The War Office Subsidy Schemes
gathering war clouds, the European Powers also recognised the potential
of motorised transport. The British, French and German governments instigated
subsidy schemes designed to provide fleets of lorries when seemingly inevitable
war broke out.
the British War Office provided a subsidy to the vehicle maker by way
of prizes for winning trials. These trials determined what the vehicle
had to do with design left entirely to the maker. As ideas progressed
the subsidy was changed to provide incentive to the operator to buy lorries
of a specification determined by the War Office. The makers submitting
their lorries for trials to gain approval and acceptance into the scheme.
trial in December 1901 at Aldershot, required that the lorry had to be
able to carry 5 tons, with 3 tons on the lorry and 2 tons on a trailer
permissible. It had to be able to travel anywhere a country cart could,
drive through a 7'6" wide gate, maintain 8mph on well-maintained
roads and 5mph on poor or hilly roads and climb a 1 in 8 incline. It had
to run for 48 hours without need for maintenance or cleaning.
for the judges were initial cost, efficiency, distance covered without
refuelling, durability, ease of driving and absence of vibration, noise
and smoke. War Office engineers rode with each entrant throughout the
trial and civilian observers from the motor industry made up the judging
won the first prize of £500, Foden were second (£250) and
Straker came third (£100). Both Thornycroft and Foden were purchased
by the War Office and sent to South Africa for further trials.
trial was announced in October 1901, requiring a gross load of 25 tons
to average 3mph for 40 miles, not exceeding 5mph, without need to refuel.
A gross load of 12.5 tons had to be driven for 1 mile at 8mph and up a
1 in 6 gradient. In addition it had to traverse rough ground, wade through
water two feet deep, have ground clearance of 18" and be crewed by
no more than two men. It could be no more than 12' high, 7'6" wide
and 20' long.
£1,000 for first place, £750 for second and £500 for
third were given plus and addition £10 for each additional mile
completed over the trial distance.
large entry, only the Hornsby-Ackroyd powered Hornsby made the start of
the trial and was awarded the £1000 first prize plus £180
bonus for mileage.
trial for light tractors was commenced on March 1st 1909, initially with
no prize offered. The political argument being that the extra business
gained by the entrants would be enough incentive. This proved not to be
the case and a single prize of £750 was subsequently offered. This
comprised £500 from the War Office and £250 from the India
were broadly similar to the 1901 trial, though an 8 ton load was to be
hauled for 100 miles without refuelling and 50 miles without oiling or
greasing. The War Office paid an allowance of five shillings per day to both
driver and driver's mate for the duration of the trial.
Of the ten
entrants, seven failed to make the start, a reflection of the severity
of the War office requirements.
won the £750 first prize and the tractor was purchased by the War
Office for £975.
scheme where owners were paid a fee in exchange for making their vehicles
available to the war office when needed was muted in 1902. Lack of available
vehicles and political complexity meant that the scheme was not finalised
until 1907. Even with the complexities ironed out in 1907, the scheme
remained overly complex.
Vehicles registered were divided into two classes, 'A' for traction engines and 'B' for heavy motor cars. Vehicles could be registered for purchase in wartime only or for purchase or hire in peacetime as well. At least 25% of each owner's registered vehicles had to be registered for hire with a minimum of one vehicle registered such. Vehicles needed an initial War Office inspection on registration and again at time of hire or purchase. Registration was for one year only, renewable annually.
FEES FOR VEHICLES AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AND HIRE
FEES FOR VEHICLES AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ONLY
COMPARISON WITH FRANCE & GERMANY IN 1910
price was to be the current market price plus 25%. Market value was determined
by initial price with depreciation between 15 and 7.5% depending on class.
The War Office guaranteed to pay no less than 30% of the initial cost.
Vehicles had to be delivered to a nominated War Office depot within 24
were either £2 or £4 per day depending on class and seasonal
adjustments to account for lost earnings. Vehicles had to be delivered
to a nominated War office depot in a fit and suitable condition, was responsible
for maintenance during hire periods and for providing a driver and mate.
All fuel used was supplied by the War office.
and conditions were announced in 1911, applying to all vehicles built
after January 1910. By this time the War office had determined the specification
of qualifying lorries, with trials held to determine reliability and quality.
Only approved lorries were accepted onto the scheme.
scheme was 'The Provisional Scheme for Subsidising Petrol Motor Lorries'
and in keeping with its predecessors was complicated as only government
first enrolled their vehicle onto the scheme and then received the initial
subsidy (subvention) payment. This comprised, £12 for a live axle
lorry, £10 for a chain drive lorry if chains were enclosed or £8
if chains were exposed. An additional £10 was payable if the owner
carried a spare magneto, ready for immediate fitting and waterproofed.
subsidy of £15 was paid half-yearly, in arrears and subject to satisfactory
War office inspection, to cover maintenance. Every vehicle had to be kept
under cover and protected from frost. Only properly qualified drivers
were to drive subsidised vehicles, although 'properly qualified' does not
appear to have been quantified.
of each subsidised lorry was compulsory in time of 'national danger' or
if proclamation was made under the Reserve Forces Act, 1882. The owner
was required to deliver the lorry in full working order, with spares to
any depot in the country nominated by the War Office within three days.
price was calculated on depreciation of 7.5% per half year, plus 25% up
to initial price, though not less than 30% of initial cost.
A lorry with initial purchase price of £600 would therefore be valued thus:
of the day were quick to praise the War Office for their efforts in providing
a quickly available fleet of standardised lorries, while condemning the
Treasury and MPs for the paucity and complexity of the scheme. It was
also noted by owners that the Treasury was particularly slow with the
The specification of the subsidy lorry was almost universally derided as being too heavy, too big and too costly compared to makers existing model ranges that could carry the same weight. The British Government continued to pursue a policy of approval and development trials whereas by 1910 the German and French policy was one of acquisition with subsidy schemes designed to encourage this.
By 1913, entries had fallen for the trials with manufacturer's declaring an open lack of interest and Lieutenant R. Snowden-Smith, the Inspector of Subsidised Transport, was compelled to write to all lorry users reminding them that only approved subsidy lorries were eligible for the scheme. The letter reiterated that the payment for subsidy specification lorries was £110 spread over 3 years, which compared favourably with the Provisional Scheme which by this time was £42 over 2 years. The additional funding for subsidy lorries failed to cover the extra costs of buying and running a subsidy lorry compared to its civilian specification counterpart.
Abridged from my original article in Vintage Roadscene, Vol 14, 56 (September-November 1998)