War on Wheels

War on Wheels
Book cover

The book, War on Wheels

“The British Army which crossed to France in 1939 differed from other armies at that time in being fully mechanised.” Report on the British Expeditionary Force

In a little over eight months the soldiers in that army discovered to their cost just what a truly mechanised army could do as German General Guderian and his blitzkrieg drove all before them and would have taken the whole force prisoner had Hitler not hesitated.

The next five years would see a complete transformation of the British Army as the number of vehicles grew from 40,000 to 1.5 million, ranging from tanks and giant tank transporters to jeeps, mobile baths and offices, and scout cars. At the same time the way in which the Army was provided with all it needed was transformed: arms and ammunition, to say nothing of radio, clothing and places to sleep and to wash. On D Day, some 375 million items were packed ready for the invasion force to use.

The driving force behind mechanisation was the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the 250,000 soldiers, ATS and civilians who worked in over one hundred massive depots in the UK and in the theatres of war worldwide.

War on Wheels follows the people who mechanised the British Army from the beginning at the former shell filling factory at Chilwell near Nottingham, through the mistakes and near disaster of the British Expeditionary Force. It explores the building of the network of massive depots across the UK with creative input from the UK motor industry, and the vehicles themselves. There are then more painful lessons of desert war and invasions of Sicily and Italy. Preparation for D Day really began in 1942 once the US entered the war, and so the story continues in the US with the massive contribution from both US Ordnance and US motor companies in the battle for Europe. Finally the book reveals, from some previously unpublished sources, the enormous preparations in hand for a long and gruelling conventional war against Japan.

It is a story about ordinary people: soldiers, ATS and civilians, motor companies, but also thousands of volunteers who packed for D Day. It is a story of the clash of modern business methods and the army. It is the origin of 21st century logistics.

The book is to be published by The History Press in September 2016 and is available to pre-order on Amazon.

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