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The 'Stovebolt Story' isn't soley an American tale. And neither is the victory over Facism in World War Two. The heroism and sacrifice that ensured our freedoms today was shouldered by an amazing coalition that literally spanned Europe and the Globe. Amazing and gripping stories abound in the histories of Nazi-occupied countries' Free Forces and their contributions to Allied victory. Even more interesting is how these stories intersect with the history of our trucks. We all know about U.S. militay 'Bolts -- CCKWs, DUKWs and the like... But as Joseph Smith has researched, before the United States was even in the fight...
Stovebolt panels helped the Poles...
When I moved to Linlithgow, a historic town in Scotland, I was intrigued by a shrine erected in 1944 by the Polish Army which was stationed in the town during World War II. Between 1942-44, my home town paid host to the Free Polish 1st Motor Ambulance Company (1st MAC). Having always been interested in military vehicles and history, I asked around and found virtually no information on this ambulance unit, which also included a group of female British volunteer drivers.
What to do?
Well, innovatively, I placed an ad on eBay, asking for information on Polish ambulances during World War II. I received a very informative reply with around 10 images of ambulances with various insignia.
But which one was the unit stationed here? It took some time to actually identify that the vehicles were a Chevrolet make. Searching the word "ambulance" was drawing a blank!. It took some time for a novice like me to actually find that Americans refer to them as "panel trucks" and that these vehicles were actually civilian trucks, hastily converted for wartime ambulance use in the first few years of the war.
The 1 1/2 ton panel trucks were bought by the British American Ambulance Corps during WWII and donated for ambulance duties in the United Kingdom. As the USA was neutral at the time, the Constitution did not permit gifting anything other than ambulances for humanitarian purposes. So the various charitable committees in the USA bought up all the panel trucks they could and shipped them through the U Boat infested north Atlantic to equip the various ambulance units in the UK. Canada gifted panel trucks to us as well.
So having identified the vehicles as 1 1/2 ton Chevy panels, the task was to find out which one was the Linlithgow unit. There were two different types used -- The 1940 (dual real wheels and separate headlights) and the 1941/42 style (integral headlights and single real wheels).
I favoured the shot with the convoy in a line (with the 1941/1942 trucks) but had no indication of where it was taken. Linlithgow has hills like that but scouring the angle of the shot, the rising sun in the morning casting a long shadow, brought no result.
Think about it, Joe
Hmmmm .... A unit of Polish soldiers getting a fleet of nice new vehicles would want to photograph them. Right! The solution lay in the knowledge that the Linlithgow Unit was based in Newburgh before its posting.
So next time I was in north Fife, I drove through Newburgh from the opposite end ... and YES! The hills looked familiar.
Out of town about two miles, BINGO! The exact spot where the photo was taken 66 years earlier!
This verified it was the Linlithgow unit 1st MAC, and the unit identification number on the fenders? 66!
Having determined that the LInlithgow unit used the '41/'42 trucks, we set out to find that type of vehicle. In our searching around we found Stovebolt.com.
In January 2008, I posted in the Trucks Wanted section of the Stovebolt Swap Meet and Ron Brazell contacted us. He was taken with the fact the vehicle would be restored and not converted into rat rod!
I wasn't sure how long this was going to take ... but it had already been 64 years since one had been here, so I guess waiting a bit longer was bearable. There were a few of us who wanted to obtain one of these and feature it in our town's annual historic events, with uniformed personnel, as a tribute to the gallant Poles and a bit of our own history.
64 years and counting
In hardly no time, the deal was done and Ron Brazell sold his panel to me and it was on its way to Scotland. The vehicle was shipped efficiently by Golden Chariots to the UK. U Boats and kamikazes pilots permitting, we thought it should cross the water in about three weeks and we are planning to achieve this by mid June 2008.
The 1942 Panel / Ambulance will take centre stage as a WWII Polish Ambulance, representing the Polish 1st Motor Ambulance Company which was stationed in Linlithgow during the second World War. We are currently in the process of fitting stretcher gear and a new livery and hope to be ready for re-launch in a few months.
If you are interested in military Chevies, and about the very interesting history of the 1st MAC, please visit our web site. Without Stovebolt.com we would still be floundering around both in terms of trying to find one but also in seeking the educational information it provides.
This was a very exciting adventure for us. Perhaps our story might stimulate other Bolters to research their own subject better as there is scant info out there and you have to ferret for it.
It's amazing how a truck can be instrumental in touching such noble causes such as Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American democracy; Sykes wartime effort scrubbed by McCarthyism leading to him premature death; British volunteer female drivers doing their bit for no pay; exiled Polish soldiers; American fund raisers; war winning American armament production; and how it came to touch a small Scottish town. Yet un-recounted for 65 years -- until now!
As Winston Churchill said, "Give us the tools, we will finish the job!" FDR got it. We all benefit from that farsightedness and sacrifice.
For more information about the Chevy Panel truck, check out Joe's Gallery page. ~ Editor
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