ARM: Review - Service Publications Otter in Candian Service

Book Review: =93Weapons of War=94 Series; The Otter Reconnaissance Car in
Canadian Service by Roger V. Lucy; Service Publications, Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada, 2011; 24 pp. with B&W photos and 1/35 scale plans;
price CDN $9.95; ISBN 1-894581-73-8
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Advantages: excellent coverage of the history of the vehicle and its
use in Canadian and Commonwealth service
Disadvantages: may not have enough information for modelers
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all wheeled armored vehicle fans
Occasionally people make decisions in a hurry; sometimes it is out of
necessity, and sometimes it basically sends others down a blind alley.
When the British Army lost huge amounts of material in France, there
was a panic and many hasty options were taken up to produce armored
vehicles. One concept not fully thought through was the
=93reconnaissance car=94 which seemed like a good idea, but in reality was
neither fish nor fowl. As the primary ones were based on passenger car
frames like the Humber Snipe, they had poor off-road capability and
the overweight and overtaxed chassis had reliability problems. The
other problem was a lack of mission - scout cars (small two-man
vehicles like the Dingo and later Lynx) carried out troop
reconnaissance, and armored cars (four-man crews, armament of 15-40mm
guns, and radio equipped) did more detailed reconnaissance where they
were expected to fight their way out if necessary. The reconnaissance
car was neither.
Even so, the Canadian Army Overseas followed British planning and
decided to create reconnaissance battalions with reconnaissance cars,
and so GM Canada was tasked to create on using the C8 Chevrolet 4 x 4
truck chassis as a basic. Early on two things were decided: one, the
chassis was too light, so the C15 chassis was used instead, and two,
the best engine for the project was the US GMC 270 cid six-cylinder
engine (the same one used in the famous GMC 6 x 6 cargo trucks).
Roughly based on the Humber Ironsides Mark III reconnaissance car
design, th new vehicle was bigger than expected but once sorted out
more reliable than its British counterparts. As the British Army had
decided all vehicles must have names, and in keeping with light
wheeled armored vehicles being named after animals, the new vehicle
was christened as the Otter.
But the design, being based on the forlorn =93reconnaissance car=94
scheme, had problems from the start. A two-speed transfer case was not
used for reasons of weight, and the heavy Otter had problems off road.
Eventually 1,009 Otters were built, and while they were not much of a
success in their envisaged roles. But the chassis was reliable, and as
it was roomier than some other vehicles, spur-of-the-moment
conversions were made showing it to actually be fairly flexible. While
the British used it primary for RAF airfield defense units, the
Canadian Army applied it for convoy security, forward artillery
observation posts, and other liaison functions.
The Otter did manage to serve with the Canadian Army until 1955 when
no further spare parts were to be ordered to maintain them. ]
This neat little book covers the history of the Otter in great
detail, and has a nice set of five-view plans in the centerfold as
well as a scrap view of a turretless radio car variant. Mr. Lucy is
one of the steady authors for Service and has done a nice job with
this vehicle.
Overall this is a good read for wheeled armored (or armoured) vehicle
buffs as well as GMC fans.
Thanks to Clive Law for the review copy.
Cookie Sewell
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