Matador in Norwegian Campaign



One for the historians, I think.

On another forum I frequent, a member has posted a photo taken he believes, at an airfield in Norway in 1940. Linky Of interest is a damaged Hurricane, and some other aircraft flown by the Norgies.

He's trying to put a date on the picture, but what is puzzling is the presence of a Matador in the background.

Other research, another linky shows that there were a number of Light and Heavy AA Batteries and a Field Battery involved in the Norwegian Campaign. My question is, given that the Matador started entering service in 1939, would the deployed units have taken Matadors with them?

Anyone clued-up on the campaign, and the RA involvement help me out here?



Hi, Jon, 'ow's tricks?

In answer to your question, yes, the AEC Matador was used as a gun tractor, as well as being a GS wagon.
British forces occupied parts of Norway on 8th May 1945, in order to round up the German garrison and provide a framework for the return of Norwegian forces, Monarch and government-in-exile a few days later.

If the lorry is a Matador, then its likely to be part of the immediate post-war occupation & clean up - clearly the airfields would be among the first locations to be cleared.

One of the formations involved in securing Denmark and then Norway was 6th Airborne Division; I assume that there were other formations which would have included artillery and other units - Eng, RAOC, REME, etc - that might have Matadors.
This might have been taken post war, but might have been taken during the German Occupation.

The 1940 orbat from the British Official history posted on the other forum has several HAA uinits listed in the 3rd June orbat for the forces in the Narvik area. AEC Matadors were the prime movers for the 3.7" guns used by the HAA regiments in the field army from the start of the War. The 3.7"AA gun couldnlt be moved without a big tractor.


Pterandon & TT, thanks. This possibility is what is puzzling. The photo in my first link shows an obviously battle-damaged Hurricane, along with some Norwegian biplanes.

Now, we know that the Luftwaffe recovered the opposition's equipment for evaluation, so I cannot imagine them leaving a more-or-less intact Hurricane laying about for 5 years.

Which would date the picture to 1940ish.
cloudbuster said:
Pterandon & TT, thanks. This possibility is what is puzzling. The photo in my first link shows an obviously battle-damaged Hurricane, along with some Norwegian biplanes.

Now, we know that the Luftwaffe recovered the opposition's equipment for evaluarion, so I cannot imagine them leaving a more-or-less intact Hurricane laying about for 5 years.

Which would date the picture to 1940ish.
Maybe not. One of the main reasons the Norwegian campaign collapsed was because of the start of the blitzkrieg in France. After Dunkirk, the Germans had dozens of Hurricanes and other British aircraft in their possession.
The area around the rear of the aircraft looks like it has just been cleared of small trees - you can see the stumps and fresh wood chips.

The other engineering equipment appears to be a bulldozer and grader - presumably for levelling a dirt strip.

One of the guys by the Fokker might be wearing battledress, and might be carrying a slung rifle. Or he might be in civvies and smoking a pipe - the resolution of the photo is too coarse to see detail.

The Fokkers have clearly visible serial numbers - isn't there a spotter who can trace the aircraft records?

The undergrowth clearance would lead me to think those aircraft have been standing derelict for years by the time the photo was taken. The Fokkers appear to be on stands with their wheels removed, so they don't look like they were towed there recently.
The first production Matadors were delivered in November 1939, so could well have made it to Norway. I doubt very much it was towing a 3.7" gun, as the mobile HAA was all 3" 20cwt at this time. If it was post war, I would expect a star marking on the doors and this is absent, so I think it is 1940. The tracked vehicle to the right also looks like any number of pre-war tracked vehicles. The man by the aircraft looks like he is guarding it and although there are two other men visible, the lack of people is odd. Matadors were equipped as a Forward Air Control version and I wonder if what we can see is an RAF liaison to the Norwegian Air Force?


Book Reviewer
I agree with the comments above however I don't think it's a wartime shot
I think it's a few years after the war looking at the picture I have tried to enlarge it a bit but it's grainy

The first 200 AEC Matador's were ordered as R A gun tractors and started being delivered to the R A in November 1939 as F_D_J states so it could have got to Norway

IIRC these were the first 4 x 4 trucks issued to the British Army most of it's pre war Bedfords etc were just militerised versions of civvy trucks
Over 10,000 were built and alot were running well into the '70s and 80's as recovery trucks and timber wagons

The British issued the trucks to Free Allied Forces the Danish Army received a post war batch so I am assuming Free Norwegion forces may have received a number

I don't think the photo is from 1940 for the following reasons
The Hurricane Squadrons were evacuated onto HMS Glorious which was then sunk

You would have to reasonably assume that if the ground crew were evacuating they would have set fire to all there equipment they couldn't take including any 'lame ducks'

Also compare the Matador with pictures of abandoned equipment at Dunkirk when they were wrecked ours looks pretty intact

That Hurricane looks more to be a case of severe neglect than actual battle damage (although he could have been straffed by the Germans)
As stated above it and the other aircraft look as though they have been dragged to that spot

