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3rd August 1926, Page 18
3rd August 1926
Page 18
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A Brief Survey of the Progress Made by the Army in Road and Cross-country Transport Since 1905.

IN view of the important, part mechanical road transport played iii the Great War, no review of the past 21 years would be complete without at least a brief summary of the history of the military motor vehicle. The first indication of any interest in the subject by the British War Office came in 1905, and by 1906 the rapid increase in the number of motorbuses created • some fear in the minds of the military authorities as to the maintenance of the reserve of horses which the bus companies had up till then provided. This resulted in the introduction early in 1907 of a tentative subsidy scheme in respect of privately owned motor vehicles that could be called up for use in a national emergency. Diplomas for vehicles fitted with successful paraffin carburetters were also awarded.

Early iu 1908 Are gave an illustration (but no description) of a "walking machine," or caterpillar tractor, which had been tested at .4_1(lershot ; whilst in duly of that year the important announcement was made that the War Office had decided to organize a competition of military-type tractors. The conditions called for a machine to cost not more than £1,000, and of a weight not exceeding 7 tons, capable of hauling 8 tons a distance of 100 miles at an average speed of 5 miles per hour without requiring to be replenished with either water or petrol. The tractors were also to be capable of hauling a full load up a


gradient of 1 in 10, or, with a winding drum, of 1 in 6.

Great Britain still lagged behind in the appreciation by its military autheri

iies of the value of motor vchicles. but the news that the German War Office had adopted a very libtral subsidy scheme appeared to awaken them sonic

what from their lethargy, some trials with motorbuses for the transport of soldiers taking place in Essex towards the end of 1908. The War Office military tractor trials which took place in the Aldershot district in May, 1900, attracted but five entries, and of these only three actually competed—Stewart (steam), Broome and Wade, and Thornycroft, the last-named being awarded a prize of £750.

The question of motor vehicle for military purposes now became one of national importance, aud, to give an impetus to the War Office, the Automobile Association, under the eegis ofits indefatigable secretary, Mr. Stenson Cooke, organized the memorable test of conveying a composite company of Guards, with their equipment, from Loudc n to Hastings and back in a single day by means of a Sect of 21 adapted taxicabs, 5 motorbuses, and 2 3-ton trucks, this historial trip taking place on March 17th, 1909.

Although various trials were from time to time made (among them being those with a Hornsby 40 b.p. chain-track tractor and Diplock's " Berea "), it was not until September, 1910, that 0101:01 vehicles were included in British military manceuvres, our authorities still stiowing a predilection for tractors, -whereas Germany andFrance were practically concentrating on self-contained vehicles. The Commercial Motor commented on the chaotic state of the

British military mechanical transport equipment, which was now attributed more to Treasury niggardliness than to War Office neglect. We also put in a strong plea for greater standardization and for a more liberal subsidy to privately owned vehicles.

In May, 1911, Mr. T. E. Harrison created history by forming, in conjunction with Waring and Gillow's fleet of motor lorries, a Mechanical Transport Reserve, the initial parade comprising four vehicles, a superintendent, 42 men, and 110 cadets. In September of that year the War Office reversed its policy of favouring tractors, and came out with a provisional motor vehicle subsidy scheme, the initial grant ranging from .£12 for a live-axle machine to £8 for one with open chain drive, plus an annual subsidy of £15. At about the same time, a special War Office Standardiiation Committee was appointed to consider the question of minimizing the number of spare parts.

Progress now became a little more rapid. By March, 1912, the British Army had 15 military mechanical transport companies, and 4 more were to be formed in that year. Then, in May, 1912, came the War Office's new subsidy scheme, together with the draft specification of two types of vehicle-30 cwt. and 3 tons. The specifications were very exhaustive, occupying no fewer than four pages of The Commercial Motor. They met, however, with a mixed reception, we, ourselves, expressing the view that, whilst the details were probably desirable from the military point of view, they were distinctly uncommercial. Indeed, we anticipated they would be turned down by members of the industry . and larger users.

Motors at the 1912 Manteuvres.

The 1912 mameuvres were the first occasion on which mechanical transport was fully tested. Over 100 vehicles were pressed into service, the Blue Force relying on petrol only, whilst the Red Force used both petrol and steam. The verdict of the military judges was in favour of the liquid fuel, and in December, 1912, Capt. Bagnall-Wild created a stir by recommending the War Office to expend a sum of £1,400,000 on motor lorries and to use the vehicles for commercial transport work in times of peace through the medium of a Governmentcontrolled company.

Further trials of subsidy-type vehicles took place in January, 1913. Three firms took part, J. and B. Hall and Thornycroft being awarded certificates for vehicles capable of carrying a gross load of 41 tons. Leylands had previously secured certificates in respect of both 30-cwt. and 3-ton vehicles. The subsidy scheme was, however, not altogether proving ti success, for in July, 1913, we were led to express the view that "we might have 400 vehicles on the subsidy list by the end of 1914," and, following the autumn military manouvres of that year, the mixed traffic gave rise to such a tangle that we felt "the vital necessity was that the Government should purchase its own considerable stock of vehicles exactly as it purchases guns."

