The town of Huddersfield is perhaps best known for having been both a centre of production for textiles and as a hotbed of civil unrest during the industrial revolution. This opposition to industry did not have a permanent effect upon the town (something to do with the Government stationing 1,000 soldiers there at the height of the unrest) as in 1908 Herbert Clayton with his son Reginald established the firm Clayton & Co and with a small workforce started building commercial vehicles.
Their first lorry, the imaginatively named “Model A” was fitted with a Tylor engine which delivered power to the back axle by chains running from the gearbox jack shafts to sprockets on the inside of the back wheels. The driver sat directly above the engine and with no cab or protection against the weather the lorry looked more like a horse drawn wagon than a motor lorry. On the plus side the driver did no doubt have a magnificent view from his very high seat.
Advertised by Clayton & Co as the “Karrier Car” by the end of 1909 they had sold fifteen of these “Model A” lorries and the following year a further forty six were sold. With a fairly successful first entry in to the commercial vehicle market the Claytons started developing its successor.
The “B Type” range of lorries was introduced in 1911. The range ran from the B40 (this being a two ton chassis with a 30 HP engine) up to the B110, which was their largest vehicle (a six ton chassis with a 45 HP engine). Sitting in the middle was the B 60 (at 2 ?-tons) and the BR80 (which was a 3 ?-ton with a 35 HP engine. Still chain drive they had the more conventional arrangement with the driver located to the rear of the engine and no doubt much to the drivers relief they were also fitted with a cab.
Although not designed as military vehicles many of these (and some “A Types”) were requisitioned at the start of the war and saw service through to the end with a large batch of them being disposed of at Kempton Park in 1919. It would be the Karrier “WDS Type” (War Department Subsidy), and which was fitted with a 50 HP Tylor, which would be Karrier’s greatest contribution to the war effort.
Designed and built to the the subsidy scheme specifications, the British War Department purchased more than 2,000 of these outstanding lorries.
The Subsidy Scheme
In 1912 the War Office met with a number of British lorry manufacturers to agree upon a set of standard specifications to which lorries would be built in order for the purchaser to qualify for a Government subsidy. The downside of this was in order to qualify for the subsidy the lorry had to be maintained in top condition and the owner would have to hand over the lorry in time of war or national emergency with just 72 hours notice. Clayton & Co took this to be the perfect opportunity to develop a non chain drive lorry and started building what would become known as the Karrier WDS, which would be their first worm drive.
In order to ensure that any new lorry met the requirements of the scheme they would have to be certified. Certification was given following a rather rigorous series of tests.
Clayton and Co entered their Karrier in the September 1913 trials, which went on for three weeks during which time the Karrier completed a journey of 1,500 miles including a speed trial on the Brooklands racing track. Unfortunately the Karrier failed to complete this final part of the trial but despite this it still received accreditation, as did the Tylor engine for use in other lorries.
In order to meet the requirements of the subsidy scheme the Karrier had to meet stringent standardised specifications such as the positioning and marking of controls, wheel and tyre size, cab and body design. This was to allow drivers to go from one lorry type to another with minimal amount of difficulty. The Karrier WDS met all of these specifications, but had some of its own peculiarities in an attempt to make it a more desirable lorry to the owner/driver (Messrs Clayton probably had their eyes firmly set on the post war market).
The subsidy scheme dictated that lorries should have a 30hp engine. The engine used in the Karrier was once again manufactured by Tylor and although rated to give 45 to 50 hp it actually produced 53hp making it the most powerful engine fitted to subsidy lorries. The same engine would be later fitted to AEC “Y Type” lorries which were purchased in very large numbers. One unique feature of the Karrier was that the chassis sloped downwards from in front of the driver to the front wheel dumb irons. This allowed for a much lower radiator and bonnet giving the driver improved visibility and making maintenance on the engine more easily accessible. It appears that Karrier considered the ease of maintenance and repair as a top priority. When reviewed in 1915 it was found that the design of the WDS Karrier allowed for the removal or inspection of any part of the “mechanism” with the minimum of trouble thereby saving time and expense.
Every lorry that left Karriers Huddersfield factory was submitted to a rather severe road test. Leaving the factory they would drive three miles to “Deep Lane”. An immediate 90-degree turn would prevent any run up this hill, which started off with a one in four gradient. This incline would soon ease to a more manageable one in six, before returning to another one in four gradient combined with a 90-degree bend near the top. At this point the lorries would be brought to a stop and then the driver would have to tackle the gradient from a standing start. To make the journey a little bit more difficult the road surface was very bad, and crossed with deep drain gutters. In addition each of the subsidy lorries would be given a test load of 1 -ton in excess of its gross laden weight.
Records suggest that the Karrier generally performed very well. However, it had the same Achilles heal as most of the other British army subsidy lorries — the chassis had a tendency to crack. This would usually occur in one or all of the following places: by the rear bracket that secures the front spring, under the scuttle and where the gearbox is secured to the chassis.
Karrier produced pressings for strengthening the frames, which were despatched to the front and then from 1917 (chassis number 1712) they increased the thickness of the steel in the chassis, which resolved the problem. Karriers production of WDS models in 1916 was just 8 a week. The Ministry of Munitions sought to increase this to 20 a week but it seems unlikely that this stretching target was ever achieved. By 1918 there were just 1,557 Karrier built subsidy lorries in service and a further 181 A and B Types (although the number of A types still in use would have been minimal).
When writing about vehicles from the Great War I don’t normally comment on the markings, as that would be worth a separate article in its own right, however the Karrier subsidy lorries had a common peculiarity, which is worth mentioning. The naming of lorries was generally frowned upon but prior to the Karriers leaving the factory they were each assigned the name of a character from the works of Charles Dickens. This was painted in 6” high letters across the front of the scuttle.
As a result the rather comedic named “Mr Squeers”, “Mr Micawber”, “Mr Tuckle”, “Dick Swiveller”, “Sergeant Buzfuz” and “The Fat Boy” amongst many others could be seen driving behind the lines on the Western Front. This naming does not feature on all of the photographs of Karriers which I have seen so it may well be that they were soon over painted or the factory was asked to desist from this practice.