General Montgomery's HQ vehicles

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by 281664, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hello all,

    Can someone clarify where General Montgomery's HQ vehicles were bought from and who built/designed the interior?

    The question stems from a family story of my great grandfather (who was a cabinet/furniture maker by trade) who helping build the interior of these vehicles after being asked by Monty himself.


  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Those are really good threads. I wonder why they selected such a heavy truck. Surely a 5 or even a 7.5 tonner could have handled the task

    I'd seen Montgomery near his NR in some pictures but never took note of the truck because I was looking at his dogs.

    Here is a fairly well known one:

    Attached Files:

  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I have a lot of information somewhere but I cannot promise to be able to find it. I offer the following from memory.

    Monty had three caravans. The first two were captured Italian bodies fitted to standard British army vehicles in N Africa. One on a Leyland Retriever and one on a Mack NR. These came back to the UK with Monty and were refurbished before going with him to France. The third was a semi trailer map caravan towed by a Fordson Thames. This was specially built for Monty.

    After the war all three vehicles were given to Monty and he kept them until his death. They were refurbished at that time.

    Family stories are usually based on fact but often distorted. The Canadian General Crerar had a caravan built for him in the UK before D day. This was carried on a Canadian Diamond T.

    So several possibilities.

    Ramiles likes this.
  6. 281664

    281664 Active Member

    Hi Trux,

    Do you have any time periods for when the caravans were in the UK before deploying to France?

    He was part of an RE AW coy and was in the 8th army from Africa in 41 till Italy in 44. Whether he was asked for by monty or was just in the right place to be made to do it is another question.

    Thanks for the information,

  7. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    There was a feature about "Monty's Wartime Caravans" in the respected quarterly journal "After the Battle" in 1978 (Issue No. 20, pages 32 - 36). From your original question, Will (281664) your Great Grandfather could have been involved. Have a look below and see which dates / locations may fit best.

    According to "After the Battle", 'Monty' had three wartime caravans:

    1. A Bergonzoli caravan: (August 1942).

    'Monty' acquired this when he took over command of the Eighth Army from Lt.Gen. Ritchie (i.e. August 1942). General Ritchie had commandeered this caravan in February 1941 from Generale di Corpo d'Armata Annibale Bergonzoli, Commander of the Italian 23rd Corps at Beda Fromm, south of Benghazi.

    Originally the caravan was mounted on a Lancia chassis and secondly a Leyland chassis. This was Monty's H.Q. from August 1942 until May 1943, with Winston Churchill using it in August 1942 (El Alamein) an February 1943 (Tripoli).

    In May 1943, the Bergonzoli caravan was converted into an office and fitted out with cupboards, desk and couch / emergency bed. This is the one that was fitted out with portraits of the four German commanders opposing 'Monty' (Rommel, Model, von Rundstedt and Kesselring) plus quotations from Drake, the Marquis of Montrose and Shakespeare (Henry V).

    2. A second 'Italian' caravan: (May 1943).

    This second caravan was captured from Field Marshal Giovanni Messe at the end of the campaign in Tunisia. Field Marshal Messe had taken over from Rommel as Commander of the Axis forces in North Africa. According to Messe, this caravan had also previously been used by Rommel.

    It was originally mounted on a Lancia chassis and then on an American Mack chassis. It was converted into sleeping quarters,complete with bed, wardrobes, washbasin and bath.

    3. A 'map' caravan: (April 1944).

    This third caravan was commissioned to Monty's specifications as a mobile map room after Montgomery had been appointed Land Forces Commander for N.W. Europe. It was manufactured by the British Trailer Company Ltd. of Trafford Park, Manchester between January and April 1944. It was handed over to Monty at St Paul's School, Hammersmith (Monty's pre D-Day H.Q) on 17 April 1944. There is a photograph on p.34 of this article of Monty with some of the staff of the manufacturers (also in the Imperial War Museum collection). Could your Great Grandfather be one of those in the photograph?

