THE ARMY'S TRANSPO TENTIONS DISCLOSED.
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Considerable Advances in Methods of Emplo Giant Pneumatic Tyre ; a New Four-wheel-driv Machine in its Cap Motor Vehicles by the R.A.S.C. Era of the Pneumatic Tyred, which Rivals the Chain-track :ross-country Work.
T HAS never been permissible, on the various occasions on which we have referred to the current War Department subsidy scheme and the specification for 30-cwt. vehicles, to indicate that there were any novel, or even special, purposes to which the machines themselves were to be put. It is, therefore, more than likely that the majority of our readers have concluded that they are to tale the place, either of those vehicles of the same capacity which were actually used during the late war, or of the threetonners previously subsidized, or perhaps of both. That stage of the Army Manoeuvres which opens to-day (Tuesday) discloses the fact that, in reality, these new vehicles are to be used for work which is entirely supplementary to that performed in the war by the Mechanical Transport : that they are to form, in fact, a new arm of the M.T. section of the R. A. S.C.
Their design and employment indicate that the War Office is developing the application of mechanical transport to war purposes at a rate which the layman will hardly believe to be possible. Indeed, it may be said that, in this new departure, the usual order of things is being reversed. At one time it was considered, if not exactly right and proper at least a thing to be expected, that civil enterprise should give in matters of this kind a lead to the War Department, as indeed to the majority of Government departments. In the present instance• the War Office is showing the way and, by its adoption of a light, pneumatic-tyred and, therefore, speedy vehicle, is in advance of public opinion to a remarkable degree.
The Future Extension of the Use of Motors.
Theoretically, at any rate, the war-time use of mechanical transport was supposed to be confined to the conveyance of ammunition, food and other essentials,, from railhead to a refilling point as near as practicable to the front line. There the load was transferred to horsed wagons and carried thus to the men. In the future this use of mechanical transport is to be extended, by arranging that the 30-cwt. machines, with which we are at present concerned, shall, so far as is possible, take the place of the horse trains. The main object is to provide means to enable troops to advance as far as possible, in as brief a time as may be, from railhead.
By the existing plan, employing heavy lorries of 3 tons capacity and shod with solid tyres, this purpose may be served, within limits, so long as the road surfaces are good enough. So soon as a lorry of this type gets off the road it becomes, in ninety-nine eases out of a hundred, hors de
combat. With lighter machines the risk of getting bogged is less, but if pneumatic tyres are fitted then it is possible to face conditions considerably less favourable to transport with comparative equanimity, and even with strong hope of success. Their use, therefore, either in substitution for, or in addition to, the three-tonners, considerably extends the range of action from railhead, which is ample justification for their employment. The organization will, as might be expected, differ considerably in accordance with the conditions. In the event of a, war taking place in well-developed country, provided with comparatively good roads, it might well happen that the threetonners would be employed from railhead to the headquarters of the R.A.S.f). unit of a division. There the load would be transferred to the 30-cwt. vehicles, to be carried thence, perhaps, direct to the fighting units. Horses would only be required in the event of the conditions being such as entirely to preclude the use of motor vehicles.
As the conditions alter for the worse—so far as the provision of good roads is concerned—the headquarters of the R.A.S.C. unit will move nearer and nearer to railhead, until (as, for example, is expected to be the case in in Eastern theatre of war) the heavier type of vehicle will be eliminated altogether and the lighter machines will load up at railhead.
The Operation of an R.A.S.C. Unit.
It is of interest to disclose how such a unit of the R.A.S.C. would operate and, as a preliminary, it may be pointed out that a " division" which such a unit would serve is the unit of organization of the British Army. A division is the smallest formation which is organized in such a manner as to be able to operate by itself without outside assistance. It contains within itself not only those arms which do the actual fighting, the infantry and the artillery, and also the engineers, but portions of the branches of the Army necessary to maintain the fighting troops in a fit condition to perform their function of fighting. Amongst these branches is included, of course, the Royal Army Service Corps. It is the function of the R.A.S.C. in a division to provide transport for the delivery to the troops of . the daily supplies of food and forage which are required, for the replenishment of the expended ammunition, for that minimum quantity of baggage which is necessary to give the troops a reasonable amount of comfort at night, when circumstances permit, and for any other stores,'such as new clothing, equipment, Royal Engineer stores, etc., as may be needed.
