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MarkV

WWI and interwar Vehicle Numbering

Question

Hello,

 

I am trying to come to grips with the numbering system seen painted on the sides or back of British Army staff cars, lorries, and armoured cars starting in WWI. Vehicles on the Western Front appear to have had numbers starting with "M^" followed by a three or four digit number, while those in the Middle East used "LC^" and then a three or four digit number.

 

1916-10-15BEFFranceNYTimesM227.jpg

 

 

1918ABTPalestine-WithLawrenceinArab.jpg

 

Based on old photos that I have come across, it appears that the "LC^" numbers remained on the vehicles in the Middle East for at most only a few years after the end of the war. The "M^" series appears to have carried on through the 1920's on vehicles based in Great Britain, though. Is this correct?

 

Did "M" and "LC" actually signify the theater of service or did these designations have some other meaning?

 

Is there a record somewhere of what types of vehicles had which numbers?

 

Is it possible to tell when a vehicle received its number, based on its place in the numerical sequence, or were these numbers issued in blocks or by some other arrangement?

 

Any help decoding this numbering system would be most welcome.

 

Thank you,

 

MarkV

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Hello,

 

There are definitely "M" labeled armoured cars that are post-1919.

 

Here are several 1920 Pattern Rolls Royce armoured cars:

M25_scan0019.jpg

 

AFV9EarlyArmoredCars-M356.jpg

 

and Bovington's 1920 Pattern Car:

457051271_d2b87f1d4a_b.jpg

 

"M" numbers are also seen on the subsequent 1924 Pattern Rolls Royce armoured cars as well:

 

TanketteMagRR1924Pattern-M406.jpg

 

"F" prefix Rolls Royce armoured cars have so far only shown up in the North Irish Horse, a unit operating 1920 Pattern cars in North Ireland in 1940 or 41.

 

I have yet to find a "T" prefix Rolls Royce armoured car, however, there is one photo of a 1914 Pattern RR armoured car, taken in 1920 or later, in Cairo Egypt with "T.C.2" painted on the side. This particular car is partially cut off at the edge of the photo though, so it might say "R.T.C.2" for "Royal Tank Corps".

 

With regards to the civilian-style registration plates, all of the 1920 Pattern Rolls Royce armoured cars that I have seen with plates in historic photos have had only a single letter prefix, "H" followed by a four digit number. There was a 1924 Pattern Rolls Royce armoured car with a plate reading "MH9986" - presumably "M" for military/army and "H9986" as the civilian registration number.

 

MarkV

Edited by MarkV

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No! To comply with the Roads Act 1920 military vehicles would have had a civilian registration number. This is in addition to their military serial number. The Bovington Rolls-Royce wears both as does the the one in the first photo.

 

As has been said before, these civvy numbers were often from number blocks allocated to, and then by, Middlesex County Council. "H" and "MH" are both Middlesex series - the 'M' does not mean military. The "H" records are believed destroyed. The "MH" records are said to still exist. I'll send you the details.

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No! To comply with the Roads Act 1920 military vehicles would have had a civilian registration number. This is in addition to their military serial number. The Bovington Rolls-Royce wears both as does the the one in the first photo.

 

As has been said before, these civvy numbers were often from number blocks allocated to, and then by, Middlesex County Council. "H" and "MH" are both Middlesex series - the 'M' does not mean military. The "H" records are believed destroyed. The "MH" records are said to still exist. I'll send you the details.

 

Runflat,

 

What you are saying then is that the "M" in Middlesex County Council's "MH" prefix for civilian registration plates is purly coincidental to the army's separate numbering system (which for a period in the 1920s was prefixed "M" on armoured cars).

 

Presumably then Middlesex had exhausted its single letter prefix "H" sometime after the 1920 Pattern cars were registered and had moved on to two letter prefixes, which included "MH", by the time the 1924 Pattern cars were registered.

 

Thank you for clearing this up.

 

MarkV

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Yes, purely coincidental.

 

The "H" series allocations by Middlesex County Council in 1920 used up otherwise void numbers from a series that had been issued to civilians between December 1903 and July 1912.

 

The MCC then started a habit of setting aside blocks of numbers to be issued to the military as and when. Numbers from the "MH" series were issued to civilians between July 1924 and August 1925 but issues from this series to the military, out of the block set aside, may not have been in the same time frame.

 

Later prefixes (with civvy issuing dates) include "MK" (8/25-9/26), "ML" (9/26-8/27), "MP" (8/27-8/28), "MT" (8/28-6/29), "MY" (6/29-5/33), "MG" (3/30-3/49), "HX" (6/30-3/33) and "MV" (7/31-6/33). As you can see a bit overlap in when they were used. They then moved onto three letter prefixes.

Edited by Runflat

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Nice pictures MarkV, thanks for posting those. I'd love a set of those inter-war overalls.

