ON HER MAJESTY’S SERVICE
In its heyday, the Morris Minor was the vehicle of choice for a range of Government functions. Gerry Cambridge, MMOC Ex
Government Fleet Registrar, gives an insight into their history and use.
Published in Minor Matters Magazine - November 2011
Morris Minors (cars, Travellers and LCVs) have been used by many Government Agencies, e.g. Ministry of Defence, Department of the Environment/Property Services Agency, Customs and Excise, Home Office, Royal Ordnance, Department of Employment, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Forestry Commission and D.H.S.S. (these being specially adapted for use by the disabled). Some of you may own such a vehicle and may or may not be aware of its previous ‘life’.
MMOC Ex-Government Fleet Register
The Register and website were created as a resource for the benefit of members generally and in particular, owners of Ex government vehicles. We are happy to discuss vehicles and to receive photos and information. New information is always welcome so that existing knowledge can be added to or corrected. We can provide details of colour schemes and fittings to help with restoration. We can also confirm the identity of vehicles (particularly ex-Forces) as we have the chassis numbers of most of these. The website is: govminors.mmoc.org.uk
Identifying features of an Ex Government Minor
Data plate on the bulkhead under the bonnet or on the glove-locker lid.
No bumper overriders and possibly holes on the bumper valence and rear doors where badges were fitted.
Rectangular reflectors under rear bumpers.
Moulded rubber floor mat. Also plain door panels and no armrests on rear seats. No covering on boot floor.
Fire extinguisher bracket (and extinguisher), usually on LHS under parcel tray in front of door.
Non standard colours eg, Blue/ grey, Bronze green, Bermuda blue (similar to Police Panda Patrol cars)
Post production year identifying letters. (i.e. N through to Y and in some cases Q)
Traces of original signage (Possibly under the current paintwork)
Low-compression engines were usually fitted and after overhaul were painted duck egg blue. A workshop plate giving overhaul details was often attached to the rocker cover.
Non standard front seat runners and indications of modifications for disabled users.
HM Forces used Travellers as utility vehicles and general ‘runabouts.’ Officially known as "Car Utility 4x2 Morris 1000", its purpose was "to carry 4 persons or 2 persons and a full load of stores". The body was described as a "commercially produced utility with full width double rear doors, having a folding rear seat to provide a loading platform for the carriage of light stores".
Morris 1000 Travellers were first used by the MOD in 1961, major contracts being supplied from1966 until 1971. About 2000 were supplied in altogether and they were used by all branches of the Services, but the Army had the most. They were originally finished in Army mid bronze green, RAF blue grey, and black for the Royal Navy. In the late seventies they were often overpainted in “drab green.” Royal Navy vehicles remained black. Some were painted white for service in tropical regions. Those to be used on airfields were marked out in high visibility yellow. On Bomb disposal Travellers, all four wings were painted Signal Red. The internal finish was fairly basic, eg a rubber mat instead of carpet. Standard civilian colours were used for upholstery and internal trim. The dashboard was standard, apart from additional switches for auxiliary lights and other devices. Later contracts had standard civilian internal finish. On leaving the factory, they were stored at Royal Army Ordnance Corps Central Vehicle Depots until needed and then sent to the relevant Operational Unit. Many went to Germany (BAOR) and some to Cyprus. Their work was mainly administrative and technical. eg. personal transport for Careers and Recruiting Officers, Chaplains' Pool, District HQ staff and Mobile Display Team support staff. They were used for specialist roles by Military Police, Bomb Disposal, SAS, various Engineering units and aircraft servicing and repair teams. They were used for driver training as well as for the carriage and delivery of light goods and as general runabouts at station level. Royal Navy vehicles were used by Naval Police at dockyards and other naval bases and as staff cars by officers and were often taken aboard and used as runabouts wherever the ship docked.
BAOR Travellers (supplied as Left Hand Drive and with steering column ignition locks.) were used by both civilian and military staff of the various Civilian Works Groups at bases in Germany. Those returning to the UK were converted to Right Hand Drive.
Many Travellers wore heraldic formation and arm of service signs. BAOR vehicles, however, displayed the unit number to which they were attached and the Union flag.
Usually after 5 years or about 55,000 miles they were sold, together with other Government Surplus vehicles, by auction at the RAOC's Storage and Disposal Depot at Ruddington, near Nottingham (now redeveloped as Rushcliffe Country Park). The last MoD Traveller was taken out of service in 1980 and all had been released through the auctions by 1986. A substantial number have survived and are still giving reliable service to their proud owners. Many BAOR vehicles were sold in Holland. So far we have accounted for about 130 vehicles but more are appearing as time goes on.
