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Vehicles Used By The Home Front

Discussion in 'The Home Front' started by Jim, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    After the withdrawal of British and French forces from Dunkirk in June 1940, there was a real threat that the Germans would invade Britain once France had been defeated. There was a great shortage of AFVs in Britain as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had left all its heavy equipment behind so an urgent programme of rearmament was started. In the meantime, a number of makeshift designs were used, based on standard civilian saloon cars and trucks.

    Two 762kg/15cwt civilian vehicles converted for the use of the Home Defence Force in 1940. Each vehicle has a crew of three, one driver and two for the single machine-gun mounted in the open-topped rear.

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    Many Home Guard units produced their own armoured cars. Some were very good and would have performed well against the enemy, but most were death traps to their users and would have been all too easily brushed aside by the Germans. One unit based at Chiswick in London converted several buses, by removing the bus bodywork and replacing it with a steel shell that had several firing slits in it. These unorthodox armoured cars and trucks were officially discouraged by the high command as they did not fit into the designated role of the Home Guard and the use of these unsupported AFVs would have been a disaster. Two of the better armoured cars were the Beaverette and the Humberette, based on the standard Humber Super Snipe chassis, built at the insistence of Lord Beaverbrook (the Beaverette was named after him).

    A Humber saloon car converted for the Home Guard. Six men could be carried in the vehicle. The windows have been removed and replaced with metal plates with a firing slit cut in them.

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    Sir Malcolm Campbell, the land and water world speed record holder, was the provost company commander of the 56th London Division, Home Defence Force, and he designed and then built the prototype of the Dodge armoured car which was unofficially known as the "Malcolm Campbell" car. Seventy of these were built by Briggs Motor Bodies of Dagenham and were ready by the end of August 1940. To increase the firepower of these cars and trucks, the Home Guard would often fit captured German machine-guns from crashed bombers to their vehicles, the only problem being fresh supplies of ammunition! Some units managed to get hold of a few World War I 6pdr tank guns and fitted them to the Malcolm Campbell cars.

    A Bedford 1,524kg/30cwt truck converted and issued to the British Army in 1940. This vehicle was called a Lorry Armoured Anti-Tank as the vehicle carried a Boys anti-tank rifle and light machine-guns.

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    "Armadillos" were a large group of AFVs designed and built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) workshop at Wolverton. Several prototypes were developed using different types of boiler plate as armour, but these were rejected in favour of a wooden box structure. The wooden box armour was made up as a sandwich with 76mm/3in wooden planks front and back, with a 152mm/6in thick filling of gravel between the planks.

    A heavy truck chassis has been used for this large armoured infantry carrier. This conversion has been carried out by the LMS workshops. It carried a crew of two plus an infantry section of ten men.

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    The box had an open top with an AA machine-gun mount and all-round armoured firing slits in the sides, and was bolted to the flat bed of many different types of truck. It was proof against small arms fire but nothing else. The cab had the glass removed and mild steel plate inserted which gave the driver some protection but was not bullet-proof. Some 700 Armadillos of three different marks were built. Concrete was also used as armour on several types of truck, known as "Bison". These were bullet-proof and proof against small antitank rounds and were basically concrete pillboxes mounted on truck flat beds. The Beaver Eel, known to the RAF as "Tender, Armoured, Leyland Type C", was built by Leyland for the protection of aircraft factories and airfields.

    A civilian 1,524kg/30cwt truck converted into an armoured car in 1940. It has been named "Flossie" by the crew. The vehicle had a crew of eight and was armed with a single light machine-gun and small arms. Only the driver's position was equipped with a visor.

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    These vehicles were based on the Leyland Retriever 3-ton truck and by the end of September 1940, Leyland had produced 250 and LMS 86 of this type. The last major conversion type was the Bedford type OXA which was officially the "Lorry, 30cwt, Armoured Anti-Tank, Bedford". These had a custom-made armoured cab and body for the truck and were fitted with the Boys anti-tank rifle and several machine-guns. All these truck conversions could take up to five men in the fighting compartment and some of the larger conversions could take a full section of ten men.

    A Humber Saloon car being used by the British Home Guard in 1940. This car has had a hatch cut in the roof above the passenger's seat and a larger removable hatch over the rear section so the men in the back could stand up and fire from the car.

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    By the summer of 1942 as the threat of invasion diminished and more conventional vehicles were available, all the truck conversions had reverted back to their normal role, and the light armoured cars were by now relegated to airfield defence, some even being passed over to the American 8th Air Force.
     

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