Information Retrieving a
military classic

On their departure in 1922, the British authorities left a sizeable fleet of vehicles for the new Irish Army. These were gradually augmented and later replaced by new vehicles and up to recent times much of the transport used by our Defence Forces has, like the commercial sector, been of British origin.

Museum tokens
Why preserve
The collection
ZC 9394 was ‘boarded’ by the Dept. of Defence in 1979 and joined the museum’s collection the same year
About the museum
A notable feature of army transport during World War II was the mixture of American general transport lorries and more specialised types that were standard British War Office models. Among these, one of the most imposing was the Leyland Retriever which had an impeccable pedigree.

During the 1920s the British War Office was responsible for the design of an articulated rear bogie for six-wheeled (three axle) vehicles. Use of the resulting patent was free to any manufacturer building vehicles suitable or adaptable for military purposes: a good supply of reliable, well-proved machines would thus be available in the event of hostilities.

Leyland Motors, who had built the famed RAF type lorry during World War I, produced military style 6x4 models — the Terrier and the Retriever. Later, the civilian Hippo six-wheeler was adapted for use by the armed forces. There is an extremely rare armoured car version of the Terrier in the Museum's collection.

Described in military specifications as ‘Truck, 3 ton, 6x4’, the Retriever (Leyland model RET) was, like nearly all military vehicles, rated at only half its civilian capacity. It had a petrol engine of 5.9 litres delivering 73bhp at 2,120rpm. A total of 6,542 is believed to have been built, uses ranging through general service, searchlight mounts, bridging, wireless, cranes and gun mounts. A very famous Retriever, now in the Imperial War Museum, is the one used as Field Marshal Montgomery's Command headquarters during the War.

Many Retrievers were built as mobile workshops, fully fitted out with lathes and other machine tools (driven from a power take-off) to deal with repairs to equipment on the battlefield. They were covered with canvas tilts, the cabs also having folding canvas hoods.

From the driver's point of view, the equipment of a Retriever was a curious mixture of cruelty and kindness. For instance, most early deliveries had open cabs with folding canvas hoods. There was no windscreen, but there were rolled canvas aprons to protect the crews' legs from wet and cold. A thoughtful feature was the spare wheel mounting: It was located in a vertical frame behind the cab and could be lowered mechanically. The radiator was also noteworthy, having instantly variable louvres at the front to assist heating and cooling as well as affording protection.

All the Irish Defence Forces' specialist vehicles were standard British types, and four Retriever Mobile Workshops were acquired in 1939: ZC 9394 and ZD 1750, 1751 and 1752. ZC 9394 (Army fleet No. 654) was attached to the Supply and Transport Corps base workshops at Clancy Barracks, Dublin and remained in use until 1979; it is recorded as having travelled to Co. Clare in that year.

After "boarding" — military parlance for withdrawal — the Dept. of Defence and the Army made this Retriever lorry available to the Transport Museum. Although needing a new silencer, it is mechanically sound and was re-canvassed by the Army in 1991.
Leyland Retriever ZD 1750 is preserved by the Defence Forces and has its full complement of workshop equipment.

Musaem Náishínta Iompar na hÉireann