The R.A.S.C. unit in a division which performs these duties is named the "divisional train.' This is the R.A.S.C. Mechanical Transport echelon, which is always nearest to the troops and delivers direct to them and, since its duties include services which are not required of the rearward echelons (where, as indicated above, these are required) it has its own special organization. It is divided into a headquarters company, two mechanical transport companies, and a horse transport company. The headquarters company consists of the commanding officer and administrative personnel. Of the two mechanical transport companies, No.. 2 is solely concerned with the transport and delivery to the troops of their daily requirements of
food and forage. No. 1. performs -thereniaining duties enumerated above. With -the functions of the • liorse.transport :section we shall deal later. In order to conform with the organization of :the division-, whichconsists of three infantry brigades and. " divisional troops,"' . which term covers all troops other than the infantry, each of the abovenamed two mechanicaltransport companies is divided into headquarters ahd four sections. 'Three of the four sections serve the three infantry brigades, one to each, while the fourth section serves the divisional troops.
The headquarters of each company consists of the workshops, which are responsible for what is known as first line repairs; that is to say, repairs which do not involve the complete overhaul of a main member. These workshops have to undertake, not only the repairs to the vehicles belonging to that particular company, but also those to the mechanical transport vehicles of any unit of the division which may be attached to the company for maintenance and repairs. The equipment consists of three mobile 'workshops and three store lorries for the carriage of spare parts and materials for repair.'
A section of a No. 1 company consists, in all, of 39 vehicles, of which four are motorcycles, one is a 35-ewt, van, and the rest are 30-cwt, vehicles. A section, of a No. 2 company consists of 13 vehicles, including one motorcar, one motorcycle, and eleven 30-cwt. machines.
The horse transport company is only used when, as may conceivably happen, a portion of the troops in a division, or, maybe, the whole, gets into a position 'Where, owing to a variety of causes, the
vehicles of the divisional train are unable to reach them. There may be a complete absence of any sort of a track ; or an essential culvert or small bridge may have been destroyed. In such circumstances the M.T.vehicles would possibly be unable to get within a reasonable distance of the troops, while the horsed vehicles might be able to do so. In order to be able, therefore, to bridge an unavoidable gap of this description between the M.T. and the troops, a -horse transport company is included in the. divisional train, and will continue to be so included pending the evolution of a self-propelled vehicle capable of going anywhere that ahorsed vehicle can now go.
In normal circumstances the horse transport company marches empty close behind the troops, in readiness to fill a gap should it occur. Owing, however, to the necessity for .conservation of man power and horseflesh, it is not possible to provide a horse transport company capable of taking over the loads of the.two 115.T. companies, and, in actual fact., what is provided will carry only a proportion of those loads in one trip. The existence. and presence of this 1` reserve delivery section " will, at any rate, mitigate the consequences of the M.T. vehicles being unable to reach the. troops.
In selecting the pneumatic-tyred 20-cwt. lorry for the work that will be demanded of them the War Office have been influenced by its capacity for increased speed and, more particularly, -its
when equipped with giant pneumatic tyres, to get over ground which would be impassable to the solid-tVred three-tonner. A full-dress review of a divisional train—at
peace strength, which was in that particular instance somewhat less --than half of the fully mobilized establishment—was held a few days ago as a preliininary to the current manoeuvres. The inspecting Officer was General Burnett Hitchcock, M.G.A., Aldershot Command, and amongst those present there were, besides staff officers from various " commands " Col. Evan Gibb, A.D.S. and T., Aldershot ; Col. icLeod, A.D.S. and T., Eastern Command; Col. Elliot, D.A.D.S. and T., Aldershot ; Col. Niblett Professor at the M.T. Workshops and Schools of Instruction, Aldershot ; and Major G. C. G. Blunt, of Q.301.0.3, War Office. We also were permitted to be present. The operationswere not spectacular in their nature—that is to say, no stunt or special exercises were carried out, and they may, perhaps, best be described by that somewhat flexible term, parade. They were at least most interesting, and served, to demonstrate very clearly those essential features of this type of lorry, which make it so inachly adaptable to the ends in view.
We had, in point of fact, hardly been on the parade ground for a couple of minutes when an incident occurred which showed, as clearly as could have been done by the most carefully organized demonstration, the superiority of the pneurnatic-tyred machine. over its rival with solid-tyred equipment. The divisional train, as we saw it, embodied a miscellaneous (one might almast say heterogeneous) collection of vehicles, having, as the most consistent thing about them and almost the only one, that they were Albions, Guys, Karriers and Crossleys, of the 30-cwt. subsidy type ; there were non-subsidy Vulcans and Crossleys, and there were one or two three-tonners of the old subsidy type, with motorcycles and cars to complete the complement of the divisional train ifi that respect. There was also a four-wheel drive chassis of special construction, towing a 6-in. Howitzer, but of that more anon.
An Unrehearsed Test.
These vehicles, in company with a horse train, were moving, from a grass plot at the rear of the parade ground, • t,o form up, more or less in review order, in their respective sections. As they moved into position they had to cross a stretch of very loose gravel and sand, about a foot deep and ten yards wide. Several of the 30-cwt; machines were crossing this stretch as we approached, and doing so without difficulty. A three-tonner followed: the rear wheels lost adhesion when half way across and manual assistance had to be resorted to in order to extricate it. Others of the 30-cwt. lorries followed, some of them passing over the churned-up sand and deep ruts formed by the three.tonner, but all passed over -without faltering. As a compact lesson in adaptability to circumstances, the incident was illuminating.
The remainder of the operations passed without incident. The vehicles, having formed up in order as has been stated, passed out ef the narade ground and, as regards the 30-cwt. machines and the cycles and the cars, ran about a mile or so along the road, returning over a sandy plain, 7_eeping more or less at an even distance of about a lorry's length apart and subsequently returning to 'he depot. A demonstration of tyre removal, somewhat marred by the
fact that an unsuitable type of rim remover was used, -was followed by an :nspection of the petrol tank refilling arrangements. These are 500-gallon tanks, mounted on three-ton chassis and equipped with manually operated wing pumps.
The Four-wheel-driven Tractor.
Concurrently with the review, a demonstration of the capabilities of a four-wheel-drive tractor was going forward. This machine has been assembled in the R.A.S.C. workshops, under the direction, we understand, of Col. lciblett. It is actually the forerunner of the chassis to which reference was made on page 694 of July 15th last. Its purpose is haulage of guns and trailer, as well as first-aid work, and it is Capable of performing those functions under very unfavourable conditions of terrain, as the demonstra time showed. The machine ' seen by us was a converted lorry chassis, fitted with giant pneumatic tyres and a winding drum. The transmission embedies 'a four-speed gearbox, which transmits to a longitudinal shaft, whence the power is convey:I to two differential gears, cne in each axle. There is no differential between these two, and only the front axle is made to steer.
The performance of thi's machine over sand, across ditches and on difficult hill-sides needs to be seen to be believed, and there appears to be no doubt that for all but swamp soils it, \ -ill prove to be the haulage unit of the future. Like the subsidy lorries it has giant pneumatic tyres ; these, together with the feature of driving on all four wheels, supplemented, where necessary, by non-skid chains, provide apparently all the tractive capacity which is needed. As we saw it, It was pulling a 6-in, howitzer, which weighs about 4i tons, that being also the weight of the tractor itself. It has. however, made no bones about handling a 60-pounder, which weighs 6 tons, and has pulled a gun of that type on an
incline of 1 in 4, although with a winding drum still more severe gradients can be negotiated. The Thornyeroft tractor, which has been evolved as the result of the experiments which have been conducted with this one, has a much more poyserfal engine, and of it great 'things are expected. One of the Thornycroft type is to take part in the manceuvres this week and next.
These pneumatic-tyred 30-cwt. lorries and these four-wheel-driven pneumatic-tyred tractors are apparently the groundwork, snd at present the only visible evidence, of a new, interesting and highly efficient M.T. organization, of which one can, in conversation with responsible officers' gleaning scraps here and scraps there, form a dins but, .nevertheless, real image. The best features of the Old system are being welded into the new, which contains within itself all the ideas evolved, at infinite cost and travail, during the great war. Means extemporized then, under pressure and in haste, can now be improved upon at leisure, and many apparently wasteful methods, thrust upon those responsible because they only were at the tune attainable, are being replaced by more economical and logical means.
