British Airborne - jeep
mods & trailer details
 

Steering wheel - to get the jeep into a Horsa glider this was made detachable using a wingnut and the horn button relocated to the dashboard, usually to the left of the blackout switch.

Front bumper - the left side had to be cut shorter to the point where it is attached to the chassis brackets also in order to get the vehicle into a Horsa. In practice, the other side was also shortened to maintain a symmetrical appearance. The remaining bumper was then reinforced and a towing hook added for pushing or towing.

Handles and footboard - the side and rear handles were removed together with the right footboard for easier manoeuvrability into a Horsa.

Spade and pickaxe brackets - also removed from the side for the same reason. Two straps were fixed to the front bumper which, together with a clamp for the axe head, were used instead.

Jerrycan holder - this was moved from the rear of the vehicle to between the two front seats. A further two holders were mounted behind the front seats.

Spare wheel - in some cases e.g. Reconnaissance Squadron this was fastened between the bumper and radiator grille to prevent shrapnel damage to the radiator. This was not a universal modification as it easily led to overheating. For the Reconnaissance Squadron a Vickers "K" gun mount was also added at the upper part of the dashboard although the gun was not always carried.

Gun clips - in addition to the usual clip above the dashboard a gun clip for a Lee Enfield was mounted on the hood in front of the driver and a further one was mounted at the right mud guard.

stretcher frame in stowed position pannier carrier in stowed position

Stretcher brackets - these were mounted at the front to carry an Airborne pattern stretcher across the hood and at the rear a foldable construction was mounted to carry another if required. Brackets were mounted on the back of each seat to take the handles.

Carriers - the following were added for various uses according to unit.

  • A rectangular frame on top of the hood for various items including ammunition.

  • Bumper & grille mounted straps to carry ammo boxes.

  • Bumper mounted cable drum holders

  • Pannier carrier mounted at the rear of the vehicle.

  • Battery carriers (radio vehicles) were mounted on top of each front mud guard, in front of the passenger seat and at the rear of the vehicle which included an aerial mounting.

Radio jeeps - apart from the battery carriers already mentioned, other modifications included:

  • Screened and suppressed electric's.

  • The left rear mudguard was lowered to take a No. 76 radio set. The lowering was necessary to get the vehicle in an out of a glider.

  • A remote control unit and spare valve case were mounted on the opposite rear mudguard.

  • In some cases the passenger seat was removed to make way for a 2-stroke generator for charging the batteries.

Lighting - as with most British operated jeeps the black-out driving light on the left front mudguard was removed and the side lights in the grill were replaced with smaller units mounted on each mudguard. This ensured that they complied with British traffic regulations and were not concealed behind equipment carried on the front of the vehicle. The two standard headlamps were usually replaced by a single British style blackout headlight on the driver's side.

Loading / lashing - diagram for Airborne jeep and trailer in a Horsa glider. Both the jeep and trailer had a yellow vertical line to indicate the centre of gravity painted on the driver's side (left) so that it could be correctly positioned in the glider.

Trailers - lightweight trailers were developed and built for the Airborne Forces mostly by REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers). These were a disposable item often with a plywood body, little or no suspension and sometimes even used motorcycle wheels. They were used to carry ammunition, supplies or specialised equipment which included:

  • 5kW 110V generator.

  • Tool trailer with lathe, two electric portable drills and a double grindstone.

  • Signal generator communication equipment.

  • Electric repair trailer with various equipment including distilled water maker.

  • Welding trailer with both oxy-acetylene and 250 amp electric equipment.

  • Air compressor.

  • 28" engine driven circular saw.

  • Signals trailer with radio, generator and stores.

Paint & Markings - By D-Day it is generally believed that most, if not all, British Airborne jeeps were green without disruptive camouflage. The W.D. registration number (census number) which began with an 'M' was hand painted or stencilled on the side of the bonnet and the rear of the vehicle in pale blue.

The division sign, Bellerophone riding Pegasus, was displayed on the front and rear. Tactical signs used by units were sometimes painted on the bumpers or square plates.

For air recognition the big white five pointed star in a circle was painted on the bonnet usually with a smaller white star on each side of the jeep above the rear side reflector.

A yellow circular bridge classification plate was mounted on the front, usually over the passenger side headlamp position. The weight classification in tons was painted on this in black either as a single number or, if the vehicle towed a trailer, two numbers one above the other with a dividing line (like a fraction). The upper number recorded the weight with trailer, the lower without. Most jeeps were classified 3/2 but photos show some as 2/1.

Radio Sets - It is known that Wireless Set No. 22 was used by British Troops during the Normandy landings both as a portable set or vehicle mounted. A general purpose H.F. transceiver operating on 2 - 8 MHz. , it had a range of 10 miles (Radio Telephony - voice transmission) or 20 miles (Continuous Wave - Morse transmission) when used with a 12 foot rod aerial. Whether or not any were fitted to Airborne jeeps I am unable to say at present.

 

The 22 Set (above left) was replaced in 1945 by Wireless Set No. 62 shown above right. It was an improved version with an extended frequency range of 1.6 - 10 MHz. Although not hermetically sealed, this set could stand immersion in water for 5 minutes, and would float together with 20 lb. extra load! The No. 62 Set was first used by British Airborne forces at the Battle of the Rhine Crossing in 1945.

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