RAOC in the Far East 1941 to 1945
The RAOC Motto “SUA TELA TONANI “ Translated into English “To The Warrior His Arms” , a good description of the function the RAOC performed.
A form of Army Ordnance Corp had existed before CRIMEA , made up of elements of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, it evolved to take into account of the technical advances like Mechanization of the Army.
During the first World War the Army Ordnance Corp developed its workshops and Ordinance Store Corp to cope with the increasing complexities of supplying a modern Army .
In recognition of the excellent work during WW1 , the Army Ordnance Corps had the title “Royal” conferred on the regiment ion the 25th of November 1918 . The first duty of the RAOC was to salvage all the equipment left behind by the demobilising Army .
The inter war years saw the RAOC support the Army all over the world, but there was one area that the RAOC needed to increase their effectiveness , that was in the regiments need for skilled tradesmen , this was to be addressed by the recruitment of military apprentices , training in the disciplines of Mechanical and Electrical engineering.
With the outbreak of war imminent , the need for more recruits for the RAOC Worksop saw the RAOC offering training in skilled trades as part of the ARMY Reserve Military Training Act of 1939.
The men were organised into Army Field Workshops and along with the Ordnance Store Corps , were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force .
A major re-oganisation of the RAOC took place on the 1st of October 1942, with the creation of a new regiment the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E) being formed from the RAOC workshops with the addition of other personal, manly from the Royal Engerneers and the Royal Army Service Corps.
RAOC in the Far East
There was initially a small Ordnance Depot in Singapore , but a new Base Ordnance Depot and workshop were built in Alexandria (Singapore) . There were already units of the RAOC in India , Singapore and Hong Kong when war broke out , but with the threat of war with Japan , in 1941 , reinforcements began to arrive from India (IAOC) , Great Britain (RAOC 14 Section , “Z” AOW , 4 OSC) , Australia (RAAOC) and New Zealand (RNZAOC) . Also , in 1942 the 18 Division RAOC arrived. As hostilities broke out , the RAOC were supporting the Armed forces in Malay , Singapore , Sumatra , Java and Borneo . Number 6 Section RAOC supporting the Forces in Hong Kong.
The men from the RAOC Workshops will be listed as REME on their war records as they had been transfered to that regiment in October 1942 , its unlikely the POWs knew of this until the were liberated in 1945.
The Roll lists all the men as RAOC as they were all in that Regiment when Singapore fell.
Indian Army Ordnance Corp
The need for an Ordinance logistical corp can be traced back to the British East India Company’s military expansion and the
need for military troops which in turn led to the requirement of a dedicated Ordnance department.
A board of Ordnance was established on April 8 , 1775, this was the first step towards the recognition of the
Army Ordnance Corp (AOC).
At the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939, The AOC began a major expansion that continued until the end of the war 1945.
Ordinance Installations rose from 10 th 77 in the span of six years.
The Indian Army Ordnance Corp was involved in the Burma / Malay campaign when the Japanese invaded on December 1941.
On the 1 May 1943, the IAOC Workshops were separated and became a new regiment, the Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Fall of Singapore
Leading up to the fall of Singapore , many of the RAOC personal were evacuated on the 12th and 13th of February primarily to support the Forces in Java , unfortunately the Ships (Michael Pether) carrying the men were intercepted by a Japanese invasion force invading the Bangka Island and Palembang in Sumatra , the Majority of the men were either killed , drowned or captured and became POWs on the Bangka Island and in Palembang. Only one ship carrying RAOC personal escaped , the Malacca , they had picked up a surviving sailor from one of the ships sunk , he informed the Captain of the Japanese presence in the Bangka Strait , the Captain altered course for the Indrgiri River and sailed as far as possible across Sumatra , then the men were transported to Swahlunto by road where they boarded a train to Padang. They eventually were evacuated to India. Not all the men who reached Padang were able to leave as evacuation ships were unable to reach Padang due to the Japanese advances , these men were captured when Sumatra fell . A mixed group of army personnel were formed into a work party that was sent to Burma , this became known as the “Sumatran Battalion” . Another group of men were sent to northern Sumatra to work on road construction at Atjeh , some of these men were later transported to Pakanbaroe to start the construction of the Sumatran Railway.
The men in the Palembang camps either stayed there for the duration of the war or were transported overseas to Singapore , Taiwan or Japan.
In Sumatra as the Japanese Invasion commenced the RAOC personal supporting the 35 LAA and 6 HAA Batteries either escaped to Java via Oosthaven or were captured and became POWs in Palembang.
The small detachment of RAOC men sent to Sarawak, Borneo to maintain vehicles of the 2/15 Punjab Regiment also escaped to Java where they along with the other RAOC men in Java were captured when the Forces Surrendered on March the 8th of March 1942. The men either stayed in Java or became part of the Java Parties , being transported to Singapore , Taiwan , Borneo , Japan or Sumatra to work on the Sumatran Railway or the Pangkalen Balai Aerodrome.
