Motor Battalions in NWE - a mix of White scout cars and halftracks?

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Gary Kennedy, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Some posts on a couple of other forums reminded me of an outstanding query I have re British Motor Bn transport, which I will need to address if I can keep going with my website redux.

    When the Motor Bns appeared in 1938 their Motor Coys and Pls used the normal range of 8-cwt and 15-cwt trucks as found throughout the Army. In 1943 a new WE was issued for units in Home Forces, which was used by the Motor Bns in 21 Army Group. This identified the truck, 15-cwt, 4x4, personnel, as the transport for the Motor Secs/Pls and the two Motor Coy HQ command vehicles.

    Progress Bulletin (Infantry) of July 1943 includes an outline of the new organization and adds these comments;

    "Motor Platoons - These still consist of Headquarters and three Sections, but armoured white scout cars for the carriage of personnel have been included in the new WE and will be issued when available."

    "Vehicles - White Scout cars are at present in short supply owing to prior demands from other sources, but these vehicles have been included in the WE as it is considered that they are the most suitable for the movement of personnel into forward battle areas. It is anticipated that the supply position will have improved by the end of this year (1943) and that it will be possible to meet all demands in early 1944."

    We know from unit histories and memoirs and photos that by June 1944, the Motor Bns were equipped with US halftracks (both M5 and M9 variants if I recall). Without getting too enmeshed in the detail, I had wondered whether some wheeled White scout cars were retained for in Motor Coy HQs and Bn HQs. I've seen some diagrams of Motor Bns, which though themselves straying somewhat from the WE, portray other vehicles than halftracks in Coy HQ command spots.

    I have pestered the Rifles Museum quite a lot over the years, and they've found me some great information, but oddly the really detailed stuff always seem to be missing when it comes to Motor Bns. I wondered if any of the War Diary collectors might have notice any comments from units on when they received their halftracks and how many wheeled Whites they displaced, or mentions of the latter being kept for command roles, or being more amenable to fitting a No.19 set in.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

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  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    In theory White scout cars or half tracks could replace 4 x 2 15 cwt. I suspect that if the unit is intended to follow tanks then it would be desirable to have as much as possible of the fighting echelon, including HQ vehicles on tracks. Its a PIA for some important company HQ vehicle to have to take a different route when the rest of the company follows a rutted lumpy tank track. For motor battalions I expect that half tracks are more use than the wheeled scout car, which had a poor cross country performance.

    That does not mean to say that given the choice between an unarmoured 15 cwt and a scout car the scout car was better in a forward area. There may have been another factor at play. Units could barter, or steal equipment that did not appear in the establishment.
  3. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Gary, I have had the same experience researching the Motor Battalions. The problem is that the half tracks were not classed as AFV's so aren't documented/audited in the same details as armoured assets. The Motor Bn. requirement was for a Truck, 15cwt, Armoured. From 1942 this was meant to be the delayed Canadian designed and built APC. M3 Scout Cars and Half Tracks filling in until available. Substitute status also degraded the documentation.

    My considered conclusion is that by April/May1944 front-line Motor Battalions were equipped with M5/M9/M14 half tracks in the Motor Platoons. HQ and specialist roles - comms., Ambulance, etc - may have included some Scout Cars however Half Tracks were available for these roles. Anecdotally the Half Track was favoured and became ubiquetous - I know 1 Grenadier Guards replaced the Lloyd Carriers in the Anti Tank Platoon with M14s before Market Garden.

    The April/May '44 period is important as D Day units were brought up to maximum strength and in some cases exceeding the ToE. This included ensuring preferred/latest vehicle for first wave units. This created a pool of surplus vehicles which cascaded the principle down - thus displaced the odd Scout car pops up in places where a softskin 15cwt truck was in the ToE. E.g. Infantry Brigade or Bn. HQs. Again these are ridiculously hard to pin down as documentation is negligible and photos rare.

