On 8 April 1971, a high priority order was received for three vehicles to be fitted out for use as fish and ship vans in Northern Ireland. After some deliberation, it was decided to use the Bedford J Type (J2SZ2, code No. 2660-0149) Hawson Body large van, three of which were available for conversion. These vehicles would affectionately be known as ‘the Codpiece.’
Each van was to be fitted out by Calor gas at a cost of £485 each (the equivalent of £7,380 in 2019). Due to the availability of the gas equipment, one could be done in two weeks and the remaining two vans in two months time. This work would be conducted at REME Workshops in Aldershot. While three vans were initially ordered, I am unaware of multiple vans being deployed. Any reference is generally in the singular.
The purpose of these vans was to issue food to the soldiers on the streets of Belfast. Because of this near front line deployment, they required armour to be fitted to protect their Army Catering Corps (ACC) crew. This armour was in the form of appliqué B-vehicle protection, which included underfloor protection.
From a 1972 document in the National Archives, a little more information on the level of protection a B-vehicle protection kit may offer:
- Essential to stop low velocity weapons at point blank range
- Desirable to stop 7.62mm AP (armour piercing) ammunition at 50m
- Run flat tyres for logistic vehicles to travel 20 miles at 30 mph
The image at the top of this article clearly shows protection being fitted over the side windows, as well as a metal grille screen fitted across the front window. Any additional armour, most likely in the form of Makralon sheet, may have either been fitted internally (although the term appliqué suggests exterior fastening to the vehicle as has been seen on other vehicles of the period), the armour may not yet have been fitted, or indeed it may have been decided at a later stage not to armour the van any further.
The image at the top of this article is from Uniforms Illustrated No. 4, The British Army in Northern Ireland by Simon Dunstan, published by Arms and Armour Press in 1984. The original image is credited to Soldier Magazine.