Whilst the Dunkirk evacuation was taking place, Bob Hiam was busy setting up what was intended to be an overflow Motor Transport Depot for COD Chilwell. Soon it became clear that a further massive depot for armaments was needed to support COD Donnington, and COD Old Dalby began to take shape.
Bob Hiam had worked in tyre sales and distribution at Dunlop and was one of many such people who had joined the volunteer reserve and then, on the declaration of war, was commissioned in the RAOC. As I tell in Dunkirk to D Day and indeed War on Wheels, there was a management challenge of some magnitude to mesh those skilled in logistics like Bob, with officers who had made they way up the RAOC many from service in WW1.
Bob was given the job of creating the Old Dalby depot. His success is perhaps evidenced by a visit to the depot by Dunlop management who came away having learnt a lot from the way Hiam had developed Dunlop methods to serve the army.
As a Chief Ordnance Officer, Bob met each quarter with his peers in the depots and their chief, Major General Bill Williams. The photo is of Bob addressing one such meeting in March 1942.
There is evidence in the War Diaries in the National Archives that Hiam wrote more than one report for Bill on methods.
The high regard in which he was held is further evidenced by the choice of him to become the COO of the Advance Ordnance Depot set up near Caen to supply the advance across northern France and then AOD at Antwerp for the final push into German.
After the war he returned to Dunlop as Sales Director in the business supplying tyres to the garage trade. He also, like a number of his colleagues, set up an association for those who had served at Old Dalby and which met right through to the sixties.
Bob Hiam was born in Somerset in 1905 the son of a French born draughtsman who worked for the railways. He died in 1979.
Dunlop and many other companies moved mountains to support the war effort. By releasing people like Bob Hiam, they greatly enhanced the ability of the RAOC to meet the army’s needs.
Bob Hiam features among the RAOC leaders I write about in Dunkirk to D Day. His work at Dunlop is part of How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World. He and others from industry feature in the article I wrote for the Historian, Civilian Expertise in War.