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"Lonesome Staghound (And Other Tales)"

by Peter Brown - Wimborne, Dorset, England

Thanks to my local library, I was able to read the book, THE MAD RECCE by Frank Knappett (Merlin Books Ltd, Braunton, Devon, UK 1984, ISBN 0 86303 123 4, but as far as I know, out of print) This is an account of the author's experiences in the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry from joining in 1940, including action in the Middle East and NW Europe, where the regiment was Reconnaissance Regiment to 51st Highland Division. It was the 51st who gave them the nickname used as the title.

Unlike most other infantry division reconnaissance regiments who seem to have used Humber Mk IV Armoured Cars in 1944 (though converting to Daimlers later), 2 Derby Yeo used Daimlers throughout the campaign in Europe and had some fun waterproofing them for the landings. They also had, as shown in this book's small photo section, Humber Light Reconnaissance Cars as well, and also one odd car.

According to Mr. Knappet, he recalls that around late August 1944 "It must have been somewhere about this time that we lost an armoured car in my troop and it was promptly replaced by an American ‘Staghound’, the like of which we had not seen before. For a start it was much heavier than our Daimlers and had many refinements that our cars lacked. It had a Grant tank turret, 8-inch thick armour, a power operated turret, electrically fired .5 Browning machine-guns, but rather strange to us only a 37mm gun for the main armament, smaller than our own 2-pounders. For power it had two 34 HP General Motors engines, mounted side by side, while our Daimlers had only a single 27 HP engine. It had power assisted steering and the transmission was entirely automatic, and in spite of the rough country it traversed under very tough conditions, we never heard a murmur from that gearbox. Perhaps one disadvantage was that it would not take off until both engines had reached a working temperature of 180 degrees so the driver, ‘Bluey’ Wilkinson, just had to sit in his compartment, surrounded by dials, like the cockpit of a bomber, and wait. And sometimes he had not got a lot of time to wait. It was the only one of its kind in the Regiment and all in all it wasn't a bad old bus."

I have quoted him verbatim, and yes, I do know Staghounds did not have Grant turrets although the two are not totally dissimilar, the Brownings would have been .30" M1914A4's not Fifty Cals ( the references to Grant look-alike turret and 37mm gun tell us the car was a T17E1 and not the T17E2 Anti Aircraft version which did have the heavy Browning) and the armour was not that thick - though maybe it seemed like that for someone in Daimlers who once used Monkey Harrys, the Marmon Herrington series - but the account offers another small byway on AFVs. The Regimental History, THE SECOND DERBYSHIRE YEOMANRY by Capt A J Jones MBE (White Swan Press, Bristol, UK 1949) is brief and does not deal much with equipment matters.

The use of Staghounds in headquarters troops of British armoured car regiments at this time was common, and Canadian regiments used them as their main equipment. Proof that 2 Derby Yeo did have a Staghound is in the archives at the Tank Museum. The summary of equipment which is part of the series of "Half Yearly Reports on the Progress of the Royal Armoured Corps"  - lists one with 51st Infantry Division as at 31st December 1944 and also 30th June 1945, which would suggest that it was still going strong even then.

While I enjoy reading and now and then hearing veteran's accounts, I am always wary of their memories of equipment. My own recollections of even a few years ago often fail me, so I would expect fine detail, much of it not after all relevant to their day to day lives anyway, to have been forgotten over several decades or, as likely as not, elaborated over many intakes of liquid refreshment as often happens when the Old and Bold meet together.

In many cases, their accounts do not tell us what we might like to hear and can in some cases miss the whole point of fighting in tanks for other areas. But often those who were there recall details which may otherwise be missed, and anyway dry facts and figures are only one part of AFV history. They may also prompt us to look again at areas we thought we knew well.

Peter Brown 2 May 2005