"Rusty Bits"

“Rusty Bits”; small stories, impressions and whatever may come to my mind…

Oman: Tired old Bedford-tankers

They are getting few and fewer: The old Bedford MKJ 4×4 with their 5000 liter water-tank. They are slow, they smoke and they look tired and worn out – but every day they are on duty after so many years…

…I am not sure if we will ever see their successors of Asian origin in the same age one day.

Oman: Lonely remants of an old Bedford RL truck

Apparently there are not many vehicle wrecks to be found in Oman's part of the Rub' al-Khali. This may be found in the fact that motorisation of Oman has only started very late, at the end of the first half of the 20. Century.

So, wherever you find a piece of metal – it bears some atteaction to the traveler (considered there is a certain interest in history). We did not find an actual truck wreck in this case but only the cargo tray. The manufacturing plate was still on and told that it was once built by “Reynolds and Boughten” in Great Britain.

After some research and in particular with the assistance of the always helpful members of the MLU-Forum, the truck was identified. It is a Bedford RL as it wasmanufactured from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s and in use at that time with the British army.

The reference photo is of a similar truck, taken in 1966 by Ivor “Taff” Davies in Aden (and shown here with his kind permission)

12.05.2018 16:42 | Kuno Gross

Desert Pink - real or not?

To consider the color “pink” as an actual camouflage for vehicles in the desert did never sound plausible to me. Some “sources” (I do not know if these are really sources or just quoted hearsay) state that “in the Sahara, under certain conditions in the evening sun, the sand appears to be pink”.

It is true, especially in winter time, when the sun is going down, short before sunset, the “red portion” in the natural light is much higher than during the day – and this can clearly be seen by eye. But what you see is “reddish”, not “pink”.

There are also regions in the Sahara where the sand has a “reddish” color – but again: “reddish” not “pink”.

I can only assume that some thing went wrong in the communication when the paint shop in cairo was ordered to apply a new layer of camouflage to the trucks of the LRDG – apparently they did not hear “reddish”, also not “pinkish” but a clear “pink!”… and obviously this is exatly what they did to the trucks.

David lloyd Owen, the last CO of the LRDG said: “No; when I say Pink, then I mean bright Pink!”

And also patrol commander Alastair Timpson, in his memories, page 78, states: “G Patrol adopted an original color scheme, Their trucks were sprayed the most glorious Pink, Yellow and Green. If they did not elude detection from enemy aircraft, they would at least dazzle them. There was no doubt you could see a G Patrol truck from a mile away. Even in the heavy Cairo traffic.”

I have no idea if the LRDG then went on a mission with these brightly painted trucks, knowing that the “camouflage” would actually not work at all…

…but much later the topic “Desert Pink” was taken up again. Not by the LRDG, it was disbanded in 1945, but now by the SAS. Landrovers had replaced their wartime Jeeps and for the use in the desert they were spraiyed – what a surprise – “Pink”. Obviously it was not the “bright Pink” anymore as before on the LRDG-trucks but something a bit more “faded”. I cannot say if camouflage worked better then on the Land Rovers, contemporary pictures of these vehicles in the desertt which I have seen appear to show “Pink Land Rovers clearly distinguished from the yellow sand”. I am also not sure if todays “Pink Panthers” as these Land Rovers were colled are sprayed in the correct tone of the 1960ies or if their owners went to too much Pink.

Now, In February 2018 I had the chance to spend some days in the Sultanate of Oman, not on a “Pink Panther” unfortunately but driving a “fat cow” Toyota Land Cruiser. And then, one beautiful day in the dunes of the Rub' al-Khali…. the sand started to appear “pinkish”, I don't know if the tone is captured correctly on my photos but the eyes clearly saw “Pink”. If in this very moment somebody would have asked me the best color to camouflage a vehicle in that area I would probably have answered: “Some sort of Pink may fit best”

Ok, this pink sand covered only a rather limited area – not really sufficient to spray pink color on a vehicle to hide it from the eyes of the enemy.

