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Old 07-02-2009, 10:01 AM
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Default Canadian Autocar Armoured Car

The first contingent of the Canadian Army expeditionary force arrived in England on 16 October 1914, equipped with a "motor machine-gun corps" of twenty armoured cars. This formation - the first in the First World War designed and equipped right from the start as an armoured force - was the outcome of the enterprise shown by Raymond Brutinel. Brutinel had served in the French Army and became convinced of the value of the machine-gun. Living in Canada at the outbreak of war in 1914, he persuaded wealthy business contemporaries led by Sir Clifford Sifton to join with him in raising and equipping a brigade of motor machine-guns. Brutinel purchased a total of 20 Autocars: 8 were made into Machine Gun Carriers, 5 were for Ammo and supply carrying, 4 were for Officer Transport, 1 was a gasoline carrier, 1 was a repair vehicle, and the 20th one was an Ambulance which the Autocar Co. donated. All were made mechanicaly identical so parts could be swapped around.
The cars were ordered from the Autocar Company, of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. They were standard commercial chassis with solid tyres armoured with 9.5mm plate supplied by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The armour gave all-round protection but was unusual in that it not only offered no head cover for the driver, but had no vision port in the front plate. However, the cars were not intended to go into action as fighting vehicles but to act as carriers for the two machine-guns normally provided in each car. These machine-guns were originally air-cooled, American-made Colts Model 1895 (which the German workers at the Colt Plant tried to stop from being shipped, so they were smuggled out at night.) but later, with the Canadian Corps in France, from August 9th 1916 0.303-in. Vickers water-cooled machine-guns (on a swivel mount allowing them 360 degree rotation) were used instead. These guns could also be off-loaded and used on normal ground tripods.
A normal " Ground " Vickers Machine Gun Crew consisted of 6 men: #1 was the gunner who also carried the tripod to the setup position, #2 was the belt feeder who carried the gun to the setup position, #3 & 4 were in charge of the ammo boxes , cooling water and spare parts, #5 was a scout and runner, #6 was a range taker and spare body. All men in the Crew were trained in all positions and could strip and reassemble the weapon blindfolded. The cramped size of the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Autocars only allowed 3 men each for the 2 Vickers plus one driver and one officer who had the opption of using a Lewis Machine Gun mounted in front. Each Car could carry 10,000 rounds.
King George V, when inspecting the 1st Canadian Motor Machine-Gun Brigade at Aldershot shortly after their arrival from Canada, expressed the opinion that the unit should prove very useful - a view that did not coincide with general military opinion at the time. The Canadian motor machine­guns were, however, of great value in France, from their arrival in 1915 to the end of the war - perhaps at their best in holding the German offensive of March 1918 - in providing a mobile reserve of fire power. However, because of the light armour (only to waist height) their crews suffered an exceptionally high casualty rate. At wars end only 4 of the 8 gun carriers were still operational and 1 more repaired after.
Click here, to find out more on the actions of the Autocar in France. Also: be informed that a book on the Autocar is being prepared by Dr. Cameron Pulsifer of the Canadian War Museum.
Main source for this text: B.T. White: "Tanks and other Armored Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918".
The autocar below can be seen in the Canadian War Museum in Ottowa. It is the only one left in existance, and was used by the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. The photos have been taken by Phil Radley.


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