In 1937 the British War Department identified a need for a new Field Artillery Tractor to supplement, and then replace, the Light Dragon and Morris CDSWs then in service. A specification was issued for a four-wheeled, four-wheel drive vehicle, with winch, on a short chassis. It had to have a sloped all metal body to facilitate chemical decontamination, be able to carry a 16-inch gun wheel, or gun traversing platform on the roof. Further, it had to be capable of carrying 24 complete rounds of 25 pdr ammunition in their boxes, and at least 8 boxed anti-tank shells, together with gun stores and kit for six personnel.
Guy Motors produced their design quite quickly using existing components, and Morris followed with theirs with it being a conventional design evolved from the CS8, but included a brand-new four-cylinder engine which was mounted on a subframe and not directly onto the chassis. Like the Guy, it had a very characteristic ‘beetle back’ shape with numerous external and internal lockers.
The first Morris C8 Quad, referred to as a Mark I was delivered in October 1939, 200 vehicles being manufactured until early 1940. The Mark II version which was almost identical to the Mark I was then developed of which approximately 4000 were manufactured between 1940 and early 1941. The Mark III version of which about 6000 were built between mid-1941 and 1945. This version had an additional small window on the left front side and windows in both doors. A canvas roof was mounted on a cruciform steel frame over the crew compartment, and there were two square vents in the roof behind the canvas section. The vehicle also had larger fuel tanks and filler cap surrounds. Meccano on selecting the Morris C8 with its limber and 25-Pounder Field Gun chose the Mark III version. Here are some pictures of the Morris in service, the first being a Mark I in the Western Desert.
(Unfortunately, this picture is of a Chevrolet FAT (Field Artillery Tractor), see the subsequent Post from Chris, so never trust a caption found on the Web! I am leaving it insitu to maintain continuity with subsequent Posts. One thing though that I discovered as a result, the left front tyre of the Chevrolet seems to have been put on backwards, as the tread is opposite to the tyre on the right. Or is this another example of my senility?)
The British Army rebuilt many of their Quads in the early 1950s, extending their useful life until 1959 when the last was sold off. So, with Meccano’s 688/697 at launch in July 1957 had only two more years in real life before it was pensioned off. Meccano’s examples soldiered on until being retired themselves in 1971, with many more in existence today than the real-life vehicle!
The 697 25-Pounder Field Gun Set's arrival was announced in the July 1957 Meccano Magazine with a full colour advertisment on the back cover. Inside, commencing on page 342, The Toyman described the model in brief although the description of the real vehicle being "powerful", when in fact although a popular vehicle was really too small for all the equipment that was carried. It was badly underpowered when towing and loaded. Moving 9 tons with a 70 bhp engine was not ideal, and its speed uphill was unspectacular. Considerable use had to be made of the winch on hills and in mud.
The 697 set was packaged in a yellow lidded box, with its base serving as a display if need be. The first version had the drawing of the unit in green,
With the second box type, the drawing is in a light brown. It is unknown at present when this version was introduced and when the drawing reverted to the original green. Examination of the box's inspection data may in time reveal this. Although I have a large number of inspection details for the 697, somehow, when I first commenced recording these details, I neglected to include the colour of the illustration!
One thing my records do reveal, is how often the model went down the production line at Binns Road, May, June (the greatest number during this month which is understandable), July through to and including November 1957, March 1958, April, and June 1958, then a long gap until August 1959, then a gap to September 1960, then April and June 1961.
We then have the pictorial end-flap box commencing circa 1962 until the model was deleted in 1971.
From July 1957, each part of the set was available as a single, boxed unit, although the 687 Trailer only came in a trade box with examples being sold loose.
The 688 Field Artillery Tractor started life in its yellow end-flap box, with ridged wheels, and no window glazing.
Followed by a slightly lighter yellow box and window glazing:
And finally, when the ridged hubs for most Dinky Toys were changed to plastic, we have the 688 in a lighter yellow box, window glazing and plastic hubs.
The 686 25-Pounder Field Gun also had its own box, with the only change being from ridged metal wheel hubs to military green plastic.
Then came the trailer unit, only sold in a yellow Trade Box:
The 697 25-Pounder Field Gun Set was a really nice set, and I was fortunate to receive an example for Christmas 1957. One of these days, I must get it out , photograph it and include it in this Topic.
As mentioned earlier, the 697 continued on until being retired from service in 1971, exactly when in 1971 is currently unknown. I have very few Dealer Order Forms for the 1970s, and am limited to catalogues. Here is a picture of the last time the 697 made an appearance in a catalogue, the 1970, the date of the price insert being 1 May 1970.
The set started life in the United Kingdom with a price of 8/9, eight shillins and ninepence. By the time it was retired, the price, as seen above, had increased to 13/6, thirteen shillings and sixpence.
