A LEGEND IS BORN
"The Jeep, the Dakota airplane, and the landing craft were the three tools that won the war."
General Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Supreme Commander, Europe.
The jeep is undoubtedly one of the most famous automobiles in history, and one of the symbols of the allied forces of WW2. The first of its kind, a light, 4x4 all terrain vehicle that could keep up with cars on the road and go (almost) anywhere a horse or mule could too. There have been a great many books written on the development of this iconic American vehicle, made by Willys (MB) and Ford (GPW), but still comparatively little on their service with the British. In fact many people are surprised to know that the jeep was used by the British at all. This website is dedicated to the Jeep in British service, which began in its first year of production, 1941, and came to an end sometime in 1959 or 1960.
The jeep could not have come at a better time for the British armed forces. The British army had begun the war as one of the most mechanised armies in the world, but after the disastrous Battle for France, they had lost approximately 65,000 vehicles.
Production and development of new vehicles in the United Kingdom continued throughout the war, but it never managed to reach the levels required to both replace the losses, and provide for the vast numbers needed for such a total war.
Enter the lend lease programme. The United Kingdom bought an immense number of vehicles from the United states, both before they had entered the war, and afterwards. As did the Soviet Union. Along with tanks and trucks came the jeep, whose ability and potential was soon realised in every theatre of war. The exact number of jeeps supplied to the British armed forces is not known, but it was more than 40,000, and potentially as high as 80,000.
There is barely a role in WW2 that the Jeep did not fulfil. They were used as general purpose utilities. Reconnaissance, lightweight artillery tractors, runabouts for officers and dignitaries, The Navy carried them aboard ships for shore duties, and the RAF used them on airfields to get their pilots around.
The airborne forces landed them by glider, and the the Long Range Desert Group travelled great distances across Africa to strike at Axis airfields, and the SAS parachuted them deep behind enemy lines in occupied Southern France. Army cameramen used them to reach distant battlefields and remote regions, and the Red Cross carried medics and casualties.
Everywhere you look to in WW2 there were jeeps. Even the German's were using them, treasuring every such jeep they could capture and press into service.
But WW2 was far from the end of the line for the famous 'Jeep'. The Jeep found plenty of duties in Peacetime, and would soon find itself in the heat of battle once again. Everywhere the British army went until the late 1950's, they took Jeeps to help them complete their task, whether in peace or war.
Even as new vehicles were introduced into army service, the Jeep continued to serve. In 1948 the first Land Rovers were introduced, and in 1952 the Austin Champ arrived too. But the Jeep soldiered on. The steering wheel may have been on the wrong side, and it wasn't the most comfortable of vehicles, but it was tough, reliable, and dependable.