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GEORGE FORTY
WORLD WAR TWO. ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES & SELF-PROPELLED ARTILLERY

Armoured Cars

There were a number of obsolete armoured cars still in service when the war began in September 1939, both in the British Army and in those of some colonial forces. These included both Lanchesters and Rolls-Royce.

A Beaverette Mk I, light reconnaissance car, which was also known as the Standard Car 4×2. It did not have armour all-round, the rear being protected by 3-inch thick oak wood planks! (TM)

The Beaverette Mk III, also known as the 'Beaverbug', had better armour and a small turret. Armament is twin Vickers K aircraft- type machine guns. (TM)

A column of Beaverette Mk IIs on training 'somewhere in England'. The Mk II had better all-round armour. They are from armoured car regiment (41) of 2nd Infantry Division (Crossed Keys). (TM)

The massive 7.5 ton Lanchester 6×4, which first came into service in 1927, had been issued to both the 11th Hussars and 12th Royal Lancers when they were first mechanised. Later models were still in service with the armoured car companies of the Selangor & Perak Battalions of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (from 1938 to 1942) and also with the Singapore Volunteer Corps Armoured Car Company. They saw active service during the Malayan campaign against the Japanese in 1941-42. Turret armament was the same as that of the light tank of the period, a heavy machine gun (.50in Vickers) and one light (.303in Vickers). whilst there was a second .303 with a telescopic sight, located beside the driver. The four-man crew of this large, cumbersome armoured car certainly had their hands full, as it had a top speed of 45mph.

The best of the obsolescent armoured cars still in service with the British Army which was used operationally, was the splendid old 3.5 ton. 1920 and 1924 pattern Rolls-Royce. Although most of them were being used for training in Britain, some of the 1924 pattern were still serving in the Middle East, where they had been taken over by the 11th Hussars, the first armoured car regiment of 7th Armoured Division. The cars had been modernised, the turret being replaced with an open-topped version with faceted armour and mounted a Boys anti-tank rifle, a Bren LMG also a smoke discharger. They had a top speed of 60mph and armour 10mm thick. These cars were used extensively for patrolling against the Italians in the Western Desert during the early days of the war.

Morris Mk II light reconnaissance car, a 4×2 vehicle weighing 3.7 tons with a crew of three and a top speed of 50mph. Armament was a Bren LMG and a Boys anti-tank rifle. (TM)

Morris light reconnaissance cars on manoeuvres in Syria, October 1943. The numerals '77' denote the armoured car regiment of a Middle East Forces infantry division. (TM)

A Morris CS9/LAC in France, 1940. The car, from C Squadron, 12th Royal Lancers, bears the unit code number 129 in white on a black background with a white bar, denoting Army troops. It is armed with a Bren and a Boys anti-tank rifle, both being dismountable. Note also the centrally-mounted smoke discharger. (TM)

One of many improvised armoured cars constructed in Britain during the dark days of 1940. 'EAGLE' was built by the Stroud Home Guard. Gloucestershire - they adapted three civilian cars into two well-armoured cars and an ambulance. (TM)

The London County Council Home Guard Battalion took over this good-looking armoured car, built in the Council's workshops during August 1940. It mounted a Vickers machine gun and carried a crew of three. (TM)

The 'Tickler Tank', built using a Sunbeam car chassis by the Tickler Factory of Maidenhead, England and manned by the Home Guard. July 1940. (TM)

It was amazing what could be done with some pieces of armour plate! Another Home guard masterpiece - the noise inside must have been deafening) (TM)

The Guy Universal Wheeled Carrier of 1940 was an experimental vehicle, based on the Guy wheeled light tank, which had an open-topped hull on a 4×4 chassis. The project was abandoned after engine cooling problems. However, a similar concept was later used by India to produce a large number of armoured wheeled carriers.

