The Conveyance of Infantry in Motor Lorries.
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By the Editor.
The conception of a wide use of motor transport for the movement a troops by road now dates back some 18 ye.ars. The French were already making experiments when it was the writer's pleasure to attend the first " Poids Lourds " at and from Versailles in the year 1897. That military nation has never been attracted by proposals for the use of motorcars for infantry conveyance, yet one of its Generals did not hesitate, in the early days of September last, to impress some thousands of Paris taxicabs to help in rebelling von Kluck. The French military authorities, when they examined a report for which they called concerning the A.A. experiment of March, 1909, in effect endorsed the opinion of one of the chief organizers of the London-Hastings-London trip, that it was "Muddle en, masse."
The War Office Test of 1908.
Tests in this country, as shown in "Answer to Query" No. 2617 this week, go back to the closing weeks of the year 1908. The War Office, before the Hastings run, had received the report of its own Mechanical Transport Committee, per the secretary of that date, Capt. It K. Bagnall-Wild, R.E. (now chief inspector of engines at the Royal Aircraft Factory, South Farnborough), as to the usefulness of motorbuses for infantry conveyance on systematized lines, and the large-scale employment of motorbuses in France and Belgium, before and since the fall of Antwerp, has been based upon the Warley-Leigh test, which was exclusively and fully reported by THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR nearly 61 years ago.
Playing with Cars.
The lorry unit, with a capacity equal to not less than a section (16 men with one or two N.C.O.$), is alone fitted for infantry conveyance, except in cases of unusual emergency, such as existed when recourse was had—in the absence of lorries or omnibuses—to Paris taxicabs. Military control, order and formation cannot be preserved in practice when two, three or four soldiers are separately put into an ordinary motorcar, and the greater the number of cars the greater the risk of confusion. With a multiplicity of non-standard oddments of troops, there is inevitably much loss of time in correct re-assembly, whilst any mishaps on the read may result in leaving a small group of privates without even a lancecorporal in charge. When lorries or omnibuses are used, if one ve a22 hide breaks down, is driven into a ditch, or gets out of convoy, the section of men in it is at least complete in itself. The use of cars, when lorries or omnibuses are obtainable, is to play with a serious scheme to the point of destroying it. Cars should be employed only by officers.
"Get In" and "Get Out."
There is no accepted transportinfantry drill. In France, the men are given the commands : "get in" and "get out" for lorries, varied sometimes to " mount " and "dismount," or "entrain" and "detrain." It has even been put into orders for them to " embuss" and "debuss." Where omnibuses are used, no marked agility is required, but with lorries it is different ; the men swarm into them, over the sides as often as not, in no particular way, but at all times without delay. They must be nimble to tumble in or out, and they have not much regard for.the wings or other parts of the body work. This is war. The essence of any movement is to get it done in the quickest time.
Saving Railway Charges When War is Over.
We foresee that, hereafter, in peace times, for transfers of troops from one barracks or camp to another, or at manceuvres, motor lorries will very frequently be utilized to the exclusion of the railway, and that a transport-infantry drill will be laid clown.
It is of more than passing interest, both to makers and users of heavy lorries, for us to anticipate some likely consequences of the retention of a, few thousand motor lorries in regular military service. The Army Service Corps will not be solely concerned with the transport and supply of munitions and food, but also, as an integral part of its daily routine, with the transport of troops. We are glad to realize that this will be the case, partly because the State will be more efficiently served, and at lower cost than by rail or horsecorn-rail methods, and partly because the development will enhance the scope of A.S.C. duties. The Army must not be allowed to revert to the parlous dearth of transport from which it suffered at the outbreak of the war. All regiments, Regular and Territorial, can be supplied with war-finished vehicles in clue time, and that course is one for which we expect support to be forthcoming in very high quarters. Both economy and expediency favour the course. New Drill to Suit the New Order of Road Transport.
A discussion is already proceeding in War-Office circles anent the best way to receive, take up and set down troops whic are required to be conveyed by motor-lorry convoy. It is recognized that there must, in the future, be a transportinfantry drill, and the details will be considered later. We are able to state that attention will shortly be given to the tests which have been suggested as the outcome of experiments at Brighton last Easter. Not only has practice to be settled, for inclusion in the British infantry and A.S.C. drillbooks, but the words of command have to be agreed. Nothing has yet been laid down. The scramble for commercial motors was such, in August last, that there was no time for particular words of command to be approved, as to movements of troops by lorry, and no time— perhaps not even occasion—to bother about uniformity or appearances. • Inspections and reviews will, however, again become part of the life of the British Army, after the present war is over. When that ,d'ay comes, it will be found that there will be a definite transportlorry drill. We may, at a future date, be able to give an outline of the form which it will take. The permanent use of motor lorries by the British Army will be of great effect upon the British motor industry.
Effect on the Motor Industry.
The point of permanency of transport by motor lorry as part of the military establishment of the country is one of the utmost significance. We believe that there will not be the falling away of organization and equipment after this war which was witnessed after the Napoleonic and the Crimean wars. The nation will stand to arms—will, perhaps, again have to use them. The metor transport will be retained; its uses will be extended and standardized. While the new W.D. specification is being settled and the new W.D. fleets are being constructed, there will be opportunity and time to utilize and to wear out a large proportion, if not all, of war-finished lorries back from the Continent. It will, we are convinced, be dangerous again to have the British Army not found in modern transport, and we have good reasons for asserting that this view is held by the Army Council. Whatever the manner of avoidance of that situation, the heavy-motor industry is assured of military user on a large scale. Conveyance of infantry will be one instance.