Reference Image WW2 British Vehicle codes and Bridge Classifications.

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I appreciate that not everyone on this forum is into British WW2 Soft-skins in the same way I am, but recently, I have seen a few glaring mistakes involving vehicle markings. Happily, none of them were by members of this group. The whole mystery of vehicle markings during WW2 has prompted quite a few very informative books and, barring Artillery markings, it is simple enough to understand.
Where people mainly slip up is the letters used on vehicles heading WD numbers and the numbers displayed on yellow bridge plates. Too many people assume they are the vehicle's permitted maximum laden weight; they're not; they are indicative of the classification of bridging the vehicles are permitted to use.
The difference to that rule is where tractor and trailer units are being used. In that case, the total weight of the outfit is displayed above the weight of the tractor unit only. The yellow plates were supposed to be a uniform 9 inches in diameter, however, several "field variations" were adopted. In North Africa for instance, many bridging marks were painted directly onto the vehicle with a yellow dotted circle surrounding the number.
Needless to say, there were anomalies, but the following two tables should give you an idea what went where.

Vehicle Classification.

A - Ambulances
C. - Motorcycle
F - Armoured Cars & Scout Cars
H - Tractors (including Breakdown Tractors)
I. - Trucks, 1 ton and over
M. - Cars and Light Utilities
P - Amphibious vehicles
S - Self-Propelled Guns, etc
T. - Carriers and Tanks
V. - Vans (RASC)
X - All types of Trailer
Z - Trucks under 1 ton

Bridge Classification

1 - Motorcycles, Small Saloons, Keeps
2. - Jeeps, Saloons, Light Utilities, Routers
3. - Heavy Saloons, some 15 cwt Trucks
4. - Morris-Commercial FED 30 cwt GS Trucks
5. - most 15 cwt Trucks, Heavy Utilities
6. - most 30 cwt Trucks
7. - some 3 ton 4x2 trucks, Bedford QLT Troopers
8 - 5 ton 4-wheeled trailers
9 - most 3 ton 4x2, 4x4 and 6x4 Trucks

Hope this is of use to any budding vehicle builders out there.

Smeggers
 
It seems over complicated, typically British.

1 and 2 appear the same as does 3 & 5, 4&6, 7 & 9.

Also, we must have had kit that weighed more than 5 tons, which appears to be the max weight class.
 

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
It seems over complicated, typically British.

1 and 2 appear the same as does 3 & 5, 4&6, 7 & 9.

Also, we must have had kit that weighed more than 5 tons, which appears to be the max weight class.
Don't shoot the messenger pal, I only report on what I have to hand.
 
Some other weird stuff to add to the list:

M - Also includes armoured Light Recce Cars (LRCs), such as the Humber LRC, Morris LRC and Otter LRC.
Z - Also includes armoured 'trucks' such as M5, M9 & M14 Half-Tracks, M3A1 Scout Cars and C15TA armoured trucks, as they were officially listed on War Establishments as '15cwt Trucks'.
E - Engineering vehicles such as dozers and road-graders, but not AVREs and AVLBs, which were T.
W - Seen on M3 75mm GMCs of armoured car regts. No idea what it signifies, as I would have expected S.
C - Used as a prefix to the letter code for all Canadian Army vehicles.
 
It seems over complicated, typically British.

1 and 2 appear the same as does 3 & 5, 4&6, 7 & 9.

Also, we must have had kit that weighed more than 5 tons, which appears to be the max weight class.
Yeah, they did go higher and anything with a towing capability normally had a split number with the heavier class (when towing) painted above the lower class (not towing). So for example, an Airborne Jeep gun-tractor would have 2-over-1, a Morris C8 Quad tractor for a 25pdr would have 9-over-5 and an AEC Matador tractor for a 5.5-inch Medium Gun would have 21-over-12.
 
There's a new website here that's just under construction with vehicle Arm-of-Service sign colours and serials, as well as other markings. He's started with the tank units, but hopes to expand it to cover everything:

 
There's a new website here that's just under construction with vehicle Arm-of-Service sign colours and serials, as well as other markings. He's started with the tank units, but hopes to expand it to cover everything:

There's also this PDF, which lists units and their offical markings:

Of course considering how fluid the marking system was, and how much it was up to individual commanders, one needs a few photographs to go from.
 
