Bedford RL GS / 52 EL 20

A collection of images of a Bedford RL logistics truck (52 EL 20) taken on the grounds at Caldicot Castle.

The Bedford RL was based on the civilian Bedford SCL 7-ton truck and over 74,000 were built between the 1950s and the 1970s during which time it became the British forces’ main medium truck before being gradually replaced by the Bedford MK/MJ series.

All photos were taken on May 6th 2017
Photos: Tony Wilkins


Advertisements

Military Land Rovers from Fortress Wales 2015

Land Rover Series III Army camouflage

Peek-a-Boo! A heavily camouflaged Land Rover 109-inch Series III


Land Rover Series III Lightweight

It’s not a Jeep! Committed Land Rover enthusiasts will no doubt headbutt you if you call it a Jeep. The so-called Lightweight Land Rover (sometimes referred to as Half-Ton Land Rover or Airportable Land Rover) was a stripped down version of the short wheelbase Series III Land Rover. The reduction was intended to allow the vehicle to be carried as an underslung load by a Westland Wessex helicopter.


Communications Land Rover Defenders

There were two Land Rover Defenders configured as communication vehicles at Fortress Wales 2015. These vehicles would normally have a crew of two and would be used to relay communications between the area headquarters and the frontline troops.

The owner of the older vehicle was kind enough to talk me through some of the equipment inside the vehicle.

 

 

Photographic Targets of Opportunity

It was a rather drizzly Monday morning and I found myself travelling on the M4 between Newport and Chepstow after taking my wife to the dentist to have a tooth removed. Then suddenly in the distance I spotted three rather large trucks and on the back of these trucks were Challenger II tanks.

Despite the left side of her face feeling very numb my ever loving (alternatively “ever suffering”) wife took out her phone and snapped a few pictures for me to share on the site. Taking pictures of moving vehicles in a moving vehicle is difficult at the best of times but she did well and I am sure I will be making it up to her somehow. To top it off she then added a short video which I have posted on the Facebook page.


Battlecruisers

HMS Hood

HMS Hood – arguably the most famous Battlecruiser

The term “Battlecruiser” was a classification of warship that emerged in the early 1900s. At the time the Battleship was the epitome of sea power and in the build up to World War One a rapid arms race saw the building of bigger and better battleships culminating in the all-big gun Dreadnoughts. Battleships were the spiritual successors of the old Ship-of-the-line and had heavy firepower and armour but this resulted in a significantly reduced top speed compared to other types of warships such as Cruisers.

Admiral FisherIn 1905, Baron John Fisher of the Royal Navy was appointed Admiral of the Fleet and immediately set about implementing his own ideas of how warships should not only be used but built. He proposed building a warship that would have the equivalent firepower of a Battleship but have the speed and agility of a Cruiser. In the 1900s this could only realistically be achieved by sacrificing armour in order to reduce the ship’s weight. Fisher argued that the resulting warship would be able to outgun any Cruiser that could catch it and outrun any Battleship that could challenge it. Effectively the new type would have the best of both types and so the term “Battle(ship)cruiser” was coined. The Battlecruiser would therefore operate in small squadrons or flotillas independent of the main fleet and its slower Battleships and wage war against patrol vessels, destroyers, cruisers and merchant ships.

Fisher’s vision was realized in the Invincible-class launched in 1908 and considered by many to be the first Battlecruiser. In reality it was the first purpose built Battlecruiser as there had been several ships built previously that would later fall in to the category of Battlecruiser. This included the Japanese Tsukuba-class built a year earlier and was originally categorized as a Battleship but its performance was more in line with the newer warship type.

At the time of the launch of the Invincible-class the Dreadnoughts were the undisputed kings of the seas. Fisher compared the performance of the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought to his first Battlecruiser and was pleased with the results. Both vessels were armed with 12inch guns, eight in Invincible and ten in Dreadnought, but Invincible was faster by around 5 knots. This gave the ship the ability to sail away from any unfavourable action with the more powerful warship. In a one-on-one engagement it seemed Fisher had been proven right and he therefore instigated a building program of several new classes of Battlecruiser. Germany and France had seen the advantage of this type of vessel too and began building their own Battlecruisers. The Battlecruiser was here to stay it seemed.

