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The 1935 Armoured Car in Canadian Service

The 1935 Armoured Car in Canadian Service Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review September 2005 Title The 1935 Armoured Car in Canadian Service
Author Roger V. Lucy Publisher Service Publications
Published 2005 ISBN 1-894581-28-8
Format 24 pages, softbound MSRP (CDN) $9.95


Everybody has to start somewhere - that's somewhat fatuous, but a true statement when you consider how technology became inculcated in modern societies. This little book from Canada, part of the continuing and excellent series from Service Publications, covers a truly obscure armored vehicle which appears to have been the seminal armored vehicle produced in Canada .

During the 1930s, the USA , UK , and Germany were dabbling with new armored vehicle designs, the French were determining the direction in which they wanted to move, and only the USSR was plowing away full steam on developing and building armored vehicles. Canada too decided to dip its toe into the waters of modern armored combat, and the option they chose was the creation of a heavy armored car. It must be noted that it was proposed in 1927, but it was 1932 before any action was taken on that proposal. Mechanization had begun in 1929, and the natural place to turn was to Ford ( Canada ) and GM ( Canada ) as they had both the expertise in mechanicals and the production capability to carry this out.

Between 1932 and 1935, both companies proceeded to work on candidate vehicles to meet the proposal for a 6 x 4 heavy armored car armed with two .303 machine guns, and in 1935 prototype designs emerged. Based on a 1931 Crossley 6 x 4 Light Armoured Car design, the chassis chosen were the Ford BB 4 x 4 truck chassis and the Chevrolet Maple Leaf 4 x 4, both of which had a 131" wheelbase. Input was received from the War Office in London as to designs of some components, specifically the turrets, but the rest was of Canadian design.

While the Ford prototype had no problems in conversion to the dual rear axle (similar to the Ford Model AAA truck design, but using a Sussex bogie modified to become what was called the Warford axle bogie) GM (Canada) did not have a bogie unit, and had to purchase one from Leyland to meet the specifications. Most of the haggling was over price and not technicalities, and the vehicles were delivered to Petawawa , Ontario , for testing in May 1935.

Both were similar, but the Ford design wound up being a 10 wheel design whereas the GM one used six large "balloon" tires. Both used stub axles with free rolling mounts located between the front wheels and the first bogie axle. Both underwent two years of mechanical testing before their machine guns showed up in 1937, one mounted in the armored windscreen in front of the co-driver and one in the rotating UK designed turret. Both provided valuable information, but were deemed obsolete by 1939. While kept around for training, once the units they were attached to deployed to the UK for wartime service, they seem to have vanished from Canadian service and appear to have been scrapped after 1941.

The concept is interested to compare with the Soviet BA-3/6/10 series armored cars, which used the similar Ford AAA chassis, stub axles, and rotating turret, but with a 45mm gun and coaxial machine gun. These cars were used until 1942 in the west and later in the east, but it shows that the Canadians weren't that far off the mark in 1935.

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