I appreciate that not everyone on this forum is into British WW2 Soft-skins in the same way I am, but recently, I have seen a few glaring mistakes involving vehicle markings. Happily, none of them were by members of this group. The whole mystery of vehicle markings during WW2 has prompted quite a few very informative books and, barring Artillery markings, it is simple enough to understand.
Where people mainly slip up is the letters used on vehicles heading WD numbers and the numbers displayed on yellow bridge plates. Too many people assume they are the vehicle's permitted maximum laden weight; they're not; they are indicative of the classification of bridging the vehicles are permitted to use.
The difference to that rule is where tractor and trailer units are being used. In that case, the total weight of the outfit is displayed above the weight of the tractor unit only. The yellow plates were supposed to be a uniform 9 inches in diameter, however, several "field variations" were adopted. In North Africa for instance, many bridging marks were painted directly onto the vehicle with a yellow dotted circle surrounding the number.
Needless to say, there were anomalies, but the following two tables should give you an idea what went where.

Vehicle Classification.

A - Ambulances
C. - Motorcycle
F - Armoured Cars & Scout Cars
H - Tractors (including Breakdown Tractors)
I. - Trucks, 1 ton and over
M. - Cars and Light Utilities
P - Amphibious vehicles
S - Self-Propelled Guns, etc
T. - Carriers and Tanks
V. - Vans (RASC)
X - All types of Trailer
Z - Trucks under 1 ton

Bridge Classification

1 - Motorcycles, Small Saloons, Keeps
2. - Jeeps, Saloons, Light Utilities, Routers
3. - Heavy Saloons, some 15 cwt Trucks
4. - Morris-Commercial FED 30 cwt GS Trucks
5. - most 15 cwt Trucks, Heavy Utilities
6. - most 30 cwt Trucks
7. - some 3 ton 4x2 trucks, Bedford QLT Troopers
8 - 5 ton 4-wheeled trailers
9 - most 3 ton 4x2, 4x4 and 6x4 Trucks

Hope this is of use to any budding vehicle builders out there.

Smeggers
If I was a betting man, I'd put good money on you owning a serious shed.
 
There's also this PDF, which lists units and their offical markings:

Of course considering how fluid the marking system was, and how much it was up to individual commanders, one needs a few photographs to go from.
I wonder whether a reference work listing known and used Unit Serial Numbers (think that's the term used for WW2) would sell.

I consulted a WW2Talk SME on 1940s BEF for 1st FD Sqns numbers and he gave me the evolutions for both RE Sqns in 1st Armoured Div up to 1943.

I've come across a few in Unit War Diaries (also specifically identified some individual units that have been inaccurately labelled elsewhere).

Another side is the various War Establishment/tables of equipment in theory and actuality of vehicle states at known times.
Mapleleafup had a good infographic at one point, mostly Canadacentric with Canadian variant vehicles but useful.

Do you think it would be a bit too niche or a useful tome?
 
I wonder whether a reference work listing known and used Unit Serial Numbers (think that's the term used for WW2) would sell.

I consulted a WW2Talk SME on 1940s BEF for 1st FD Sqns numbers and he gave me the evolutions for both RE Sqns in 1st Armoured Div up to 1943.

I've come across a few in Unit War Diaries (also specifically identified some individual units that have been inaccurately labelled elsewhere).

Another side is the various War Establishment/tables of equipment in theory and actuality of vehicle states at known times.
Mapleleafup had a good infographic at one point, mostly Canadacentric with Canadian variant vehicles but useful.

Do you think it would be a bit too niche or a useful tome?
It would be bloody useful to the wargamer/modeller.

But it'd be a massive book, which would take a huge amount of time to collate. Assuming you need frequent colour illustrations, would be horribly expensive for the author to get the art work/photo's done, and would be very expensive for the publisher to produce, and only be of use to a small niche group of readers.

I mean if you feel like doing the Big Book of British markings, crack on. Myself and thousands of modellers and wargamers would thank you. But don't plan on becoming rich off it. Someone's making a killing from military history books, but its not the historians and authors. Unless you're ridiculously famous, Beevor, Hastings, Dan Snow etc. But note how they do generic broad views of battles, with a small amount of pictures? Technical stuff is more expensive, time consuming and sells worse.
 
It would be bloody useful to the wargamer/modeller.

But it'd be a massive book, which would take a huge amount of time to collate. Assuming you need frequent colour illustrations, would be horribly expensive for the author to get the art work/photo's done, and would be very expensive for the publisher to produce, and only be of use to a small niche group of readers.

I mean if you feel like doing the Big Book of British markings, crack on. Myself and thousands of modellers and wargamers would thank you. But don't plan on becoming rich off it. Someone's making a killing from military history books, but its not the historians and authors. Unless you're ridiculously famous, Beevor, Hastings, Dan Snow etc. But note how they do generic broad views of battles, with a small amount of pictures? Technical stuff is more expensive, time consuming and sells worse.
I can understand that - pity because looking at the site nominated by @Signalman I noticed some vagueries straight away.
Similarly, a book by Chaz Bowyer with a photo captioned as Boston bombers on D. Day is completely wrong - I hate referencing any book where I can spot these errors as I then question other stuff - primary source material comes at a premium of money and time doesn't it.
 
