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Was the Bren/Universal carrier a good option?????

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by moutan1, Sep 29, 2009.

  1. moutan1

    moutan1 Member

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    the Bren/Universal carrier was probably the most numerous AFV of World War 2, some estimates being that over 200,000 were built ,It was not APC , the main role of the carriers was in fact transport of weapons or materials .it was small and could traverse most types of terrain at up to 30mph,it like tracked jeep which could go where jeep could not and carry 6 men and many weapons ,it armed with many weapons (303 Bren gun or a .55 Boys ATR. MMG ,50 Browning HMGs, Besa MGs, Vickers K (VGO) MGs, PIATs ,German MG42s and 20mm Solothurm cannon ,25-40mm anti-tank guns, mortars, or Flame-throwerits , ) it were not intended as assault vehicles or "mini-tanks". There were obviously sometimes attempts to use them in this role, but the thin armour and lack of overhead protection often made this impractica ,even the germans used it to transport fast moving infantry tank hunting teams. Some such vehicles mounted a battery of multiple Panzerschreck.
    see :
    Brittiska tanks i tysk tjänst

    "An example of its limitations are best summed-up in the following account: On 23rd November 1942, General Clowes at Milne Bay, New Guinea ordered a small number of Bren Gun Carriers to Cape Endaiadere as direct support to American troops operating in this area. It was made clear to the Americans that the Carriers were too lightly armoured and the crews too exposed for them to be used as tanks. In addition, they lacked any overhead protection from sniper fire, shell splinters and were extremely vulnerable to flank attacks. Thus they were forced to work with infantry support.
    The aftermath of an attack at Cape Endaiadere on 5th December, resulted in vehicle crews being roughly handled and resulted in the abandonment of five vehicles. The supporting American infantry found they could not advance any further and the attack was called off. Sadly, it proved yet again, the futility of attempting to use inappropriate vehicles as tanks'.
    Taken from New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Webpagel.)

    Here is a nice article on the Universal carrier
    Modern Bren carriers
    even the author give us an idea to replace the HMMWV in us army with more modern Universal carrier.
     
  2. wokelly

    wokelly Member

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    UC was a very unique vehicle, and frankly I think it was a very useful thing to have. It was used for a variety of tasks, and in many ways it was like a ground version of the Huey chopper, it was often used during battles to retrive the wounded and get them to field hospitals quickly, saved a lot of mens lives. Could transport ammo under fire, and provide MG support at times.

    Was modified into a flamthrowing weapon, gave each infantry battalion 6 armored flamethrowing AFVs for use which were very effective.

    I think it was well worth it to make, very versatile.
     
  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    How long after the war was it used by the British and Commonwealth armies?
     
  4. wokelly

    wokelly Member

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    Yeah well over 100,000 made, what happened to them all?
     
  5. moutan1

    moutan1 Member

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    It was obsolete in 1948 but hundred of universal were still used and saw active service with Commonwealth during the Korean war
    other were used for experimental purpose so some was fitted with rockets which was supposed to jump across gaps
    many more were supplied to other army(Irish army,German army,Danish army ,Egybtian army,Swiss army...............)

    retained in service
     
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Versatility was the thing with the Carrier.
    Wheeled vehicles hadn't quite reached the technological point where they could do what they do now so a light tracked machine proved tremendously handy. It served so many roles in so many ways that it can safely be rated as one of the most successful vehicles produced by the allied nations.
    If anyone really wants to delve into the vehicle and it's history then there's no better printed source than Nigel watson's excellent books:
    Universal Bren Carrier Book
    Which have finally replaced, and massively superceded the flimsy (but still good) old Chamberlain & Ellis 'Making Tracks' of 1973.

    The final recognisable expression of the Carrier is probably the Cambridge Carrier (FV401) trials vehicles of the early 50's, & the FV402 AOP.
    The last of the bloodline that actually saw service were the CT20 Oxford Carriers of the immediate postwar period (some speculation out there that a handful were deployed in WW2.
    Oxford Carrier
    After that things like the Spartan begin to kick in, though right through to the ubiquitous FV432 there's still evidence of the multi-role tracked carrier concept.

    A good number of carriers soldiered on until the 50's with the British, and there's a pictures or two knocking about of 'wartime' carriers in British service surprisingly late, but usually as 'ceremonial' vehicles at parades etc. They were popular trials vehicles due to the sheer number available. The Danes used them extensively postwar as training vehicles, c.1953 they modified a great many to represent 'tanks' in exercises. The Irish Army may be the last 'first world' nation to use wartime period Carriers, as theirs served into the 1960s, though the British apparently gave 100 to the Bundeswehr in the late 50's - I don't know what became of those.
    After the war many of the vehicles followed the standard path of retired AFVs and found their way to assorted world armies looking for anything usable. The Egyptians for instance fielded a fair few during the Suez business.

    MLU, probably the Internet home of good stuff on carriers:
    Universal Carriers
    Promising looking Carrier pages:
    The Carrier Platoon

    ~A
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Was it originally intended as a combat vehicle or supply/support vehicle?
     