HMS Invincible

HMS Invincible – the first purpose built Battlecruiser

As the Battlecruiser became a regular sight in the ranks of the Royal Navy an unexpected problem was creeping in totally unnoticed. The new Battlecruisers looked every bit as powerful as their Battleship counterparts but with an ability to steam faster they developed an aura of prestige. This resulted in overconfidence in their effectiveness and the almost total ignorance of their lack of armour. Some even argued that the Battlecruiser was superior to the Battleship thanks to its agility and should be used to attack the lumbering Dreadnoughts. Even Fisher who had conceived of their use fell in to this trap.

With the outbreak of war in 1914 the Battlecruiser was about to have its finest hour in the Battle of the Falkland Islands when Admiral Graf von Spee commanded a flotilla that attempted to destroy the Royal Navy supply base at Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands. His flotilla consisted of two armoured cruisers, two light cruisers and three auxiliaries. The British Battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible dashed south with a few support ships and battled von Spee’s force on the 8th December 1914. The result was an overwhelming success for the Battlecruisers that outgunned anything in the German flotilla. The Germans lost all but one of their ships, a single auxiliary survived the encounter, while the Royal Navy ships suffered only light damage.

Seydlitz Battlecruiser

Germany’s SMS Seydlitz – one of the best Battlecruisers of the war

This action was precisely what the Battlecruiser was designed for but it only furthered the myth of the Battlecruiser’s power however and by the time of the Battle of Jutland on the 31st of May 1916 Battlecruisers were being used the same as Battleships. This was true for Britain, France and Germany and it would have disastrous results as most of the major casualties at Jutland on both sides were Battlecruisers. One of the best Battlecruisers of the entire war was Germany’s SMS Seydlitz and it survived one of the heaviest bombardments of any ship that destroyed most of the machinery and superstructure. Only a truly Herculean effort by the crew saved the ship and she returned home to be repaired and then eventually scuttled after the war. While the battle was a success for the Royal Navy it had shattered the Admiralty’s belief in the Battlecruiser concept and priority now switched back to building Battleships.

The end of World War One saw the end of the term Battlecruiser, at least in new ships, with HMS Hood being the last British Battlecruiser. Vessels of a similar nature continued to be built however especially in light of the Washington Treaty of 1922 which limited warship displacement and armament. This saw the era of the pocket-Battleship which had the firepower, speed and armour (in varying degrees) of a full Battleship but were smaller than their World War One predecessors. The entire Battlecruiser concept was eventually negated by the arrival of so-called Fast Battleships that were fully fledged Battleships that were powered by new steam turbine engines that produced speeds equivalent to the Battlecruisers.

Kirov class battlecruiser

Kirov-class Battlecruiser

In a bizarre twist however the Battlecruiser was resurrected albeit in a totally new concept in 1980 with the appearance of the awe-inspiring Kirov-class in the Soviet Navy. There has been no western equivalent to this incredible surface combatant that combined the displacement of a Battlecruiser with a bewildering array of weaponry ranging from close-in gatling guns right the way up to nuclear armed surface-to-surface missiles. The Soviet and Russian navies have never really been able to adequately explain the thinking behind this incredible vessel although it was likely expected to battle its way through a carrier groups’ defences and fire its long range missile at the carriers. Arguments rage even today over just how successful this class of ship would have been had the Cold War turned hot in the 1980s. Perhaps an important lesson is to be applied from the history of the Battlecruiser in that while the Kirovs looked impressive their effectiveness in a modern (perhaps even nuclear) war might not be as hoped.

