Its time once again for a look at the scintillating world of airport service vehicles.
Let’s take a look at an early-War fuel truck that served a critical need at a desperate time.
In the early 1930s the RAF was looking for a truck to serve a variety of needs, from ambulance to fuel truck to general transport. They chose the AM463 family of vehicles from Albion Motors of Scotland. About 400 were acquired, but honestly I’m not sure if that’s total or just the fuel trucks?
An interesting feature of the design was three overhead booms that would allow simultaneous fueling of three aircraft.
Like every RAF asset the type the pushed to the utmost summer and fall of 1940.
The Albion trucks were replaced with newer types starting late 1940; my source (the kit directions!) says this was due to obsolescence, but doesn’t really define in what sense. It could mean automotively, miles add up and if a type is out of production upkeep can become more difficult. Or it could just be a matter of size, obviously this is a small fuel tank that would require frequent trips back to the fuel farm. And while the three boom design obviously has its uses, it looks like its only about a 20 foot span? So it really could only service fighters or trainers.
No doubt, if I had a really authoritative reference for Wartime airport service vehicles, it would collect a lot of dust. But at least once in my life it might answer some questions…
This is the Airfix kit. It is the second of their newer kits I’ve built recently and the first vehicle. Airfix does have a unique approach to things, and the quality of the plastic itself remains suspect; but the engineering is first rate. Really a fun and different sort of project.
Did I say that I have two of these and even more in Airifx Ready for Battle kits?
It was such a bargain two years ago. I could not resist buying two!
Of course they are in my stash waiting for inspiration.
Airfix excels at affordability. My main inspiration was just, “well that will be different!”
I also had two Hurricanes in each of the box. I am thinking diorama here, but I have to complete the Wellington Mk X.
Oh that’s funny. Since I posed mine with a Hurricane and didn’t even know it was boxed that way!
Reblogged this on My Forgotten Hobby III and commented:
That fuel truck has so much character!
Would I be right in saying that in the last few years ‘Aifix’ have really got to grips with mouldings, the quality of their kits seems to have improved greatly. They were all I bought as a child and so I have a sort of affiliation with them. A childhood romance perhaps!
Yes I think they’ve become a completely modern provider. Especially for that niche of less common British subjects! They do excel.
I’m getting very excited too to build one of their early P-40s, its a nice looking kit and they filled a major void.
That’s good to hear.
Seems odd to retire any truck during wartime. Enhance the capacity with a trailer, use it for topping off oil tanks, replace the tank with a cargo bed. Surely it could still find a use.
Well that was my first thought!
Extremely informative. I must admit, I had never given a thought to that kind of vehicle although I have very vague memories of the Airfix kits being available for dioramas.
Albion Motors have produced vehicles of what looks to be amazing strength and durability over the years. Just take a look at the pictures in this article:
Yeah, that was actually my only source, other than the kit directions, of any information at all!
It is fun to have a few more ordinary looking models scattered on the shelf. It adds scale to things. This beast manages to be both ordinary and odd at the same time!
I watched “The Battle of Britain” yesterday and saw one of these, but it only had two fuel booms. Not sure if it was a variant or a reproduction.
In any case, in an age before CGI they still managed to lay their hands on a lot of very authentic looking Heinkels , Messerschmitts, Hurricanes and Spitfires. I’m Sure you could tell me different tales about the actual authenticity, but it worked for me.
The Germans however still drove American half-tracks.
Oh yeah that’s a favorite. The type’s are a mash of what was available, not enough Hurricanes and late mark Spitfires (mainly IXs I believe). The German planes are all Spanish versions (Bf 109 and He 111) with Merlin engines, which is noticeable if you’re into such things, But not really a huge deal.
I’m not so cheerful about seeing those Spanish/German planes show up in a newer movie! Standards have changed with technology, but Battle of Britain is an all time favorite.
Oh I should add about the fuel truck, that sort of confirms my suspicions about replacing functional equipment during wartime. Or just at an airport in general.
My experience is that old equipment lingers on forever, or at least as long as its economical to keep it running. An airport I worked at in the 1990s had a 1943 Diamond Rio snowplow still in service.
My guess would be, even after the RAF decided the Albion fuel trucks would no longer be supported, that they continued to be used at airfields as long the field shop could keep them working. If said field came to be used by Bomber or Coastal Command it probably didn’t see much use, it might have even been passed off to a fighter or training base. But it probably stayed in service as long as it had some utility.
Just a guess.
The original Israeli Air Force was made up of Czech built 109’s and leftover Spitfires. Surprisingly no Spanish 109’s.
Those Czech 109s are a fun story too! If memory serves, it was Jumo powered? I think it was called The Mule. It’s one version of the 109 that no pilot ever had anything good to say about!
Yes, I saw a documentary on it (early Israeli air-force) but don’t recall a lot of particulars other than they got off to a rather inauspicious start and spent a lot of time hiding their planes. Much of their Air Force was strafed before the planes were even assembled as I recall.
So funny thing, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark tonight, and a swear that looked like an Albion fuel truck in the scene with the German flying wing. It’s the truck that triggers the explosion at the end of the scene. Might have even been the same truck from BoB!
The wonder of streaming video. The truck (visible repeatedly during the fight scene with the big German dude) is practically identical in every aspect, except an extra pair of rear wheels. Most likely it was an earlier or later model since the tank size, controls, booms etc are pretty much identical. Also the truck the Germans roll up in just before Marion machine-guns them all looks like a non-tanker Albion.
I know though a lot vehicles in that movie are reproductions. A lot of (slightly) more modern chassis rebuilt to LOOK pre-War. That could also explain its slight variations (the middle boom raised, some sort of projections on the side of the fuel tank). Of course an actual old truck with 40+ years of history before it turns up in the movie is a possibility too!
Comments are so interesting Dave.
I love a good discussion!
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If i recall correctly, there’s a story that Churchill asked Douglas Bader (or was it Stanford Tuck?) what the RAF most needed during the Battle of Britain. The reply was, “Get me more bloody Bowsers!”
That is very interesting! Kind of affirms my thought mentioned above that the trucks likely stayed in service as long as the could be kept running.
Kind of like today when Apple or Google declares a product “obsolete”. It doesn’t mean its now broken and you have to throw it away! It just means the manufacturer will no longer support it. You, as the user, are welcome to keep using it as long as it works for you.
Even more so with a truck. There were other Albion trucks in civilian service, so it was likely not impossible to get basic automotive servicing for quite some time after the RAF’s official pronouncement. At any given airfield I would imagine they stayed in service as long as they could be could be kept functional (and were needed).
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