Scandal over government handling of World War I surplus

Soon after, the board struck a £7 million deal (£261m in our money) for its vast Slough depot, which had been damned by a parliamentary inquiry as outrageously wasteful.

The buyer was a consortium led by Percival Perry, Ford of Britain’s visionary ex-boss. After profiting from the 15,000 vehicles there, the group persuaded new French car maker Citroën to build a factory in Slough, and the resulting trading estate became a roaring success. Let’s be kind and assume the board being busy finalising this deal was why three times it failed to acknowledge another firm’s offer to buy as many as 3000 lorries!

It’s little wonder that the board struggled to keep up when you see this ad it placed in the Evening Mail: “Government property for sale. Factories, aerodromes, huts, building material, furniture, domestic equipment, machinery, power plant, steam plant, electric plant, agricultural machinery, road bridges, railway material, dock equipment, contractors’ stores, textile goods, clothing, boots and shoes, medical stores, machine tools, chemicals and explosives, river and canal craft, motor launches and steamers, general stores, etc, etc.”

for sale

Also in 1920, a massive deal was done for 10,000 aircraft and 33,000 aero engines, with the new Aircraft Disposal Company paying £100m. It would take a decade to sell all of that.

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