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.