I can understand that - pity because looking at the site nominated by @Signalman I noticed some vagueries straight away.
Similarly, a book by Chaz Bowyer with a photo captioned as Boston bombers on D. Day is completely wrong - I hate referencing any book where I can spot these errors as I then question other stuff - primary source material comes at a premium of money and time doesn't it.
Pictures are expensive. I've been quoted £800 for 11 images before, although that is an upper limit. My spigot book has something like 99 images in it.
Time, well, along side my full time job, the spigot book took about six years of gathering documents (that included paying a researcher in the US to go grab me some docs from their archive, yet another drain) and reading them, and another year to write. I've still got to check the proofs and do the index.
 
There's some stuff on the WW2Talk website but you need to be a member. And I've got a 1970s Almark book on the topic with a lot of the detail.

As an example of split bridge marks on big wagons:-

www.worldwarphotos.info/wp-content/gallery/uk/b...
 

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
There's a new website here that's just under construction with vehicle Arm-of-Service sign colours and serials, as well as other markings. He's started with the tank units, but hopes to expand it to cover everything:

Looks good mate, this one has been up and running for quite a while with hyperlinks to formation histories and commanders.....
The following two books are the best references for WW2 Heraldry..
.
th.jpeg
.
FB-WW2.jpg
. Guess what? I have both of them!
 

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
It seems over complicated, typically British.

1 and 2 appear the same as does 3 & 5, 4&6, 7 & 9.

Also, we must have had kit that weighed more than 5 tons, which appears to be the max weight class.
Unfortunately, I can only pass on what information I have to hand. The following book contains the lists that I have copied out. I am aware that other weights and combinations were used, but they are not covered in this book...
2120738.jpeg

You will find the lists on page 4.
 

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Yeah, they did go higher and anything with a towing capability normally had a split number with the heavier class (when towing) painted above the lower class (not towing). So for example, an Airborne Jeep gun-tractor would have 2-over-1, a Morris C8 Quad tractor for a 25pdr would have 9-over-5 and an AEC Matador tractor for a 5.5-inch Medium Gun would have 21-over-12.
That point has already been made in my text.
 
Subjects like this always remind me of the tale told by a young and very junior USMC officer about his unit's move to Vietnam in 1965.

He was caught standing around by a senior officer and told to grab some chalk and mark the centre of gravity of the unit's jeeps.

He asked how he could find the centre of gravity to mark it and was told that it was stencilled on the floor of the vehicles... :)
 
It would be bloody useful to the wargamer/modeller.

But it'd be a massive book, which would take a huge amount of time to collate. Assuming you need frequent colour illustrations, would be horribly expensive for the author to get the art work/photo's done, and would be very expensive for the publisher to produce, and only be of use to a small niche group of readers.

I mean if you feel like doing the Big Book of British markings, crack on. Myself and thousands of modellers and wargamers would thank you. But don't plan on becoming rich off it. Someone's making a killing from military history books, but its not the historians and authors. Unless you're ridiculously famous, Beevor, Hastings, Dan Snow etc. But note how they do generic broad views of battles, with a small amount of pictures? Technical stuff is more expensive, time consuming and sells worse.
Also, as I recall from doing my history degree at King’s, the technical stuff was often ‘Pooh-poohed’ by the academics as being beneath their view of ‘grand strategy’.

I recall having a bit of a spat with the then leading light on Blitzkrieg and Dunkirk on the issue of how surprising was it the Germans drove through the Ardennes.

I’d suggested that perhaps the French had failed to see the ground from the enemy’s point of view, and had considered the trafficability of the ground from the perspective of the Char 2c etc, rather than from the Panzer I and II.

In retrospect, It might not of helped when I said “ok hands up, which one of us had ever driven a tank then?”
 
Also, as I recall from doing my history degree at King’s, the technical stuff was often ‘Pooh-poohed’ by the academics as being beneath their view of ‘grand strategy’.
That might actually be an interesting view on things. Compare the technical historian to the campaign historian. For example I wonder what most would say is the most important British invention of the period?

Have a think, I've put my answer here.
I'd say Plastic Armour.
I wonder how many people said the same.
 
I too thought they were maximum laden weights rather than bridge classifications. I was involved in restoring a Morris Quad tractor in the early '90s and did the external paint and markings. It was all very specific. I went over to Normandy for the 50th in it.

20200714_145024.jpg
 

New Posts

Latest Threads

Top