    My guess is that it was this third caravan which your Great Grandfather was involved with, Will?

    After Monty died in 1976, the three vehicles were moved from his home at Islington Mill, Hampshire, taken to Aldershot and restored before being handed over to the Imperial War Museum.

    Hope this helps.
  8. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Monty's three caravans had all been loaded on board a Landing Ship on D-1 and then over to Normandy. Their first location in the Normandy campaign was at Creuilly, which is a short distance inland and close to the Gold and Juno landing beaches.
  9. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    A brief description and some photographs of General Montgomery's caravans (and tank) can be found on the IWM website:

    As it states on that page, General Montgomery's personal papers are held by the IWM Department of Documents. If there was anything in there about preparing the three caravans, provided the relevant documents can be identified, it should be possible to make an appointment to view them at the research room at the main IWM buiding, as explained on this link:
  10. Kenneth Pryde

    Kenneth Pryde New Member

    My late father, who was Craftsman 1st Class in the REME was involved in the construction of Monty's Normandy caravan and recounted that it was disguised as an army truck and included a bunk at the far end, map board on the right and a "cooker" on the left. One of their lads, a tin smith in civvy street even made square pots and pans and kettle to fit square seatings in the cooker to enable Monty's batman to prepare a meal whilst on the move in relative safety. My father also remembers making a small brass plaque with Company name and screwing it under the rear of the truck. Does this caravan still exist?
  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Monty had three caravans in 21Army Group. They stayed with him throughout the NW Europe Campaign and were kept by him when he retired. All three are now at the IWM Duxford where they form a display group.

    None exactly fit your description. There was an office caravan, a sleeping caravan and a map caravan. The first two were captured Italian bodies mounted on British Leyland and Mack trucks. Both had canvas covered bodies.

  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Official photograph (H 37641)
    Catalogue number H 37641
    Photograph taken at the ceremony for the official handing-over of a map caravan to Field Marshal Montgomery, at St. Paul's school London, April 1944.

    Monty's Map Caravan ( Fordson ) (4109.52.1)
    Catalogue number 4109.52.1
    Display status IWM Duxford
    Dimensions whole: Height 11 ft, Length 31 ft, Width 8 ft
    Object description: British WW2 caravan built in 1944 on a 6x2 truck chassis for General Montgomery as part of his mobile tactical headquarters.

    History note:
    This is the 3rd of Montgomery's vehicles. During his campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy Montgomery had recognised the need for a map lorry from which he could conduct operations in the field. This vehicle was built (by the British Trailer Company, of Trafford Park), to the designs of Montgomery's personal staff, and presented to him on 17 April 1944, seven weeks before D-Day. This lorry became the nerve centre of Montgomery's Tactical Headquarters in North-West Europe from June 1944 until May 1945.
  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Very nice photo.

    Not strictly a 6X2 chassis. It is a semi trailer with a Fordson Thames 4 X 2 tractor unit and a semi trailer caravan. Oh Dear I am turning into an anorak.


    This was the subject of a Trux Model so rare that even I do not have one.

    The building is St Paul's School, Hammersmith. Montgomery had his headquarters here in early 1944. He slept at Claridges however. Travelling between in his Rolls Royce.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
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  14. Ian Brown

    Ian Brown New Member

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  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks for adding that.

    Is this your father's MM recommendation?
    Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.13.04.png
  16. Ian Brown

    Ian Brown New Member

    No I'm afraid not. He was:
    No. 7887362 Lance-Corporal John Alexander Brown,

    3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters),

    Royal Armoured Corps (Bedford).
  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Sorry about that
    A very selfless man...
    Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.47.06.png
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  18. Ian Brown

    Ian Brown New Member

    Thank you for posting the above, I have seen it before but it's really nice to see it again. I have been trying to find out a bit more about how he got the vans back to the UK and what he did next but so far no luck. I need to apply for his war record I think.
  19. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

  20. toki2

    toki2 Junior Member

    Does anyone know if any of Montgomery's caravans were ever targeted by enemy fire ?

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