Dinky Toys Bedford QL “Army Covered Wagon”

This is the Dinky Toys No. 623 "Army Covered Wagon" (aka Bedford QL) with its box. The box is fairly flimsy cardboard, but has managed to survive thanks to the diligence of my Uncle.

This is the Dinky Toys No. 623 “Army Covered Wagon” (aka Bedford QL) with its box. The box is fairly flimsy cardboard, but has managed to survive thanks to the diligence of my Uncle.

It’s always the ones behind the scenes that make the difference. What do I mean by that? Well, just think about it. For every fighter pilot zipping through the skies, there’s a small army of engineers, maintainers, fuellers and armourers that keep the plane going. For every NASCAR car out there turning left there’s a bunch of pit-crew, transport crew and tech staff that constantly upgrade and maintain the car. For every highway, there are tonnes of engineers, builders, workmen and their equipment that went into making that stretch of blacktop. So, what does this mean? It means that when we see things either in the everyday or in history, we don’t often think about the logistics train behind them. That’s actually unfortunate, because it means we lose a part of the big picture.

Now, we all know the line that “An Army travels on its stomach” related directly to this need to have a secure, reliable and timely logistic chain. However, what Napoleon couldn’t realize is that the mechanization of armies would lead to the need for a great number of rough and tumble vehicles to ensure that everything an army required got to where it had to go on time. In many ways, WWII was the first of the “Logistics Wars”, and without the vehicles required to get troops, ammo, food and medical supplies to where they were needed, things would have gone south very quickly.

Every nation fighting in the Second World War had literal armies of trucks backing up the troops on the front line. There is no way that the Blitzkriegs of the early war or the Allied landings on the Continent (either Italy or France) would have succeeded without these unsung, oft-forgotten warriors “bringing up the rear”. Really, it wasn’t so much bringing up the rear, as “bringing home the bacon”, in some cases, quite literally! With this in mind, it’s nice to know that, despite the fame of the tanks and other AFVs that fought the famous battles, there were toy makers who were willing and able to give the humble “army truck” its due.

One such maker was Dinky, and one such truck is the nearly ubiquitous Bedford QL.

No. 623 – Army Covered Wagon

Dinky’s No. 623 is simply called an “army covered wagon”, which is a very British way of describing an army truck with some kind of covering over the rear bed. What it doesn’t tell you is that this truck is none other than the Bedford QL. The QL is actually a very important vehicle in terms of truck design and saw widespread use throughout and after WWII.

Here is the Bedford QL in all its glory. Well, "glory" might be a bit much, given its rather pug-faced appearance, but this is what comes out of the box.

Here is the Bedford QL in all its glory. Well, “glory” might be a bit much, given its rather pug-faced appearance, but this is what comes out of the box.

The QL was designed in late 1939 (a month or so after the start of WWII) and began production in 1941. At the time, the QL was quite different from other British trucks; it was four wheel drive and it used a “cab over engine” layout. This design led to the noticeably “stubby” appearance of the truck which helped driver visibility considerably. Not only that, it meant that the truck was more compact, an important consideration when shipping them by sea or navigating tight European roadways. By the end of the fighting in 1945, production was terminated, but only after a total of over 52,000 were produced!

Like all great workhorses, the Bedford QL was available in a wide variety of different models, including the QLT troop carrier, QLB Bofors gun tractor. However, the most widespread variant was also the most mundane, the QLD “General Service” (GS) truck. This was just a truck with a box and a cover over it. Sounds boring, but when you need to move stuff to an army in action, this is just what the doctor ordered.  The QLD weighed in at just over 7,200 lbs. empty, and could carry 3 tons of freight. It did all this with a 6 cylinder engine putting out a surprisingly measly 72 HP! I know, you, like me, are probably thinking “WTF? How did it get anywhere?” However, it got where it had to.

Dinky immortalized the QL in toy form starting in 1954.  In March of that year, the first of the Dinky 623s hit the shelves. It must have been reasonably popular, because it stayed in the lineup until 1962, when it was, according to various sources, removed from the catalogue. Interestingly enough for the modellers out there, the Dinky QL is in 1/60 scale! That’s right in scale to old Patlabor kits, as well as Perfect Grade Gundams and kits from Break Blade! Sure, those aren’t exactly WWII British-type settings, but it’s still a neat piece of trivia!

This view of the rear highlights the thinness of the metal cover that the QL sports over the cargo area. Note too the trailer hitch: a true force multiplier when it comes to play value!

