A researcher is hoping to tap into the memories of thousands of Salopians who served at the massive Central Ordnance Depot in Donnington so that he can tell the story of the men and women who provided the vital back-up for the front line troops and helped the Allies win the war. Phil Williams has a family connection with that story, as his late mother Betty Williams, nee Perks, worked in the War Office with his late father Major-General Williams, who led the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the war and who visited Donnington periodically. His mother compiled some fascinating scrapbooks, but Phil is after more.
What would bring the story alive, though, would be the words of those people who were there, said Phil, who is from Lincoln. Many stories have been told of World War Two, but I don t see in the bookshops the wider story of those who supplied the troops, often at great personal danger. I want to tell that story.
He is appealing to anyone who has a story to tell, or a written account, to contact him at 07761 836555 or by email at [email protected] I am writing the story of a quiet revolution which transformed a vital part of the British Army, in the inter-war years made moribund by cautious civil servants and dithering politicians, into the muscular artery which ensured the troops landing on D Day had all they needed to do their job. The organisation was the Royal Army Ordnance Corps whose job it was to supply the Army with all it needed, apart from food and fuel, he said.
He said the Donnington site began with a need to move the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich to a location where it would be safe from German bombers. Donnington in the Shropshire countryside had been chosen by the War Office as the perfect site. Under the command of Brigadier de Wolff, Donnington grew into a huge depot employing some 15,000 soldiers, 3,200 ATS, 2,000 Italian prisoners of war and 4,000 civilians.
It was state-of-the-art and hugely effective in doing its job. It suppled many tanks to Russia. It had some of the first mobile radar.
De Wolff had reputation for discipline and he used this well as he blended together the essential business skills of warehousing and distribution with soldiering.
Did you or did anyone you know work there?
Patriotic, much? Yui Mok/PA Archive The BBC Proms 1 , with justification, is flaunted as the world s largest and most significant annual music festival. A bronze bust of the conductor Sir Henry Wood, is placed in front of the organ facing the audience for the season.
It acknowledges his importance in curating this type of musical entertainment classical music for the masses. In fact, Wood was not the originator. Others had succeeded in developing the idea that the musical appreciation of the nation could be elevated by providing good music to a popular audience for a modest price.
The business model involved dispensing with the usual seating arrangements, and this also imposed an informal atmosphere that people warmed to. Precedents can be found in 18th century pleasure gardens 2 . But the true origin is found in the British army, which ran the most ubiquitous, well-organised and influential sector of British music in the 19th century.
By the 1850s the number of full-time military musicians vastly outnumbered civilians in the profession. In 1878 Jacob Kappey had carefully counted them for an article in the first edition of Grove s Dictionary 3 . He calculated that there was a shade short of 5,000 musicians in the British army, and 52,000 throughout Europe.
Most of the army s music recruits came as boys from orphanages and workhouses. From trade directories and other sources we can deduce that the civilian profession, fractured and badly organised as it was, could not have provided employment for more than about 2,000 across the country. The civilian conservatoires, despite the dizzy heights they have now reached, were, at that time, little more than glorified finishing schools.
According to a report of the Royal Society into the state of musical training in London, one mother, asked why she wanted to enrol her two daughters into the Royal Academy of Music when both were devoid of any musical skill or talent, said that her doctor had recommended it . And so The Military School of Music, when it opened in 1857, was the only British institution genuinely dedicated to the production of music professionals. Proms of old.
The Graphic 8 September 1894 Military musicians had an influence in the 19th century which modern writers have been reluctant to acknowledge. Leaving aside its sheer size, it had more interaction with the population as a whole than any other musical institution. The British state recognised this and used it in the interests of what is now termed soft power : uniformed soldiers marching to patriotic music promoted national confidence, not just in the army, but in the British establishment itself.
The British military also had a broader plan: its mission was to combine the impression of invincible efficiency with more educational objectives. Little original music of any substance (other than marches) was written for military bands before the 20th century. This was intentional: the military believed that other than supporting ceremony, its main purpose was to perform the greatest music.
Many regiments had orchestras the Royal Artillery had one of 100 players with a concert series in central London; it gave the first British performances of many important works, including Tchaikovsky s 1812 Overture. Bands restricted to wind instruments played transcriptions. Bandmasters were painstakingly instructed on how orchestral instruments and even voices could be imitated by wind instruments.
Their scores, many of which survive, demonstrate remarkable subtlety in this respect. Military bands gave performances in public gardens and other sites and these were enormously popular. They matched the Proms idea almost exactly, playing great classical music to the public in accessible venues.
In 1856 certain London parks were made formally available for concerts on Sundays. The prime minister believed that such concerts would afford inhabitants of the metropolis innocent intellectual recreation combined with fresh air and exercise . But the practice wasn t supported by all.
A petition of 113,000 signatures and 550 letters was presented to the prime minister. The Archbishop of Canterbury objected too, saying he could not be answerable for the religion of the Country if the Bands were not stopped . The established church resisted all Sabbath activities other than worship.
It was a controversial episode, but as with so many Victorian moral dilemmas, it simply prevailed as a source of joy for some and deep misgiving for others, and eventually ebbed from the foreground to the background. What followed was a wide acceptance of the idea that music crosses social classes. And the idea seems to have a special potency in more relaxed environments on these summer days.
Sign in to Favourite Post a Comment Tags Music 6 , History 7 Related articles 18 July 2014 Proms 2014 open with gusto, hitting back against jingoism 8 18 July 2014 Music is becoming a multimedia experience 9 17 July 2014 Book review: The Lost Legions of Fromelles 10 17 July 2014 Auto-Tune , and why we shouldn t be surprised Britney can t sing 11 16 July 2014 Aboriginal hip-hop meets Iranian diaspora in a cross-border rap 12 4 5 References ^ BBC Proms (www.bbc.co.uk) ^ pleasure gardens (www.history.uk.com) ^ Grove s Dictionary (www.oxfordmusiconline.com) ^ Sign in to Favourite (theconversation.com) ^ Post a Comment (theconversation.com) ^ Music (theconversation.com) ^ History (theconversation.com) ^ 18 July 2014 Proms 2014 open with gusto, hitting back against jingoism (theconversation.com) ^ 18 July 2014 Music is becoming a multimedia experience (theconversation.com) ^ 17 July 2014 Book review: The Lost Legions of Fromelles (theconversation.com) ^ 17 July 2014Auto-Tune, and why we shouldn t be surprised Britney can t sing (theconversation.com) ^ 16 July 2014 Aboriginal hip-hop meets Iranian diaspora in a cross-border rap (theconversation.com)