In 1938, five prototype Guy Quad armoured cars were built in mild steel by Guy Motors Ltd. This was an experimental mode), based upon the Guy Quad-Ant artillery tractor chassis and trials proved most successful. They led on to the Guy Armoured Car Mk I (also called the Guy wheeled light tank). A total of 101 were built, using a welding process - the first welded armoured cars in British Army service. The first fifty mounted one .50in and one .303in Vickers MG, but the last fifty-one had BESAs (one 15mm and one 7.92mm) and were designated Mk IA. Weighing 5.75 tons, the 13ft 6ins long, 6ft 8ins wide, 7ft 6ins tall car, had a top speed of 35mph, a range of 210 miles and armour up to 15mm thick. A troop from the 12th Lancers, equipped with four Guys were assigned as mobile guard for the Royal family from 1940 to 1942. Two were also used by the Cabinet-Churchill often touring London in one during some of the heaviest air raids, to encourage Civil Defence volunteers and comfort survivors.

The 7.5 ton Lanchester 6×4, first entered service in 1927. Later models were still in use at the start of World War Two and were used in action in the Malayan campaign against the Japanese in 1941 and 1942. (TM)

Although obsolete and used only for training in Britain, some 1924 pattern Rolls-Royce armoured cars were deployed in action in the Western Desert during the early part of World War Two. (TM)

Armadillo Mk III mounted a 1.5 pounder COW gun in a blockhouse, with up to three Lewis guns (one on an AA mount), plus a rear-mounted heavy machine gun. One of a number of slightly different models converted from Bedford 3-ton chassis. (TM)

This Bison was one of a number built on 4×2 lorries, which carried a concrete armoured pill-box, with weapon slots. (TM)

The Rootes Group made a large number of armoured cars during World War Two, many of these were Humbers which saw service all over the world from 1941. The Mk I was very like the Guv and based on the chassis of the Karrie KT4 artillery tractor which was also supplied, prewar, to India. The first production contract for 500 was awarded in 1940. The 15ft long, 7ft 2ins wide and 7ft 10ins Mk I, weighed 6.85 tons, had a crew of three, a top speed of 45 mph and a range of 250 miles. Its armament was one 15mm BESA and a 7.92mm BESA. The Mk II, produced in 1941, had a redesigned hull, with the driver's visor built into the front plate and die radiator armour altered at the rear, all of which increased the weight by 560lbs. Armament was unaltered and the performance was very similar, as was that of the next model the Mk III, which had a larger, more roomy turret which could take three men. so the crew was increased to four.

A Guy Mk IA armoured car, mounting one 15mm and one 7.92mm BESA machine guns. (TM)

The AA version of the Humber Mk I, mounting four 7.92mm BESA machine guns. (TM)

The Humber Mk I armoured car was designed using the pre-war Karrier KT4 artillery tractor chassis. (TM)

The Humber Mk III still weighed about 7.2 tons, but had a larger turret, so could carry another crew member (four instead of three) (TM)

Warrior is a Humber Mk IV, last of the line, mounting an American 37mm gun (the first British-built AFV to do so), which reduced the crew to three, but gave it much better firepower. (TM)

The last Humber was the Mk IV, which mounted an American supplied 37mm gun - the first British vehicle to do so - as well as the co-axially mounted BESA, however, this meant the turret could now only take two men. A modification of the basic armoured car was the Humber AA Mk I, produced in 1942, which had the original turret removed and replaced with a specially constructed one equipped with four BESA 7.92 MGs and an AA ring sight.

A Daimler armoured car, from the 1st Belgian Armoured Car Squadron, part of the First Canadian Army, photographed at Sallenelles, France in August 1944. (TM)

According to the original caption, this Daimler armoured car was undergoing trials, (soon after coming off the secret list) advancing and reversing at over 40 mph, through a smokescreen and firing its 2 pounder gun. (TM)

A Daimler armoured car fitted with amphibious equipment during deep wading trials held in 1944. Note the gun apron, radiator duct and flap-valve over the exhaust (submerged whilst wading). (TM)