This view of the rear highlights the thinness of the metal cover that the QL sports over the cargo area. Note too the trailer hitch: a true force multiplier when it comes to play value!

The Dinky QL is finished in the standard “Dinky Army Green”, like almost all other vehicles of its time and ilk. It has ‘knobby’ tires, indicating its rough-and-ready role, and it carries a spare tire behind the driver on the right side of the vehicle. This spare is ALSO knobby. I can only imagine how cool it would be to have an army truck that you could change a tire on. Since the tires are rubber, they can, in fact, be pulled off the rim and replaced with others. So, a young lad having an army adventure in his bedroom or backyard could, in theory, fix a flat “in combat” and continue on. This may sound silly, but it’s that kind of little detail that can really make a toy rewarding to a kid. Kudos to Dinky for thinking that far ahead!

There's the spare! Behind the driver figure (in his otherwise empty cabin!) you can make out the extra "knobby" tire that the QL carries for emergencies. Back when the tires were flexible, it would have been easy to swap the spare for another tire.

There’s the spare! Behind the driver figure (in his otherwise empty cabin!) you can make out the extra “knobby” tire that the QL carries for emergencies. Back when the tires were flexible, it would have been easy to swap the spare for another tire.

Another detail about the truck that is cool is the top on the back. While the QL would have had a frame with a fabric topper, the Dinky one has a solid metal topper. This is supposed to simulate the tarp, I guess, although there is no contouring at all. The topper is just a thin piece of metal bent to the right shape and painted green. What makes it cool is that it is removable! Thus, you get both a covered lorry and an open one in the same box! Again, it sounds like it’s no big deal, but the level of flexibility this gives a child’s imagination shouldn’t be overlooked.

Like the Morris Quad, the QL has a driver figure seated in the cabin. Unfortunately, he has no windows to protect him from the elements. The headlights are painted in silver and there are various petrol tanks and boxes hanging down under the bed and behind the cab. The floor of the cargo compartment is ribbed, giving it a decidedly rugged appearance. One other feature that is important is the trailer hook. This small piece of black metal increases the play value of this little guy almost infinitely! Now, the truck can do almost anything, including towing various guns (including the 25 Pounder and its ammo trailer) and other trailers!

Conclusions:

While the Bedford QL is not the prettiest or most amazing looking Dinky Toy ever, it is a solid toy with a lot of potential play value. The fact that it is entirely metal (save the tires) makes this little truck quite heavy for its size, and gives a good heft that fits a rugged, “go anywhere” kind of vehicle. Of course, this one is well past its time as a toy, and it makes a wonderful display piece as well. It is a nice reminder of the often unsung “behind the scenes” heroes who helped to ensure that those on the front lines were able to do their jobs. For that alone, the Dinky Bedford QL is something that not only armour and vehicle fans, but all history buffs, should have in their collections. The fact that it’s in scale to anime kits from more than half a century later is just gravy on the Yorkshire pudding, you could say!

While it might just look like a green box on wheels (which it is), the QL is a nicely detailed peice. You can see the ribbing on the side of the bed, as well as the various boxes and tanks that hang under the side of the bed. Dinky really had its head in the game!

While it might just look like a green box on wheels (which it is), the QL is a nicely detailed peice. You can see the ribbing on the side of the bed, as well as the various boxes and tanks that hang under the side of the bed. Dinky really had its head in the game!

Personal Connection:

This particular Dinky Toy was given to me by my Uncle for my 37th birthday. It was from his personal collection, and he thought (and very rightly so!) that I would get a lot of enjoyment out of displaying this heirloom. This truck was given to my Uncle as a present back in the late 1950s, although he can’t remember exactly from whom he received it. My uncle was always a fan of civilian vehicles more than military ones, so the little Bedford did not see a lot of wear. Of course, my Uncle (like myself) was always very fastidious about his toys, so even “well used” Dinkys still look like nearly-new. I’m glad I inherited that!

I can remember seeing this truck a couple of times when I was much younger and my Uncle had it on display. Of course, I wanted to play with it, not quite understanding the concepts of age and value. Thankfully, my Uncle was able to prevent me from going all “backyard army adventure” with it, and so it stayed in its nearly perfect condition for over 50 years before getting a chance to hang out with his similarly green-hued friends as part of my small, but cherished, Dinky military display. I’m sure there are a lot of other QLs that did see extensive service on the “backyard front” in their lives, though. I’m proud and honoured that mine stands as an excellent reminder of the craftsmanship and quality that the Dinky company put into its toys over 60 years ago.

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