Forgotten Aircraft: Avro Lincoln

Lincoln - Lanc successort

The Avro Lancaster is an aircraft that has earned itself a glorious place in the annals of aviation history. It was a superb night bomber in its basic form and in its many modified forms it was able to undertake a wide variety of specialist missions including carrying the 22,000lb Grand Slam bomb; the largest conventional weapon dropped from an aircraft in World War II. Given the scale of this legacy it is not surprising therefore that the immediate replacement for the Lancaster has gone largely forgotten.

Work on a heavily upgraded Lancaster actually began in 1943 but the changes became so numerous that it warranted its own in-house designation by Avro as the Type 964 and this was followed by the Royal Air Force who named the aircraft the Lincoln (continuing the tradition of naming bombers after British and Commonwealth cities). The new bomber featured a redesigned wing with increased span and aspect ratio balanced out by a lengthened fuselage. Power came from four of the proven Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in their Merlin 85 guise that produced 1,750hp each. The new airframe coupled with these engines allowed the aircraft to fly faster, higher and further than the Lancaster B.I that was still the mainstay of the RAF bomber force.

Perhaps the most significant improvement over the Lancaster came in the form of defensive armament. Gone were the .303 machine guns that proved too short in range and lacking in punch especially when facing the heavily armed Junkers Ju88 and Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighters with their long ranged cannon armament. The Lincoln was instead given four 50.cal heavy machine guns mounted in pairs in the nose and tail turrets while the dorsal turret was given a pair of 20mm cannons. The tail position had the capability to utilize a primitive air-intercept radar to aid with targeting during night combat; a system that was first used quite successfully on the Lancaster. Offensive armament came in the form of a maximum 14,000lb bombload although it was not beyond the realm of possibility to modify the airframe for some of the Lancaster’s special roles such as the 22,000lbs ‘Grand Slam’ bomb. The Lincoln had an improved Mark IV H2S blind bombing radar that was fitted to some later Lancasters.

Lincoln 1

Delays in the aircraft’s development as a result of technical and material difficulties meant that the aircraft’s expected in-service date kept getting put back. The first prototype made its maiden flight in June 1944 with a second prototype complete with defensive armament flying in November 1944. Production was initiated on the first of a predicted 2,254 airframes shortly after but by then there were those in the Air Ministry questioning the wisdom of such a large order. The war in Europe was now strongly in favour of the Allies and the RAF’s Lancasters and Halifaxes were striking with increased impunity (and increasingly in daylight hours for greater accuracy following the achievement of Allied air superiority). Therefore the advantages offered by the new Lincoln were no longer such a high priority so plans were made for the aircraft to be made available for the Tiger Force; the RAF’s detachment expected to transfer to the Pacific theatre to join the fight against Japan. More delays both with the aircraft and Tiger Force itself meant that again the Lincoln missed its baptism of fire in World War II when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

Lincoln 5gDespite the original plan for the 2,354 airframes, only 537 were completed with production split between Avro and several sub-contractors which was common with wartime aircraft production. Not being able to make its mark on World War II the aircraft was relegated to an almost transitionary role in that it provided the RAF with a link in performance between World War II-era propeller driven bombers and the new Canberra jet bombers. There were two variants that served in the RAF these being the B.I and the B.II. These were essentially the same aircraft but differed in their powerplants with the B.II being fitted with American-built Packard Merlins to ease the pressure on Rolls-Royce production. Performance was identical and the designation change was for bureaucratic purposes only.

The Lincoln would eventually see combat with the RAF firstly bombing rebel Yemeni tribesmen from bases in Aden in 1947. In Malaysia the aircraft flew against Communist insurgents beginning in March 1950. The Lincolns lacked the technology necessary to carry out precision attacks deep in the jungle and with the aircraft’s impending obsolescence the RAF was unwilling to upgrade them. Instead traditional visual bombing techniques were used with mixed success. With very little anti-aircraft weapons available to the insurgents the Lincolns were free to fly as low as 5,000ft when carrying out attacks where they achieved quite accurate results when armed with just a single 4,000lb bomb. The aircraft also carried out strafing attacks against terrorist camps often with the support of single engined aircraft.

