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ATENÇÃO:
A publicação de qualquer imagem ou informação referentes ao nazismo, fascismo ou quaisquer outros regimes totalitários deve ser entendida como reprodução do rigor histórico e não como apologia a estes regimes, líderes ou símbolos.

Bedford QL 6-pdr. gun portee - case report

Hello Desert Soldiers !!

    Today, let's get to know details of one of the versions of the famous 3-ton British Bedford 4x4 truck. It is a specialized version that has evolved from being a transport to being almost a self-propelled artillery, an improvised destroyer for fighting in the African desert. Most interestingly, when this theater of operations was conquered, this fighting girl returned to her origins, being readapted and built as a transport again. We're talking about Bedford QL 6 pr. gun portee.


Bedford QL 6 pr gun portte 
The vehicle does not have the gun in its cargo bay.

History:

    The creation of an anti-tank vehicle on wheels was one of the idealized options to meet the need for greater mobility and flexibility for the Army's anti-tank artillery, in the fluid (excuse the pun ...) war in the desert. The selection criteria for this weapon would be the use of a robust, 4x4 vehicle, high reliability, with good load capacity and preferably, which was in full production, to accelerate the development and production of the project. The use of the 3-ton Bedford QL chassis and its cousins was practically a consequence in itself.

Bedford QL 4x4 3 ton restored

   The idea of carrying a gun, rather than just towing it, was not a new concept, being tested for the first time in WWI.

Thornycroft J Type and 13pdr AA gun
WWI - 1915.

Thornycroft J Type and 13pdr AA gun
The Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England

   One of the biggest problems with a towed weapon was its vulnerability and lack of maneuverability. A weapon mounted on the vehicle could, in military terminology, 'shoot and flee'. The Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder gun  or just 6 pounder gun was selected as the main weapon of the project. The gun could be towed, but it was much more commonly carried, there being three different ways to do this. In fighting trim, the gun could be mounted so as to fire off forwards over the canvas-top cab.

Bedford QL Portee with 6pdr unloaded, crossing 
a captured location in Tunisia
(source: British Pathe newsreel)

      To achieve this, various preparations had to he made: importantly, the radiator had to be protected of the explosion blow through the gun nozzle and a large anti-blast plate was provided for this purpose. Firing-off this way also necessary to fold the top and sides of the canvas cabin, as well as the windshield. With the gun in this position, the front axle weight was 3,900 kg and the rear axle's 3,400 kg, making up the total gross weight, with the gun, of 7,300 kg. Luckily, Bedfords chassis had always been famous for their capacity to accept an overload, as their nominal maximum gross weight was 7,100 kg. 

    The anti-tank gun could also be mounted to fire off rearwards. In this configuration, the cab top and sides could be left intact. The vehicle could be driven with the gun in either of the fighting positions but, for really going places, the 'touring trim' was used, with the gun out of action, facing forward over the cab.

6-pdr anti-tank gun in action in the Western Desert
29 October 1942.

    The 6-pounder was loaded and off-loaded using two hand-winches. The gunwheel and central trail ramps which were used when winching the gun aboard after changing positions from forward to rearward firing off - thankfully a task which did not have to be performed all that often - were carried in a locker beneath the body floor. At the rear, a steel superstructure suppor led a detachable canvas tilt inside which were four, demountable, tip-up crew seats.

Bedford gun portee without 6 pr. gun
Notice the Mickey Mouse cammo and 
the two seats in the righ side of cargo bay.
This lorry is a "pure" gun portee, not converted GS body.

The same vehicle above, in
3/4 front view

    The truck carried 96 rounds of ammunition in lockers and gun shields were fitted to the sides of the cargo body. The AT Portee was 5.800mm in length and was 2.450mm in wide. Its overall height was 3.054mm, but this could be reduced for shipping in the usual way by removing or, in this case, folding down, the cab top to give a height of 2.148mm without the gun or, with the gun loaded and facing rearwards - which was the lower option of the two - a height of 2.943mm. Similar rear cargo bodies were fitted to the Austin K5 and to the CMP (Canadian Military Pattern) 3-tonners, the C60L, and F60L models.

