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Underwater_Alex

Thistlegorm vehicles - mistaken identities

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Hello,

 

My name is Alex and I am an underwater photographer (www.amustard.com). I first found this forum last year, when trying to make sense of the vehicles in the Thistlegorm wreck. I joined last week because I am hoping for some help on IDs.

 

This discussion in particular (http://hmvf.co.uk/forumvb/showthread.php?28901-Interesting-MV-Thistlegorm) was a revelation for me. I was really struggling to identify the British World War II vehicles I had photographed on the wreck as the identities given in just about all Scuba diving magazines and books on the wreck didn't seem to make sense. There is so much incorrect information and very little correct information out there on the vehicles in the cargo. Ted's post was the first one that convinced me that this needs to be sorted out in the diving world.

 

There is much recorded on various sites about its content, most of which is wrong. The trucks are WOT 3 with an odd WOT1 thrown in. A Crossley Q is repeatedly labeled a Matador...

 

 

A great example of this is if you google Crossley Q and Thistlegorm! Just one result comes up that isn't from this forum and this is one of the largest and most numerous trucks on the wreck. Even the Ford WOTs rarely get a mention!

 

I have raised this socially with a couple of the wreck experts in the scuba diving world - and basically been given the cold shoulder. I don't have background as a "wreck detective" - so they are not willing to admit that they might be wrong. So I am keen to prepare a water tight case!

 

My reason for posting is to:

1) get help with IDs to correctly identify all the main vehicles in the holds. Also if there is anything we can't ID, I am back there again in June and photograph/measure etc the appropriate features

2) learn how to differentiate vehicles, so I can make a proper drawing of the layout of the holds as the plans that exists in the books are not just wrong in IDs, they actually show less than half the vehicles in the holds and they get repeated in book after book, article after article!

3) then I when I know what the main vehicles are, I want to attend some of the MV rallies this summer and take pictures of restored vehicles from the same angles as my underwater pictures, so nobody can argue about the IDs! Plus after all the research I have done, I have really got the bug to go to a meet!

 

Just to set the scene and to check that I know how to share photos on the forum, here are some externals of the Thistlegorm:

 

The Stern

OUTSIDE_1.jpg

 

The bow (she's a big ship):

OUTSIDE_2.jpg

 

Stanier 8F Locomotive:

OUTSIDE_3.jpg

 

Train water tanker:

OUTSIDE_4.jpg

 

Hopefully, that has all worked.

 

 

Alex

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Quick note about photography.

 

I have always photographed the wreck with the intension of making nice pictures, rather than recording all the different artefacts and vehicles. Of course the vehicles are the main story of the wreck, but I choose photograph the ones that are well positioned to make good photos, rather than perhaps the more historically interesting ones. Also I tend to shoot them from angles that make for good images, rather than perhaps show the useful features for ID (which I don't know anyway)!

 

Also in the confines of the wreck I have to use very wide lenses including fisheye lenses that do distort how the vehicles look. So bear that in mind when looking at the photos, below.

 

Quick note about condition of the wreck.

 

Anything that has been in the sea since the war is now starting to deteriorate significantly. But the Thistlegorm's cargo has also been, very sadly, pulled apart by idiots, after a souvenir. It is only the very occasional one, but with lots of divers (it only takes 1 in a 1000) and the damage mounts up is very depressing. And makes ID even harder. So also bear this in mind when looking at the photos.

 

Also sadly, this is still going on. I took this picture in 2009, of one of the few steering wheels still in place. By my next visit in 2010, this wheel had been stolen.

steering_wheel.jpg

 

More to follow. I will start uploading photos of the various vehicles I have photographed over the next day or so.

Edited by Underwater_Alex

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I was putting some serious thought not long ago to learning to dive and going looking for tanks on the sea bed. bracklesham bay and studland would be my first 2 sites, followed by moray firth :-D

 

good luck with your venture.

 

rick

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what a project! Plenty of expert help to be had here, post away.:-D

Edited by rog8811

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Thank you for the friendly welcome and encouragement.

 

I am just going to do the motorbikes tonight.

