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The Machinery Lorry in Canadian Service

The Machinery Lorry in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review March 2011 Title The Machinery Lorry in Canadian Service
Author Doug Knight Publisher Service Publications
Published 2011 ISBN 1-894581-70-7
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95


When armies transitioned from non-mechanized warfare to mechanical support and more complex equipment, it meant that specialized equipment would be needed and the days of simple supporting elements such as an armorer, ferrier and blacksmith would need to be augmented. World War I saw the need for such specialization to maintain more complex weapons such as artillery pieces with recoil and aiming systems, machine guns, and most importantly, motorized transport and armored fighting vehicles.

Over the years the United States Army developed what it termed five levels of maintenance: 1 - company level; 2 - battalion level; 3 - division level; 4 - corps level; and 5 - depot level. Manuals were keyed to these levels; for example, a manual ending in “-10" or a “dash ten” was the operator’s manual and described what maintenance and servicing he was responsible for; a “-20" the battalion responsibilities, “-30" or “Third Shop” what division ordnance could repair, and then the higher level and eventually depot level maintenance. A “-15" was a parts manual that all echelons could use.

In WWII the Canadian Army was no different, and they eventually developed four echelons of maintenance (a fifth echelon would have been shipping them back to Canada, which was not an option in 1944). Their WWII development began in 1940 when NDHQ in Ottawa issued specifications to Chrysler Canada to develop a prototype mobile machine shop truck. The first efforts were based on commercial vehicles but were deemed too bulky and heavy, as well as pretty much road bound and limited in deployability.

The solution came in the development of a series of vehicles, most of which eventually used either the CMP 15 cwt light 4 x 4 chassis or a 60 cwt medium 4 x 4 or 6 x 6 chassis. Due to the volume of specialization and variety needed, the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and Royal Canadian Army Service Corps had to combine their efforts to field and man the resulting vehicles; in 1944 they were formally combined to form the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME, virtually identical to the British REME and Australian RAEME).

As noted the Canadian forces set them up in four echelons. First echelon covered preventive maintenance and servicing. Second echelon replaced defective parts up to engines and transmissions, usually if repair was faster than replacement. Third echelon covered overhauls and rebuilding of items removed by second echelon maintenance if possible. Fourth echelon was forward area depot repair and rebuilding as well as salvage from combat loss equipment.

The vehicles thus produced to meet these requirements – up to and including two army-level mobile fourth-echelon depot units – were numerous and highly varied. Each received a specific one- or two-letter designator to indicate its function. To add to the confusion, there were six different types of service detachments (A to F) to support units by type: A and B for motorized infantry battalions, C and D for armoured regiments, E for armourer carrier (Kangaroo) regiments and F for the 1st Rocket Battery.

One of the most popular and sought after vehicles was the KL machinery truck. This was a 15 cwt (Ford) truck with an electric arc welder and towing a gas welding trailer.

The Type A Machinery Lorry was a 60 cwt 6 x 6 chassis with a 15 foot long enclosed box body with drop-down workbench and folding sides, which also towed a 9 kWt generator trailer. This was one of the more common vans at second echelon level due to the drill, lathe and grinder it carried. (A 1/35 scale four-view tone drawing of a Type A is the center section of the book).

The book covers the plethora of different vans in detail, so I will not cover them here. But one item of interest does come up when it describes the order directing that 72 redundant self-propelled guns (mostly US M7 Priests) be converted to armoured infantry carriers. A special detachment codenamed “Kangaroo” was formed from the No.2 Canadian Tank Troops Workshop near Beyeaux, France, and began work on 2 August. Later complaints by the Royal Canadian Navy were filed that they were stripping steel plate from grounded landing craft to use in the conversion, rendering the craft useless for further operations. The resulting carriers were thus nicknamed “Kangaroos” which is how they are remembered today.

Later the Canadian Army dropped the term “machinery lorry” for the US term “shop van” and today they use US M109 series vans for this purpose.

Overall this is a fascinating look into how armies arrange to maintain and support their forces in the field, and for modelers who like to do diorama work there are a lot of interesting and motivating shots of field workshops in the book.

Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.