Spare parts

John Teasdale looks at the role played by 40 ASP which kept the aircraft of the Desert Air Force flying during World War Two.

40 ASP and the spoils of war. The flag is a very attractive souvenir, to be sure, but more useful is the Mercedes Benz L 4500 four-tonne lorry behind. The lorry was built in both 4x2 and 4x4 versions. Most 4x2 examples seem to have served on the home front, so this one is probably a 4x4 (ie an L 4500 A). Production of the 4x2 began in 1939, and continued through to the end of the war. The 4x4 was built from 1941; 2711 examples were built. The engine of both variants is a six-cylinder 7,274cc diesel. It is likely that all of 40 ASP’s officially-issued vehicles had petrol engines, so the addition of the diesel-engined Mercedes to the park’s fleet would have complicated the provision of fuel. In the left background is one 40 ASP’s issued vehicles, a petrol-engined Canadian-built three-tonner
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This BMW R12 motorcycle and sidecar was captured from the Germans; the photograph was taken in February 1942. The 745cc flat-twin engine drives the motorcycle’s rear wheel via a four-speed gearbox and shaft drive. Even when fitted with air filters, motorcycle engines in the desert have a short life between overhauls due to the ingestion of dust
Members of 40 ASP prepare to leave El Dhaba, Egypt, and advance westwards. Their Canadian-built 30 cwt ton Chevrolet YR is in essence a civilian vehicle, adapted for military use by such as the substitution of single rear wheels for double. The wheels are commercial pattern rather than being the military type with divided rims, but tyres are larger in section than would be seen on a civilian vehicle. The vehicle is powered by a six-cylinder petrol engine

No 40 (Middle East) Air Stores Park (40 ASP) was formed at No 5 Personnel Dispatch Centre, Padgate, on November 1, 1941. Its role would be to help keep aircraft of the Desert Air Force flying by stocking and issuing as required spare parts and equipment. It would usually work closely with an RAF Repair and Salvage Unit and was fully mobile as it would need to be able to operate from aerodromes and landing grounds across Egypt (and perhaps beyond, if the war went well).

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