Anyway – “Desert Pink” exists, I have seen the proof with my own eyes and to see a “Pink Panther” or a pink Ford CMP of the LRDG at a military vehicle display is more than a nice change compared to all those trucks and cars in the always same “Olive Drab”.

LRDG Truck

The pink LRDG-trucks were CMP Ford F30 4×4 30cwt. Shown here in these photographs is the truck “G4 Nursey” which belonged to G-Patrol. It is naturally a replica, but a very fine one – built by the “British Desert Raiders” and on display during “Beltring War & Peace” Show in 2011.

I had the great opportunity to attend this phantastic event on invitation of Paul Lincoln of the “British Desert Raiders”.

Back to the truck – these Ford were actually already in retirement from the LRDG (and what we read is that they did not really like them compared to the Chevrolets) when, due to a shortage of trucks, they had to be brought back into service until a sufficient number of new, purpose-built Chevrolet trucks were available.

The “Pink Panther”

In 1968 The MOD bought 72 Series IIa 109s, officially known as Truck, General Service, 3/4 Ton, or FV 18064, which they had adapted for use by the Special Air Service in the desert. These vehicles were designed for long distance reconnaissance and special operation missions. Previously they had been using the 88 inch SWB Land Rover for their operations and in the late 1960s they were looking for a bigger load carrier. In 1968, Marshalls of Cambridge were commissioned to convert a 109 inch Land Rover for desert duties. Four fuel tanks allowed a capacity of 100 gallons to be carried. Heavier duty chassis, springs, sand tyres, guards to the differentials and a specially mounted spare wheel were also fitted. The doors and windscreen were removed. Equipment included a general-purpose machine gun (GPMG), anti-tank weapon, rifles, grenade holders, smoke canisters and navigation equipment such as a theodolite and compasses. When fully loaded with fuel, weapons, and other kit, the vehicle weighed in excess of 3 tonnes.

The vehicles were delivered in standard bronze green, but many were repainted in a pink colour, which at that time was believed to be the best camouflage in the desert. The pink paint scheme was said to be a highly effective desert camouflage, especially at dawn/dusk. It was as a result of their colour that they became known as ‘Pink Panthers’ or ‘Pinkies’.

Above is actually not my text – I have borrowed it from this website: http://patrickbaty.co.uk/2014/08/04/the-pink-panther/

But below photographs are mine… dating back to 2011 when I was attending “Beltring War & Peace Show”… where apparently I have missed the “peace”-part

01.04.2018 16:22 | Kuno Gross

Cani Islands - Then & Now

A small article which was published in CONTACT 2014/May, the newsletter of the CAF Swiss Wing:

01.06.2014 19:56 | Kuno Gross

Max Holste MH.1521 "Le Broussard"

The Max Holste MH.1521 Broussard is a 1950s French six-seat utility monoplane designed by Max Holste to meet a French Army requirement. It was designed to meet a requirement for a lightweight liaison and observation aircraft. It is a braced high-wing monoplane with twin vertical tail surfaces. It has a fixed tailwheel landing gear and is powered by a nose-mounted Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial piston engine.

It saw service in the Algerian War as an Army cooperation aircraft, mostly as an artillery spotter and in an air supply/ambulance role where its good short-field performance and resistance to ground fire were required. Its distinctive sound, made by its noisy radial engine and large propeller, was a disadvantage as the Algerian guerrillas could hear its approach long before other aircraft.

It remained in service until the 1980s, and can still be seen in France, the UK, and the United States being operated by enthusiasts or collectors. Lukas Schatzmann is running the only “Broussard” in Switzerland: HB-RSL

Technical Data:

  • Crew: 1
  • Passengers: 5
  • Length: 8.65 m (28 ft 4½ in)
  • Wingspan: 13.75 m (45 ft 1¼ in)
  • Empty weight: 1530 kg (3373 lb)
  • Gross weight: 2500 kg (5512 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 radial piston engine, 336 kW (450 hp)
  • Maximum speed: 270 km/h (168 mph)
  • Service ceiling: 5500 m (18045 ft)
  • Range (mx): 1200 kilometers
  • Start: 375 m
  • Landing: 500 m

01.06.2014 08:34 | Kuno Gross