Lincoln 5eThe Lincoln is perhaps best known for its role in Kenya where the aircraft fought against the Mau Mau tribesmen where its design heritage resulted in a case of mistaken identity by British journalists who wrongly reported that they were Lancasters not Lincolns. The Lincolns were used to bomb Mau Mau positions in a somewhat confused operational plan. The RAF were trying to destroy the insurgents as per their mission in Kenya but the British government insisted that all bombing missions be preceded by leaflet drops warning of the impending attack in order to limit civilian casualties. The nomadic Mau Mau tribesmen often simply moved their tribe and their weapons away from the target which meant the Lincoln’s primary contribution to the campaign was to blow very large holes in the Kenyan countryside. However when actual strongholds or bases were located a single engined type would fly in and mark the target for a pair of Lincolns that would then carpet bomb the area. Despite the operational difficulties encountered such as ill-prepared base facilities and the problem with dust in the engines (eventually necessitating new dust filters to be fitted) the Lincoln was a powerful weapon available to the British.

The only ever combat loss of a Lincoln occurred on the 12th March 1953 when Avro Lincoln RF531 was shot down by a Russian MiG-15 over East Germany. The aircraft was exercising the RAF’s right to fly through the air corridors to Berlin when it was intercepted and fired upon. The entire crew were killed in the resulting crash and it sparked the practice of further flights by RAF and USAF aircraft to Berlin and back carrying live rounds in their defensive armament thus increasing the chances of further incidents in what was already a very tense situation.

Lincoln 5fThe last Lincolns were withdrawn from RAF service in 1963, the aircraft forever lived in the shadow of its Lancaster forebear and the new futuristic jet bombers such as the Canberra and Vickers Valiant. It did serve a useful purpose however in that it meant that the leaner post-war RAF had a new-build aircraft that incorporated all the lessons of that conflict even if those lessons were now somewhat irrelevant in the conflicts the RAF found itself. Perhaps the biggest contribution the Lincoln had to the RAF was to provide a design basis for the far more successful Avro Shackleton series of maritime patrol and airborne early warning aircraft the latter of which remained in RAF service until 1991.

  • Role: Strategic Bomber
  • Crew: 7 (pilot, flight engineer/co-pilot, navigator, wireless operator, front gunner/bomb aimer, dorsal and rear gunners)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 85 V piston engine, 1,750 hp each
  • Maximum speed: 319 mph at 18,800ft
  • Cruise speed: 215 mph at 20,000 ft
  • Range: 2,930 miles empty. 1,470 miles with full bombload.
  • Service ceiling: 30,500 ft (9,296 m)
  • Rate of climb: 800 ft/min (245 m/min)
  • Length: 78 ft 3½ in (23.86 m)
  • Wingspan: 120 ft (36.58 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 3½ in (5.27 m)
  • Wing area: 1,421 ft² (132.01 m²)
  • Empty weight: 43,400 lb (19,686 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 75,000 lb (34,020 kg)
  • Maximum take-off weight: 82,000 lb

Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (1914 Pattern)

AC2

…more valuable than rubies

Col. T.E. Lawrence
“Lawrence of Arabia” describing the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car

The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car was the first ever Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) to enter production for the British armed forces pre-dating the tank by nearly two years. However the way in which it came about was not so much through a government issued requirement or even the Army for that matter but actually the Royal Navy. A handful of Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts served with a Royal Naval Air Squadron unit based in France and in August 1914 these were used to assist the RNAS’ aircraft in spotting the German advance. The only defence came from a 0.3 cal machine gun and the men driving these vehicles obviously felt very vulnerable because soon they began welding pieces of iron boilers on to the sides to give some level protection from enemy bullets. Thus the first armoured Rolls-Royces came in to existence.

AC1

These early armoured cars were still open topped vehicles like the car it was based on which meant that if the crew found themselves caught by enemy fire they were forced to duck down while they tried to make good their escape. Although rudimentary, the Admiralty were quite taken by the initiative of their officers and engineers and so established a committee to investigate the concept further and establish an improved and properly manufactured version offering all round protection. The result was the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (1914 Pattern). This finally offered all-round protection for the crew from small arms fire and the build quality was naturally higher. Mechanically the vehicle was identical to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost using all the same running gear and suspension and as proof of how much importance was placed on the new vehicle all of the chassis and components for civilian Silver Ghosts were requisitioned by the War Office.