 

BIKES_1.jpg

 

All the existing literature on the Thistlegorm says there are three types of bikes on board:

Norton 16H

BSA M20

Matchless G3Ls

 

Most bikes are not in good condition, most missing seats, mudguards, handlebars, lights, badges etc. But the Matchless should at least be easy to differentiate as it has just a single fork on each side of the front wheel. I have not photographed one bike on the wreck that I think is a Matchless (although that doesn't mean they are not there).

 

The Norton and BSA are very similar and I have learned to differentiate them by the front forks and front brake. They both have two forks on each side, but on the Norton 16H they are similar thickness and on the BSA M20 they are thick and thin. Also the BSA has the brake on the right and the Norton on the left.

 

This is what I take to be a BSA M20. Forks noticeably different thicknesses. Break on right of the front wheel.

BIKES_2.jpg

 

 

These are things I have noticed for myself. So I would like to know if these are consistent differences (I think they are) and also are there any other good differentiators, bearing in mind the conditions of the bikes?

 

This is the same bike, with the Missus looking on:

BIKES_3.jpg

 

 

I have also noticed that on the two levels of the Thistlegorm holds the BSAs are on the upper level and the Nortons are on the lower level. In both cases they are usually loaded in the back of trucks.

 

This is another BSA M20, I think, in better condition (although not as well positioned for photography):

BIKES_4.jpg

 

And these ones, also BSAs, are some of the few with headlights still attached. These are in a narrow, hard to reach section of the hold:

BIKES_5.jpg

 

And another BSA M20, I think, with a nice view of the exhaust pipe:

BIKES_6.jpg

 

I have less photos of Norton's because I had never been able to tell them apart. So I focused my photography on the upper deck motorbikes, because as a diver I can spend longer there, being a bit shallower. But these, I believe are Norton's, with break on the left:

 

BIKES_7.jpg

 

And some more Norton's:

BIKES_8.jpg

 

I am pretty confident that I am getting these correct. But confirmation and corrections are what I am after!

 

 

Alex

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Hi Alex, best of luck with your project. I think your 'basic level' approach to identifying the 3 makes of bike is a good (correct) system; one that is sound. The level of concretion (if that is the right description) prevents comparison of details and unless you are familiar with general contours etc, your 'brake and fork' system will be your best bet. The Matchless forks are known as 'teles' (telescopic) the other two have 'girders'. And as you correctly observe there are differences in thickness between the two. The guys over on this forum

 

http://pub37.bravenet.com/forum/static/show.php?usernum=3155626639&frmid=16&cmd=show

 

will be just as interested in your photos. There have been various threads over time regarding the bikes on board. They will be interested in your approach and eventual findings I believe.

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With the shoal of fish present in most, these are simply stunning photographs - keep posting please!

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BIKES_7.jpg

 

And some more Norton's:

BIKES_8.jpg

 

Alex

 

Well done Alex. A worthwhile project and one that should have been undertaken earlier in my opinion.

 

Broadly speaking, your differentiation of front brake to the left or the right is a useful guide when distinguishing the side-valve motor cycles. However, at the time Thistlegorm was sunk, there is little evidence that the new Matchless 'Teledraulic' 41/G3Ls were being sent to the Middle East and photographic evidence of the campaigns (rather than of later in the war) appear to show only the earlier G3/WO model and these had the 'girder' type forks (with drum brake on the left, but laced into the wheel rather than bolted on to the outside).

 

I'm not sure that I've recognised any Matchlesses in the cargo. The Matchlesses have a taller overhead valve engine so should be distinguishable. If still present, Nortons had the horn clamped to the nearside front downtube and it is recognisable in a number of the photos.

 

Exhaust pipe line is also a useful guide. The M20 is much more rounded and exits to the front. Nortons had an old-fashioned Edwardian-based engine with an exhaust pipe that pointed almost straight down before curving backwards.

 

Your first Norton picture is interesting and shows a feature that I have noted earlier from this wreck. The rear view shows a clearly upturned silencer outlet. This is something which was not fitted to machines supplied to the British Army but was a feature of the pre-war India Office contracts. This, together with the fact that the bikes are complete on their wheels suggests that they were not newly-built.