    I trust this helps
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  4. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    The 1943 shortage of M3 Scout Cars you mention (the result of 1942 battle experience and the failure of the British/Canadian wheeled APC) was met by a contract to convert the M14 AA Half Track to a general vehicle. This met the demand for APCs for the Motor Bns and included command versions fitted for wireless. As these were only a substitute until the mythical Canadian beast was put into service the manuals, etc., were still couched in general terms. Scout Cars were then available for the other calls on it - ASSU, etc. Unlike the Half Track the M3 Scout Car had been classed and trialled as an AFV so was considered a bit more legit.
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  5. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    The British description for the White Scout Car was "Truck, 15cwt, Armoured Personnel" I also think that the "armoured" part of the name was often omitted. Were there any 4x4 15cwt trucks (Morris C8) around in 1943 or were they all still 4x2? I think the trucks in the 1943WE refer to Whites,
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  6. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    A bit OT but any use of C15TA Armoured Truck in British Motor Bns?
  7. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Didn't the British get mostly International M5 halftracks vs White M3s?
  8. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IMHO yes, M5 was "limited standard" vehicle, so more probable candidate to "export" and Data Book fo Wheeled Vehicles Army Transport 1939-1945 (2nd Edition 1991) gives specs only for M5, M9 and M14 .
  9. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Yes Dave I believe you are correct that the British were mostly supplied with the International Harvester version of the White Halftrack, distinguishable from the rounded corners on the rear of the vehicles.

    The WSC was used quite extensively in NWE but not sure in what numbers or to which units it was supplied. I've recently been trying to track down the British mods to the WSC and have started a thread on this subject over on HMVF, there's also some info on fitting of radios.

    White Scout Car in British use, NWE 1944
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  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    The Internationals also used a much larger OHV International engine vs the White flathead used by the White and Autocar versions.
    The White engine might have been better for the application since it produced the same horsepower and was a lot simpler to produce and maintain.
  11. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    Other than the rounded corners on the rear of the hull and automotive componentry, the IH versions were distinguishable by the front mudguards. These were flat stampings in the IH built vehicles such as the M5/M9 but automotive syle pressings on the M3 that more closely followed the shape of the wheel.

    The M5/M9 was considered "limited standard" by the US Army because it was constructed from 5/16 in homogeneous armour plate and not 1/4 in face hardened armour plate as in the M3. This added weight to the vehicle and rendered it less resistant to 7.92mm armour piercing rounds. So any US vehicles were for training stateside. The rest were available for Lend-Lease. Britain received some 5238 of the 11017 produced with the Soviet Union getting 420 and Canada 20.
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  12. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Thanks all for the replies. I was hoping to come back to the thread sooner, but when I woke up this morning found the house had acquired a moat, which was all the more inconvenient as I don't have a drawbridge. As a result I'm appreciably wetter and somewhat poorer, and have the joy of United Utilities visiting 'sometime' in the next few days (though they are of course not short of work in the meantime). Anyway...

    Particular thanks to ceolredmonger for sharing your thoughts and finds from your own research. I agree, I don't know what it is in particular about Motor Bns, but the detail on their organisational development becomes ever more vague as you approach early 1942. I was hoping there was something in the later editions of PBI that might pick up on the story of their changes in transport pre Normandy, but sadly not.

    I picked up a PDF version of Noel Bell's story of G Company, 8RB, "From the Beaches to the Baltic" a few years ago, in the hopes it would give a bit more insight on the day-to-day running and look of such a subunit. He does mention trucks and halftracks and carriers, and even the authorised scout car gets a shout. He also mentions the acquisition of a No.19 set from 24L (a barter bargain as it seemingly cost just a tin hat). This set he said allowed "both command trucks two No.19 sets apiece". Of course the wireless diagram for a Motor Bn only allowed for one No.19 set per Coy HQ vehicle, but he does say truck rather than halftrack. I think though he flips between the two terms, though he always seems to call his vehicle (identified as O.2 for the 2-in-C) a truck and not a halftrack.

