Summer of 44

1944 Ford GPW, British Airborne Pattern

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Copyright ?2000, All rights Reserved. Summer of 44 Living History Group.


Over the past few years I have been tracing the history of my Jeep. I have been fortunate to enough to discover much about its past. The following account is what I have found....
Built on May 25th 1942, by the Ford Motor Corporation USA. It was chassis number GPW 33882. The Jeep was ordered by the United States Government under contract number W -308-QM-11424 , at a cost price of $ 925. The vehicle was sent to the British Government under the Lend - Lease Agreement, on contract Supply / Mechanical 2275. ( Over 71,000 Jeeps were sent to equip British Forces during WW2. ) The Jeep had seen prior use with the US forces before being given to the British. This can be deduced by the fitting of a blackout driving lamp on the drivers side wing.This Jeep was built too early to have one factory fitted. The US Army retro fitted these to their vehicles, whereas the British did not. In fact the British often removed this lamp from their Jeeps, as can be seen here , from the welded - up holes on the wing and on the dashboard for the switch. The Jeep's US service would now be impossible to trace, as the records have been destroyed . However it's British service history has survived.
The Jeep must have seen some hard use , as by 1944, it was in need of a rebuild. No doubt the frame was badly damaged as this replaced with a Willys made unit, serial number MB177600 dating from late September / early October 1942. It was at this time that the Jeep was converted for use by the Airborne forces.This meant adapting the Jeep for Airlanding by Horsa glider. Firstly the front bumper was cut down ; footsteps cut off the body ; grab handles taken off the body sides ; bumperetts removed from the rear; Jerrycan and bracket removed off rear body ; spare tyre carrier removed and new carrier fitted in front of radiator grille; shovel and axe carriers removed off body sides ; steering wheel fitted with a quick release mechanism, to enable the wheel to be removed . All these modifications were needed just to get the Jeep into the glider , even then it was still a tight squeeze through the side loading door of the Mk 1 Horsa glider. Theses changes were for the " Basic Airborne Jeep ".
The removed Jerrycan holder was replaced between the front seats , and straps added behind the front seats to carry a further two Jerrycans, so a total of 60 litres of fuel was carried (Airborne units were often low on supplies of fuel, as resupply could not be relied upon.) The front bumper was now strengthened and a towing eye fitted. At the rear an A frame towing bar was added. This would enable two Jeeps to be linked together to tow three trailers or to help recovery of a disabled vehicle .The horn button was also moved onto the dashboard due to the modifications to the steering wheel . Pick and shovel carriers were added to the front bumper. Next came alterations for different units. My Jeep was converted for use as a Wireless Jeep serving with the Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery . A rack was fitted to the bonnet to carry five M38 cloverleaf shell carriers. A total of 15 rounds of 75mm Pack Howitzer shells could be carried in these cardboard tubes. The wireless set was carried in the rear of the Jeep. The set was the W/S No.62. Two wireless batteries were carried in racks on the front wings of the Jeep. A third battery was carried on the rear of the vehicle in a carrier which incorporated the radio aerial. Spare wireless valves were placed in a rack next to the wireless set. A cable-reel holder was also fitted on the bonnet to carry the No.1 cable drum, which held D10 field telephone wire . Finally, a pair of rifle clips were fitted to the windscreen to hold a Lee - Enfield No.4 .303 Rifle. Several other changes were also done by the British.( These were not specific just to the Airborne forces.) A pair of side lights were fitted to the front wings to comply with road traffic regulations; a blackout cover was placed over the left headlamp; a convoy light was fitted beneath the rear body to shine upon the white painted differential cover; also a socket was fitted for trailer lighting. The rebuilding work was possibly done by Central Workshops REME, as the remains of the rivets from one of their rebuild plates can be seen to the left of the glovebox door. After rebuilding the Jeep was given a new War Department Census number, which can be seen painted on the bonnet and rear of the Jeep. The Jeep was allocated the number M1501181. ( all rebuilt cars were given numbers ranging from M1500000 to M15999999) The Army classed the Jeep as " Car , 5 CWT , 4 x 4. "
I cannot say which Airlanding Light Regiment my Jeep served with, but there were only two. 1st A/L Light which was part of 1st Airborne Division or 53 rd A/L Light which served with 6th Airborne Division.
After the War the Jeep continued in service. In January 1949 the Army changed it's numbering system. All vehicles were now given civilian style number plates, the Jeep became 23 YH 41. In November 1951 the Jeep was overhauled by the Ministry of Supply, at Army Auxiliary Workshop B269.( This workshop would have been a large civilian garage. ) Here the Jeep was put back to conventional specifications. All the extra racks were removed and the holes welded shut. These welds are still visible even though I have refitted the racks. The Jeep was then stripped of all paint , then repainted in the peace time colour of gloss " Bronze Green ". The Jeep was sold as surplus in the Ruddington auction of Thursday 4th June 1959. It was sold as Lot number 1049, which was a lot of ten Jeeps. My Jeep was described as " condition OK , 4 good tyres, 9000 miles on the clock. " The entire lot of ten sold for ?20. The Jeeps had to be collected from 72 B Vehicle Depot , Market Harborough.( Now the site of Her Majesty's Prison Gartree. ) The Jeep was registed on September 4th 1959 in Coventry, as YDU 907. It was first listed as being green in colour, but was later altered to lilac, then to yellow. The Jeep moved to the Doncaster area, where it was used by a quarry worker as transport to and fro from work and as a fun off road vehicle. It was then sold, in 1967, via a newspaper advertisement to Mr Douglas Lindsay of Hadfield Woodhouse. The engine had dropped a valve, which had put a hole through one of the pistons. Price was ?2. Mr Lindsay towed the Jeep home to his farm behind a 1954 Morris Minor van with 800cc engine. He repaired the engine, with the intention of using the Jeep as a spare vehicle for his other Jeep, which had a home-made wooden pick-up body. However he only drove it for a total of six miles and it spent the next 20 years in a shed. The Jeep was sold together with the remains of the Jeep , DPY 422 , to Mr Philip Pettle of Glapwell for ?,100. I bought the Jeep in May 1988 for ?000.
Since then I have rebuilt it to its present condition. The Jeep has been restored to its 1944 appearance. The camouflage paint work is known as " Mickey Mouse pattern " due to the similarity of the black pattern to Mickey's ears. The WD numbers are painted in pale blue, which was only done by the Airborne forces. This was done to make them less conspicuous than the usual white. The Allied star is prominently painted in white on the body sides. On the drivers side there is a yellow line; this is to mark the centre of gravity of the Jeep to assist the Glider Pilots when loading the aircraft. Unit markings consist of the Pegasus sign of the 1st Airborne Division; the 42 is the marking for 1st A / L Light Regt. R.A. The RF marking is for the Captain, Troop commander , F Troop , No.3 Battery.The only feature which is not original is the indicator switch on the steering column.
Every September since 1994, I have driven the Jeep to Arnhem in Holland, for the commemoration of the Airborne battle. This is around 1000 miles