WORLD WAR TWO BRITISH PARATROOP JEEPS
Another modelling project of mine involved finishing off my force of World War Two British paratroops. I bought a Hinchcliffe/Skytrex parajeep some while ago, and thought I'd give it some company. Later, I bought an SHQ parajeep, and this came with a sheet of detailed information about these vehicles, including notes on stowage, historical use, radios, and carrying stretchers (they had enough for 10% of a unit's personnel). This sheet is my main source, though I have also looked at photographs in museums and books. There is a danger that this page might turn into an advert for SHQ, but bear in mind that only one of the four jeeps on this page is by that company. I also bought a pack of 6pdr artillery ammunition crates, and some drop baskets, from SHQ, as well as some seated figures.
Here you see the SHQ basic jeep at the top right, converted into an airborne recce jeep. Working with the SAS in Italy, the paras got the idea of mounting Vickers K-guns on their jeeps. The gun you see was scratch built from plastic card and rod. I bought two Matchbox Long Range Desert Group kits, which included a jeep with Vickers K-guns on it. My idea was to do little work on these kits to convert them into European SAS or para jeeps. When it came to it though, I thought that these rare and beautiful kits would be wasted used in this way. I used the K-guns in the LRDG kit as a source for the scratch building. Some parajeeps had twin K-guns, most of these were with the 6th Airborne Division, while the 1st had mainly single K-guns.
Para recce units consisted of 8-10 men in two jeeps. The first jeep had an officer, a No.22 Radio, and a bren gun; the second had a sergeant and 2" mortar.
The airborne jeep has most of the external fittings stripped off. They did not strap jerry cans and the like to the outside of the jeeps, but instead had everything inboard. My guess is that this was for getting in and out of the gliders easily. You can see a red dot on the rear of the side of these jeeps. This is a light. All the handles and strap attachment points are removed, as are the rails around the back end of the jeep. Some, but few of these jeeps had windscreens. Typically, they had one jerry can between the front seats, and two behind. You can just about see them in the jeeps here. On the bonnet, you can see a load of .303" ammunition boxes.
The recce jeep has a spare tyre at the front, between the front bumper and the radiator. At the back, it has a cradle for carrying drop baskets. These baskets might get scattered in the drop, and so it was useful to have a fast vehicle that could go round and collect them. I made this cradle from plastic struts. These are super-glued to the metal body of the jeep. It hasn't broken yet, but it would win few prizes for strength. This jeep has no "tandem tow hitch" (see below).
The other jeep is a cheap Chinese copy of a Hasegawa American jeep, converted. On top of the front bumper is a crate of 6pdr ammunition, and on the bonnet are two strips of plastic card, and between these, a row of "cloverleaf packs". You see here four, but five were commonly carried. Each tube of the cloverleaf packs had one shell in it, and each pack had three tubes. The box carried only 6 rounds, it seems. Ammunition carrying jeeps such as this were also often used to carry stretchers, but because of the ammunition on board, were not permitted to display the Red Cross sign. Jeeps had spades and pickaxes tied around the front bumper very often, but this was not the case when carrying ammunition boxes there.
In the background, you can see the Hinchcliffe/Skytrex jeep, slightly out of focus. I bothered to paint all the insignia on the crewmen, with corporal stripes, Pegasus badges and all the rest, but since these men wear blotchy camouflaged uniforms, these details are lost when viewed at any distance, so I haven't bothered since.
On the left, you see the SHQ jeep, with drop crate on the carrying pannier. The magazine of the K-gun is painted more silvery than the body of the gun, and the leather strap on top of the magazine is painted brown. The guns were rapid-firing MGs used in aircraft. British infantry units were on occasion issued with them, but they were not favoured, as they used ammunition up so rapidly that either half the men in the force were busy carrying bullets, or else they ran out. In effect, they were like the German MG42.
In the middle, you see an Airfix jeep. It is the one that comes with the Buffalo amphibious vehicle. The driver wears a beret, and so is easy to paint up as a para. On the bonnet are two 6pdr crates. At the rear, you can see a tandem towing hitch. It is modelled in the folded-up position. When lowered, it stuck out backwards, with a vertical hook at its point. This would engage with the front bumper of another jeep, so that two of them could pull together to pull a particularly heavy load. These were very common on jeeps that did not have some other fitting on the back that would obstruct one (such as the drop basket cradle).
Another view of the jeeps. One tows a trailer. These trailers were very common indeed, and since these jeeps were the paras' main source of transport, they would very often be seen towing something. I have seen photographs of these and the jeeps with Mickey Mouse camouflage, as seen here (black cloud shapes against green background), so I know this is authentic. The trailers were waterproofed, so that they could be floated across rivers.
I realise now as I write this that I never got a shot of the pickaxes and spades tied to the front bumpers of any of the jeeps. Be assured that they are there.
Even though these jeeps were used by British units, they were not converted to have the steering wheels on the right side. The driver sits on the left. I have seen pictures of jeeps with words stencilled on the back warning other drivers that the steering wheel is on the wrong side.
The Vickers machine gun we see here dug in has a pile of spent cartridges underneath it. This is the correct place for such a pile to be, as the brass was dropped out of a hole in the bottom of the gun. To the left of the gun is an empty canvas ammunition belt. This is where such a belt would end up. Behind the MG you see an open drop canister. This one is by SHQ, but the paratroop figures by Revell and Airfix also have these. The far (rounded) end has four deep holes in it.
The strange glossy mass in the background of these shots is a lump of rubberised playground flooring material I found once. It looks great as a length of bocage/ragged hedge. It is designed to stop kids who fall of swings and slides from killing themselves.
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