Artillery Tractors, wheeled
Motorized artillery formations within K.N.I.L. appeared as early as the WW1 period and several civilian trucks were converted for use as artillery
tractors. The Bofors 105mm Howitzers K.N.I.L. acquired in the mid-1920s were initially towed by Morris-Commercial D-type 6-wheelers. By the
beginning of the 1930s these were obsolete and K.N.I.L. started looking around for a better prime mover. In 1932 they opted for a GMC T-series 6x4
truck with the brandnew Timken-Detroit rear axles. Soon several dozen T-18's were delivered to the K.N.I.L. Arsenal, where they were bodied either as
artillery tractors or as ammunition trucks. The trucks would remain on strength until 1942, though by that date they had been replaced as artillery
tractors by an advanced Canadian GMC 4x4 model, called Maple Leaf.
In 1916 6 pieces of K.N.I.L.'s 75mm Krupp guns were prepared for motor traction. The first
K.N.I.L. artillery tractors in the early days of motorization were Wichita's and Garfords, soon to
be replaced by White and Fageol trucks. This truck, presumably a White, is towing such a
Krupp 1903 75mm field gun. In the distance the battery staff can be seen, including staff car
and motorcycle with side-car.
When the Bofors 10,5cm Howitzers were acquired in the
mid-1920s, K.N.I.L. opted for a heavy tractor and chose
the Morris-Commercial D 6x4 truck, that was also used by
the contemporary Dutch Army.
The Morris's soon proved inadequate and K.N.I.L.
acquired these GMC's by 1932. The GMC artillery tractors
were used by both the Bofors 105mm Howitzer Battalion
as well as the 1st Field artillery. The latter was equipped
with the Krupp 75mm 1903 field gun. (picture: Ons Leger,
GMC towing Krupp 75mm field gun. The GMC was a 6x4 vehicle, meaning that both rear
axles were powered but not the front wheels. This significantly improved terrain
capabilities, though not as much as with a 6x6 vehicle (which was not available at the
time) (picture: Stabelan Magazine)
GMC towing Bofors 105mm howitzer.
The Bofors had hard rubber tyres,
unsuited for high speeds (picture:
Another shot of the same vehicle type. Each artillery
battery was also equipped with a Caterpillar tractor, that
was used to move the guns around in all terrain types
once on location (picture Stabelan magazine).
|Testing a new artillery tractor for K.N.I.L.
By the end of the 1930s K.N.I.L. Command decided that a more
modern all-terrain vehicle was needed to tow the various artillery
pieces. On top of that, defence preparations led to the purchase of
huge amounts of material, including an extra 16 10,5cm howitzers, 30
heavy (12cm) mortars and large numbers of Bofors 40mm and 80mm
anti-aircraft artillery. All these new guns (except for some batches of
non-mobile AA-guns) would require up-to-date towing vehicles.
A substantial number of potential vehicles was considered: Scammel
Pioneer, Krupp L2H43, Warford, Saurer M4, Alvis Straussler,
Mercedes-Benz LG65-3, CKD Praga RV, Steyr-Daimler-Puch and
Three wheeled artillery tractors were actually tested, all commercially
available models: the heavy duty 4x4 Maple Leaf (Canadian GMC)
and 6x6 Ford (converted to all-wheel drive by the DAF Trado
system) and a 4x4 Ford/Marmon-Herrington.
The Maple Leaf (picture top right) came out slightly better than the
other two and a large order was placed with General Motors. Most
vehicles were to be 4x4, but some (notably for towing the heavier
gun types) were to be converted to 6x6, using the DAF Trado system
(3rd picture). The latter type would end up looking like the Ford
Trado that was tested by K.N.I.L. (picture right centre), though
without the front support wheels and support wheels behind the front
This Ford/Daf vehicle was similar in concept to the many
Trado-converted Fords and Chevrolets used by the contemporary
Dutch Army as artillery tractors. Many were sold to the Dutch civilian
market, as the last picture shows: a 1939 model Ford with Trado rear
bogies and front support wheels. This particular truck was used by a
Dutch oil exploration company in Persia. (first 3 pictures and info
from various pre-war editions of the Indisch Militair Tijdschrift, last
picture from Vanderveen:American Trucks of the late 30's).
