Sinews of War...

 

... The Logistical Battle to Keep the 53rd Welsh Division on the Move during Operation Overlord, from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Sinews of War

Author: Major A. D. Bolland M.B.E.

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47386-856-4

This new softback from Pen and Sword is a modern re-print of a book first published as far back as 1946, when of course the events were still very fresh in peoples memories, under the title of 'Team Spirit - The Administration of an Infantry Division during Operation Overlord'.  That was only published as a very limited edition and circulated among members of the division, no doubt to ensure the lessons learnt were not forgotten.  It is restricted by keeping to the particulars of 53rd Welsh Division and not the work done by the larger logistics support of 21st Army Group, but it details the staggering statistics of what the support teams of the division had to cope with to support the fighting soldiers from the Normandy beaches to the end of their war in Hamburg.  A story of 10 months and the journey of 17,000 men over a distance of some 1,937 miles.

A front line infantryman puts his life on the line but he needs to be supplied with ammunition, to know there will be hot food when he needs it, that he will receive medical attention if he needs it, even that he gets paid.  Add to this all the other things like fuel for trucks, even a replacement pair of trousers, he needs to have the support of a reliable logistics team behind him.  The book highlights all the different elements of the logistical support needed to keep a WW2 infantry division in action.  The division as a whole involved about 17,000 personnel and during the 10 months they were in NW Europe they suffered 9,849 killed, wounded and missing.  If all this wasn't enough they also had to cope with 35,000 POWs.

The book is split into 7 chapters.  The first is the background story, in 'Road to Victory' and this is followed by 'Roll Along COverered Wagon', which details the amazing statistics on the volumes of ammunition, food, petrol, oil and more, all carried by the trucks of the RASC.  Just to give a single example from the lists, imagine the work involved in handling 1, 318,793 HE rounds of 25pounder ammunition, let alone all the rest.  Even more is covered in the next chapter, '1098 and all that'.  This relates to Army Form 1098 which details the list of equipment authorised to equip an infantry division. The number of trucks, tanks, rifles, clothing and so much more.  It even includes the volumes of washing done by the Laundry Unit!  'Keeping the Wheels Turning' covers the work of REME technicians before you get to 'The Rest of the Team' and this includes a wide variety of support tasks involving Sapper (building bridges, mending roads, mine clearance etc), Field Security, Provost Marshals, Army Postal Service, Signallers and even the Army Pay Office, Divisional newspaper (the Red Dragon), Catering Corps and even the Concert Party for entertainment.  'Paying the Cost' details the casualties dealt with during the campaign, even with graphs showing the peaks and troughs of casualties over the period.  It is all rounded off by 'Lest We Forget' and this lists the complete Order of Battle for the Division during Operation Overlord.

Throughout the book there are a selection of archive photos and plenty of really excellent, atmospheric sketches done by Cpl J.C. Ogle for the book.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin