AN INTENSIVE TEST OF T Y TRANSPORT SERVICES.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
I N SEVERAL recent issues of this journal we have dealt with the organization and operation of mechanical transport in the Army. The subject is of vital importance, both to manufacturers and users, and presents a large field for those manufacturers who possess the qualities of foresight and resourcefulness, whilst Certain modifications in the working of the subsidy scheme may soon prove of considerable moment to the civilian buyer ; consequently, the divisional and command exercises which have recently taken place are of great interest, (and, we have no doubt, have been closely followed by our readers) as showing the intensified application of mechanical road transport in Army service. -Last week we were able to refer briefly to a demonstration of the efficiency of the new system of maintenance (which includes food supplies, ammunition, as shown by the highly successful results obtained during the command exercises which, took place in the vicinity of tha Hog's Back.
The Importance of Road Transport.
• So great is. the importance placed upon the administrative services by the Army chiefs that a mimic battle was actually staged almost solely for the purpose of providing a suitable setting for the working of these services. Some of them have been tried individually, with results which have already been dealt with by us, but the exercises on the last occasion were of a far more comprehensive nature, embracing, as they did, the working of a divisional train of a field ambulance, traffic control by men of the Provost-Marshal's Department and the trial of a new system of ammunition supply.
The organization wasas intended by war establishments, except that the small arm ammunition lorries of No. 1 (M.T.) Coy. of the Divisional Train were withdrawn and an extra unit known as the No. 4 (M.T.) Coy. of the Divisional Train was formed and provisionally named the Ammunition Coy. This consisted of the S.A.A. lorries to which we have just referred, and ammunition lorries from the Divisional Ammunition Column. The Divisional (M.T.) Coy. was renamed the Maintenance Coy, and functioned in these exercises for the carrying of ammunition only.
The war setting was provided by the 5th and 6th Infantry Brigades and divisional troops of the 2nd Division under the personal direction of the Lieut.-General Sir Philip Chetwode. The tactical situation was-presumed to be that the River Wey had been crossed by an army corps from the south, consisting of three partly hypothetical, divisions ranged on a front stretching from Guildford to Farnham, whilst for the purpose of the exercises the actual line was from Pirbright to Ash, a distance• of some four miles, Bagshot being the objective.
Chief interest centres in the new system of ammunition supply, for this involved the employment of an experimental echelon formed to increase the radius of supply of ammunition beyond the railhead and to a distance of some 50 miles, in order that this service should correspond with that inaugurated for the transport of supplies by the use of the new 30-cwt. pneumatic-tyred subsidy vehicles. The Maintenance Coy. had its headquarters at Bramley, where was the railhead. for ammunition, and this had to be carried to the ammunition refilling point between Liss and Rake, where it was arranged into convenient dumps. This ammunition was carried by 3-ton lorries, chiefly of Thornycroft make, but the collecting of the ammunition from the dumps and the conveyance of it to the meeting point of the Divisional Ammunition Column was performed by 30-cwt. pneutnatic-tyred vehicles of Vulcan, Guy and Albion make.
Feeding the Guns.
The gun ammunition consisted of supplies for the
4.5-in., and 18-pounder guns, and there was no pretence about the work which had to be done, for the ammunition was actually withdrawn from stock for the purpose of the test, and the 3-ton lorries had been brought from Colchester to take part in the exercises.
The whole business of transporting, clumping and reloading the ammunition was performed most expeditiously, and yet necessarily circumspectly, for aeroplanes belonging to the "enemy" forces were constantly passing overhead and endeavouring to spot such signs of activity. Each 3-ton load of ammunition had to he split up
between two of the lighter vehicles, but these, owing to their extra capacity for speed, proved quite equal to making two and, in some eases, three journeys between the main dumps and the forward meeting point. While waiting for their loads, the 30-cwt. vehicles were most carefully camouflaged by the aid of branches, etc., and even after loading they were driven to their destinations concealed, so far as posai ble, in the same manner. The S.A.A. was also dumped from 3-ton lorries and picked up by 30-cwt. vehicles in the same manner, but this was taken still farther to a rendezvous at the other side of the Hog's Back, known as Christmas Pie. Meanwhile, other activities were in progress elsewhere in the field.
Each battalion had orders to pick out a certain number of men as casualties, the number being estimated as correctly as possible to cover actual fighting conditions,the whole procedure being very realistic, there being head and body wounds, as represented by appropriate bandaging, stretcher and walking cases. They were first treated at the advanced dressing stations and then sent by R...k.M.C. motor ambulances to the main dressing station at Puttenham, where they were received in an atmosphere of grim earnestness, particularly as regards those suffering from head wounds, these being lifted from the ambulances by R.A.M.C. orderlies, with instructions from the attendant officers to " keep their heads up." The system of supplies, so far as the rations for men and horses and the transport of baggage are concerned, was arranged on the same lines as those with which we dealt in our previous articles, Liphook, 12 miles south-west of the Divisional Headquarters at Puttenham, being the supply railhead, and the 30-cwt. vehicles of the Divisional Train moved from this point towards the meeting points to the north.
The Ammunition and Supply Companies' headquarters were at Downlands House, Brarnshott Common, until 11 a.m., but were then moved forward, whilst N.o. 1 (M.T.) Company (Baggage Company) of the Divisional Train waited at the Tumuli at Crooksbury Common until it could advance by night to the meeting points for the units.
In the transport of the baggage to the meeting points, novelty was afforded by the system employed. The vehicles had to proceed up a very steep hill, cross the Hog's Back and down an exceptionally steep incline to Christmas Pie and beyond.
It was understood that any collection of vehicles might be bombed and shelled. Each lorry was, therefore, rushed forward separately, as it was taken for granted that individual vehicles would not be considered of sufficient importance to merit an excessive amount of attention from the " enemy " ; not only was this done, but the vehicles proceeded without lights, and, in spite of this being the case and of the fact that the night was very dark, the operation was carried out with the greatest of ease and success, although it had been confidently expected that some vehicle casualties would occur.
i334. To the best of our belief, there was only one worthy of mention in the actual operation. This was due to the presence on a one-way road of a car proceeding in the wrong direction against the traffic circuit, also without lights. This was met by a 30-cwt. Guy, the car being forced bodily into the ditch and badly damaged, and one dumb-iron of the lorry having its bolts sheared.
The system of traffic control proved admirable, and in spite of the fact that the majority of the roads were so narrow as practically to enforce one-way traffic, there was no sign of congestion, and the whole of the services worked with the greatest smoothness.
In a few instances 3-ton and 30--cwt. vehicles which had given way too far to allow private. cars, etc., to pass were ditched, and in one particular case the value of the new 30-cwt. type was shown unmistakably. A 3-ton vehicle which ran only a foot over the road sank into soft ground, but a 30-cwt. vehicle actually ran along in a ditch close by and got out under its own power, and others of the lighter vehicles which had been forced off the road were easily extricated. This property of the pneumatic-tyred vehicle of being able to run on comparatively soft ground has rendered them most valuable when camouflaging has to be considered, as they can run amongst trees and be completely sheltered from aerial observation, where heavier vehicles would almost certainly be forced to keep to the road.
From the point of view of cross-country transport„ interest also centred in the tankt which were concealed in a grove close to the road on Thursley Common, and were so well camouflaged as totally to escape spotting by aircraft. Amongst the officers concerned in the exercises we may mention particularly Lieut.-Col. R. C. Jellicoo, Command Service Companies R.A.S.C., and 0.0. of the Divisional Train ; Bt. Lieut.-Col. J. C. M. Doran and Capt. H. M. Wright, the Adjutant, at Divisional Train Headquarters ; Major P. A. Arden, 0.0. No. 1 (M.T.) Company ; Capt. H. P. Raymond, 0.0. No. 2 (M.T.) Company ; Major C. V. Edwards and V. 0. Beuttler, of the Ammunition Company ; and Capts. E. N. W. Birch and E. D. M. HeriotHill, of the Maintenance Company.