The Mobile Workshops to be on Trailers.
A typical example is the mobile workshop. That, hitherto, has been built upon a motor lorry, and it immobilized the power unit during the major part of its life, what time it was stationary and performing its function as a workshop. For the future these are to be built up on to trailers, which may be drawn singly, or in twos, or even maybe threes, by the four-wheel-drive tractors. Each unit workshop may be self-contained, with its own power unit built into it, or three of them may draw their power from one of the tractors, according to the conditions. Petrol ;upply wagons will be trailers, and so will first-aid wagons and a number of others, which need not he specified, but which have the peculiarity that for the greater part of their time they are stationary, needing only the capacity for rapidly being transported from one centre of activity to another, which capacity can well be afforded by one or other of the means already indicated.
For all these purposes the pneumatic tyre seems . to be essential. It permits of weight reduction of all the vehicles to which it is fitted. It doubly encourages speed, where speed is practicable, by its flexibility and by its capacity for absorbing those shocks which, in a solid-tyred machine run at the same speed, would inevitably knock the chassis to bits and, by delays for repairs, ultimately more than offset the time gained by that speeding. In this characteristic of lightness and speed the pneumatic is equally necessary on the trailer as on the tractor, arid on the lorry as on both, particularly as tire lorry may in many cases have to do duty as tractor and, less frequently, as trailer.
If the foregoing seems to be rather in the nature of a panegyric on pneumatic equipment, the excuse is offered that some of it, at any rate, is the reflection of the views of the officer in command of a cavalry brigade M.T, train, who has just completed
a couple of days' manceuvres With the Brigade of Guards on and around Goodwood. He commenced that brief period, not with an open mind, but with one very sceptical as to the results of this attempt to follow cavalry across country with mechanical transport, that scepticism being in no way reduced by a recollection of the char-banes and bus park at Epsom on the evening of Derby day. He is now absolutely convinced of the efficacy of the M.T. and the purpose for which it is intended, after .having seen the pneumatic-tyred machines cross wet grass lands, not only without trouble, but actually Without even marking the grass.
Compensations for the Extra Cost of _ Pneumatics.
A word remains to be said, drawing a practical lesson for the commercial user, from the results of this Army experiment. The drawback to the giant pneumatic, the obstacle in the way of its more widespread adoption for vehicles of this size, is its first cost. It will most certainly take many Army demonstrations, of this or any other order, to convince the ordinary use that its service will, in economy, snore than compensate for this initial expenditure. That such compenAtion does, in fact, result is, nevertheless, very true, and in the end this truth will prevail. In the meantime there is a direct benefit to be gained by the use of vehicles so equipped by farmers and market gardeners, who often enough would find mechanical transport more to their liking if it could be used right up to the growing crops, the stacks of corn and the fruit trees, without the necessity for somewhat costly transhipment. That machines of this type are capable of that work is absolutely proved by the Army's experience, and there should be a rapid expansion in sales of the subsidy-type machine to such customers. It hardly needed the recent strike at Covent Garden to show the advantage of direct transport of fruit and vegetables from grower to buyer, but that strike has certainly had a considerable effect in finding new converts to the principle of road carriage of produce. When the lesson is more fully learned, end the farmer and grower generally discover that, by selling and, what is as important, delivering direct to the retailer instead of through the medium of an expensive and not always necessary, central market, then that expansion will be more extensive still: .
A Model of the Tractor on View at Wembley.
The tractor, which can be seen in model form in the Government pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, and also pictured in operation at the cinema theatre in the same pavilion, is likely to find its more extensive use in the colonies, tvh.ere its capacity for the ready negotiation of unmade country will stand it in good stead. it is not without its advantages, however, even in this country, for farm and market garden use. Those who already have found the solid-tyred four-wheel-drivs machine better for such use than the ordinary lorry, whether petrol or steam, will discover that the pneumatictyred tractor is as big an advance on the solid-tyred one as was the solid-tyred one over its two-wheeldriven predecessors.