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Dunkirk to D-Day: The Men and Women of the RAOC and Re-Arming the British Army - P. Hamlyn Williams

Dunkirk to D-Day: The Men and Women of the RAOC and Re-Arming the British Army - P. Hamlyn Williams

Things didn’t start well with this book. Firstly, it was delivered in a plastic bag with an apology for postal damage; ironic when you consider that this book is about logistics. And then a couple of days later, before I’d had time to even skim read it, the cat puked all over it and my trusty iPad.

The book is well written and contains plenty of human stories, most of which come from the author’s mother’s diaries and her notes written at the time. I really like the human element of history, it makes it all come to life.

It all starts with the simple question that many of us have no doubt asked, “What did my dad do in the war?” Fortunately, the author’s mother handed over her writings from the time and the author was able to expand on them and build them into this book. It covers far more than the author’s dad though.


I’ll be honest, as I read through the book I was beginning to start to think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. What a wonderful job they all did keeping our boys on the front line supplied.’ But the last couple of chapters brought the book sharply into perspective for me. Unfortunately, they were really outside the scope of the book, they were about the post-war motor industry.

Again, the words were likely nothing more than an expansion of the author’s mum’s notes, but as I spent a lifetime in the motor industry they meant so much to me. They made me pause and think. They made me start to ask myself questions.

My ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. They did a wonderful job,’ suddenly took on a lot more meaning. Things that the RAOC were doing in 1939 through to 1944 were the very foundation of the logistics that the motor industry (and no doubt many other industries) still use today. And many of those practices go back to the early 20s, learning from what worked and what didn’t work during WW1.

Materials needed supplying as they were required, they couldn't be stored, and they couldn't be late. The original JIT! (Just In Time)

This was a genuine ‘light-bulb’ moment for me. It was at this point that I started thumbing back through the pages and taking a lot more notice of the words than I did on my first reading.

The book will never win any literary prizes, but the information it contains is priceless. There aren’t many pictures, but those that are included supplement the text quite well. And many tell a story in their own right. My only gripe here is that the pictures are all grouped together rather than being placed more strategically in the body of the book. Unfortunately, a practice that many publishers seem to adopt, likely due to cost reasons.

I’ll run to 31/2 anchors on this book. To many, it will be a bit of a narrowly scoped narrative, but if you look a little deeper, if you scratch below the surface and think, it becomes a whole lot more.

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