The chap in front appears to be wearing battle dress jacket but no wings and dosen't appear to have either a slung weapon or a holster on and as said earlier looks as though he is smoking a pipe

Even with a British stiff upper lip there is no sense of urgency it dosen't look like an airfield which is part of a country that is being overrun there is no activity in the background or AA guns pointing skyward

He appears more of a military tourist having a look round some old abandoned aircraft

The fact he is wearing a battledress jacket in my view dosn't place him in the war any number of photo's from the '50's show men wearing these as work jackets

The ground dosn't look like its been used as a grass airfield either it's un cut and appears to be full of stones and rocks

There is also no indecation that the Germans have captured it as I can see no German equipment or men

The Matador dosen't asppear to carry either a white star (although the Hurricane tail is blocking this) or any markings on the door nor does it appear to have any camoflage pattern (see the picture below)

We are assuming it's green although it may be another dark colour

Looking at the rest of the vehicles and their height compared to the Matador they seem more civillian in appearance

Like wise I would suggest the earth mover may have come from the states however if it was being operated by the forces it would have the white star and some sort of markings on it

Also any self respecting squaddie knowing all is lost would have stuffed it into the aircraft

So what I think you may have a post war late 1940's early 1950's picture of a clearup of an old airfield

Compare the paintwork an markings to 'our' Matador

Nice Matador. Serious question - is that "cartoon cloud" camouflage scheme authentic? Is that the first use of the black/green combination (most British Army vehicles having been gloss green in the 1930s)?


Book Reviewer
4(T) said:
Nice Matador. Serious question - is that "cartoon cloud" camouflage scheme authentic? Is that the first use of the black/green combination (most British Army vehicles having been gloss green in the 1930s)?
Sorry I may have caused confusion when I refere to 'our' Matador I mean the one in the original picture
That matador was in Classic Military Vehicles and I got the picture from Google images

The 'Mickey Mouse' pattern (so called because the small circles looked like Mickeys ears) was adopted in 1944
The pattern was used on many vehicles participating in the Normandy invasion and the subsequent campaigns in France, Belgium and the Netherlands
The white star was equivillant to the D Day stripes on aircraft and our modern day inverted V
Thats why I don't think its from 1945 the vehicle appears to be one colour and has no other markings
On the other forum there was some good logic locating the airfield as Bardufoss.

..... my friend, Morten Moe, has the following comments about the photograph having consulted some of his books and files.

The Fokker 333 participated in the fighting in southern Norway. In the beginning of May 1940 it was transferred to the airfield at Bardufoss in northern Norway. It may have participated in the fighting there and was left at the airfield at the end of the campaign. Since the British also had Hurricanes based at Bardufoss and left some of them behind as they withdrew, I'm convinced this photograph was taken at Bardufoss.

Linzee og Morten
Here is a photo of Bardufoss airfield

It was first used in 1938 but may have only been a strip suitable for fighters.

The aircraft have been landed there and not taken there on low loaders so its an airfield. There weren't many airstrips in North Norway in June 1940 so Bardufos sounds reasonable.

Maybe the photo was taken somewhere on the boundaries of this airfield. Were Hurricanes used at any other Norwegian airfields?

Its hard to tell when the photo was taken but it could be any time from 1940 onwards.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on 46 sqn with photos donated by a relative of a member of the squadron.

No matador visible in the 1940 photos but that may not prove they weren't there! However the 1940 photos show trees close to the aircraft and maintenance facilities.

Bardufoss was also use by the Luftwaffe as an airfield for operations over North Norway. Here is a photo of KG26 there.

That looks like a much larger field than when used by the Norwegians and RAF.

By the end of the war it collected a lot of German scrap, none of which is visible in the photo with the matador. Here is some German scrap at the airfield.

That doesn't prove that the German scrap wasn't somewhere else on the airfield, but it raises a question.

Here is a link to a site about the German defences in Norway

This mentions that the Norwegians did a lot of workl post war and reused german kit and defences. It also refers to the original grass strip inside a wooden (wooded?) area.

Here is a hypothesis.

The photo was taken under the German occupation before the Germans had enlarged the airfield to make it suitable for supporting operations by medium bombers.

My guess is that the hurricanes and fokkers would have been recovered and recycled or destroyed during the war. The photos show the insignia only removed - probably by German units as trophies

The Brits left a lot of stuff abandoned at Bardufoss in June 1940. At that time there were higher priorities than recovering matador trucks. There was probably a lot of abandoned stuff in Norway. The Germans made a lot of use of British kit. The battledress without insignia could have been worn by a civilian or a PW or hiwi.
I think that's a post war photo too , what is the vehicle in front of the Matador?

Not sure it's Bardufoss either. The Caterpillar 'Road Grader' is a quandry too. Is it there for clearing, and if so would post-date early war, or is it there to construct a burial pit for the A/C?


Gents, thanks for your assistance with this question. Having posed the question for a member on another forum, I directed him here to view your responses. By PM he has asked me to pass on his thanks; this picture has lead to a great deal of interest in Norway, and the general concensus is that it was taken in 1940, and the bloke standing in front of the aircraft is wearing civvies.

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