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

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Ladbroke Hall

This is an extract from Dunkirk to D Day:

Bill had expressed his views on the post-war priorities for industry:

‘It is obvious enough that our crying need after this war will be expand our export. To expand it we have either to supply a better article or a cheaper article than our competitors; better still, a combination of both. Above all, we must give a really first-class maintenance service for everything we sell. I am speaking as the business man and not the Army man when I say in the majority of cases after sales service for export is not carried out to anything like the extent it should be or is in America.’12

Ladbroke Hall would fulfil this ambition for the home market and provide a model for markets overseas.

The site was large (the former Sunbeam-Talbot factory in Balby Road, West London backing on to the Great Western Railway line) and so offered the right size of canvas. The ‘paints’ at Bill’s disposal came from the early days at Chilwell, but then the imaginative layout of Bicester. The depot at Balby Road was, after all, a Central Ordnance Depot in all but name, but, crucially, with the total integration of a civilian version of REME. In this regard, the massive REME tank workshop at Bicester must have offered a magnificent example. It wasn’t just the UK depots; it was the US motor industry of which Bill had had an unparalleled view. So too, the other companies in the British motor industry; he had visited them all. His great friend Bob Chalmers’s company, Tecalemit, knew more about garage equipment than anyone.

The result was described in a booklet entitled Modern Truck Service.13 This explains to the commercial vehicle user the facilities offered by the new depot. At the heart of it was a massive sunken workshop which could service, at the same time, four of the largest vehicles produced by Commer or Karrier, the Rootes Group commercial vehicle companies. This takes the idea of an inspection sump to, possibly, its logical conclusion. The vehicles’ wheels are driven on to steel girders and the engineers can work without crouching, addressing all the needs of the underside of the vehicle. Before this, the vehicles are thoroughly washed both above and beneath. In the sunken workshop, there are airlines, but also lines for lubricating and gearbox oils. There was a drainage system for spent oil, and overhead cranes powerful enough to lift cabs to facilitate work on engines and to lift whole bodies to enable work on chassis. The general rule was for engines to be replaced with reconditioned engines.

Ladbroke Hall is now a venue for artists and they have discovered more of its earlier history.


Monday 16 January 2023

Waste of War

Controller of Ordnance Service, Major-General Bill Williams, spoke of the waste of war in his speech for Salute the Soldier week in Halifax in 1944:

'Now, war in itself is essentially wasteful and if we are to be victorious we must waste, or what appears to be waste, more than the enemy. This is the cost of war.

'It is rather like a business: you have two courses open to you, either you carry on with your old-fashioned plant and gradually fall behind in the race, or you constantly instal the very latest and best plant, and thus get ahead of your rivals. So it is in war. It is even more essential, in fact it is vital that we should be ahead of the enemy in all of our equipment. Our fire-power must be greater than his. Our tanks must be more powerful, faster, better armoured, in fact we must ruthlessly scrap equipment before it is out of date if we are to win our way to final victory, and that costs money.

'You will realise, therefore, that your money must constantly roll in, but please don't think we in the Army take that money for granted. Believe me, we make it go as far as we can and we only scrap equipment and buy new equipment when we know it is essential and vital for Victory.

'We know that to save it you have to sacrifice many of the little luxuries which in peacetime you have always enjoyed.

'It is our aim to make the most of the equipment at our disposal.

'By the savings of the people in this country, our Empire is now being equipped with the latest and best and deadliest weapons in the world and I am confident that our fire-power is now superior to that of the enemy. We know that our Tommy should be armed with the best and finest weapons obtainable. I am here to-day as I have already told you to ask you to lend even more to fight our way to Berlin and Tokyo.

'I know you all realise that you are getting more for your money than the interest paid on your savings. You are helping to ensure for yourselves and your loved ones, a future which we all sincerely hope will be free from the horrors of war.

'Your pennies, shillings and pounds are building up a rampart against those who would destroy England, or at any rate leave it as a little island off the coast of Europe and not the centre of the greatest Empire that the world has ever known.

'Halifax has its own Regiment, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment., one that I know personally and have had the honour of serving alongside on at least two occasions.This is a regiment with great traditions and a fine record, and I would like you to feel that all that you save will help to give ·your local boys the best possible equipment for their own regiment, and the best possible equipment and fire-power in the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery, and the Royal Armoured Corps, to support and enable them to reach their objectives in the field of battle with the minimum loss of life.

'I hear that Halifax holds the War Savings record for any town in the amount subscribed per head. The more heads that lend their money to their country, the greater the chance of beating previous records, in support of your own Regiment and all your gallant boys .

'Let "Salute the Soldier" be the greatest of all your record weeks, and don't forget that this campaign is the personal inspiration of your own great citizen and Chairman of the National Savings Committee, Sir Harold Mackintosh.'

You can read more on this blog and my books about army supply: War on Wheels, Ordnance and Dunkirk to D Day