From the Archives – ROTARY TALK MAY 12, 2020 – Rex and Clarence

By: Clare Stockdale. Talk given to Rotary Club of Mosman on ay 12,2020.

My father-in-law Reginald Booth Stockdale was known as Rex in the family and Stockie to his army colleagues. He was born in Mauritius in 1908, the son of Reginald Hind Stockdale who was the engineer for the railway there which was needed to transport sugar cane. He studied at Bedford Modern School in England.

Rex was commissioned as a lieutenant into the repair and maintenance arm of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1931. On the outbreak of War in September, 1939, by then a Major, he was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force with the 4 th Infantry Division along the Belgian frontier. His Commanding Officer was invalided back to the UK in December and Rex was promoted Lieutenant Colonel to replace him. When the Germans attacked in May 1940, the 4 th Division fell back to Dunkirk and Rex was brought back to Dover by the Royal Navy. There followed a series of postings in the UK. 4th Division was posted at one point to defend the Dorset coast against a possible invasion. Troops were billeted with local residents in houses and barns across the area.

In April, 1942 he was sent by an 8-week sea voyage via the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle East. He joined the Eighth Army in June when it was in full retreat from German General Rommel. When Churchill replaced the top brass with Generals Alexander and Montgomery, the tide of the war began to turn. By October Rommel was beaten at El Alamein. The desert war under Montgomery was largely a tank war and Rex's job was making sure the greatest number of tanks were serviceable. He is also credited with developing the amphibious tank. He was promoted to Colonel in Oct., 1942 and the unit in the RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corp) he belonged to was renamed REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). (2) Photo says: This volcano was captured by 13 Corps, 8 th Army on 7 Aug., 1943. Rex is the one with his hand on the sign. He was eventually assigned to Gen. Alexander's staff in Cairo to work on the plan for the invasion of
Sicily. Following the successful invasion first of Sicily and then of Italy, Rex spent the rest of the War in Italy ending up in Austria when Germany surrendered.

After the War, Rex served in Kenya from 1946-1948, then 3 times in the British sector of Germany in 1948, 1952 and 1956, in total about 6 years. Rex was with the British Army of the Rhine, and was deputy director and later director of electrical and mechanical engineering in Southern Command between 1953 and 1959. [3]  He was promoted to Brigadier in 1958 in charge of the Army’s Technical Group in the UK. [3]  He was promoted to Major-General in 1960. [3]

(3)Between 1960 and 1963 he was Commandant, Technical Group, REME and its Colonel Commandant between 1963 and 1968. There is a photographic portrait of Rex at the National Portrait Gallery in London taken in 1962. +1

In 1963, on retirement from active service, Rex was appointed Director or Inspector of the Agency for the Control of Armaments, part of Western European Union (WEU), in Paris and ran it for 11 years until 1974. They were the first weapons inspectors and were high ranking officers from each Western European country. They would inspect factories all over Europe to ensure they were not capable of making prohibited armaments.

(4) Rex was presented with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1945, CB (Companion of the Bath) in 1963 and CMG (Order of St. Michael and St. George) in 1975.

(5)In 2010 a collection of Betty Stockdale's letters to her husband during World War 2 was published by the Plant Press, run by their elder son John. The book is called Letters from the Home Front.

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