The final book of the trilogy on army supply

The final  book of the trilogy on army supply
The third of my books on army supply

Thursday 29 December 2022

Royal Arsenal Woolwich

The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich features often in my books  

My father attended the first Ordnance Officers course there following the end of #WW1. I call it the Class of '22. It was remarkable in producing eleven future RAOC Brigadiers, but also five future Major-Generals out of a total of less than thirty. A fellow officer recorded a vivid account of the rush to join up in 1914. I include both in Dunkirk to D Day

In WW1, through no fault of its own, the Arsenal couldn’t cope with the demands of war on an industrial scale. Alongside, Lloyd George in effect mobilised the whole of British industry to supply the war effort. I write that story in Ordnance

In WW2, the greater part of the RAOC presence at Woolwich was removed from the danger of enemy bombing to Donnington in deepest Shropshire. I tell the story with some first hand accounts in War on Wheels

The Arsenal played a key role in our manufacturing past. In the wake of the Crimea, it modernised and took on the latest technologies. I tell that story in How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World.

I am delighted to see the detailed history of the Arsenal taking shape on Royal Arsenal History

With thanks to the RAOC archive

Monday 26 December 2022

MacRoberts Reply is still selling

 I was asked to write this remarkable story by Story Terrace and the resulting book, written in conjunction with Phil Jeffs, was published in 2017 

Jeffs father survived the crash of a Stirling bomber in Denmark.

He survived with the help of the brave Danes who witnessed the crash and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner before enduring the long march home.

The aircraft was given to the RAF by Lady MacRobert as the Reply to Hitler for the loss of her three sons. Lady MacRobert was a great philanthropist and also instituted the MacRobert medal for engineering excellence. This links with my work in progress for it was awarded to the Lincoln team developing gas turbines. 

I was able through archival material to reconstruct what is by any standards a remarkable story drawing also on the work of Marion Miller and her book on the MacRoberts Cawnpore to Crowmar. Phil Jeffs begins the book with his father’s and his rescuers' vivid recollections of the crash. 

Seeing that sales of the book were still coming through, I reread the reviews and can see why!

Monday 12 December 2022

North Africa 1943

 Excerpt from Dunkirk to D Day

On 3 April, Bill Williams (COS RAOC), accompanied by Dick Hunt, took off from Hendon in an American aircraft to Marrakesh via Prestwick. They slept on the steel floor of the aircraft. The itinerary began at Marrakesh where they stayed at the Mamounier Hotel, formerly a Sultan’s palace. They travelled on to Algiers where Bill met with General Humphrey Gale and, one of the Class of ’22, Wallace Pickthall. Gale was then Chief Administrative Officer to General Eisenhower’s Allied Forces HQ, Wallace Pickthall was appointed Director of Ordnance Services at Allied HQ and would gain a priceless insight into allied working for a seaborne invasion. Alan Fernyhough was serving in North Africa and so could see at first hand the qualities of the man which he described in his History of the RAOC:

‘Brigadier Pickthall was not the man to shirk this task even though he was shrewd enough to know that it was likely to get him more criticism than credit. He had all the knowledge and experience of Ordnance work necessary for the appointment, but his chief qualification was that he had qualities of personality and character most needed at that time. His transparent honesty, integrity, friendliness and sense of humour ensured the maximum co-operation. The Americans liked and trusted him. Even those who prided themselves on being hard-bitten, “Vinegar Joe” types found difficultly in keeping up the act. His loyalty to his own staff evoked from them respect, admiration and a determination not to let him down. Yet, he lacked that element of ruthlessness which must be available in such a ruthless war.'

I also write about the North African campaign in War on Wheels.