Singapore and the Thai-Burma Railway
The RAOC Personal captured in Singapore suffered mixed fortunes , some stayed in Singapore for the Duration of the war while the majority were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. In 1943 , As this work was nearing the end the men were returned to Singapore , some were then transported on the Hell ships to Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam (Saigon), many lost their lives due to conditions on the ships and also to attacks by Allied Aircraft and Submarines.
In Hong Kong , the men of 6 Section RAOC was mainly involved in the storage and handling of Ordnance, ammunition for the Army units and the Royal Artillery. There was also a workshop , set up to repair equipment. As the Japanese began their attack on the 8th of December breaching the defenses on the mainland, the Ordnance Depots were under threat and most of the explosives were removed. As the Japanese landed on the island , the Ordnance store were again moved this time to the Ridge here , men from the RAOC , RASC, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and the Royal Engineers formed a defensive line, When the Colony surrendered in December 1941 only Ten Officers and Eighty other Ranks had survived out of a pre-war strength on Fifteen Officers and One hundred Other Ranks.
During captivity the POWs either stayed in Hong Kong or were transported overseas, some on the ill-fated Lisbon Maru.
News of the end of the war, men of Number 6 Section workshop were surprised to be informed that they had been transferred to a different Regiment, the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) in 1942.
Most of the men were repatriated on board the SS Empress of Australia.
Hong Kong War Diary
RAOC Repatriation roll Thanks to Alan Hilton and Ronnie Taylor
RAOC Acronym Meanings
Back to the Regiments Page
Below two examples of how the RAOC were organized to support a division and an Anti-Aircraft Battery
51st Highland Division (France 1940)
Example of the Mobile Ordnance Workshop Section , courtesy of Tim Lloyds
Headquarters of 111/107/1 - Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment
- (Mobile) Ordnance Workshop Section
- 1 Captain O.M.E. 3rd class
1 Subaltern O.M.E. 4th class
1 Warrant Officer, class I Fitter, Armament artificer
1 Staff Serjeant Armament artificer
1 Staff Serjeant Armourer
1 Serjeant Clerk
1 Serjeant non-tradesman for regimental duties
1 Corporal Artizan
1 Corporal Storeman
1 Corporal non-tradesman
1 Lance-Corporal Artizan
1 Lance-Corporal non-tradesman
1 Cook, A.C.C. attached
Trades contained in the above mentioned:
1 Armament Artificer, Anti-aircraft
I Armament Artificer, Motor vehicle
- 1 Welder (acetylene and electric)
1 Carpenter and joiner
- 1 Storemen (trained in technical and M. T. stores).
Non-tradesmen in the above mentioned:
7 Drivers (includes 1 extra driver for "trucks, 15-cwt., generator" when issued)
3 General dutymen (includes 1 Batman) 1 Motor cyclist
1 Motor cycle
1 Car, 2-seater, 4-wheeled
1 Truck, 15-cwt., 4-wheeled, Personnel
1 Truck, 15-cwt., 4-wheeled, Machinery R.A.O.C. (type
1 Truck, 15-cwt., 4-wheeled, for generators (required for engine generators when machinery lorries are issued)
4 Pistols, .38-inch
25 Rifles, .303-inch
1 Anti-Tank rifle, .55-inch.
1 Light Machine Gun, .303-inch.
Today the R.E.M.E still provide support to the British Army in every theater they are deployed.
R.E.M.E Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum
On the 5th of April 1993 the Royal Logistic Corps was created by the amalgamation of
Royal Army Service Corps
Royal Engineers Postal and Courier Service
Royal Army Ordnance Corps
Army Catering Corps
Royal Pioneer Corps
The Logistic Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum
Kevin Snowdon June 2022
In Memory of my father George Albert Snowdon RAOC / REME and the men of the RAOC in the Far East and Hong Kong
Ronnie Tayler’s Website and Roll of Honour Site
Tony Banham (Hong Kong War Diary)
Never Forgotten Website (Taiwan POW camps and men who were interned there)
Ray Withnall (RAOC personal in Ubon POW Camp)
WO 361 / 2181
WO 208 / 4286
WO 361 / 1405
WO 361 / 1186
ADMIN 1 18950
To the Warrior His Arms Brigadier Frank Steer History of the RAOC
The Hard Way Major Stanley Ebbage MBE Edited by Andrew Robertshaw Number 6 Section RAOC in Hong Kong
Singapore’s Dunkirk Geoffrey Brooke
Prisoners of the Sumatra Railway Lizzie Oliver
POW on the Sumatra Railway John Geoffrey Lee Edited by Christine and Eddie Bridges
The Borneo Grave Yard John S.M. Tulloch
Other RAOC related Links
RAOC Links from the FEPOW Family Facebook Group