When Strelets released their box set of South African WW2 Union Defence Force (UDF) 20mm plastic figures, this was the sign to set out on a project I have long wanted to do – the SA and K.A.R (Kings African Rifles) forces that fought against the Italians in East Africa in 1940/41 (plus another SLW member has just such an Italian army….) and they are also good for the early desert war (so long as you add in a decent no. of Men in Tin Hats) and the little known invasion of Madagascar.
The problem was to source the trucks. I needed quite a few, the pre-WW2 re-arming UDF had based itself on the German motorised divisions as the best solution to move forces fast over large expanses of usually fairly dry terrain, and so had a LOT of trucks. The main infantry transport trucks were Ford 4×2 30 cwt (1.5 ton) trucks, the UDF commandeered nearly the entire production of Ford South Africa’s 30cwt trucks in 1940/41. Chevy and Dodge produced most of the 15 cwt trucks for the UDF.
The Great WW2 Truck Conundrum
But while rooting around for a model to use, I noticed something else. Every other country with Ford (and Chevy, Dodge et al) plants in country, started to turn these trucks to military use. This included Germany, who also had Ford plants. Not only that, they were supplied to the Soviets in large numbers.
But here is the Great WW2 Truck Conundrum. These trucks (especially Fords) were used by nearly everyone in WW2, yet apart from a few (pretty expensive) resin models and a (very) few LRDG models with cut off cabs, you just cannot get these models in 20mm scale . You’d have thought something that you can use for every darn army in WW2 in every year and sector would be a popular kit, but no.
The Ubiquitous Truck – The UDF Entering Abyssinia 1941 (above) and (below) in Italy 1944/5 (below). Photos from East African and Abyssinian Campaigns by Neil Orpen and the Flames of War site’s 6th South African Armoured Division essay
(Below) Australian Artillery tractor, Ford 30cwt truck with 4×4 Marmon Herrington transmission , below that is a Ford in German service (used a re-enactors’ one to get good colors), then a Russian Ford. The Russian one sports the 1942 -onwards grill shape, and (to quote) “Together with his civilian ancestor, the 2G8T, from which he differed in the engine type and some minor modifications, the total
amount of delivery sums up to 61,000, making the »Ford-6« the second most delivered truck.”
Anyway, I happened to notice that a Russian kit manufacturer, PST, makes the Long Wheelbase Ford in Soviet service with exactly the right shape but has the the 1942-onwards grill, and for a reasonable price. I decided that (given the entire lack of these very common trucks in any wargames army, and therefore the total lack of demand) that only the most rivet-counter wargamers would notice the difference between the ’41 and ’42 grills, or tell the difference between a ’42 Ford or an early war Chevy, and so brought PST trucks on board in big numbers for my ’40/41 UDF army.
Converting from 30cwt to 15-20 cwt truck
Its just a matter of changing wheelbase length and back of truck, and the PST kit lends itself to an easy conversion – bringing the back wheelset forward, chopping the flatbed off at the 3rd stanchion, and ditto the side boards and tarp cover is a very simple operation.
Conversion from 30cwt LWB (left) to SWB (right), the SWB model can also be used for 1 tonner (20 cwt) that can (ahem) proxy for 15 cwt trucks without looking too out of place. More of the UDF truck park being built is in rear of photo…)
The Truck for all seasons
Having now built a bunch of these trucks, and looking at the relatively meagre collection of trucks in my collection of US, later Commonwealth and Soviet 20mm armies, it also became clear that, if painted with a suitable brown-green-dusty paint scheme all of them could use this truck as well. (Germans a bit harder as Ford Germany was cut off and never upped to the ’43 grill, but hey who cares – could be captured ones, or Dodgy Chevy’s, right?)
As to colouring, this a picture of a South African truck in Italy 1944/5 from the book “Camouflage & Markings of the 6th South African Armored Division: North Africa & Italy 1943-45: Part 2″ by William Mrshall. (This is Dodge, as it happens – Chevies & Dodge’s had a similar experience to Fords) – and this generic green-brown + lots of dust covering specific national markings is probably OK for all armies (certainly Allied armies at any rate, Jerry will just have to play them as captured ones when I play them 🙂 )
Thus I now have the Truck for All Seasons, for all my armies, (albeit with a little bit of licence….)
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This post was written by Alan Patrick