The First World War
WW1 was the first war where motor vehicles were used in any number. A few steamers were used in the Boer War, which proved the potential of the motor vehicle for wartime use.
The War Office
started planning for WW1 in 1901 by planning and funding the first of
a series of trials intended to encourage makers to develop reliable vehicles.
These trials originally required the vehicle to perform set tasks with
the design entirely the responsibility of the maker and a prize was given
to the first three places.
By the 1909
trials, the War Office had determined the specification of the vehicles
entered and so began the divergence of the civilian and military specification
vehicle. This specification proved unpopular with makers, customers and
the trade press. The subsidy, which by now had changed from funding trial
prizes to funding ownership of vehicles was too low to attract users of
war broke out in 1914 only some 850 subsidy vehicles and steamers were
available, despite 82,000 goods vehicles (mostly light) being registered.
By Armistice day, 1918, the War Office owned 56,000 vehicles.
WW1 had a
huge impact on the development of the motor manufacturers. In 1914, production
of heavy lorries was small, but the standard specification of the 'Subsidy
Models' and the formation of the Ministry of Munitions in 1915 to take
control of all the manufacturers rapidly increased production. AEC were
producing 27 motor lorries per week in 1914, but by 1918 had supplied
10,000 to the war effort.
the motor lorry was gradually proving itself in civilian use, but was
a totally unknown quantity in warfare. Not only did the lorry have to
prove itself, the army had to learn about the lorry. Used to the horse,
the military planners and the men at the front had to adjust to greater
speed, payload and the different demands of the lorry, such as spares
and repairs. 172,536 tons of spares and 875,598 tons of petrol and oil
were shipped to France alone between August 1914 to May 1920.
motor lorry proved so successful is tribute to the maker's skills and
ability to expand so quickly and the men of the ASC (Army Service Corps).
The foresight of the army engineers with their previously derided specification,
proved to provide a motor lorry able to cope with the mud of Flanders
to the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.
the road transport industry changed dramatically. Large numbers of war
surplus lorries were repatriated through Slough Dump and huge numbers
of drivers, mechanics, managers etc., who were unskilled before the war
were returning home and unemployed. It was natural they'd look to the
cheap war surplus lorries to provide some sort of income and many haulage
companies were formed as a result. This not only moved road transport
from the horse and cart days but into the motor age but also nearly crippled
the manufacturers who had expanded so quickly to fulfil the needs of war.
This growth in road transport is seen mainly from 1920, due to time taken to repatriate both men and vehicles after 1918.
UK Goods Vehicles Registration