The GM Otter Light Reconnaissance Car Mk.I, also known as the Car, Light Reconnaissance, GM, Mk.I, was a Canadian reconnaissance armored car that was utilized by the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano (English: Italian Co-Belligerent Army) after 1944 and, subsequently, by the Esercito Italiano (English: Italian Army) in the post-war period.
The vehicle was not highly regarded by its crews, and despite the extensive use of surplus Allied vehicles by the Italian armed forces towards the end of the war, it had limited use within the Esercito Italiano and was retired from service within a few years.
Birth and Use of the GM Otter Mk.I
The GM Otter Light Reconnaissance Car Mk.I was manufactured by the Hamilton Bridge Company in Hamilton, Ontario, in order to fulfill the requirement for a domestically produced reconnaissance vehicle for the Canadian Army.
The vehicle was developed on the chassis of the Chevrolet C15 Canadian Military Pattern truck, which featured a 106 hp General Motors of Canada (G.M.C.) Model 270 petrol engine. Equipped with either a .303 Bren machine gun or a .55 Boys anti-tank rifle in its turret, the vehicle had a crew of three.
A total of 1,761 GM Otter Mk.I were produced by the Hamilton Bridge Company. Of these, 877 were delivered to the First Canadian Army deployed in Europe, while over 100 remained in Canada and were utilized by the 24th Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Borden and the 31st Reconnaissance Battalion based in British Columbia.
The vehicle did not enjoy a positive reputation, and in Europe, it was employed as a transport vehicle for artillery observation officers, an anti-aircraft escort for columns of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, and for airfield defense by the Royal Air Force Regiment.
Some of the vehicles deployed in Italy were handed over to the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano, while in the post-war period, they were used by Belgian (to a very limited extent), Canadian, Dutch, Italian, and British troops stationed in Jordan. Canada continued to employ them until the mid-1950s.
Use by Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano
After the Armistice of September 8th, 1943, signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies, numerous Italian units, especially those stationed in Southern Italy, opted to align themselves with the Allied forces, forming the initial core of the Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano.
The first operational unit was the Primo Raggruppamento Motorizzato (English: First Motorized Grouping), established in November 1943.
It participated in the Battle of Montelungo and was later reorganized in March 1944 as the Corpo Italiano di Liberazione (English: Italian Liberation Corps), consisting of two infantry brigades.
In order to replace many Allied units bound for France, Gruppi di Combattimento (English: Combat Groups) were created in summer 1944.
|Gruppi di Combattimento|
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Cremona’||25th September 1944||21° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Cremona’
22° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Cremona’
7° Reggimento d’Artiglieria ‘Cremona’
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Friuli’||10th September 1944||87° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Friuli’
88° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Friuli’
35° Reggimento d’Artiglieria ‘Friuli’
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Folgore’||24th September 1944||Reggimento Fanteria Paracadutista ‘Nembo’
Reggimento di Marina ‘San Marco’
Reggimento Artiglieria Paracadutista ‘Nembo’
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Legnano’||24th September 1944||68° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Legnano’
Reggimento Fanteria Speciale
11° Reggimento d’Artiglieria ‘Mantova’
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Mantova’||1st October 1944||76° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Napoli’
114° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Mantova’
155° Reggimento d’Artiglieria ‘Emilia’
|Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Piceno’||10th October 1944||235° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Piceno’
336° Reggimento di Fanteria ‘Piceno’
152° Reggimento d’Artiglieria ‘Piceno’
The Gruppi di Combattimento did not possess armored vehicles apart from the GM Otter Mk.I, which were utilized as observation vehicles for artillery units or as escorts and command post guardians.
The Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Legnano’ was assigned around seven or eight of these vehicles.
Additionally, one platoon of GM Otter Mk.I was utilized by the Brigata Maiella (English: Brigade), a partisan unit from Abruzzo that continued to fight alongside the Allied forces after the liberation of Abruzzo until May 1945.
In anticipation of deployment to the front, the Brigata Maiella was reinforced from November 1944. A Compagnia Armi Pesanti (English: Heavy Weapons Company) was formed, within which there was a Sezione Carri e Blindo (English: Tanks and Armored Vehicles Section) consisting of four GM Otter Mk.I armored cars and four Bren Carriers.
The 1st May 1945 the Sezione Carri e Blindo liberated Asiago.
The vehicles used by the Brigata Maiella were marked with the unit’s emblem, which consisted of two white mountains on a blue background, accompanied by the inscription ‘Maiella’.
Use in the Esercito Italiano
After the conclusion of the Second World War, the Esercito Italiano of the newly formed Repubblica Italiana (English: Italian Republic) faced significant challenges and relied on a substantial number of vehicles provided by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other Commonwealth states.
Among these vehicles were the GM Otter Mk.I, although they were not highly regarded by their crews because the engine was underpowered and the driver’s visibility was very low, and consequently, only saw limited use within the Italian armed forces.
The GM Otter Mk.I was certainly employed by the Divisione di Fanteria ‘Legnano’ (English: Infantry Division ‘Legnano’), which was established in October 1945 from the Gruppo di Combattimento ‘Legnano’. By the end of 1945, this division had 9 GM Otter Mk.I armored cars in its inventory.
Additionally, at least two armored cars were used by the Reggimento Artiglieria a Cavallo (English: Horse Artillery Regiment), which was established in Milan in November 1946 and assigned to the Divisione di Fanteria ‘Legnano’, these two armored cars were modified in the rear with the addition of a stowage cage.
Furthermore, by the end of 1945, the Divisione di Fanteria ‘Cremona’ (English: Infantry Division ‘Cremona’) had 21 reconnaissance vehicles in its possession, likely including GM Otter Mk.I.
The last GM Otter Mk.I were decommissioned by the mid-1950s.
Like other Allied vehicles used by the Esercito Italiano in the post-war period, the GM Otter Mk.I was withdrawn after a few years of service. It only saw very limited use and were generally not appreciated. Elsewhere, the GM Otter Mk.I received a similar reputation due to its underpowered engine and a lack of visibility.
Thanks to Arturo Giusti for the help
GM Otter Mk.I technical specifications
|Crew||3 (driver, commander, gunner)|
|Dimensions||Length 4.4 m, Width 2.1 m, Height 2.4 m|
|Engine||G.M.C. 270 106 hp @ 3000 rpm|
|Primary Armament||.303 Bren machine gun or .55 Boys anti-tank rifle|
Nicola Pignato and Filippo Cappellano Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano Volume III Roma 2007
Luigi Manes Il Gruppo di Combattimento Legnano Bergamo 2020
Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito I Gruppi di Combattimento: Cremona – Friuli – Folgore – Legnano – Mantova – Piceno (1944 – 1945) Roma 2010
Paolo Crippa and Luigi Manes I mezzi delle unità Cobelligeranti, Italia 43-45 Mattioli 2018
Paolo Crippa and Luigi Manes Carri Armati “Partigiani” Luca Cristini Editore 2022