February 25, 2016 Emily McCracken

Philip Hamlyn Williams | Writer Feature

Every month, we like to shine the spotlight on one of our talented writers, sharing their life story and written works to give you insight into the range of diverse backstories and writing styles available through Story Terrace.  Today, we’re featuring Philip Hamlyn Williams, one of our critically acclaimed writers.

Williams worked as an accountant for 25 years before spending 14 years in the non-profit sector. Now, with 15 years of writing experience, and an MA in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth, he recently embarked on the adventure of writing his debut book, War on Wheels.  The book is set to be released in September 2016 by The History Press. It tells the story of the thousands of ordinary men and women who together worked to mechanise the British Army in WWII.  Read on below for a special excerpt from the book:


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In 1934 the army had a total of 4,000 vehicles, mainly left over from the Great War. In the ten years leading up to D Day that number had grown to 1.5 million, massive depots had been built, the way the troops were supplied had been completely re-imagined. D Day was to be the ultimate test.

The job of Ordnance Beach Detachments was to follow on quickly behind the assault troops and set up ammunition dumps just behind the beaches ready to issue ammunition to replace that used in the initial assault. Stan Carter had boarded a landing craft at Tilbury loaded with 200 tons of ammunition destined for the Airborne Division which had flown in by glider to take Pegasus Bridge.

The 21st Army Group was to invade three beaches: Gold, Juno and Sword. Each beach had attached to it Ordnance Beach Detachments and Ammunition Companies. Advance parties came ashore within an hour or so of the first assault troops and created sector dumps just off the beaches. The main stocks were anti-tank and anti-aircraft ammunition, Landing Reserves, stretchers and blankets for casualties and survivor kits. These latter were complete changes of clothing and kit for soldiers who experienced a ‘bad’ landing. Landing Reserves were designed to supply troops with spare parts for the first four weeks and comprised 8,000 cases calculated to maintain a brigade.

Stan had been promised a dry landing but in the event was offloaded into 5ft of water some 15 yards from the sand. To make matters worse his job, with one other, was to pull a handcart to carry the ammunition from the craft up the beach to the dump, and all under mortar fire.

Accounts of other landing craft laden with ammunition talk of DKWS being used to transport across the beach. I noted, from the War Diaries of Brigadier Readman at Chilwell, that right up to D Day there had been a problem with supplies of DKWS. Perhaps Stan’s craft drew the short straw and so ended up with the handcart.

Just as Stan made it up the beach the first time, the Bren carrier next to him ran over a mine and some of the resulting shrapnel embedded itself in Stan’s thigh. He didn’t remember pain, rather the need, with his mates, to get on with the job. The ammunition was duly stacked and issues made, again all done under fire from German mortars only yards in front. Stan recalled that once on the beach all the good intentions to keep records of issues went out of the window.

A mortar hit an adjacent petrol dump and burning petrol spread toward the ammunition. Stan spoke of his Captain’s bravery in putting out the fire with his bare hands, an act which cost Captain Thompson his life. The wound in Stan’s thigh couldn’t be left and so he was taken to the field dressing station and from there back to England. He did return to France and his story continues later.

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