 

f9159675-fd91-40e6-9864-f41bc81659e3_zps1ef03a66.jpg

 

Did Thistlegorm take on extra cargo when it stopped over at Cape Town ? There were units of the Indian Army in the Middle East. Is it possible that their transport used Cape Town as a staging post before moving on to Alexandria ? By late 1941, the British Army in India was being supplied direct with standard equipment and I can't imagine that India Office machines could have been loaded in the UK

 

Ministry of Supply contract details show that new motorcycles were crated on a large scale for export. This was primarily a space-saving measure. Although war diaries often refer to motorcycles being loaded into unit transport, this would generally be those which had already been issued.

 

These ilustrations from a period publication show how Nortons were crated :-

 

C4870294Period16HampBig4ampperiodpublications9552_zps863c63bc.jpg

 

C4870294Period16HampBig4ampperiodpublications9542_zpse8f7fe9a.jpg

 

I imagine that if there were any crates such as these, the resulting concretion would be very difficult to identify. In some ways, I'm relieved that the material is in such a bad state. It saves me yearning for access to a huge spares stock.

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Hi Alex,

 

My name is Tony Edge and I am an engineer in the RAF and active diver. I have just got back from the Thistlegorm diving with Paul Colley. After a trip out there last year, he mentioned your research and I found this forum with lots of information that helped me identify the Pundit Light, WOT trucks, Bedfords OYs, Morris CS8s and The Crossley Q. The latter was particularly interesting to me as my father had recently passed away and he had been an apprentice at Crossleys before the war (questions I should have asked when I had the chance :-(). I dived the wreck this year with the aim of trying to identify more cargo. The image below is not taken by me but shows one of the vehicles I am interested to identify. On the back are 4 pillars that seem to have chains and sprockets. Does anyone recognise it. I have become increasingly convinced that the majority of cargo in the front of the Thistlegorm was destined for the RAF so has become even more interesting to me.

 

My buddy was interested in the motorbikes and has identified at least on Matchless. Between us we tried to video the cargo with the aim of producing a 3D model of the cargo. The quality is not up to your standard but may be of interest to the group. I will post a link to YouTube once we have put some videos together.

 

Tony Edgeapplication.pdf

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As a hobby photographer I like artful photo's.

During re-enactments and such I take mainly normal photo's to show whats there or happening.

But I love to make some more artful pics when time and conditions allow.

 

So, I love your photo's, well done.

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Thank you for the continued encouragement. The Norton exhaust is certainly interesting and I will check that on my next visit to the wreck. Although I have photographed the Thistlegorm many times, I have not photographed there since understanding exactly what is what. I know the wreck very well and know exactly where every vehicle is, I just didn't know what they were.

 

That is a big part of this project for me - as it will be great to return there and know what everything is and hopefully a few new things might crop up.

 

To answer a couple of questions from 79x100, all the bikes I have seen on the wreck are fully assembled and were loaded onto the flatbeds of the various trucks.

Also, I don't think that any cargo was unloaded in Cape Town.

 

I am also amazed that this hasn't been done before, or if it has that the information is not widely available and incorrect information is continually circulated. I can't believe that nobody has even done a decent survey of the holds. It wouldn't take more than about 30 mins to map and count the main vehicles.

 

I agree with Tony and also suspect a RAF connection for a lot of the cargo.

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Now I want to start going through the larger vehicles (cars/trucks/lorries) on the wreck. Some are easy to ID being intact and distinctive. Some I cannot ID and I am really excited to hear suggestions from the forum.

Starting with the Bedford OY lorries. Although one of the most commonly quoted vehicles associated with the wreck, there are actually only 4 on the Thistlegorm (from memory). All at the rear end of the upper level of hold 2. On the port they both face aft, on the starboard side one faces aft, one forward.

 

Curvy cap and square front grill make these easy. This is aft facing one on the starboard. The other one is behind, facing forward.

BEDFORD_1.jpg

 

And this is on the port side, where there are two facing aft.

BEDFORD_2.jpg

 

This is the forward facing one on the starboard:

BEDFORD_3.jpg

 

 

And here are two shots of them that I really like. My goal is usually to take visually interesting shots, like these, rather than just ID type shots, which is a main reason I don't always have clear shots of all the vehicles.

