Portee

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An Australian Army 2 pounder portee during an exercise in 1942

A portee is a truck that carries a gun on its bed, such that the gun is not affixed permanently to the vehicle, can be quickly unloaded, and can be fired from the truck.

While the term portee can be used to denote any truck carrying a gun on its bed, it is most often used to describe portees used by British/Commonwealth forces in the North African Campaign of World War II. Modern terms for such vehicle are technical and/or gun truck.

Types[edit]

Six-pounder en portee in 1942
Two-pounder (40mm) anti-tank gun portee 
A 2 pounder anti-tank gun mounted on a Morris 15 cwt truck, Chevrolet WA or WB 30cwt truck[1] CMP Ford F30 or Chevrolet C30 trucks.
Six-pounder (57mm) anti-tank gun portee 
A 6 pounder anti-tank gun mounted on a Bedford QLT 3-ton lorry or Austin K5 3 ton lorry. Both of which had a special frame only body carrying the gun, crew, ammunition and the rarely used side shields. A F60 or C60 with cut down number 13 cab was similarly used.
20 mm anti-aircraft portee 
A 20 mm anti-aircraft gun mounted on a Morris 15 cwt truck
25 mm anti-tank gun portee 
A 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun mounted on a Morris 15 cwt truck[2]
37 mm anti-tank gun portee 
A 37mm anti-tank gun mounted on a Bedford MW or Morris CS8 15cwt[3] used by 106 RHA during Operation Compass at Beda Fomm.

The AEC Mk I Gun Carrier (known as Deacon) introduced in 1942 in the Desert War was a more sophisticated successor to the portee. The 6 pdr gun was mounted in an armoured shield on a turntable on the back of an armoured AEC Matador chassis.

Operational history[edit]

Sidi Rezegh[edit]

On 21 November 1941 at Sidi Rezegh, Libya, during Operation Crusader J Battery, Royal Horse Artillery with its 2-pounders defended against a German counterattack with Panzer IV tanks.

The battle has been cited by modern historians as an epic example of leadership and courage under fire. Second Lieutenant George Ward Gunn fought with his (A) troop until it had only one remaining gun in action. The battery commander Major Bernard Pinney MC ordered Ward Gunn to remove the dead crew on a serviceable gun and get it back into action. In a short space of time the gun caught fire so Pinney, exposed to enemy fire, got up to put out the fire. Firing around fifty rounds Ward Gunn destroyed two German tanks while the portee was burning. When Ward Gunn was killed, Pinney pushed his body out of the way to continue the action single handedly until it was eventually put out of action by direct enemy fire. Pinney was killed by a stray shell the following day.

Despite the inadequacy of the 2-pounder portee guns that only had effect at short range, the battle halted a divisional advance. Both Pinney and Ward Gunn were put forward for the Victoria Cross; which Ward Gunn was posthumously awarded.[4]

Cavalry[edit]

Portee cavalry is horse cavalry – both the horses and their riders – carried in trucks or other carriers. The cavalry is thus mechanized for strategic and operational movement, and horse-mounted for tactical deployment. Portee cavalry units were briefly tested in the American army during the interwar transition between fully horsed cavalry and fully mechanized cavalry, but were generally found to be overly complicated and not worthwhile.[5][6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (Ian Allen publishing)
  2. ^ Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. United States: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 190. ISBN 9781586637620. 
  3. ^ Moreman, Tim (2010). Long Range Desert Group Patrolman: The Western Desert 1940-43. United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing. p. 26. ISBN 184603924X. 
  4. ^ The Early Battles of Eighth Army: Crusader to the Alamein Line, 1941-42 Adrian Stewart, Stackpole p23
  5. ^ "Army Mechanization Before WW II". Olive-Drab. Retrieved November 12, 2014. "One aspect of this defense was continued testing of portee Cavalry, the use of trucks to move fresh horses to the battle where Troopers would mount up and operate as traditional horse cavalry... The special built tractor-trailers were capable of rapidly transporting eight fully equipped Troopers with their horses to any staging point" 
  6. ^ Greg Krenzelok. "Walter J. Schweitzer Troop 'C' 107TH Cavalry Horse/Mechanized, Ford Ord, Dec. 1941". Veterinary Corp in WWI. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ Bob Seals (May 7, 2009). "In Defense of the Horse: Major General John H. Herr, Chief of Cavalry". The Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "the Rifle Brigade" Sidi Rezegh - The Forgotten Battle

External links[edit]