Interestingly, the 687 trailer was no longer included as it had been deleted from the inventory in 1963, its last appearance in print I have for it being the May 1963 Meccano Toys of Quality Price list. With the January 1964 price list the 687 was not included.
I end this dissertation with some photographs of some surviving examples of the Morris C8 Quad that Dinky made calling it a Field Artillery Tractor.
The following photograph including the trailer.
Re-enactments still take place in England. The photograph below that I found on the Web with a caption stating it was takern in West Germany, does in fact show Jonathon Catton's Morris Commercial Gun Tractor Mk3 No 5 Body taken while on a re-enactment patrol. Jonathon Catton and his Morris belong to The Garrison Artillery Volunteers which is a volunteer hobby group of historians whose passion is the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The group has three main sub-sections - field artillery, anti-aircraft artillery and a searchlight unit - and undertakes historical displays depicting various aspects of life in the Royal Artillery during the twentieth century.
Lastly, the only time I have seen a "real" 1:1 Field Artillery Tractor with gun and trailer, was at Duxford during the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Britain, 20 September 2015.
Hopefully others will be able to add to this Topic, and the forum is open!
Kind regards to you all,
Bruce H. (150)
Wow, what a story Bruce, thank you! I'll confine myself to just adding a picture of the whole Field Gun Set family and a frontal close-up of the later version. Kind regards, Jan
Many thanks Jan, for your most undeserving compliments on my Post on the 25-Pounder Field Gun Set as several blunders in it are an embarrassment! Thank you too for adding those images, especially showing both Field Gun Sets.
Chris has brought to my attention a blunder with the caption of one of the photos and I found another while correcting the first. So perhaps I should stick to cars and steer clear of anything military! Or better still, steer clear of creating anything on this website at all as some might say.
I hate saying this, but when I was given my 25-Pounder Field Gun Set, I recall not being all that thrilled. I know I had been wishing for Santa to drop off a Tank Transporter, but that never eventuated until I reached a far older age, so the 697 was a bit of a disappointment. As I wrote ages ago, I had to contend with a Guy Flat Truck minus its tailboard as my transporter for the simple reason that it was green. Over the years, my 697 lost its box as well as its 25-Pounder gun. Where and how I have no idea, but I found a suitable gun and a box with inner packing so things are back to normality. Eventually I gained a respect and then a delight with that set, and it did provide me with many hours of play-value. But I still missed a tank transporter!
Bruce H. (150)
P.S.: I forgot this one, demonstrating that not only the hubs of the tractor changed from diecast to plastic, but also that the formation sign changed lateron from the regular R.A. red & blue transfer to the rather unusual R.A.C.red & yellow sticker. Kind regards, Jan
With all due respect I think that you will find that the first photo you show in your article, which you say is a Mk1 Morris FAT in the western desert, is actually a Canadian built Chevrolet FAT.
I found the same photo on google images and it has the caption ""A Chevrolet FAT (Field Artillery Tractor) towing a 25pdr leads a column of other vehicles on a road during the 8th Army's approach to Azizia, south of Tripoli, 27th January, 1943".
The Morris and the Chev look very similar from a distance but the radiator is different and the Morris does not have a full width bumper bar.
I have taken a photo of the Dinky 25pdr gun set and a Corgi set (though this is a slightly larger scale) to show the comparison.
You are indeed 100% correct, and I apologize for believing the caption under a photo I found on the Net! I did notice the bumper bar, but thought it was a field modification as it is carrying (water?) jerry cans of some description. While checking on reading your Post above, I came across another website that had the same mistake. The seller makes authentic models, and his model is that of a Chevrolet FAT, and yet it has a lengthy description of the history of the Morris and That photograph.
I have also located more information on the second last photograph. Originally captioned that it had been taken in West Germany, the caption I also found on the Net, was in fact taken in the UK. I have re-written the description for that image as well! If Dave B were still in contact he too would be out in force.
As a replacement for the image under discussion, I have found the following that is reputed to have been taken in Tunisia, 5 December 1942. I hope this one is correct!
Bruce H. (150)
Just another, in a very long series of wonderful articles that you have researched and contributed. The few errors were very small in the whole context, and the history and photos provided were first rate. I had no idea that the original design dated that far back; since Dinky made the model in the later 1950's, I just assumed it was made late in WWII. What I am surprised is that Meccano keep producing the old Field Gun Unit for so long, and that this one was obsolete by the time it became a Dinky Toy.
It is a most interesting design and I am glad that I finally procured one just a few years ago.
Best regards, Terry
By coincidence, I have just received a boxed 697 set from a sellr in Dundin (NZ). It is the original style box but the FAT is fitted with windows ad cast wheels. The date stamp under the lid exists, but I can't decypher it - 1970?