This is the pair on the port side, showing the cabs, which both have steering wheels still. I had placed an additional light in the second cab, so you can see the details of it through the window of the first:

BEDFORD_4.jpg

 

And this is a more arty version of the same two Bedford OY's, this time looking from one cab, through to the other, where I had placed a light:

BEDFORD_5.jpg

 

Alex

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Regardless guys, a great thread, please post more. Nice to se ethe Forum used for an educational purpose as well as fun and social.

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article-2024544-0D602DC300000578-846_634x412.jpg

There are 3 of these Zwicky refuellers in the rear port side of hold 1. Not sure what the base vehicle is called I think its an Albion.

A_Spitfire_of_No._19_Squadron_is_refuelled_at_Fowlmere,_near_Duxford,_September_1940._CH1372.jpg

A_Spitfire_of_No._19_Squadron_is_refuelled_at_Fowlmere,_near_Duxford,_September_1940._CH1372.jpg

stock-footage-spare-parts-of-the-airplanes-loaded-at-the-war-ship-wreck-thistlegorm.jpg

Any idea what these are. Someone suggest searchlights?

 

Tony Edge

Edited by Tony Edge
Pictures not loaded. Links added

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Another distinctive truck/lorry is the Crossley Q, which most diving literature incorrectly lists as a Matador, which also has an arched roof. But has completely different windows. I had never heard of a Crossley Q before discovering it mentioned on this forum and since there are at least 8, I think, of these lorries on the Thistlegorm. It is amazing that such a numerous vehicles had been mis-ID'ed for so long.

 

As soon as you compare the windscreens of the AEC Matador and Crossley Q with the Thistlegorm vehicles, it is clear what they are. I have been using the fact that the windscreen is 4 piece on the Matador and 2 piece on the Crossley. Also the Crossley windscreen is horizontal along the bottom, while the Matador 'screen slopes downwards slightly as it goes out.

 

 

One of the books I have says the Crossley Q was used by the RAF, which along with all the plane bits (wings, engine cowlings, exhaust, accumulator trolleys, pundit lights etc) is why I think so much of the cargo was bound for the RAF.

 

I have never paid that much attention to the Crossley Qs on the Thistlegorm, because none are well positioned for photography. The cabs of almost all of them are parked against and covered in the debris in the centre of hold 2, lower level.

 

 

Crossley Q windscreen:

CROSSLEY_1.jpg

 

View from rear of a pair of Crossley Q lorries, buried in debris:

CROSSLEY_2.jpg

 

This one is deeper in the hold and more exposed on the front, although has lost the top of the cab:

[EDIT - discussion further down in this thread, pages 3 & 4, suggests that this particular vehicle is a Leyland Retriever]

CROSSLEY_3.jpg

 

These two Crossley Qs are on the opposite side to the two above, you can also see (Bristol?) plane engine covers:

CROSSLEY_5.jpg

Edited by Underwater_Alex
Correction added.

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article-2024544-0D602DC300000578-846_634x412.jpg

There are 3 of these Zwicky refuellers in the rear port side of hold 1. Not sure what the base vehicle is called I think its an Albion.

Tony Edge

 

Hi Tony,

 

That's brilliant. I have been completely stumped on what those are - I'll post my images of them too. The one you've posted has my light inside (although it is not my photo, but taken by my friend Damien on one of my photography workshops)!

 

Alex

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I saw the truck you mentioned in your previous post as a Crossley with the cab missing but think it may be something else thoughI do not know what.

Tony

 

That's exciting. I think that this the one you mean:

 

CROSSLEY_3.jpg

 

I don't think I have any other images of it (that I have kept), so other angles will have to wait until my next visit. It is starboard side, hold two, lower level.

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I cannot believe I am reading this thread: many years ago my son was on a couple of RAF diving expos onto this ship; He took many photos and having previously seen lots of incorrectly captioned photos from the Thistlegorm on various websites and knowing I was a total military vehicle & equipment anorak after a lifetime in the hobby and 39 years in the RAF we set about correctly identifying the items in his photos; I subsequently posted the info on several vehicle websites and he posted it in the diving world, so I am a bit gobsmacked to see the identification being revisited.

