Scammell Pioneer

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Scammell Pioneer
A British Army Scammell Pioneer towing an 8-inch howitzer of 1st Heavy Regiment, near Calais (12 January 1940)
Type Tractor, Heavy Artillery
Tractor, Heavy Breakdown
Tank Transporter
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Weight 18760 pounds (8.4 tons)
Length 20 feet 7 inches
Tk Tpt 22 ft (6.70 m) with trailer 36 ft 6 in (10.97 m)
Width 8 feet 6 inches
Tk Tpt trailer 9 ft 5 in (2.87 m)
Height 9 feet 9 inches

Armour none
Engine Gardner 6-cylinder diesel
102 bhp
Suspension Walking beam, 6x4
430 miles ( 54 Gallons )
Speed 18 mph Max

The Scammell Pioneer was a British 6x4 tractor unit used in the Second World War as an artillery tractor, recovery vehicle and tank transporter.


Designed as a 6×4 off-road vehicle for use in Britain's colonies where sealed roads were scarce, the Pioneer was first produced in 1927. Though lacking all-wheel drive, its combination of a suspension with great travel, excellent traction, and a low-revving engine gave it impressive pulling power on rough ground at low speeds.

Though not designed for military use, the British War Office purchased a single petrol engined example in 1932. Equipped as a tank transporter with a permanently coupled 18t semi-trailer, it was assigned to a training unit but did not initially catch on. Additional transporters were not purchased until 1937.

Military use[edit]

With the exception of the single 1932 tank transporter, all Pioneers purchased by the British Army were equipped with a 102 bhp Gardner 6 cylinder diesel engine, driving the rear wheels through a constant speed gearbox and fitted with a power take-off driving a Scammell winch.

Artillery tractor[edit]

Pioneer artillery tractors in the London Victory Parade, June 1946

Introduced in 1935, the Pioneer R100 heavy artillery tractor was used throughout WWII to tow medium and heavy artillery pieces, it had accommodation for the gun's crew, tools, equipment, and ammunition.

Typical early war use included towing such medium pieces as the 60-pounder, 6-inch howitzer and even the 4.5-inch gun and 5.5-inch howitzer until the AEC Matador medium gun tractor was issued in sufficient numbers. Heavy artillery pieces towed included the 6-inch gun, 8-inch howitzer, 155 mm Long Tom and the 7.2-inch howitzer.

Many Pioneer gun tractors were lost in France in June 1940 with the evacuation of the BEF, either destroyed by the withdrawing troops or captured by the Germans.

Scammel produced 980 Pioneer R100 heavy artillery tractors by the end of the war, never available in sufficient numbers, the Pioneer was supplemented by the Albion CX22S heavy artillery tractor from late 1943.

Recovery vehicle[edit]

Pioneer recovering a Universal Carrier, Sussex 1941

From 1936, the British Army began to receive Pioneer heavy recovery vehicles. The first 43 delivered were designated the Pioneer SV1S[1] and the Pioneer SV1T both with a 3-ton folding crane and lockers for recovery equipment and towing bars. Most of these early Pioneer recovery vehicles were lost with the BEF.

The Pioneer SV2S[2] had a simpler redesigned extending crane that provided greater lifting height, introduced in 1938 the SV2S would remain in production throughout the war, a total of 1,975 were built by war's end.

Among the Pioneer's equipment was a pair of tracks that could be fitted over the rear two axels, effectively converting it into a half-track and giving greater traction on soft ground.

The last Pioneer recovery vehicle was not retired from the British Army until the 1980s in Belize.

Tank Transporter[edit]

Matilda tank equipped with AMRA Mk 1a being loaded onto a Scammell transporter, August 1942

With the exception of the 1932 prototype, delivery of a production variant tank transporter did not begin until 1937. The production variant was equipped with a longer chassis for an extended cab to accommodate the tank crew as passengers and larger rear wheels than the Artillery tractor and Recovery vehicle variants and was given the designation Pioneer TRCU20.[3]

20 and 30-ton (Pioneer TRMU30/TRCU30) tractor/trailer combinations were delivered, in both cases the trailer was more-or-less fixed to the tractor and not demountable like modern semi-trailer trucks. Hinged ramps were used to get the tank onto the trailer, which if immobilised could be pulled on with the tractor unit's winch.

Pioneer tractor/trailer combinations proved too tall to carry higher profile US tanks under some British bridges, resulting in their being superseded by the American Diamond T tank transporter from 1941 on. Despite this it remained in production throughout the war, with 459 being produced.[4] As a result of their tall profile the trailers proved undesirable postwar and most were scrapped; the tractors were retained for use with other trailers or sold into civilian use.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ REME Museum Pioneer SV1S
  2. ^ REME Museum Pioneer SV2S
  3. ^ Ware, p 125.
  4. ^ Ware, p 125.