Royal Army Ordnance Corps

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Kevin Snowdon copyright 2022


RAOC in the Far East 1941 to 1945

The RAOC Motto  SUA TELA TONANITranslated into EnglishTo The Warrior His Arms” , a good description of the function the RAOC performed.

Brief History
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 demobilizing 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 Workshop  saw the RAOC offering training in skilled trades as part of  the ARMY Reserve Military Training Act of 1939.
The men were organized into Army Field Workshops and along with the Ordnance Store Corps , were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force .

RAOC in the Far East

Malay Command

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.

Some confusion can arise when searching records as some of men are shown as RAOC or REME,  t
he REME was officially formed on the 19th May 1942 , made up , primarily of the RAOC Workshop personal along with personnel from the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) and some other Units. As the RAOC Personal transferred to the REME were captured before that date, they were unaware of this fact until liberation in 1945, therefore all the men in the Roll are listed as RAOC
The History of REME (

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 were three magazines at the RAOC Depots,  located at Queens Road , Lei Yu Mun and Little Hong Kong. There would also be 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 strore was again moved, this time to the Ridge, here men from the RAOC , RASC, Volunteer Defence Corps and the RE formed a defensive line, when the Colony surrendered in December 1941 , only 10 Officers and 80 other ranks had survived out of a pre-war strength of 15 Officers and 100 other ranks.During Captivity the men were eitherin Camps on the Island for the duration of the war or they were transported overseas, some on the ill-fated Lisbon Maru.

When the war ended in 1945 most of the men were repatriated on the SS Empress of Australia. Hong Kong War Diary




RAOC  Acronym Meanings

RAOC organization

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 Sergeant Armament artificer

1 Staff Sergeant Armourer

1 Sergeant Clerk

1 Sergeant non-tradesman for regimental duties

1 Corporal Artizan

1 Corporal Storeman

1 Corporal non-tradesman

1 Lance-Corporal Artizan

1 Lance-Corporal non-tradesman

5        Artizans

1 Clerk
1 Storemen

8 non-tradesmen

1 Cook, A.C.C. attached

Trades contained in the above mentioned:

1 Armament Artificer, Anti-aircraft

I Armament Artificer, Motor vehicle

1 Armourer

1 Blacksmith

3        Drivers mechanic

1        Turner

1 Welder (acetylene and electric)

1 Carpenter and joiner

1        Clerks

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 REME still provide support to the British Army in every theatre that they are deployed in.
REME Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

 On the 5th of April 1993 the Royal Logistic Corps was founded by the Amalgamation of the Regiments :-
Logistics 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 / REME in the Far East and Hong Kong

Thanks to
Ronnie Taylor's Roll of Honour and Websites
Tony Banham (Hong Kong War Diary)
Never Forgotten Website (Taiwan POW camps)
Michael Pether (Evacuation Ships)
Cliff Phillips
Alan Hilton
Tim Lloyds


WO 172/357
WO 361 / 2181
WO 208 / 4286
WO 361 / 1405
WO 361 / 1186
WO 361/1625
WO 361/1676

WO 417/41
WO 417/100
WO 367/3

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 Robert Shaw 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

Google Earth,0,0a,22251752.77375655d,35y,0h,0t,0r

RAOC Links


Other RAOC related Links,take%20a%20%E2%80%98combatant%E2%80%99%20role%20since%20attaining%20that%20status.?msclkid=934111c6ce5711eca4f86ca1edc2a2f2


RAOC Links from the FEPOW Family Facebook Group