Austin K5 6 pr. gun portee
This photo is often labeled as a Bedford,
but notice the typical Austin square radiator

Austin K5 6 pr. gun portee
 notice the typical Austin square radiator

Ford F60L CMP 6 pounder gun portee in parade

Canadian Ford F60L CMP 6 pounder gun portee
with troops. Notice the cargo bay and the
typical rack in the cabin's rear

Ford F60L CMP 6 pounder gun portee
with canvas closed 

Chevrolet C60L CMP 6 pounder gun portee 

    Fuel tanks on the Bedford Portees were standard, as fitted on all QLC chassis, being twin 73 liters tanks mounted underneath the body. The reason for this was that the maximum deck-length was required, so placing the fuel tanks underneath, rather than behind the cab, as on the QLB, was a good idea. It also put them well away from the blast of firing guns, thus leading to a greater margin of safety for the soldiers. 

   After the Campaign in the Desert, with the defeat of the Germans and Italians in this Theater of Operations, in the end of 1943, most of the survivors of these trucks were converted to GS Cargo bodies, retaining their soft-top cabs.


Bedford QL portee soft cabin
converted with GS body
right side

Bedford QL portee soft cabin
converted with GS body
left side

    Contract V4919 called for 1,126 AT Portees, numbers L4698419 to L4699544. The order was originally intended for QLC lorries '3 ton 4x4 (T)' — in other words for conversion to Troop Carrying Vehicles, (TCVs). In April 1942, it was changed to Anti-Tank specification. The fate of another contract. number V5121. which was amended in March 1942 may explain why things were changed. Dated February 1942, contract V5121 called for a total of 2,406 AT Portees on QLB chassis - although it now seems certain that they were built on QLC chassis.

    The contract, though, was substantially modified before its completion; the quantity was slashed to 388 vehicles (numbers L4916925 to L4917312) and the specification was changed: what were to have been AT Portees were changed to General Service Cargo bodies. These had wooden bodies and open cabs, for general use, and were delivered, by Brush Coachworks, between December 1942 and June 1943.

"MARY", a  Bedford Portee converted with GS body.
11th Armored Division - The Black Bulls
2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry
Netherland - Sept., 1944.

Another Bedford Portee GS body
being loaded with logs - Netherlands - 1944.

Bedford Portee GS body leading a line with
Dodge 3ton CMP truck and Chevy CMP 15 CWT 4x4
49th British Infantry Division (Polar Bears Butchers)
Liberation of Utrecht- Netherland, May 1945.
Notice the top of cabin made with wood and canvas.

Another Bedford Portee GS body from
49th British Infantry Division (Polar Bears Butchers)
Liberation of Utrecht- Netherland, May 1945.
Notice the absence of the blast shield above the radiator.

An Austin K5 Portee GS body, in RAF colors
Somewhere in Holland, 1945.
Notice the soft cabin and blast shield.

Austin K5 Portee GS body with happy soldiers at rest.
Notice the blast shield and Mickey Mouse cammo

Same Austin K5 Portee GS body with soldiers, of the photo above,
but in side view. Notice the GS body and Mickey Mouse cammo in the canvas.

 The Project:
    This new project started because of an upgrade I made on my Bedford halftrack. I remembered that I had an old Bedford kit in my closet and after a deep searching in my stocks ... 
Panzerserra's warehouse...
Too many (old...) kits

    I found this beauty girl, intact, at the bottom of the last corridor, on the penultimate shelf:
Bedford Truck - Italeri (# 241)
from 1984 - Oldie, but goodie!!

    This particular model don't have the 6 pdr. gun, but I had (on the other shelf) another pearl in store, waiting to be brought to life, on some dark and distant day ...
Zvezda - 1996
   I even hear the audience screaming, hoarse and agitated, why not use a more modern and better detailed kit, like the Ordnance QF 6 pdr Mk IV Anti Tank Gun, from Riich Models??
Ordnance QF 6 pdr Mk IV Anti Tank Gun + Mk 1A Carriage
Riich Models - (#RV35018)

    And I reply, paraphrasing the great climber George Leigh Mallory: Because it's there!!

    I already have the gun kit... and even though it's old and full of flaws (compared to current release), it's still not a useless part. It is part of the memory of a lot of old-school modelers (which I include myself ...). My goal is not to win medals or likes, but to have fun !!!
    So, let's use what we have in stock !! And let's face it, doing something well done with something primitive is still a challenge !!!