The K.N.I.L. Maple Leaf is still a mysterious vehicle. It was slightly different from the one on this
picture:"Truck, 30-cwt, 4x4, Gun Tractor (Maple Leaf) 6-cyl., 80 bhp, 4F1Rx2, wb 134 in" (Bart
Vanderveen). This was a similar vehicle delivered to Australia. The K.N.I.L. vehicle has been
identified by David Hayward, GM Historian, as a 1940 Maple Leaf 134 3/4 inch wheelbase
Model 1662 2 1/2 ton capacity
Another rare picture of the Maple Leaf tractor, this time from Geeft Acht Magazine, 1941. The first truck is
indeed the Maple Leaf bodied as an artillery tractor twoing a 75mm Krupp field gun. The gun is not
converted for high-speeds and the unit can be identified as AIIVeld or the second Field artillery battalion
from Bandoeng. Note also the second vehicle. Another Maple Leaf 4x4 that seemed to be bodied as an
ammo truck. It is probably towing the Krupp's limber.
Photographic and film evidence show that units equipped with the Maple Leaf were the
Howitzer Battalion (AIHw) and the First Field Artillery Battalion (AIVd), all with 4x4 trucks.
A 1941 propaganda film on the newly equipped K.N.I.L. shows a pair of Bofors 40mm AA
guns towed by 4x4 Maple Leafs. The 1940 picture on the left (source: Australian War
Memorial) shows the cowl of a Maple Leaf next to some K.N.I.L. Mountain artillery troops
at Batoedjadjar. The picture is possible proof that also one or even both by then
motorized mountain artillery battalions had received the Maple Leafs. In all, given the
purchase of above mentioned new artillery, K.N.I.L. might have needed up to 100 Maple
This picture from a 1941 K.N.I.L. demonstration to the press, shows a
Maple Leaf towing a Bofors 40mm AA gun. The full film item shows
two sections of two Maple Leafs and Bofors plus two Chevrolet supply
trucks each deploying in a field. This shots clearly gives away the
front wheel drive axle.
Another shot from a film, this shows a Maple Leaf at a little
later stage. The crew wear the K.N.I.L. steel helmet with
leather neck protection. Note also the rear wheel
mudguard, a simple bent steel plate. This feature was
probably a later modification as it does not show on the
other pictures that were taken earlier.
And two more pictures of the Maple Leaf
deploying with a Krupp 75mm field gun and
towing a Bofors 105mm howitzer
respectively. The crew seats in the body are
now well visible.
When war came nearer many civilian vehicles were requisitioned by K.N.I.L. while other military trucks were used as tractors during
parades or for deploying ad hoc artillery units.
The complete battery of heavy AA guns (105mm Bofors) during a 1941 parade.
Normally assigned a fixed location, the guns are probably just towed through the streets
of Soerabaja for propaganda reasons. Towing vehicles are 1940 model Chevrolet 1 1/2
ton trucks, as imported and assembled by GM locally (picture from JJ Nortier, De
Japanse aanval op Java).
K.N.I.L. parade in Bandoeng, probably 1940. Bofors 40mm AA guns towed by
again 1940 model Chevrolets. Probably just for the occasion (picture from Tanda
Same story here, this time september 1941. IN 1940 and 1941 several huge military
parades were held to boost morale and impress the local population as well as any
foreign observers. Everything that could ride or could be towed would be mobilised for
the occasion. Many vehicles would pass the main parade ground more than
once...(picture from Orient Magazine)
A 1903 75mm Krupp Field gun
adapted by K.N.I.L. for high speed.
The gun would be placed on a
two-wheel carriage, named the
Buquor Adapter (picture Stabelan
Magazine). From the late 1930s a
considerable number of Krupp
guns were to be fitted with rubber
One of the extremely rare pictures of the K.N.I.L. Maple Leaf
artillery tractor in service. This one is towing a Krupp 75mm
L30 Field gun (not on the picture).
The vehicle had a fixed cab, unlike the Australian type. Cab
doors were not fitted, a common practice in K.N.I.L. (notably on
1940 and 1941 model Chevrolet trucks). Note the short
wheelbase and wooden body (picture from Stabelan
Magazine). Delivery of the (presently unknown number of)
Maple Leafs came in early 1940.