RAOC War Memorial at Deepcut

RAOC War Memorial at Deepcut
RAOC War Memorial at Deepcut

Saturday, 31 August 2019

RAOC and the British Motor Industry on declaration of War 1939

Sunday 3 September 1939

Bill Williams, now Deputy Director of Ordnance Services (MT) at the War Office, went to Chilwell that morning to lead a group of senior serving officers meeting, possibly for the first time, the newly called up members of the Army Officers Emergency Reserve. These latter included ‘Reddy' Readman (English Steel) who would take over as COO at Chilwell, Bob Hiam (Dunlop) who would command the depot at Old Dalby, Robby Robinson (Dunlop), who would command the depot at Sinfin Lane, Derby, and Dan Warren (SS Cars) who would take a lead role in scaling, the dark art of estimating the quantity of spare parts needed to maintain vehicles in battle order.

Also on that Sunday in Birmingham, the executives of the Nuffield Motor Company met to put into action the plans they had prepared for war. Through the various parts of the Nuffield Group it would, over the next five years, contribute aircraft and weapon production in addition to a great many vehicles. The remainder of the big five motor companies had been working with the Government on preparations for war, mainly the manufacture of aircraft. The Rootes group had set up a massive shadow aircraft factory in Liverpool and would over the next six years manufacture both aircraft, armoured cars, Hillman ‘tillies’ and Humber staff cars, among much more. 

On that Sunday the car plants themselves were placed on a war footing. The men, who arrived for work the following day, would be instructed to complete those cars already started, but then to leave the shop floor ready for war production. In many cases the contracts were slow in coming and the companies had to keep their workforces occupied one way or another; some had to be laid off. The motor industry, because it was set up to manufacture on a production line largely from metal and because it had a broad range of other skilled men, would be more than busy for the next five six years. 

The 1939 Motor Show was cancelled and very few domestic cars would be produced until the war ended.
Bob Hiam addressing a meeting with Bill in the chair

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Rootes Group

The Rootes Group was part of my childhood. My Dad had a Humber Hawk and then a Super-Snipe. My mother had a Hillman Minx, and my sister and I learnt to drive in a Hillman Husky. My uncle rallied Sunbeam Rapiers.
My father, Leslie Williams, became a Director of Rootes in 1946, and was given the task of creating Ladbroke Hall, a state of the art depot for commercial and domestic vehicles.

Once Ladbroke Hall was up and running he was moved to the export division. My mother kept albums recording events from this time with many photographs, invitations, copies of speeches, travel documents. The Middle East was the key market and he went on a UK Trade Mission in 1953. One name that keeps appearing is Emile Bustani
I would greatly value anything Rootes enthusiasts can tell me of this period. He retired in 1956. 
I am writing a third book to sit alongside my books War on Wheels and Ordnance, looking at some of the key people who served the RAOC in both World Wars.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

US trip in preparation for the land war against Japan

In June and July 1945, Major-General Bill Williams made his third trip to the USA to meet with his opposite numbers on the US and Canada to plan supplies for the land war against Japan, and to visit the companies producing the equipment that would be needed.

He saw the latest techniques in packaging to protect equipment against the hostile climate of Southeast Asia. He inspected the most recent landing craft and vehicles developed to drive through five feet of swamp. He talked to scientists developing rockets, and saw the rockets in action.

For my mother, Betty Perks who as his PA accompanied him, it was surely dinner with actors Ronald Coleman and Herbert Marshall that was the highlight of the trip. I guess you don't ask for an autograph of your dinner host. So, here is one from an earlier trip of Errol Flynn.

They returned to England on 31 July.
On 6 August the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and, on 15 August, Japan surrendered.