I have spent the last five years researching and writing about how the British Army was supplied in the two world wars. In my research the same names kept re-appearing. I needed to find out who these people were: what had prepared them for the task they undertook, what they did afterwards and what impact the huge burden they carried had on their lives. I had focused on the supply of vehicles and armaments and, in particular, on the role played by the men and women of the RAOC and the very many civilians who worked with them. For them, it was a monumental task.
The result is an account of the lives of some twenty men and one woman caught up in war. Most of the men served in two world wars, many came together on a course in 1922 (the Class of ’22) when enduring friendships and rivalries formed, some came later from careers in the industrial world. The woman would keep a faithful recorded of their deeds.
The story begins in Victorian south London. It goes out to Portuguese East Africa and then to Malaya, before being caught in the maelstrom of the Great War. Between the wars, its heroes work at Pilkington, Dunlop and English Steel; they serve in Gallipoli, Gibraltar and Malta; they transform the way a mechanised army is supplied. They retreat at Dunkirk – the army losing most of its equipment – and, by hook or crook, re-arm the defeated army. They supply in the desert and the jungle. They build massive depots, and relationships with motor companies here and in the USA. They successfully supply the the greatest seaborne invasion ever undertaken: D-Day. After the war they work for companies driving the post-war economy: Vickers, Dunlop and Rootes. Many died, exhausted, years before their time.
The article in The Daily Telegraph from last May focuses on the role played by the RAOC on D-Day.