Yes the wrongly identified Matadors are indeed Crossley Q FWDs, somewhere in the hold was a Chance Bros aerodrome runway floodlight trailer which had previously been published as the remains of a Rolls Royce armoured car . Bedford OYs, and a number of Fordson WOT3 and possibly some WOT1s .

Keep at it and Good luck lads

 

TED

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I think I'll stop my blitz of posts until later, so that there is time to comment on these latest conclusions.

 

There are 3 of these Zwicky refuellers in the rear port side of hold 1. Not sure what the base vehicle is called I think its an Albion.

A_Spitfire_of_No._19_Squadron_is_refuelled_at_Fowlmere,_near_Duxford,_September_1940._CH1372.jpg

 

 

Here are some photos of these vehicles, which I didn't know what they were before.

 

They have a very distinctive cab, with a flat room, split screen (into two) and two side windows.

FUEL_1.jpg

 

The large wheel on the side, i think is an attached spare, although can't be sure. This is a different vehicle of the same kind, which also has the wheel on the side, probably! I can find a photo of an Albion from the right side to see if there is a wheel attached.

FUEL_2.jpg

 

I presume that the spring like tubing is the refuelling apparatus. Which is consistent with Tony's ID.

 

There is very little space around these vehicles, like most places on the wreck, so it is hard to get far enough away from the to get them in the frame. But this shot shows the bonnet is v shaped and that the wheel arches are attached to the body. The photos I have seen of the Albion show a bonnet profile like this, but I think that the wheel arches are separate. Maybe the design evolved over time?

 

FUEL_3.jpg

 

This photo was taken from dead ahead - which is almost an impossible view because the truck is parked against the bulkhead of the hold. I couldn't look through my camera to take this and just had to hold it back against the wall with the widest possible lens attached. Remember all these photos show distortion from the very wide fisheye lenses used.

 

FUEL_4.jpg

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Thanks Ted,

 

It was an earlier post of yours that enabled me to find this forum. However, I have not found many websites that discuss the Thistlegorm cargo. Did you identify this one which has 4 pillars with chains and sprockets

 

article-2539106-1AA6BB3300000578-164_964x640.jpg

 

or this one

 

CROSSLEY_3.jpg

 

 

 

Tony

Edited by Tony Edge
Not sure why pictures are not showing so added link

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I cannot believe I am reading this thread: many years ago my son was on a couple of RAF diving expos onto this ship; He took many photos and having previously seen lots of incorrectly captioned photos from the Thistlegorm on various websites and knowing I was a total military vehicle & equipment anorak after a lifetime in the hobby and 39 years in the RAF we set about correctly identifying the items in his photos; I subsequently posted the info on several vehicle websites and he posted it in the diving world, so I am a bit gobsmacked to see the identification being revisited.

 

 

Hi Ted,

 

I read your comments on this on this forum last year and searched high and low for your findings report. Searching "Thistlegorm and Crossley" brings up nothing on the Internet outside this site - and as far as I know - you and your son are the only ones to correctly ID Crossley Q (so it should be an ideal search tool for the article), which makes me think that your son's article was published in print and has not been put up on the internet.

 

I also contacted my friend Paul Colley (mentioned above by Tony) - and he pulled RAF strings to try and find any thing there for me (as President of the RAF Sub Aqua Association and retired Air Vice-Marshall) I was hoping he'd be able to unearth it on the RAF side. But no luck.

 

 

If you have a copy - in any form - I 'd absolutely love to see it as it would answer so many questions for me.

 

Alex

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application.pdf

 

Alex,

 

Not sure if this picture will work but if not here is a link AA72-05 Albion AM463 Refueller.jpg. The first thing that caught my eye with this truck was the hoop shape behind the cab that I mistakenly thought was part of the fuel tank. As can be seen in the picture this is not the case. The second feature was the spirals from the original hoses. Finally, the 3 posts at the back are still easily recognisable. However, I am sure that the manufacturer would use the same fuel system on different chassis so it may not be an Albion AM463.

 

Tony

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Here is an embedded photo of the large lorry that Tony linked above:

 

BIG_LORRY.jpg

 

Some references say that the largest vehicle on the wreck is a Tilling Stevens TS19? This is the largest vehicle, but I don't have an ID for it.

 

Alex

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