By Richard Taylor
Part 1 – New vehicle, new direction
To introduce myself, I live down in Cornwall and have been playing around with ex military vehicles for the past twenty years. During this time I have had a couple of Land Rovers, a Ferret and I currently have a CVR(T) Scorpion. The Scorpion is great fun – there is nothing like driving through a town in an eight ton armoured vehicle to turn heads – but it is not a practical vehicle. Going beyond about twenty miles requires a low loader and the cost that entails, but even twenty miles requires a crew, planning for possible breakdown and a fair bit of stress. Having discussed it with various friends, I formed a plan to acquire another vehicle that would be easier to drive and maintain and which would be hopefully as interesting to the public at rallies as the Scorpion is.
I think that the relationship between enthusiasts and their hobbies is interesting, especially when it concerns ex-military equipment, uniforms or vehicles. Looking around various sites on the web you come across any number of motivators to pursue the hobby. Some do it out of respect for those that have served; some do it to relive a part of their life they enjoyed whereas others, such as me, see it as an engineering thing. I admire the functionality of military vehicles – they are built for a purpose and they have to carry out that purpose in harsh environments and under extreme conditions and they must do it without failing. It is here though that the enthusiast begins to diverge from the professional user. If I can give an example – I use Airwaves at work and have to wear a uniform. I have no idea how Airwaves works – to me it is not the set that is important but the traffic that goes across it. The radio is just a tool that I use to achieve the communication I need. It is the same as the uniform. I have to wear it to a standard, but it is just clothing. It wears out, it gets replaced. If I rip it, I get another one. I am sure that the servicemen who crewed the Scorpion in its twenty year service were not as attached to the vehicle itself as I am – it is again a tool, although not one I would care to come up against.
So, let me get back on to the quest for another vehicle. Whereas with the Scorpion and the Ferret I chose them for their presence, engineering and to a certain extent the wow factor, this vehicle was going to be chosen on a different basis. I had set parameters – it had to be wheeled, soft skin, modern and big enough for me to go to a rally and get out of the rain. I did not want to go over my licence, which excluded HGVs, and I had to be able to drive it by myself as a default. More importantly, I wanted it to be fairly bland as I firmly believe that the non-descript vehicles are not being preserved to the same extent as the fancy stuff. The bulk of the British Army runs on soft-skin, and yet to go to a rally you would think that everything was either in the Military Police or had a gun on it. I also wanted something that I would be able to put into some sort of context at a rally, when it was not moving. I find that this is perhaps the biggest problem in exhibiting vehicles. When they move they look pretty good, but when they are just parked up they seem to lose their sparkle. I think that there are things that can be done to bring the lustre back such as wearing appropriate clothing, but it is too easy to become a car park.
I imagine by now that some of you are beginning to see where I am going. I am looking for a soft skin vehicle that has a function which it can carry out at rest and which will give the impression that it is doing exactly what it is designed to do. You guessed it – a radio vehicle!
This linked quite nicely into one of my other interests, which is not radio, but command and control. I am fascinated by how commanders through the ages have been able to maintain the control over their forces during a battle to ensure that the outcome is as they desire and have planned for. The planning itself is a subject so vast that you could almost deal with it as a separate issue – how do you make sure that the right thing in the right quantity gets to the right place at the right time? That can be anything from troops, ammunition and weapons through to fuel and food. The key is of course communication. Plans have to be disseminated, and thereafter messages must pass to and fro as the situation develops and changes are implemented. If you add to this the fact that there is an equally large organisation in front of you that is trying its utmost to destroy you and your plan, you can see the scale of the problem.
My plan therefore is to try to recreate a command centre and to give an indication of the working of that centre during conflict. In this, I hope to show that the vehicle, as well as the radio gear, is an important part, but as I have said before, they are tools to be used in achieving the object. If I succeed in this, then the public will not necessarily be interested in what type of truck, radio or other communications gear I may have, they will see it more as an overall impression of a working unit.
If only it were that easy! Before you can make any decisions, you have to understand not only the C3 structure, the ORBAT, the systems by which C3 is implemented and then look at what is available. Luckily there is a lot out there in terms of information and also the recent move to Bowman has meant that there is Clansman gear out there which is workable and reasonably priced. I have found a vehicle, a 1991 RB44 with a radio shelter attached. It is ex Artillery, and its last role was as a Battlefield Meteorology System vehicle, capturing data relating to weather conditions that affect the accuracy and effectiveness of projectiles in flight. However, the basic vehicle was built to be adaptive and I may take the odd liberty to gloss over the equipment I cannot source and supplement it with stuff I can.