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.
Dunkirk to D Day. These were some truly remarkable people living in an extraordinary time; many fought in two world wars, a thought that even now I find hard to grasp.