MINORS ON HER MAJESTY'S SERVICE
Taken from Minor Matters magazine, March/April 1993
Morris Minors have served the Ministry of Defence at home and abroad for many years. Gerry Cambridge continues the story
It was in 1965 that my wife and I bought our first Minor. This was a
fairly dilapidated 1953 2 door saloon which conveyed us, together with
our infant daughter (who now runs her own Trafalgar Blue saloon), complete
with cot and pram on the roof and a days supply of baby food, etc.,
on our first holiday to Bournemouth. Apart from the fact that the exhaust
pipe fell off half way there, it carried out its duties with flying colours.
It was Bryan Gostlings article in Minor Matters which aroused our interest in ex-Forces Minors. Having read Bryans article I began to do some research, firstly on our own vehicle and then more generally. Recently we have bought an ex-Army Traveller which is also being restored and the idea is to work on one and use the other. The starting point for tracing the history of a vehicle is the military registration number. The MOD uses a distinctive system of registration numbers, started in the early 50s, which is basically the same as the original civilian series of two letters followed by four numbers, except that the letters are placed in the middle of the numbers to avoid confusion, e.g. 39 FJ 39. Morris Minors were all in the FG, FH, FJ, FK, AM and RN series. Unfortunately RAF vehicles do not always have this marked on the Identification Plate. I found the Local Motor Tax Office very helpful here as they gave me a copy of the auction release note giving the registration number and this enabled me eventually to trace the cars history, via the RAF Museum, Hendon.
The Morris Minor was one of a long succession of civilian type vehicles
used by H.M. Forces as Utility cars or Tillys. Examples are
pre-war Standards, Morris 10, Hillman Minx, Austin 10 and Hillman Husky.
They were succeeded by Ford Escorts and more recently the Vauxhall Chevette.
It was 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 flat
loading platform for the carriage of light stores. The mechanical
specification is as for the civilian version, except for having a low
They were distributed from Central Vehicle Depots at Hilton, near Derby, Ashchurch, Irvine and Antwerp and were sent to various locations in Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Malta.
The duties undertaken were mainly of a technical/administrative nature such as Careers Information, Chaplains Department, District HQs, Education Service, Cadet Forces, Driver Training and Stationery Distribution and carriage of light goods and as general runabouts and personal transport as well as more specialist roles by Military Police, Bomb Disposal, Mobile Display Teams, various engineering units and Regimental duties and on Airfields. Those used on airfields and other places where visibility is important had a bright yellow band painted round the middle. Many had military formation plates and arm of service plates attached to the front bumper and rear doors.
The earlier batches had chassis numbers which ran in consecutive blocks which were pre-allocated, hence the discrepancy in some cases between the chassis number and year of manufacture. Those made at Adderley Park from 1970 onwards were numbered non-sequentially, interspersed with civilian vehicles. As we know, there are no records of the activities at Adderley Park, so it is not possible to find out why this happened except to guess that chassis numbers were allocated at random as the vehicle left the assembly line, or that a system of batch production was used as suggested by Paul Skilleter in the latest edition of his book Morris Minor. The first known vehicle was chassis number 1191002 and was supplied in January 1968 and the last was number 1293790, supplied in June 1971.
It would appear from Order Ledgers at Beverley Military Transport Museum,
that some cars were also ordered but no details as yet can be traced of
any of these. It also appears that contracts were placed between 1959
and 1963 but again no details of any of these has emerged.
Morris Minors (cars, Travellers and LCVs) were also used in large quantities by other Government Departments, e.g. Department of the Environment, Customs and Excise, Home Office, Royal Ordnance, D.H.S.S., Department of Employment. These were also disposed of at Ruddington.
Record cards giving details of service history for M.O.D. vehicles are
kept at the Museum of Army Transport, Beverley, Humberside and the R.A.F.
Museum at Hendon and copies will be provided on application and payment
of a fee. Records for nearly all Minors, except Navy vehicles, are available.
The fact that these cards have survived is a lucky chance as they were
supposed to have been destroyed but for someones foresight in realising
their potential value and deciding to keep them. Many researchers and
owners of ex-Military vehicles are grateful for this.
Robin Taylor of the Road Transport Fleet Data Society is interested in the existence and whereabouts of Morris Minor cars, Travellers and LCVs which were used or supplied by various Government Agencies and Public Services and Utilities, e.g. DHSS, GPO, Police and Electricity Boards, etc. He would like photos and details of such vehicles and can be contacted at 97 Thorpe Road, Norwich. We are hoping eventually to compile a list of all Government Service Minors. He may also have information of interest to our members.
I acknowledge information and/or photographs from the following:
How can such a vehicle be identified? They usually have distinguishing features such as Identity or Government property plates, sometimes there are mysterious knobs and switches which have no purpose. In the case of ex-MOD vehicles, of course, the year suffix letter will be from M to Y or in a few cases Q as these were only given a civilian registration after demob. So if you have such a vehicle or know the whereabouts of one, please contact me with details at firstname.lastname@example.org