What tractor towed 3-inch 20 CWT AA gun

Discussion in '1940' started by Fatboy Coxy, Jul 18, 2022.

  1. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Hi all, can anyone tell me what tractor the British Army used 1939-40 in the BEF, for towing the 3-inch 20 cwt AA gun, mounted on its four wheeled trailer please.
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  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Officially it should be a Leyland Terrier 6 X 4 AA Tractor.


    Leyland Terrier.jpg

    Photo of a model by Milicast.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2022
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  3. JeremyC

    JeremyC Well-Known Member

    In "Moving the Guns: The Mechanisation of the Royal Artillery 1854-1939" by Philip Ventham and David Fletcher", the FWD R6T (known as the AEC 850 from 1932-onwards) is listed as the principal gun tractor for Heavy Anti-Aircraft units, replacing the Thornycroft Hathi in 1929 (photo attached). As it was not in commercial use and was complex to manufacture and so expensive to buy, a review was in place to find a cheaper replacement at the outbreak of War. Although few were purchased (approx. 30???), photos are available of FWD R6T/AEC 850s in use by the BEF in France in 1939-40 - admittedly, usually in the recovery role.
    Ventham and Fletcher do mention a prototype Leyland gun tractor, based on the Terrier, but state that it was deemed unsuitable and ended its days as a heavy breakdown truck.

    After this, AEC Matadors are usually mentioned in connection with Heavy Anti-Aircraft gun tractors.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2022
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  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    There was a great shortage of tractors for heavier guns. There had been little development work done since there was little commercial demand for such vehicles. The FWD/AEC R6 was the standard tractor for the Regular Army heavy AA guns but less than 50 were built. It was hoped that there would be some 3 ton 6 X 4 vehicles available to be requisitioned but very few had been bought commercially. In the event what FWD/AEC R6 were available were used for the 3" gun with field formations while a mixed bag of other vehicles were used for Base Defence HAA units. Some were 6 X 4 Terriers (not the ill fated 6 X 6). Base Defence units had only one tractor to two guns.

    The new Matadors and Scammels were needed for medium and heavy artillery.

    As far as I know although the distribution of field artillery tractors and medium/heavy artillery tractors is pretty well documented the AA tractors have been neglected.

    Last edited: Jul 19, 2022
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  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    It looks as if this Morris Quad had been used to position the gun on the beach. It doesn't mean that it was the establishment tractor though.

    Quad & AA.jpg
    This gun is from 6 Anti-Aircraft Regiment...but no certainty that the Scammell was its tractor in British service.

    Scammell 6 AA Regt. RA.jpg

    ..another Scammell in the background here though...

    3 inch AA.jpg
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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have seen it suggested, but cannot remember where, that the Germans used British artillery tractors to move and park captured vehicles because of the powerful winches they were equipped with.

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  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    That seems completely logical. Unfortunately, whilst I have a number of images of 15cwts (and even an Austin 2 seater) with AA Regt. arms of service serials, I have nothing that is tractor sized that can be positively linked to them.
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  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    This gun carries the '34' of 1 AA Regt. The trailer displays the pre-war local authority registration number 'JMX 454' which would have been allocated to the associated towing vehicle prior to September 1939. Les Newall's book suggests that the JMX series was allocated c.April 1938...Would that give a clue as to the tractor type ? JMX 842 is a surviving CDSW Field Artillery tractor, which is probably not relevant. Presumably the Leyland Terriers would have had an 'H' prefix serial if intended for the gun tractor rĂ´le ? If so, apart from the Morris-Commercial 6x4, I can see little during early 1938 that fits the bill, apart from Scammells. The only possible Leylands that I can find would be contract V2937 which covered H364232 - 364263, H364265 and H371706 - 371750 which would be just over 100 Leyland, Tractor 6 x 4 Heavy delivered during 1936 and early 1937.

    1 AA Regt. RA.JPG
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  9. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Hi Guys, thank you for your replies, I was surprised to hear about the Terrier, didn't know it existed. According to Wikipedia, the BEF took 120 towed 3-inch guns to France, that's quite a lot of tractors. No doubt they were sent over a period of time as the BEF grew in strength, which could have helped, if relying on newly built tractors. Demands for the AEC Matador were high, and they may well have looked for alternatives as a stopgap. I think the 3.7-inch AA gun is about 10 tons, towed, but the 3-inch may have been a good 2-3 tons less. Could a Bedford OY series 3 ton lorry have sufficed, its only a 2x4 drive, not 4x4, but were coming off the production lines in 1939. They would have had to provide a few bigger trucks, say one per battery, to pull the Bedford's out of the mud, but that might have worked.
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I have spent this nastly dark, wet day looking at all my printed references and delving into my untidy computer files.

    My figures are probably not accurate but I think they are pretty close. 120 3" AA guns is about right. These were distributed amongst fully mobile batteries with the forward troops for defending bridges, dumps and other vulnerable points, and the largely static batteries for the defence of Advanced Air Striking Force airfields and base areas. In theory the Base Defence units had one tractor to two guns but many had less than this.

    One source says that the BEF units with 3" guns were short of 15 tractors.

    Only 42 FWD/AEC R6T were built and production ceased in 1936. Production of the winch equipped Leyland Terrier began in 1937 and some 50 would be needed to make up the qouted numbers.

    All the R6T tractors were with Regular Army batteries.

    I see no mention of other types of tractor apart from R6T and Terrier being used for 3" AA guns.

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  11. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Thank you Mike, I think you've answered my question.

    What brought up my question is that I'm currently writing a 'What If', and in that I'm using mobile 3" guns, but wasn't sure what tractors they'd use. Clearly I can't use the Terrier or FWD/AEC R6T, as they've ceased production, which leaves me going for the AEC Matador, or possibly something else. I'm looking at the Canadian Military Pattern trucks, the Chevrolet C60 or Ford F60, both 3 ton, and unsure if they would have to be short or long wheelbase. Can anyone advise if they could 'do the job' please.
  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    You really need a winch equipped chassis. This was essential for positioning guns, and more important recovering them from their gun emplacements. Both R6T and Terrier had winches. The Canadian equivalent of the Matador was the FWD SU COE medium artillery tractor. I do not know if it ever towed 3" AA guns but it did tow 3.7".

  13. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Just looked it up on the internet, thanks Mike, as they say, that'll do nicely
  14. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Most of the 3" AA guns were left behind after Dunkirk, and only comparatively few early CMP trucks ever went to France (briefly, with I Cdn Inf Div). before 1944. I think it unlikely that a CMP ever towed a 3" AA gun.

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