650 Coy ASC (32 LAMT Coy)
This unit was formed on 28 February 1916 as a Local Auxiliary Mechanical Transport Company at Bulford Camp and moved immediately to Wilton near Salisbury.
The company was accommodated in billets until June 1916, when it moved under canvas in Wilton Park. In September, building a hutment camp was started in Fairfields, Wilton and the company moved into it during December 1916. The camp had accommodation for 200 NCOs and men and included a Sergeant’s Mess, Corporals Room, Regimental Institute, Bath House, Ablution Hut, Cookhouse and Guardroom.
The company’s role was the carriage of materials for the roads under Road Board administration. These were primarily roads in the big military camps and the main County Roads that carried heavy military traffic. These were main roads to the south coast ports and roads between munitions factories and railway stations.
Camps were throughout the country and very quickly forty-eight detachments were formed covering an area from Cornwall to North Yorkshire. This divided the administration of 650 Coy between the Southern and Northern Commands.
Strength on formation was 122 lorries, twelve cars and ten motorcycles with four officers and 248 other ranks. Being Home Front companies, the vehicles that LAMTs received were those classified as unfit for service overseas. It is believed 50% of the initial allotment were unserviceable. A census on 27 June 1916 revealed that of the 152 lorries on the strength, sixty-five were unserviceable. They were also registered in the same way as civilian vehicles, and not given the War Department Registration Number seen on vehicles serving overseas.
Obtaining spare parts proved almost impossible, as they were prioritised for overseas and numerous different makes were in use. Great efforts were taken to homogenise marques in overseas companies, whereas home front companies received whatever was available. Equally scarce were tools needed for fitters to carry out repairs. They went some way to solving this shortage by sending to their homes for their own personal tools to be sent to the camp.
The Old Wool Loft in the Market Square, Wilton was taken over as workshops, where lorries were made serviceable before being despatched around the country. The difficulty obtaining parts from manufacturers led to Randall & Petty’s garage in North Street being taken over as a machine shop and 650 Coy began making its own spare parts. It was equipped with lathes, milling machines, shaping machines etc by 650 Coy and powered by an Oil Engine. A forge with case hardening facility, and an engine testing bench was also installed. The newly built workshops were able to produce almost every spare part needed and the company only seldom resorted to ordering new from manufacturers.
This resulted in the number of unserviceable lorries being reduced from the 50% on formation to 10% by July 1917, despite the total lorries operated increasing to 164 in Southern Command alone. 650 Coy records only refer to Southern Command and no record has been found for Northern Command. Such was the success of the workshops that out of the 164 lorries only sixteen were unavailable for work, compared to the sixty-five one year previously.
Company work consisted solely of carrying roadmaking materials from suppliers and quarries to army camps and bases. Loads carried included granite blocks and chips, tar and tarmacadam.
In November 1916, the 160 Southern Command lorries carried 23,069 tons and travelled 74,156 miles. In June 1917 the workload had increased to 28,064 tons carried and 96,400 miles travelled. The approximate cost per ton was £0.05.00d [£18 in 2020] making a total of £7,016 [£497,750] for June alone. It does not include the purchase cost of the materials or the labour costs repairing the roads.
650 Coy was also responsible for twenty-four light cars and thirty motorcycles used by the road surveyors employed by the Road Board. The combined average monthly mileage of these vehicles was 10,000 miles.
The two largest detachments were formed at Larkhill with fifty-two lorries and Winchester with thirty-seven.
650 Coy ASC (32 LAMT) detachments
Hallford 3-ton Subsidy Model lorry. Note Unit Sign on bonnet side showing the time of 6:50 (650 coy)