Military Organization > United Kingdom > British Army Motor Company (1944-45)

British Army Motor Company (1944-45)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Motor Company of the British Army as of January 1944. These were mechanized infantry companies that operated within a Motor Battalion subordinate to Armoured Brigades. These were different from Rifle Companies part of an Armoured Division's Infantry Brigade, who were just standard infantry units that were motorized by divisional lorries.

The Motor Battalion provided Armoured Brigades with infantry that were immediately available separate from the Armoured Division's main infantry contingent. They essentially allowed Armoured Brigades to operate with an infantry component that roughly matched the tank units in terms of mobility. This article covers the Motor Company as it would have been equipped shortly before D-Day, with M5 Half-Tracks and White Scout Cars replacing 15-cwt 4x4 trucks that had been in use prior.

 

The next level up was the Motor Battalion, which consisted of a Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Support Company and 3 Motor Companies (this).

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Headquarters

    • 3 Motor Platoons

    • 1 Scout Platoon

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

british motor company 1944-01.png
 

      Organization      ​​

  • Type: Mechanized/Motorized Infantry Company

  • Origin: British Army (United Kingdom)

  • Time Frame: 1944~1945

  • Personnel: 7 Officers and 164 Other Ranks

Company Headquarters (2 Officers, 33 Other Ranks, 4 Attached)

Fighting Portion

→ White Scout Car*

  • 1× Company Commander, Major (OF-3), armed with a .38 caliber revolver**

  • 1× Signaller, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Clerk, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Batman-Driver, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Replaced 15cwt 4x4 truck before D-Day. Carried No. 18 and No. 19 radio sets.

** Supplemented with a rifle or Sten gun.

→ White Scout Car*

  • 1× Company Second-in-Command, Captain (OF-2), armed with a .38 caliber revolver**

  • 1× Company Sergeant-Major, Warrant Officer 2 (OR-8), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Batman-Driver, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Replaced 15cwt 4x4 truck before D-Day. Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver.

** Supplemented with a rifle or Sten gun.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

Mortar Detachment

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Detachment Commander, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with a Sten submachine gun

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 3× Mortarmen, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 38 radio set and 3-inch mortar

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Detachment Second-in-Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 3× Mortarmen, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 38 radio set and 3-inch mortar

→ 15-cwt 4×2 Truck*

  • 1× Mortarman, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Driver, I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

* Carried a PIAT and 3-inch mortar rounds

Administrative Portion

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Company Quartermaster-Sergeant, Colour Sergeant (OR-7)

  • 1× Driver I.C.**, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

  • 1× Cook (A.C.C.), Corporal (OR-4), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 2× Cooks (A.C.C.), Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

* Mobile cooker with cooking sets, rations, and drawing a water trailer.

** Trained in water duties.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Technical Storeman, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Storeman, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Driver I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Carried small arms ammunition, Bren gun and PIAT.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Vehicle Mechanic, Private (OR-1) or Corporal (OR-4), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Driver I.C.**, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Carried petrol and stores.

** Trained as petrol storeman.

→ 5 cwt 4×4 Jeep*

  • 1× Vehicle Mechanic, R.E.M.E.**, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Driver I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

** Four of 9 Vehicle Mechanics in the battalion were Corporals.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Transport Corporal, Corporal (OR-4), armed with a Sten submachine gun

3× Motor Platoons (1 Officer, 30 Other Ranks each) 

Platoon Headquarters

→ M5 Half-Track*

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with a .38 caliber revolver

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Signaller, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Mortarman, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I rifle

  • 1× Mortarman, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun and 2-inch mortar

  • 1× Batman-Driver, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Replaced a 15 cwt 4x4 truck before D-Day. Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver, PIAT, and 2-inch mortar.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

3× Sections

→ M5 Half-Track*

  • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with a Sten submachine gun

  • 1× Section Second-in-Command, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Bren No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with a Bren light machine gun

  • 1× Bren No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 3× Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver, I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

* Replaced a 15 cwt 4x4 truck before D-Day. 

1× Scout Platoon (2 Officer, 41 Other Ranks) 

Platoon Headquarters

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with a .38 caliber revolver

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Equipped with a Bren gun and No. 19 radio set.

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Platoon Second-in-Command, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with a .38 caliber revolver

  • 1× Batman, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Equipped with a Bren gun.

→ 15-cwt 4×2 Truck*

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver, I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle 

→ Scout Car*

  • 1× Batman, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

  • 1× Driver, I.C., Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Assumed to be a White, Humber or Daimler Dingo scout car. Equipped with a Bren gun.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Private (OR-1), armed with a Sten submachine gun

3× Scout Sections

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Section Commander, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Equipped with a Bren gun, PIAT and No. 19 radio set.

