Preparing for War

Enlisting with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps

On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, under which all men between eighteen and forty one years of age were made liable for conscription.

Roy enlisted with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on 13th June 1940 aged 24 years. His initial posting was to No. 2 Training Battalion Chetwynd Barracks in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire where he would train as a Vehicle Fitter (MVIII).

As with all new recruits he also underwent drill and weapons training, physical training as well as dismantling and re-assembling weapons, not knowing where or when he would be posted for the war effort.

One of the earliest photographic records I have of Roy's Army service was taken with comrades from his detachment in 1940. I have little information about the exact location but the original photo is marked on the back - Acton 1940. Although there are many places with the same name I think this may have been Acton near Nantwich, Cheshire.


Acton 1940

RAOC Unit - Roy is on the back row - far right.
The original photograph is marked Acton 1940.

In November 1940 he was posted to 62 section of the RAOC and in February 1941 was posted with a Light Aid Detachment to the 55th Infantry Brigade. As his training progressed he was upgraded to Fitter MV Class 2 in April 1941. In May that year he was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

It is worth noting at this point that although Roy enlisted with the RAOC, part way through his service a new combat corps would be formed and on the 1st October 1942 he was transferred to the Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The REME absorbed most of the RAOC repair functions and the RAOC in turn took over the RASC's vehicle organisation.

By mid - 1941 Britain was fully engaged in the war against Germany and the type of training Roy's unit were undergoing led them to believe that they were being prepared for desert warfare in the Middle East or Africa.

After Chilwell he continued with his training and had several postings including Galashiels and Lichfield.


RAOC Comrades 1940

RAOC Unit - The exact date and location of this photograph is unknown. It could possibly be Lichfield or Galashiels - Roy is on the far left.
I believe some of the men listed below also appear on this photo.

None of the soldiers pictured above with Roy were identified on the original photograph. However, I did find some names written in one of Roy's driving licences from that time which I later found to be men from his unit (many were later captured at Singapore and went on to work on the Thai-Burma Railway).

I have included their names here in the hope that it may help anyone reading this who may be seeking information about them. I have also included some of their service numbers that I found in my later research.

They were:

George Cross - 7633301 - Dunstan on Tyne, County Durham.

A.G. Williams - Tonypandy, South Wales

F Horsley - Walsall

D Rogerson - Hertford, Herts

C.E. Newall - Shrewsbury, Shropshire

E.K. Rhodes - 7642018 - Palmers Green, North London

R Proudlove - 7258032 - Bexley Heath, Kent

Eric Murden - 5830893 - Buckden, Huntingdonshire

Harold Copley - 7641301 - Barnsley, Yorkshire

Charles Thomas Sparey - 7626590 - Woking, Surrey

Preparations to travel

By early October 1941 they knew a move to front line operations was imminent as they had been kitted out with new Khaki Drill uniforms, (known as KD), suitable for what they thought would be desert warfare. Vehicles were also being repainted in desert colours and all leave was cancelled.

On 26th October 1941 Roy's unit received orders to travel to Liverpool as a Light Aid Detachment to the 55th Infantry Brigade which formed part of the 18th Division.

The following day they embarked the SS Orcades still believing they were heading for the Middle East but very much in the dark about their final destination.

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