The Armoured Autocar in Canadian Service
by Cameron Pulsifer.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW017
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
This book in the “in Canadian Service” series from Service Publications deals with the Armoured Autocar and is the usual 24 page soft cover with extensive English text as well as B&W period photos usually one to a page along with the text and a few two shots to a page which are large enough to show the general details complimenting the text.
The Great War of 1914-18 saw two relatively new pieces of equipment come to prominence. One was the machine gun which resulted in many casualties in the set-piece battles in the trenches, and the other was the armoured vehicle.
While both had been in existence for some time, the use of machine guns developed rapidly while armoured vehicles in various forms were used by many armies, initially in the form of armoured cars before the tank came into being.
This book describes not only the Canadian Armoured Autocar which was designed and produced in the early days of the war but also the unit raised to use it and the part it played in the development of machine gun tactics.
The unit was the brainchild of a former French army office who had emigrated to Canada while the Autocars were purchased and equipped by wealthy citizens. The vehicles were sourced in the United States and fitted out with fixed armour plate around the driver and engine area with folding shields at the back. Armament was initially two Colt machine guns also bought from the USA as other types could not be obtained. As well as a batch of armoured vehicles, standard Autocar trucks were bought as support vehicles before the unit sailed overseas.
However, finding role for such an unusual unit was not easy and it remained in England for several months. Once in France its mobility was limited due to the trench system. It was saved from being disbanded by the development of tactics for using its machine guns for supporting fire. These tactics were to be widely used later by other units, by 1918 the cars were considered to be obsolete and the unit almost disbanded again before finally being used in a mobile role. When the Germans mounted a major offensive in March of that year they were able to move rapidly to threatened areas to provide support. After the Allies went over to the attack they were used to protect the flanks of cavalry units.
By the end of the fighting they had been reduced to just four armoured cars. Two were shipped back to Canada where one was used for training which meant that it survived long enough to become part of the Canadian War Museum collection where it still remains.
The full story of these cars and the unit make interesting reading and is well told here. It is illustrated throughout with period black and white photos of the cars and supporting vehicles, with two sets of plans in 1:35th scale showing armoured Autocars in original and final configurations.
Overall a good tale well told and a welcome addition to the study of armoured vehicles and Canadian military history.