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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Mechanical Transport Census c1918


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Some years ago, I asked if any forum members could identify a document for me. Unfortunately, nobody was able to help at that time but I thought I’d try again.

The document that I’m looking for seems to have been the results of a census of mechanical transport that was still in British Army service at the end of the war. It appears to have listed vehicles by manufacturers and by model.

I first suspected the existence of this document on reading Bart Vanderveen’s Observer’s Army Vehicles Directory to 1940. On page 202, for example, he says of the Daimler CC 3 tonner, “366 in service in 1918 as well as 1818 Model CB, 2561Model Y and several other types plus 113 Daimler/LGOCs”. He was also able to say how many had been impressed for service rather than directly purchased.

I see that similar figures appear in some of the photograph captions in Tim Gosling’s excellent book.

Can anyone tell me what this document is and where I could find a copy, either in print or on line?

My e-mail address is:


Gordon McLaughlin

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I would suggest that you start by looking at the Returns of Mechanical Transport, November 1916-April 1920 on pages 593-597 in the Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Army during the Great War (SMEBAGW). The nature of these returns appear to have changed after January 1918 and it appears to have been renamed as the Monthly Census of Mechanic Transport. Copies of these Monthly Census are given for 16 November 1918, 1 November 1919 and 1 April 1920; however, they only give the total number of vehicles by category by theatre of war and do not include RAF vehicles.

You will also find a report on Mechanical Transport during the war on pages 852-857 of SMEBAGW. I would also suggest that you consult Part IV: Mechanical Transport Vehicles in the History of the Ministry of Munitions, volume XII which appears useful.

I would assume that these monthly returns/census were compiled for the QMG’s department and the various returns would travel up the chain of command. Whether these returns show the different makes of vehicle by category or in fact survive will need to be investigated.

Another way to look at this may be to see what survives amongst the Ministry of Munitions (MUN) at Kew or see if there is anything regarding the disposal of surplus vehicles.   


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Thank you very much for your reply.

I have been through the figures in SMEBAGW and read the supporting text, both of which are interesting and informative, but it is not the source of the figures that I'm looking for. Volume XII of the History of the Ministry of Munitions is also a valuable source for mechanical transport but contains no detailed figures of the kind quoted by Vanderveen et al.

Your suggestion that the figures might come from returns submitted to QMG3 or a similar department makes a lot of sense and I had, in fact, begun to think that they might be from several sources and might not be from a single source document as I had orignally hoped. I'm unlikely to visit Kew for some time, if at all, as I live in Northumberland and it would involve a 300 mile train journey but it's something to keep in mind. Meanwhile, I'll see what might turn up on line. If I find anything useful, I'll post the results here.

Again, many thanks for your help.

Best wishes,

Gordon McLaughlin

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