My most recent book

My most recent book
My most recent book

Friday, 17 June 2022

Who made the kit supplied to our army?

In each of War on Wheels, Ordnance and Dunkirk to D Day, names of businesses appear which for me are laden with associations. They are names from childhood, from an earlier age. I knew the names, but so little about them. 

This sent me on a quest. I traced the origin of companies to their birth and young life. 

My great grandfather had exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and I found a copy of the catalogue. It was an astonishing event held through the summer in a vast glass building in London’s Hyde Park. In the catalogue I found many of the same business names but many more. 

I explored endless avenues and the result is a book How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World. It has just been published by Pen & Sword. I hope you will find it as interesting to read as I did to write. 

Sunday, 20 March 2022

COD Branston army clothing

In WW2 clothing was dealt with in a former pickle factory at Branston near Burton on Trent, to which it had moved from Pimlico in Central London. Harold Crosland, a businessman and TA officer from Berkshire who had won an MC in the First World War, would command the depot at Branston for the duration of the war. 

In WW1, the provision to the army of appropriate clothing was a huge challenge. Pimlico, near Victoria Station, was where army clothing production and distribution was centralised. The choice of further depots in places like Leeds made sense because they were near to Bradford and other places where the cloth was woven and the uniforms made up. The trench coat would become associated with the First World War. For these, Burberry used their patented Gaberdine waterproof material, and Aquascutum the water proof cloth that they had patented. The cotton mills of Lancashire had maintained their pre-war level of production with a workforce in 1914 of over 600,000. The rationale behind this was that the war was going to be short and Britain’s role would be that of armourer funded by its export earnings from textiles. As is clear, this is not what happened. What is odd is that the mills didn’t shed labour to where it was needed in the forces and armament factories. 

By the end of the thirties man-made fibres had joined cotton and wool and so ICI, Courtaulds, Dunlop and British Celanese amongst others would supply alongside the mills of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.

Friday, 18 February 2022

150,000 blog visits

 For an historian, people finding interest in their research is reward enough. In May 2014, I found an incredible archive and since then I have endeavoured to tell its story.

I have now taking up a strand of my research for my next book, How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World, to be published in June 2022

War on Wheels and Ordnance are available to buy from The History Press and Dunkirk to D Day from Pen & Sword, also from Amazon and good book shops.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Civilian Expertise in War - article in The Historian

 When I think of war, I immediately see men and women in one of three uniforms: Royal Navy, RAF and Army. My research over the past seven years into how the British army was supplied in two world wars tells a rather different story.

In my article I seek to explore the role played by civilians and civilians who temporarily became soldiers bringing with them skills and experience from the essentially non-military world. Rather than look at this in its generality, I focus on the story of a small number of individuals who ended up playing key roles.

My article is published in The Historian, the magazine of the Historical Association