Austin Ambulance WW11

Army Lorry
This Austin K2 Ambulance was captured at Dunkirk by the Germans on both the Russian and the Western fronts.
On the right is the same vehicle with German markings

Possibly the best known Army vehicle is the Khaki coloured Austin 2-ton Field Ambulance with its large and distinctive Red Cross markings, and a story told by a Polish driver of this Austin which has the distinction of having been engaged "on both sides", and has been recaptured in France.

Retreating into Dunkirk in 1940, it had to be regretfully abandoned, and its driver did his best to immobilize it in the few minutes available in that great scramble. Ignition and other electrical equipment was smashed or otherwise destroyed, and then the driver joined the queue for the cross-Channel trip.

The Nazis, however, considered the ambulance valuable booty and immediately towed it away to their workshop to join their "forced labour".

It emerged still an Austin, but with Bosch electrical equipment, and other "frills" to suit the Nazi idea as to what should constitute an Army ambulance. An additional front seat had been fitted, the body had been completely metal panelled and doors added to the cab, the whole repainted in the German army colours. A new first-Aid cabinet and cupboard had been built-in, brackets fitted to carry new petrol "jerricans," and special rear lamps developed by the Germans for safe night convoy work. German number plates and a trident unit sign were also added.

In its new guise it continued its errands of mercy throughout France and Germany, till it was eventually posted to the Russian Front. There it withstood all the rigours of the Russian winter and sustained many battle scars, and with the re-opening of the Allied Western Front on D day it again, ran across Germany to France.

In a battle at Commeux on August 20'h, the British recaptured the ambulance, but this time its driver decided it was preferable to stay put and he and his vehicle were taken prisoner.

Shrapnel and bullet holes in the body are obvious souvenirs of the service it has seen on the various battle fronts, and one hole right through the driver's door suggests, at best, a narrow escape for somebody during his war effort.

Field-Marshal Montgomery was impressed by its history and performance and in recognition of such "services rendered" he recommended that the ambulance be returned to its manufacturers at Longbridge. After all the years of perilous service it was found to have a reasonable performance, although in need of an engine overhaul and brake re-lining. This veteran now bears the inscription:- "Austin V.2 Ambulance as recaptured from the Nazis at Commeux, France, on'August 20th, 1944. Presented to the Austin Motor Co. by the Commander-in-Chief, 21st Army Group."