Thursday, 23 July 2015

Airfix magazine 1979 - interwar articles by Noel Ayliff-Jones

I am indebted to Charles, who while contacting me about something else pointed me to a series of articles in Airfix magazine in the second half of 1979.

Covering British Army vehicles between the wars, they were written by Noel Ayliff-Jones.

There were five articles in the series:
  1. Early mechanised manoeuvres (June 1979)
  2. AFV markings between the wars (July 1979)
  3. Tank recovery in the 1930s (August 1979)
  4. Infantry vehicles of the 1930s (September 1979)
  5. Artillery vehicles between the wars (November 1979)
While the articles themselves are excellent, they are particularly notable for the excellent photographs used to illustrate them. Picture research is credited to David List.

I am posting the fourth article (infantry vehicles) below, and I have added a new page to the Interwar Tank Development blog with all the articles, as they are a very good introduction with excellent photographs.

Infantry vehicles of the 1930s

Noel Ayliff-Jones looks at British trucks and infantry carriers of the 1930s
Airfix magazine September 1979


Anonymous said...

I look forwards to reading these, thanks for putting them up.

I would treat them warily though, the 11th Hussars went to Egypt in 1934 and were there (and Palestine) for four years, so wouldn't be in England riding around in Austin 7s. It may not even be a cavalry unit, as a 1936 photo of the Worcestershire regiment shows Austin 7 in front of their brand-new Morris trucks Link. The collar badges look vaguely like the signals corps ones, but are really hard to distinguish... so don't take my word on that.

The 1st Batt Durham Light Infantry were not one of the eight infantry battalions converted to MG Battalions before WWII and only four were converted in 1936. It could very well be the 'Machinegun Company' (D Company - hence the 'D' below 1 Durham L.I.) of the DLI, as all infantry battalions had one before they were withdrawn prior to WWII. 'Bingo' probably refers to 'B' Platoon, whose vehicles probably began with B, A Platoon's with A and C Platoons with C.

Vintage Wargaming said...

Thanks Jim, I'm not so bothered about the text and caption but I likeke the photos. In any case, the Ist DLI were selected in 1934 while at Dettingen Barracks, Blackdown to become one of two experimental machine gun battalions, reverting to its former role of rifle battalion in October 1936 when it was stripped of its equipment to meet the emergency in Palestine. The DLI caption therefore is perfectly plausible within this timeline.It was organised as an HQ company, thre MG companies (each of three platoons armed with four Vickers guns), and an anti tank company of four platoons each with four anti tank guns. It was the first battalion to receive bren carriers. All transport was mechanised and the anti tank company was carried in Vickers Utility Tractors with hinged sides. It displayed its mobility as a mechanised battalion by travelling 160 miles in a 10 hour period on exercise in May 1936. This infornmation can be found on the Durham Light Infantry 1920-1946 web site page Home Duties which also has a photo of one of the Vickers Tractors (BMM198 - Horace) towing a GS 2 wheel limber - presumably part of HQ Company.

Anonymous said...

I'm always in favour of looking at pictures, can't fault you there!

I'm still a bit dubious though. It is a GS trailer being towed by 'Horace' not a limber and what would the AT guns be? The 2pdr wasn't accepted for service until late 1935 and only a handful had been produced by late 1936 (okay maybe they all went to the DLI to play with?). The War Department even had to buy 33 25mm Hotchkiss guns for Middle East Command in late '35 due to the Abyssinian crisis, as there were no AT weapons for them at all otherwise... barring the 1pdr SEMAG-Beckers bought for the Experimental Mobile Force in the '20s. They turn up again in 1940, so they weren't scrapped.

The 'Bren Carriers' on the DLI site are actually 'Machine Gun Carriers', designed especially for the Vickers Guns of the proposed machine gun battalions; like this one of the Cheshire Regiment in 1937, one of the original MG Battalions created in 1936.

Infantry Battalions in 1936 included MG Companies and even a three-gun AT Platoon, despite there not actually being any for them to have. The War Establishment issued 1st July 1936 even still has Lewis Guns as the platoon light machine guns.

I wonder then if the DLI actually did change to a MG Battalion, or it was 'due to change' to one before events overtook them. That the DLI site mentions Lewis Guns as well as Vickers Guns doesn't support that it was a MG battalion at all. Certainly the rest of the Army might look askance at them, as they used 'shanks's pony' to transport their Lewis's. I'm happy to be wrong, knowing for sure is far more important and I found what the DLI site was saying to be a tad confused (or at least I was).

It's interesting stuff all the same and certainly the DLI were 'poster boys' back then, I've seen photos of some of them in the 'new uniform' of 1932 and here's a link to the Pathe News Reel featuring it, although the 'model' isn't a DLI man and oddly carries a Lee-Metford.

Steve J. said...

I've clicked on the link but sadly it comes up with a '404 page not found message':(. I'm certainly looking forward to reading all the articles.

Vintage Wargaming said...


I see no reason to doubt that the DLI did serve as an MG battalion in 1934-36, rather than being "due to chnage". There seems to be enought evidence that they did and none that they didn't. Whatever the vagaries of captioning might be the DLI website has had a lot of input from those who served with it. I would imagine the a/t guns would be the funny little tracked 20mm Oerlikons/SEMAG Beckers - there seem to be plenty of photographs around of them in the 20s and 30s. The DLI site suggessts they were very well equipped in their MG battalion years, not least becauuse they reverted to being a rifle battalion when they had to give up theis equipment to others at the time of the Palestine emetgency in 1936. It is intriguing, not least as it would neatly use a lot of the interwar kit I have available in 20mm to raise the battalion as an infantry component for my interwar mechanised foces - I have utility tracors galore, am working out a way of producing some Oerlikon a/t guns, and I have rather a large number of Vickers guns with crews in gas masks made by Skybirds. It is certainly an interesting question which I hadn't come across before seeing the Airfix magazine article, which is another reason i am grateful for it. I may try to follow it up through the DLI archive at the Durham County Records Office, although as you can only book appointments at least two weeks ahead that is going to be a medium term thing.

I enjoyed the "deerstalker battalion" clip, especially when they were doubling about - very comical

Vintage Wargaming said...

Steve, I'm sorry I'm not sure what happened there - hopefully it is fixed (worked for me just now). If not the link is or you can find it by going to the Tank Development Blog, scrolling past the enormous header picture, under which you will find the bar with the various pages and click on Airfix magazioe articles 1979. If it still doesn't work, please let me know. I may still post the articles up one by one here over the next week or so.

Steve J. said...

All fixed now:) Off to enjoy some light reading.

Vintage Wargaming said...


tradgardmastare said...

Great articles,any suggestions how to print them off at a readable size minus magnifying glass? My I.T skills are not what they should be.

Vintage Wargaming said...

Alan, i think there may be a blogger issue with loading photos and they may only be scalable on screen if I have loaded them in html mode (rather than Compose mode which is easier to use as you can see the photos in the body of your post as you go, rather than a line of code). I will try to replace the photos with ones added in html sometime soon. This would mean you can read things on screen more easily but I'm not sure if this answers your original problem. If it was about getting full sized A4 print outs that will depend on what software you have on your machine. I would have thought if you save the pictures you want into your "My Pictures" (if you are using MS Windows) and click on them, they will open in Windows picture viewer and the print option should look after the rest. I scan as jpegs rather than pdfs as it gives me more control of the images in photoshop to try to make them as legible as possible. Don't know if this ansers your question - I hope it does.

tradgardmastare said...

Thanks for the advice, it was indeed about getting a4 prints. I will have a go at the library this week.