Vehicle history cards are available from the Royal Logistics Corps Museum at Deepcut on payment of a fee. For RAF vehicles contact the RAF Museum at Hendon.
Despite extensive research, no information has come to light about RN vehicles. They were finished in black and seem to have been to civilian de-luxe standard.
The D.H.S.S. supplied many Morris Minors (both cars and Travellers) for use by the disabled since 1949. These had various modifications fitted to individual specifications, eg more sturdy and efficient front seat runners to give greater leg room adjustment, manual clutch/accelerator/brake controls and relocated switches. The cars were maintained and replaced after a number of years and eventually disposed of at Ruddington.
Ministry of Supply
The Ministry of Supply (latterly Property Services Agency) maintained all government estate both civil and military. Morris 1000s formed part of the “small vehicle fleet” and the Government self - drive fleet. They were disposed of at Ruddington after 5 years or 55000 miles, though many were kept for longer as they were so reliable and easy to maintain.
Most Government department and some MOD Minors ran with civilian registrations ( blocks mainly of London serials set aside for corporate organisations e.g. GPO etc )
The origins of these can be traced via DVLA.
The Forestry Commission used Minor LCVs as transport vehicles for managers/supervisors to carry out their tasks and also for the delivery of equipment and supplies. Gillian’s van (JUL537D) was originally owned by the Forestry Commission at Saville Row, London in 1966. After serving for three years, she was stripped down, rebuilt and would serve another three years before being stripped and rebuilt again before being decommissioned in1972 and sold on into private ownership, probably via the Government Surplus vehicle auctions at Ruddington.
Not much is known about life between then and 1980 when Gillian bought her (without MOT certificate). She was put into roadworthy condition and was used as Gillian and the family’s everyday transport. During this time, she was repainted blue and then black and was modified in various ways to improve drivability and comfort. In May 2008 she was taken off the road after covering 350,000+ miles.
By 2009 she was back on the road after undergoing a complete restoration. She is now painted in her original mid-bronze green and is in pretty standard form except for a few sympathetic modifications such as disc brakes, Newton Commercial seats, alternator, etc. She has won lots of trophies at shows and was on display at the NEC Classic Car Show in 2009. She has also completed both the John O’ Groats to Land’s End run and the Roses Run in 2010.
Gillian and Cameron Shaw have tried to trace her history as best they can, but sadly the factory records were lost in a fire as was the Forestry Commission record in a separate fire! Some information has been obtained from ex Forestry Commission employees, but further information would be very welcome. They also want to reinstate the sign writing on the bodywork but as yet have been unable to find details of the original design. If anyone can help, Gillian and Cameron would be very grateful. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
There must be many Morris Minors which were initially operated by various government agencies and which were released to the public via the Ruddington auctions and are still extant. As they may have civilian registrations and no particular distinguishing features or markings (except under layers of paint) they may be difficult to identify.
All these vehicles play an important part in the history of the Morris Minor and are well worth preserving, so if you own a Morris Minor which you know to be, or which you think may be, one of these vehicles and have not yet contacted us, or if you have any information or tales about their use it would be great to hear from you. There is more detailed information on our website: www.govminors.mmoc.org.uk
I acknowledge help and information from the following:
Royal Logistics Corps, Deepcut.
RAF Museum, Hendon.
Robin Taylor, (Road Transport Fleet Data Society)
John Mastrangelo, (Military Vehicle Trust)
Members of the Morris Minor Owners Club
British Army Transport & Logistics, Swann & Fletcher, (Ian Allen)
Encyclopaedia of the Modern British Army, Terry Gander. (Patrick Stephens)
Wheels of the RAF, Bruce Robertson, (Patrick Stephens)
Encyclopaedia of the Modern Royal Air Force, Terry Gander. (Patrick Stephens)
Army Badges & Insignia Since 1945, (Book 1). Guido Rosignoli (Blandford Press)
British Army Cloth Insignia (1940 to Present) Brian Davis ( Arms & Armour Press)
Bombs to Butterflies, Margaret Lawson, (Ruddington Local History Society)
Russell Harvey, (Minor Monthly)
Dedicated website: govminors.mmoc.org.uk
If you have any further information or reminiscences or you wish to give us details of your vehicle or you want to find out more about it, please contact either:
Gerry Cambridge, 43 Bramhall Ave, Harwood, BOLTON, Lancs, BL2 4ES.