WHY THE JEEP?
"Quantity has a quality all its own,"
- Joseph Stalin
Why did the British, and in fact all allied forces, use the Jeep in such vast numbers? What made it so special and so useful? The reality is that the Jeep was vital to the war effort, and it had a great many factors in it's favour.
In the lead up to WW2, many armies had become more mechanised than ever before, especially the British. The mechanisation was largely provided by small tracked vehicles, such as the universal (Bren) carrier, and trucks. Mechanisation was a vital element in WW2, where the battlefields were often far more fluid than had been experienced in the slow grind of WW1 trench warfare. Ground needed to be covered quickly and troops needed to be able to deploy and re-deploy faster than ever.
Massively improved (often wireless) communications made this a possibility, with portable radios being common practice at squad level, in armoured vehicles and on communications vehicles.
But what were the draw backs to the tracked vehicles and trucks? Weight was a factor. Trucks at this time were mostly based on civilian patterns and only two wheel drive, meaning a lack of off road capability. Tracked vehicles such as the universal carrier overcame this weakness, but were expensive to produce, heavy, and like all tracked vehicles, required a lot more maintenance and fuel.
The jeep essentially provided something entirely new. It was small, and light, but with tremendous offered and on road capability. That capability also allowed it to successfully pull heavy trailers and make up for it's small load capacity. It was fast, but simple and easy to maintain.
Most of all, it could be produced very quickly and in massive quantity. It was a universal tool with a great many applications, and because of the mass quantity of production, it was able to fulfil a great many needs.
The German's had the Kubelwagon, but made just over 50,000, and yet there were almost 650,000 jeeps made in WW2, and the Jeep had off road and towing capabilities that far surpassed the Kubelwagon.
In fact the only complains that could really be levelled at the jeep is that it has no doors and the seats are little softer than a wooden bench!
There are a great many books written on the history of the Jeep as a broader subject, but this site will remain dedicated to it's use in British service.
So what did the Jeep do in British Service? A better question would be, what didn't the jeep do in British service? The Army, Navy and Air Force all found invaluable use for the Jeep. It ferried troops, officers and supplies on road and off it. They laid communication lines, delivered the mail, pulled anti-tank guns and howitzers.
The Jeep also ferried the wounded and was adapted to a great many specialist requirements, whether that was to carry stretchers, or twin vickers machine guns! They saw duty on the front line, and on the home front. There is not a vehicle in WW2 that could be considered more multi purpose than the jeep.
It's usefulness to the airborne forces was also soon realised. The jeep was light, and surprisingly small. It is as small as some of the smallest city cars that are popular today. Therefore it could be loaded into a standard infantry glider, (Airspeed Horsa), and even into a C-47 Skytrain.