    I did have a play about with some available Canadian figures. In June 1944 they reckoned their total unit entitlements for halftracks was just 72. That actually tallies with the 18 in the WE used by the four Field Regts, RCA, equipped with M7s for the assault landing. The Cdn requirement for armoured trucks, personnel, (as referenced above) was 414, against which they declared 179 held, leaving 235 wanting. Halftracks were in surplus, with 260 held leaving a 188 overhead. A note to the report states that the deficiency in armoured trucks was covered partly by surplus halftracks, with sufficient stocks of one or other received during June 1944.

    The report states that no 15-cwt armoured trucks had been received from Canadian sources by January 1944, so the White scout car was issued pending the armoured truck. Then comes the line "it was decided to adopt the British scale of issue of M14 Half-tracks and White Scout cars"'

    Canadian Military Reports

    Report CMHQ141 refers.

    That does suggest that there was at least a plan outlining the issue of Whites and halftracks to British units in the run up to Normandy. If so, I would suspect it was given in something like a War Office Letter, which are things I'd still like to track down but don't know where they might be in TNA.

    I recently got a PDF of the 'Data book of wheeled vehicles', as things on wheels have long been a source of fear to me, so I thought I'd better try to confront the phobia.

    Re the CT-15 query, from a long ago thread on another forum I think it was certain Canadian units did get them before war's end. Whether any made their way to British Motor Bns I don't know; my instinct is 'no' but given just how tangled the subject is you never know...

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  13. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Thanks Gary!

  14. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    As far as I can tell CT-15 only made Canadian Service. As it was made to a British requirement some production was delivered to Britain. As, ironically, there were lots of White SC and Half tracks sloshing around they don't appear until post-war in some TA units as the Wheeled Armoured Infantry units came on stream with Saracen et. al.
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  15. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Thanks ceolredmonger!

  16. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I'm resurrecting an old thread because I seem to have stumbled across confirmation of what I'd asked about.

    Canadian Military Headquarters, London : T-17896 - Image 152 - Héritage (

    The above contains a lot of correspondence on the use of both the White scout car (M3A1, four-wheeled) and the various types of halftrack (M5, M9 and M14), primarily in Canadian units but also in 21 Army Group more generally. It is not an easy trail of correspondence to follow and does include a lot of amendment and requests for clarification. My favourite bit (aside from the tables of course) is the quote "The requirement for 1/2 tracks and 15 cwt armoured personnel carriers 4 x 4 is NOT well portrayed by present War Establishments...the situation has been further confused by the fact that "White Scout Cars" were at one time spoken of as meaning either 4 x 4 vehicles or 1/2 tracks". Amen.

    Canadian Military Headquarters, London : T-17896 - Image 275 - Héritage (

    The latest document showing unit entitlements appears to be have been issued quite late on, March 1944, and was still being amended into April.

    Canadian Military Headquarters, London : T-17896 - Image 235 - Héritage (

    It does at least specify halftracks, and not wheeled Whites, for the Motor Battalion, total 53, as per the WE (hurrah). Generally speaking the 1943 RA and RAC WE tables do refer to halftracks, while the 1943 Motor Bn and the Recce Regt WEs state trucks, 4x4, personnel, even though they were all authorised halftracks.

  17. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Some people reading this thread might be interested in the following page of my 8th Rifle Brigade (11th Amoured Division's Motor Bn.) website: Vehicles and weapons - 8th Rifle Brigade. There are quite a few half track photos in it.

    And maybe this bit of text from the 8RB War Diary is of interest:
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  18. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    That is interesting, thank you. An old document I had, seemingly drafted by a cadet back in 1943, refers to White scout cars, as does the paragraph in PBI from July 1943. I wonder if the other Motor Bns in 21AG remarked on the changeover in their WDs, and if so in equally matter of fact manner!

  19. Great find!
    Does the War Diary mention anywhere what type they were (M5A1 or M9A1)?


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