Transport During and After the War. Coming to the fateful year-1914— further subsidy-type vehicle trials took place in the early months, these being followed by rumours of a higher subsidy. Then came the international complications, one of the first indications of the coming of war being the sudden suspension of the trials of motor vehicles which .the French military authorities were then conducting. Space will not permit us to deal at length with the dislocation and 'disruption which the declaration of war caused in this country, nor, with it all still deep in the memory of the majority of our readers, is it necessary. It must suffice to say that the military authorities not only immediately impressed the relatively few subsidized motor vehicles, but many others as well. The Commercial Motor Users Association placed its organization at the service of the country, making a census of available motor lorries, which we estimated at 10,000. Waring and Gillow's Mechanical Transport Reserve was called up and put into action within 20 hours, the London bus companies con

tributed their quota, whilst all the big carrier concerns, such as Carter, Paterson, had a large proportion of their fleets impressed. The haste with which the work had to be &inducted, together with the inexperience of those entrusted with it, gave rise to many disputes as to the amount to be paid to the owners for the impressed vehicles, the general standard adopted being the cost price less 15 per cent.' for each year the vehicle bad been in use.

Not only were all possible British factories turned on to the constrnetion of vehicles for war purposes, but large orders were placed in America. Some of the vehicles from that country proved unsatisfactory, and in an article, "Avoid Truck Trash," published in December, 1914, we urged that the military authorities should appoint experts to view the chassis before ship

inent from the United States. The caterpillar tractor for gun haulage came into prominence in February, 1915; the demand for ambulances became greater and greater, as did that for lorries, whilst vehicles for a wide range of si)eciai purposes, such as uniform disinfectors, trench cleaning pumps and armoured cars, to mention only three of the hundred-and-one varieties, were called for. Then in September, 1916, came the surprise of the war, especially to the enemy—the Tank-of which our description at the time was se heavily censored as to afford but a slight insight into the features of the new war machine. The feverish output of motor lorries continued right up to the end of the war. In November, 1918, we estimated the output had reached no fewer than 280 1 per week, that the number of impressed motors had been 443,500, and the total production of lorries during the war period as 440,000, and these for the British forces alone.

The war, as we all know, was a bitter struggle, but it put the final seal on the supremacy of motor vehicles for all forms of military transport work. For the first post-war year or so the War Office was mainly engaged in re, establishing its equipment on a peace basis. In June, 1920, however, it was announced that a new subsidy scheme was being drawn up, whilst towards the end of 1921 the " mechaiaicalizadon " of Army Divisional training was proposed, and a War Office specification issued fora fast pneumatic-tyred four-speed vehicle of a maximum chassis weight of 29 cwt., to carry a useful load of 30 cwt. and to draw a trailer in moderately flat country. The specification was a big advance in War Office views, but it caused much discussion in manufacturing circles, particularly with regard to the weight limit and the need for four speeds.

Time has, hOwever, proved that the specification was not an impossible one, as is shown by the fact that, before the end of 1923, half a dozen British makers had produced vehicles that , either accorded or were nearly in accordance with the specification, and the number of makes has since been further increased. In August, 1923, the authoritieGissued the subsidy regulations for the 30-cwt. pneumatictyred vehicle, this providing for a subsidy of f40 for each of the first• two years, with a War Office option to extend the payment for a third year in respect of vehicles still in good condition. In March, 1924, the War Office purchased a large fleet of 25-cwt.

vehicles, and in July of that year brought out a simplified subsidy scheme which called for vehicles differing but little from the manufacturers' standard types of 30-cwt. and 2-ton lorries'. Although it stated that preference would be given to those of a lower tare weight • an unladen weight of 351 cwt. was permitted, engines were to be of a minimum of 8,500 c.c. capacity, four speeds were necessary, chain-driven vehicles were barred, whilst an entirely new •departure WRS the favour given to giant 38-in. by 7-in. or 34-in. by 7-in. pneumatic tyres, although vehicles with solid rubber or twin pneumatic tyres would be eligible if the wheels were so designed that the tyres could be changed over to conform to the W.O. regulations. In August, 1924, the subsidy in respect of 30-cwt. vehicles was definitely extended to a three-year

period, whilst of the autumn military • manoeuvres in that year we were able to report marked advances in the methods of employment of motor vehicles by the R.A.S.C.

The manoeuvres of September, 1925, were on a much larger scale than any • held previously since the conclusion of the war, and owing to _this fact some hundreds of lorries driven by civilians had to be hired, although a few fast columns were made up from tire 30-cwt. vehicles on pneumatic tyres actually owned by the Army. Much use was alSo made of hauling and personnelcarrying chain-track machines known as "dragons," high-speed Tanks and that remarkable joint product of the War Office and Thornycrofts, the Hathi tractor, with four-wheel drive, powerful winding drum and eight speeds in the forward direction.

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