Based on the Dingo, the 6.8 ton Daimler Mk I was produced in 1940 and was to all intents and purposes a larger version of the scout car with a turret and a three-man crew. Main armament was a 2 pounder gun, with a co-ax BESA 7.92mm, 1ts 95hp six-cylinder petrol engine, gave it a top speed of 50mph and a range of 200 miles. It was 13ft long, 8ft wide and 7ft 4ins wide. The Mk II incorporated a number of modifications, such as an improved turret, driver's escape hatch, modified gun mounting and a better radiator. Nearly 2,700 were built during the war anil saw service in most theatres. Armour was 16mm thick. A regimental command version was also produced, which had its turret removed, and was known as a SOD (Sawn-Off Daimler). Finally, there was a close support version, mounting a 3inch howitzer instead of the 2 pounder. By the time the armoured cars were being used in North West Europe some of their 2 pounder guns were fitted with the Littlejohn adaptor, a device which enabled a super high velocity anti-tank projectile to be fired.

The armoured car soon took over the role of the light tank, but as most were only armed with machine guns and had relatively thin armour, they could not safely fight against enemy armour.

A newly-built Daimler Mk I armoured car, on trials at the Daimler Car Company, negotiating difficult terrain. (TM)

This Daimler armoured car is almost submerged during amphibious trials. The driver would have worn the same underwater escape apparatus as the crews of DD tanks. (TM)

A Daimler armoured tar in Malaya during the emergency there (1948-60), crossing a rickety wooden bridge. The car is from the 1st Kings Dragoon Guards. (TM)

An AEC Mk I heavy armoured car, which mounted a 2 pounder gun and co-ax BESA. in a two-man turret very similar to that of the early Valentine tank. (TM)

The AEC Mk I, produced in 1941, was an attempt to rectify this imbalance, by mounting a Valentine tank turret, complete with 2 pounder and co-ax BESA, on a 4×4 chassis. The vehicle weighed in excess of 11 tons and was 17ft long, 9ft wide and 8ft 4¼ins high. It was a private venture produced by the Associated Equipment Company Limited (AEC), made in their factory at Southall near London. A mock-up, specially built for a vehicle demonstration on Horse Guards Parade, London made a favourable impression on Churchill.

It was followed by the even heavier (12.7tons) AEC Mk II, this time armed with a 6 pounder and co-ax BESA. The extra weight meant it needed a larger engine - a 158hp six Cylinder AEC diesel, which also allowed an increase in top speed to 41mph. The front hull was redesigned with armour 30mm thick. The AEC Mk III had the 6 pounder replaced with a 75mm gun giving it a main armament comparable with many medium tanks. AEC built a total of 629 and these were deployed in the heavy troops of armoured car squadrons, to provide reconnaissance troops with heavy anti-tank support. As with the Humber, there was also an AA version, but this one utilised the Crusader AA turret, mounting twin 20mm Oerlikon cannons. It did not enter production due to Allied air superiority after D-Day.

The AEC Mk II was even heavier than the Mk I at 12.7 tons. It had a larger turret mounting a 6 pounder gun. The AEC was the only British-built diesel-engined armoured car in service during World War Two. (TM)

The Coventry heavy armoured car was an 11.5ton armoured car, built in 1944, by the combined efforts of Humber. Daimler and Commer Cars Ltd, to produce a standard armoured car to replace both the Humbers and Daimlers. It had a crew of four, armour 14mm thick, mounted a 2 pounder gun and a co-ax BESA machine gun. The Mk I was 15ft 6½ ins long, 8ft 9ins wide and 7ft 9ins high and powered by an American-built 175hp six-cylinder Hercules RXLO engine. The Mk II had a 75mm gun, reducing the crew to three. There was an even better Mk III but this was built only as a prototype. However, the end of the war came before the substantial orders placed for the Coventry could be fulfilled and the armoured car never saw action.

Although both the Staghound and Boarhound armoured car's are fully covered in the American chapter, mention of them must be made here because they were primarily built for the British Army. One interesting modification of the Staghound was the fitting of the British Crusader lank turret, which mounted a 75mm gun, presumably to provide extra hitting power tor reconnaissance units.

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