 

This site shows how the area codes were allocated :-

 

http://homepages.cwi.nl/~dik/english/reg/GB/table.html

 

It may also interest you to look up The Kithead Trust. They hold many old records but presumably for Ministry contracts there is little further information.

 

The fact that Middlesex was used is not surprising because in those L.C.C. (London County Council) days, large parts of what we now regard as London still belonged to their proper counties.

 

By the way, a list of Registration and County letters is to be found in the back of old AA members handbooks. That's where I learned them from as a kid.

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Sorry. I dont think that i can add anything to this. Alan has alraedy covered my limited knowledge on the subject.

 

Sorry

 

Tim (too)

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Seen today in Foyles bookshop, London, is a new book called "Warpaint: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003" by Dick Taylor.

 

This is the first of 4 volumes. The author's preface suggests that, in time, all four may be combined into a single volume. No doubt that will depend on expected sales and new information coming to light (the author is soliciting for further information / corrections).

 

Unfortunately, the annexes on WW1 numbering systems provide little in the way of additional information for this string. However, for the first time I've seen in print, it does quote (albeit unattributed) General Routine Order No. 944 of 26th June, 1915, that:

 

"All motor cars and motor lorries must have their official registration number painted on the bonnet and also on the back of the vehicle. This number is to painted on both sides of the bonnet in white paint, in a conspicuous position at the back where it is not likely to be obscured by the tyres, tarpaulins or other obstructions. The size of the figures in all cases is to be as under:-

For motor cars - 4in. high, 1/2in. wide

For motor lorries - 6in. high, 5/8in. wide

 

A broad arrow is to be placed on top or on one side of the numbers, according to the shape of the bonnet, as may be found most convenient. No numbers or letters are to painted on the bonnets or on the backs of the vehicles except the official registration number."

 

The inter-war system gets a mention, but doesn't really add to what can be found in Hodges.

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Thanks for the heads-up. The author has set himself quite a task in only three volumes !

 

I found a review of sorts but it doesn't really judge accuracy. Is Dick Taylor good at quoting sources ?

 

http://www.cybermodeler.com/hobby/ref/mus/book_mus_warpaint.shtml

 

Amazon list it as well. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/8389450631/ref=dp_olp_2/203-6796226-9100717

 

The book is not expensive if it adds something to previous publications.

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I had only a brief look in the shop last night... but have gone back armed with cash, so now have a copy in my paws.

 

The author describes himself as a trained historian, so, pleasingly, there are more footnotes quoting sources than you normally find; but I would have welcomed more if only to differentiate between when he has drawn on original source material compared to received wisdom found in other works. I guess the author would enter into correspondence on points of detail as this would help steer any future revisions. For example my quote above from GRO944 differs slightly to that in the book. But then he dates his to May 1916. Interesting!

 

...and if anyone can explain the later Interwar system for Egypt with western and arabic characters separated by a 'WD' then I'd be fascinated to know.

 

This is touched on, but I suspect you will hunger for more.

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I know this is an old thread, but it is worth a punt.

 

Below is a photo of Marshall 68754 at The Drove in Sleaford, Lincs in 1919 or 1920. The house behind is No 15 and still stands.

 

The Marshall was new in 1915 to a haulier in Ipswich, fitted with aluminium boiler bands as a wartime economy measure!

 

Sometime in 1916 it was comandeered for the war effort, and all trace of it vanishes untill 1919 when it appears for sale by Arthur M Cole, a well known machinery dealer in Sleaford, and this is in who's ownership the Marshall was when photographed.

 

008_0448.jpg

 

Notice the markings on the front tank. W arrow E? then some numbers. Has anyone ever seen a WE mark before?, and if so what does it mean? Any ideas.

 

We assume the Marshall was used perhaps either for hauling hay, or baling it.

 

Here it is, a little more recently parked on my drive for the daughters 2nd birthday party

 

008_0449.jpg

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Cracking photo. Why has the registration number changed? Would it have been reregistered after the war?

Edited by Davie
duff spelling

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Cracking photo. Why has the regisrtation number changed? Would it have been reregistered after the war?

 

The BE2864 registration is a Lincolnshire mark, it was common for the makers to register steamers upon sale, this is a Marshall, built in Gainsborough. Many Marshalls are BE registered for this reason.

 

in 1920 sometime after this picture was taken, Arthur M Cole sold the machine to a man called Arthur Proctor who is recorded as a travelling showman in Derby. For whatever reason he re registered the machine CH2462 in the Derbyshire series, this was not that uncommon. It retains this number as you can see.

 

We assume Arthur Proctor used it for hauling whatever show tackle he had, we do not believe it was ever a 'showmans engine' proper.

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Thanks. Very interesting. It's great that you know so much of the old girl's history

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Thanks. Very interesting. It's great that you know so much of the old girl's history

 

That is thanks to Alan Duke and the Road Locomotive Society. We have a pretty full history to date, however 1916 to 1919 (the military) bit is the only gap.

 

This is what it looked like when bought, though this is 1984 after 15years layup

 

008_0450.jpg

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