quest digs beneath many of the names that appear in my books, War on Wheels and Ordnance.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Ordnance Reviews


Ordnance was published by The History Press in June 2018. Here are some of the reviews:

Norman Cherry, former Pro Vice -Chancellor at the University of Lincoln wrote:

Informative and accessible

Like Phil Hamlyn Williams' previous War on Wheels, this book offers genuinely interesting insights into the immensely detailed and often overlooked organisational aspects of fighting a successful war. His is a light but not lightweight approach to the subject, meticulously researched and well-referenced, and written in a very accessible style. If you have an interest in just how complex a business supplying the fighting services and their auxiliaries was during the First World War (and still must be in contemporary conflicts) this book will most definitely inform you and go a long way to explaining why wars are not just about the actual fighting.

Alex Lewczuk Editor, Siren FM and the University of Lincoln wrote:

Excellent, albeit challenging

An extraordinarily well researched and insightful overview of a period of history which recalls the George Santayana saying `Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it`. The level of scholarship present in this work is first class throughout and provides an impressive backdrop to the challengers faced by the country in the second decade of the twentieth century. Excellent, albeit challenging, reading.

Rob writes on Amazon

Long overdue

With a plethora of books recently published to commemorate and remember 1st World War, Phil Hamlyn Williams book on Ordnance tells the untold story of the organisation that basically enabled Britain and its Empire to fight the war. Well laid out and easy to read it is a book that I have recommended to many of my friends and colleagues.

Norman Penty, who found out so much about the man who discovered Charlotte Bronte wrote: 

I was delighted to receive your book Ordnance yesterday and spent a pleasant afternoon in the garden looking through it and needless to say I was most impressed by the publication and its whole presentation.   I only wish that I had had the same skills that you have clearly demonstrated - are you involved in the publications business or have you inherited your great-great uncle's genes or both?

Ken Weston, commenting on Facebook:

An excellent book.

Toby Neal has written in The Shropshire Star had the massive depot at Donnington in deepest Shropshire became the new "Woolwich' in WW2, with echoes of the old Woolwich in WW1 as told in Ordnance
 https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/nostalgia/2018/08/25/the-shropshire-village-which-helped-win-the-war/


Sunday, 2 December 2018

William Smith Williams - for Bronte Studies

The title of this post is my current working title for my biography of William Smith Williams, with the strap line: Friend and mentor to Charlotte Brontë and a host of Victorian writers and artists

The name, William Smith Williams, will strike a chord with readers of Bronte biographies. He was the reader at Smith Elder & Co who first spotted Charlotte’s genius. He then nurtured her talent, as is evident from the one hundred or so letters she wrote to him in the course of her short career.

But who was he? Whence had he come and whither did he go? A passage from a letter his brother in law, Robert Hill, wrote on his death urges exploration: ‘There were complementary notices of his death in nearly all the papers. Nobody could have been more universally beloved or respected than he was.’

I read the obituaries and they were indeed full of praise and affection for this quiet man. The Athenaeum wrote: ‘His literally taste was excellent, and he had great powers of discernment. His judgement and his opinion regarding the works was very highly valued, more especially by young authors.’ One sentence, in the Publishers Circular, in particular caught my attention: ‘The truth is that Mr Williams’ previous education had fitted him to be a judge of good work, and he was singularly fair and unbiased.’ I had to discover what this ‘previous education’ may have been.

I was helped in my search by the genealogical work carried out by Mr Norman Penty and written up in his booklet, The Discovery of Charlotte Brontë William Smith Williams 1800-1875 – a Genealogical Quest. In 2006 Mr Penty kindly contacted me and told me of the family tree that he had painstakingly researched. He contacted me because my name appears in the tree as the great grand son of WSW’s brother. The other huge source of help was from the late Margaret Smith’s edition of the letters of Charlotte Brontë. I visited the Brontë archive at Haworth, the Ruskin archive at Lancaster and the Smith Elder archive in Edinburgh, discovering in each place true gems. I have had access to some wonderful family letters.

My researches are bearing fruit and will appear in an article for Bronte Studies to be published in April 2019 and will be part of a biography which I am now seeking to publish.
William in old age