 Let's have some fun!!!

    When I decided to build this truck-destroyer, I had (and am having ...) a HUGE difficulty finding photographs and drawings about the Bedford 6 pr. gun portee. I found many photographs of Austins and CMP Fords labeled as Bedfords, but in reality, they were not. I found pictures of Bedfords portees rebuilt as GS, but with the "cargo bay" of the portee, almost nothing!! 

    I was almost thinking about giving up building the armed version and moving to the cargo versions (a little scratch does not hurt anyone ... quite the opposite !!), when I decided to ask on social media for help ...

    A very good friend mine, Andrew Tomlinson (Thanks a lot, man!), told me about a documentary film about the Victory Parade in Tunis that he had watched and that he thought the film showed some Bedfords. I started digging on the Internet and after finding and watching the 20th May, 1943 Victory Parade on Gambetta Avenue in Tunis, from different sources and angles, I found this (notice at 2:40):


Bedford 6 pdr gun portee KIKI
Hurrah!!

    At first, I thought the Bedfords were British (Indeed, by Jove!), but as I researched more and more, I discovered new scenes and new angles that allowed me to locate the Bedfords were British equipment used by the Free French. The flag on the KIKI radiator may now seem obvious, but that could be only a tribute ou a parade ornament... 

Frame from another documentary, showing KIKI
in the company of his sisters ... Vive la France !!

   Once again social media colleagues helped with links to research material and the Free French First Division was defined as the Uiity to which KIKI belonged , correctly, historically. 

Bedford 6 pdr gun portee KIKI with his sisters.
Victory Parade on Gambetta Avenue - Tunis
20th May, 1943
 Stéphane Escalant (Merci, mon ami...) sent me this photo.

    The problem now was to define what that stain on the vehicle door meant, which, in my opinion, could only be the emblem of the Unit to which KIKI belonged. I started putting together an infographic with the information I already had, because now I was REALLY decided to try to reproduce KIKI with my kit:

Details in KIKI...
First impressions...

    In the first instance, details that I and many colleagues saw and that we could consider correct: Names (KIKI and PACIFI), census number (for now, I thought that was the number ...), color SAND (by deduction ... for now ..) and the main unit to which KIKI belonged (1ere Division Française Libre - 1ere DFL or 1st Free French Division).


     With this material that the colleagues passed, I started to work with the emblems in an image editor that I use, stretching, deforming and smudging the badges until: BINGO !!!

Stretching and compressing badges,
until you find an image similarity ...
Done!!

    The cool thing was that after hours of researching, drawing and deducting, at the end of the day, our colleague Stéphane Escalant found an image in his files that confirmed all our dedutive work like Sherlock Holmes:

KIKI's right door - side view
Notice the emblem and the right number (8, no 3...)
Stéphane Escalant (again, many thanks) photo

  Finally, we can say that the emblem belongs to 1ere BIMP - Premiere Bataillon d'infanterie de Marine et du Pacifique.
1ere BIMP- metal emblem
    and after finding a colorful frame (sorry for the poor image quality ..) of the Tunis Parade, we were able to build the definitive infographic on KIKI:
Notice the Bedford KIKI in Sand color
and the Lorena Cross in the flag's radiator
in red outlined in blue

Final details in KIKI

But in the Panzerserra Bunker standards is:

    Therefore, Mesdames et Messieurs, with all the historical part solved, I will build the Bedford 6 pdr. gun portee KIKI belonging to the French Free Forces, serving in Tunisia in 1943, with the 1st Free French Division - 1st Free French Brigade - 1st Navy and Pacific Infantry Battalion. I will try to reproduce this girl with the characteristics that she presented in the Victory Parade of May 20, 1943, in Tunis.