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Rifleman, Corporal (OR-4), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Equipped with a Bren gun and 2-inch mortar

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Rifleman, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Private (OR-1), armed with a No. 4 Mk. I Rifle

* Equipped with a Bren gun

 

      Discussion      ​​

The Motor Company was the primary maneuver element of the Motor Battalion, with one Motor Battalion allocated as mechanized infantry for Armoured Brigades. These differed from the Rifle Companies within the Armoured Division's Infantry Brigade, which were simply standard Rifle Companies that were motorized with 3-ton lorries from the divisional RASC Transport Platoon (earlier in the war referred to as Lorried Infantry). The Motor Battalion was fully organically motorized, while the Rifle Battalions were externally motorized. They were meant to free the Armoured Brigade from being bogged down by the lesser mobility of the Infantry Brigade by providing it with an immediate infantry contingent that was mobile cross country. Motor Companies' tactical markings were generally Green, with a diamond for the battalion's HQ, a triangle for A Company, square for B company, and circle for C Company. Originally the Motor Companies were equipped with armored 15 cwt 4x4 trucks, but these were replaced with American M5 Half-Tracks and M3 "White" Scout Cars prior to the allied invasion of Normandy. Although neither weighed 15 hundredweights, they kept the designation because they filled the niche once filled by the armoured 15 cwt 4x4. Although vehicle-wise the Motor Company was vaguely similar to the US Army Armored Infantry Rifle Company by virtue of them both using half-tracks, the riflemen of the British Infantry Brigade rather than the Motor Battalion constituted most of the British Armoured Division's bayonet strength and infantry reserves. Compare the 3 Armored Infantry Battalions in US Army Armored Divisions versus the 3 Lorried Rifle Battalions and 1 Motor Battalion of a British Army Armoured Division. It is possible that the Motor Company was merely compensating for a lack of widespread mechanization, as a means to allow tanks to operate with a reasonable degree of independence from their Infantry Brigade support.

Each Motor Company consisted of a Company Headquarters (split into a Fighting portion and Administrative portion), 3 Motor Platoons and 1 Scout Platoon.

The Company Headquarters was the company's command, administration, and second echelon maintenance element. The fighting portion contained two White Scout Cars (formerly filled by 15 cwt 4x4 trucks), with one carrying the Company Commander (a Major) and the other carrying the Company Second-in-Command (a Captain) and Company Sergeant-Major. It should be noted that although these White Scout Cars, in American service, were typically armed with an M2 .50 caliber machine gun and 2 M1919A4 or M1917A1 machine guns, they typically were not in British service. There were also 3 motorcycle orderlies (essentially messengers) who each got a motorcycle. The Orderlies and Batmen-Drivers (officer assistants who also drove vehicles) were equipped with Sten machine carbines, the officers were equipped with .38 caliber revolvers (possible to be supplemented with a machine carbine or rifle), and the rest with No. 4 Mk. I Rifles. Also in the Company HQ was a 3-inch Mortar Detachment. The Detachment Commander and 2IC each got their own Universal Carrier carrying a 3-inch mortar, driver, and additional 3-man crew. The Detachment's Lance Corporal was carried in a 15 cwt 4x2 truck which carried ammo for the detachment.

The administrative portion was headed by the Company Quartermaster Sergeant (a Colour Sergeant, equivalent to a Staff Sergeant). It contained 3 lorries (3-tons), a Jeep (could be substituted with 2 motorcycles if Jeeps were unavailable), and a motorcycle for the Transport Corporal. The lorries primarily carried cooking supplies, rations, water, petrol, stores, and ammunition. One R.E.M.E. Vehicle Mechanic and 3 A.C.C. Cooks were also attached to this portion.

Each of the 3 Motor Platoons consisted of a Platoon HQ and 3 Sections. The Platoon HQ was carried in an M5 Half-Track with the Platoon Commander, Platoon Sergeant, a 2-man 2-inch mortar detachment, Signaller, and Batman-Driver. Although these M5 Half-Tracks had a mount installed in front for an M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the platform could support addition .30 caliber machine guns, the British don't seem to have mounted them. In addition, the Platoon HQ had a motorcycle orderly.

Each Section was carried in an M5 Half-Track. They consisted of a Section Commander (Corporal), 6 Riflemen (1 being a Lance Corporal 2IC and 2 being allocated to man the Bren light machine gun), and a Driver for the Half-Track. These sections were significantly smaller than standard infantry Sections because they were designed to fit in the smaller 15 cwt 4x4 truck. In the case of the Canadians, it appears that they began replace the White Scout Cars and M5 Half-Tracks in their Motor Battalions with C15TA Armoured Trucks (with a lower passenger and crew capacity than the M5 Half-Track at least) around mid- to late-1944. Canadians in Italy would have started receiving C15TAs around October 1944 before being redeployed to Northwest Europe as part of Operation Goldflake. So, despite the M5 Half-Track having room for more personnel, the smaller sections were kept (possibly so the armoured 15 cwt 4x4 trucks could still be used, as the half-tracks and White scout cars were just slotted into the same niche as them).

The Scout Platoon consisted of a Platoon HQ and 3 Scout Sections, carried mostly in Universal Carriers. The platoon was generally used as a reconnaissance, coup de main, or forward detachment force, but theoretically could also reinforce the Motor Platoons and 1 Section per Platoon. The Platoon HQ had 2 Universal Carriers (one for the Platoon Commander and the other for the Platoon 2IC, both Lieutenants), a 15 cwt 4x2 truck for the Platoon Sergeant, and a Scout Car for the Batman. On our graphic we place a White Scout Car as the Scout Car used, but because this vehicle was allocated specifically as a Scout Car rather than a 15 cwt 4x4 truck (as White Scout Cars replaced in the Company HQ), it is very likely that these were actually Daimler Dingos or Humber Scout Cars.

Each Scout Section had 3 Universal Carriers, each armed with a Bren light machine gun and a PIAT and 2-inch mortar spread among the carriers. A Sergeant commanded the Section (possibly due to the more independent scouting mission), with a Corporal in command of another vehicle, and a Lance Corporal of another. 

 

      Sources      ​​

  • WE II/231/3 "A Motor Battalion" published 19 January 1944 (republished by vickersmg.org.uk)

  • "The British Motor Battalion, 1943 to 1945" by Bayonet Strength

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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