AC3

Just 120 vehicles would be built for the Royal Naval Air Service and their usefulness would be later recognised by the Army who ordered upgraded vehicles in the post war period. More vehicles were desired by the RNAS during the war but Rolls-Royce found themselves in such demand for aero engines that it lacked the facilities to meet demand for both and so the war in the air was given priority. Although born out of the fighting on the Western Front it would be in Africa and the Middle East where it would distinguish itself. Superb reliability for the time coupled with great agility and reasonably good protection (there were few infantry weapons available in World War I that could destroy any armoured vehicle) produced a war winning vehicle. Its reliability was proven dramatically by Commander Locker-Lampson and his force that operated on the Russian Front achieving extraordinarily high mileage for the day with very little support from the UK.

Rolls Royce specifications (1914 Pattern)

  • Dimensions: 194 in x 76 in x 100 in (4.93 x 1.93 x 2.54 m)
  • Total weight: 4.7 tons (9400 lbs)
  • Crew: 3 (commander, driver, machine-gunner)
  • Propulsion: 6-cylinder petrol, water-cooled 80 hp (60 kW), 19 hp/t
  • Suspensions: 4 x 2 leaf springs
  • Speed: 45 mph (72 kph)
  • Range: 150 miles (240 km)
  • Armament: 1 x Vickers Water cooled cal.303 (7.62 mm) machine gun
  • Armour: 12 mm (0.47 in)
  • Total production: 120

Vector 6×6 Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV)

Vector1

The Vector Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV) is a six-wheel drive armoured vehicle employed by British forces during operations in Afghanistan. The vehicle is based on the Pinzgauer 6×6 all-terrain utility vehicle and was built by BAE Systems with the aim of providing British forces in Afghanistan with a patrol vehicle that offered greater protection from small arms fire and mortar detonations than previous vehicles such as the Land Rover Snatch. The vehicle was placed in to production following an Urgent Operational Requirement issued by the British Army in 2006. 180 units were eventually ordered including 12 configured as ambulances for the CASEVAC role.

Vector 2The vehicle retains the same basic chassis and motive components as the Pinzgauer thus easing logistical support requirements as the infrastructure is already largely in place. The armoured shell comes largely in the form of kevlar panels fitted around the vehicle’s body while the windows are made of laminated ballistic resistant glass. In many ways the Vector is the spiritual successor of vehicles like the Saxon armoured truck which was essentially a Bedford M-series truck with an armoured body. Additionally the vehicle was fitted with a a radio jammer designed to disrupt the ability of insurgents to detonate Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by wireless remote.

The Vector has a top road speed of 65mph and has a range of approximately 700 miles but this can be extended with the fitting of additional fuel tanks for extended endurance patrols. It is powered by a 109hp diesel engine that meets European emission requirements. It is normally operated by a crew of two with up to four fully armed troops in the rear compartment on blast resistant seats. Alternatively up to 1600kg of supplies can be carried internally and externally to support the patrols or resupply forward positions.

Vector 3In Afghanistan the vehicle was used primarily for urban and rural patrolling where it could expect to get caught up in close quarters combat with insurgents. Unfortunately the vehicle’s protection proved less than ideal against the latest IEDs although it has to be remembered that it was still an improvement over the Land Rovers used previously. It could protect reasonably well against small arms fire but their poor under-belly armour made them too vulnerable to roadside bombs. Also their standard Pinzgauer suspension proved unable to cope with the extra weight of the armoured body and electronic countermeasures equipment fitted in the conversion. Combining this with a shortage of spares (something that shouldn’t have happened since the Pinzgauer vehicle it was based on was in widespread service), the Vectors serviceability rates fell below 60% in 2008 and later that year it was withdrawn from service after just two years on the frontlines.