Specs:

Bedford QL 6 pr. gun portee
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
Used byBritish Armed Forces
WarsWWII
Production history
ManufacturerBedford - Vauxhall
Produced1941-1943
No. built2.406 ordered
388 completed as gun portee
Specifications
Mass3,277 kg (empty)
7.100 kg ( full loaded)
Length5.800mm
Width2.450mm
Height3.054mm - 2.148mm
Crew6

Main gun
Armour
Ordnance QF 6-pounder gun
12mm - front gun shield
12mm - side shields
EngineBedford, 6 cyl  -3,519 cc
petrol  - 72 hp
Payload capacity3 tons
Suspension
Maximum speed
Wheel, 4x4
70 km/h
Operational range
250 km

Kits:

    As I explained before and above, the kits used will be the Biblical Bedford truck by Italeri and the 6pdr. AT gun Mk I by Zvezda, all contemporaries of Methuselah !! Hallelujah!! Kojak will be able to exercise all his magic !!

Kojak and the kits, in my empty workbench...

    First things first ...Engine and chassis:
Smooth and easy...

Old school kit, with burrs and flashes, but a delight to build ...

Kojak, I need more power...!!

Warp speed, Captain!!

And the construction continues...to avoid deformation of the chassis, when handling the kit, I will leave a longer drying time for this important step. In the meantime, let's take care of the wheels. What a beauty these Peerless tires ... after so many years, much better than a lot of crap "over-engineering" or rubber around. Sorry by the pics: my camera not really cooperating ...
Bedford wheels...Wonderful...
no frills and no over-engineering ... they just work ...

    The construction of the cabin must be very well executed, as it is the "looks" of the vehicle. The following sequence makes your life easier, without the risk of fitting errors or misalignment. The first thing is to glue the fenders in the floor of the cabin, always worrying about the alignment and the square of the fenders ... Glue the firewall/dashboard too...
Time to build the cabin
squaring everything ...

    After that, glue the sides of the cabin to the front (stage 1 in red, below). Align the angled and rounded portion of the sides with its corresponding part of the front of the cabin. This alignment must be perfect when gluing ... see the red marks in the drawing below ... With this, you build a subset composed of the front and the two sides of the cabin (parts in the blue area).
    Then, you can glue this sub-set to the floor/dashboard of the cabin (stage 2 in blue, below). Notice the perfect alignment with the rounded areas of de cabin's side with the top of the fenders (see blue marks in the drawing below). In this step, you can cut with scalpel 0,5 to 1,0 mm from the end of the sides, to allow the perfect fit of the rear panel of the cab. This step must be preceded by several dry-runs, using the doors as templates.
    When everything is perfect, glue the rear panel of the cab (step 3, in green) , using the doors as templates (step 4, purple). You can choose to keep them open or closed. Mine will be closed.
A good sequence to build a perfect Bedford portee cabin

    Now, let's let the cabin dry a little ... Going to cargo area...
And the cargo area. The platform is also well aligned and scanned ...

Don't worry about pin-marks:
they will be covered with ammo bins in the future ...

Cabin in the chassis: soooo cute!!!

Rear view.

Increasing assembly rigidity with the cargo bed

The girl is getting more and more beautiful !!

    Do you remember to let important steps dry ?? Well ... in the meantime, let's improve a defect of the kit's age: horrible details in the water cans ... Let's do a little scratching, just to give the kit a new look:
The original water cans and
the new ones with a little scratch...

Much, much better!!

The cans are half hidden, but I know they are better ...

Well ... not so hidden ... They really do appear ...
and they thank the small upgrade ...

Time to install de ammo bins...

Kojak is a wise guy!!!

The girl, with her belly fully exposed ...
This is kind of embarrassing ...

She, now a little more behaved ...

Right view

Rear view ... Cab aligned and parallel to the cargo compartment.
A construction with care. The bald guy is working well ...

Some details are unbelievable ...
I like old things, but this is too much ... Let's fix this ...

The "chain" really was too much for my head ...
after putting the gun on, let's see if I need to reproduce this
in a more "real" way ...

The construction is going well !!!
Like the real KIKI, the windshield is positioned upright.

Rear view - This plastic stains a lot with the glue.
The construction aspect is just dirty !!!

With the truck practically ready, let's peel the pineapple:
 Zvezda's QF 6 pdr. AT gun !! That promises !!

Indeed, the kit is very old...
Many burrs and injection marks, but with possibility of repair ...

And some details that can be improved ...

The gun, with some metal details made in scratch ...

The gun ready for fire!!

Testing the gun at your location.
As in the photos, KIKI has his gun aimed at the aft fire position.

The weapon occupies practically the entire cargo area ...

Right view

Left view



Toujours de l'avant!!