  8. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    I really could not see the versatility of the vehicle being that it was so small. It could not carry much cargo or men. I did not think about using it to carry off wounded but how many could it carry? Was the amount of material used to produce them and the fuel it used worth it for what it actually accomplished? I may have to do some research on the little tyke.
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I suppose the fair answer would be 'both'.
    The UC genesis was essentially in the old 'Tankette' ideas; of swarms of one or two man tanks lunging across the battlefield. A small tracked carrier meant more of those men could theoretically carry a medium MG, AT rifle, mortar, or other heavy weapon more efficiently than than they ever could by foot, and riflemen would also need carriers to keep up (Though in truth, said riflemen rarely got to ride). However, related to the overall UC development process are the 'Dragon' gun tractors (Drag-Gun... geddit :rolleyes:) which were intended solely as servants to a field piece.
    I'm simplifying, but after many stops, starts, and odd types along the way (This is british armour development after all!), and as 'tank' ideology moved on, the various small tracked carrier ideas coalesced into the Universal Carrier we know so well. A fine general vehicle that also fulfilled specialist roles - gun tractor, ambulance, engineer vehicle, flamethrower, tank-starter, welding shop, etc. etc.

    Ike, perhaps think of it as a 'tracked lightly armoured Jeep' as well as some kind of a small tank. The variety of jobs it did are truly surprising. Full tracks can do things that wheeled vehicles just couldn't, while carrying a substantial load.

    ~A
     
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  10. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Ok, now I can see the versatility when you put it that way. Because of the tracks, I always saw it as a waste because I was comparing it to larger tracked vehicles. Thanks Adam.
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The US constructed universal carriers as the T16 and T16E2. Production ran to the tens of thousands.

    The US Army tested these vehicles and rejected them for service on a number of grounds:

    Their armor was insufficent and the design did not protect the crew from fire due to the low nature of the vehicle and open top.

    They were insufficently reliable to meet standards.

    Their cargo and personnel capacity was considered insufficent for the amount of effort put into producing the vehicle.

    The bottom line was really that the Jeep could perform the same missions as the carrier and do so at a much cheaper price. Being fully tracked and having a bit of armor just didn't justify the added complexity of the carrier for 95% + of the roles it was being used in.
     
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    On the T16; 1940-41 Ford of canada were unable to meet demand for the standard type, so Ford of Massachusetts were approached and began manufacture of the standard design. February 1942 they tested further with the intention of redesign and eventually producing a US army variant with a higher power to weight ratio & stowage capacity. After this redesign & testing (and a conversion to right hand drive & tiller steering) which resulted in the T16 the US Ordinance Dept. placed an order for 21,000 units from Ford. With their customary industrial power production ran at 1040 units a month just over a year after the first batch left the production line in March '43. It seems these were indeed intended for US use against the Japanese as a jungle machine, but were released partially for the US-perceived reasons TA cites above, and importantly, to feed the massive requirements of commonwealth allies.

    The British found the US produced T16s to be generally more unreliable than other types, despite their extra power.
    However,
    Report of AFV Tech Staff, South East Asia:
    "RAC unit had 14 T16 vehicles that were found to be very successful. 11 used for reconn. and replacement vehicles, 3 for fitters. Vehicles travelled from Dimapur to Rangoon covering 1100 miles with only one gearbox breakdown and some oil radiator failures" (radiator heating fixed by 'tropical' modifications to the engine cover and exhausts) -
    There are other reports of carriers of various types doing over 1000 miles with nothing more than conventional day-to-day maintenance, implying accusations of real unreliability to be somewhat moot. The main critique of the T16 that crops up was it's tendency to 'rear' when mounting certain gradients.


    Knocked together an incomplete list of Allied carriers and their various roles, with some experimental types thrown in:
    Dragon, Marks I-IV - Artillery Tractors
    Carden-Loyd Marks I-VI - MG, 3.7 Howitzer Tractor, Smoke, 3 in Mortar, 47mm gun, 20mm gun, armoured top, India Pattern
    Loyd - Personnel, Starting & Charging, Towing, Cable layer, 25pdr, Bridging, Mobile welding, 90mm (Belgian)
    Carden-Loyd Utility, - MG & 'Tractor, Light GS'.
    Armoured MG (Bren) Carrier - MG Marks I-II, 40mm SP, Scout, Cavalry, OP, GS, Smith Gun.
    Universal Carrier No.1 Mk I-No.3 MKIII* - MG, MMG, Boys, OP, 3 in Mortar, Flamethrower (Wasp I,II,IIc, Ronson), Australia 'Local Pattern', Carpet Layer, Boat Carrier, 'kid' (smaller cousin of Churchill 'Goat'), Conger, Ambulance, Gutted trailer, Armoured roof, PIAT battery, 2pdr tank attack, Praying Mantis, Cable layer, Assault bridge, Mine clearing (water jets), 25mm Hotchkiss, Recoilless A/Tk, Crash Rescue.
    Windsor & T16 - Boys, 4.2in Mortar, Mortar Command, 6pdr Tractor, 6pdr Ammunition,
    Oxford & Cambridge.

    In German use:
    MG (L & S), Munition schlepper, RC explosive, Snow plough, 3.7 PaK, Panzerjager,

    And of course, the real oddball (other than the Praying Mantis!) that catches the eye - The Rocket Egress Assisted Carrier Trial:
    A project of the Specialised Armour Development Establishment, who were working on using rockets to unditch bogged heavy armoured vehicles c.1946, and found the carrier a handy test-bed...
    [​IMG]

    Perhaps surprisingly... the trials were said to be a success.
    But.
    When only one sides rockets initiated... the obvious happened:
    [​IMG]

    But this kind of thing was probably run of the mill for chaps also experimenting with beasties like this :eek::
    [​IMG]

    ~A
     
  13. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    One thing i can say about my spell in the British Army is that the Army never failed to surprise !

    I was a Light Ack Ack man until December 1942 when my unit was dis-banded and I found myself in a Tank unit.

    All my training was on Shermans and so I expected to find that my new tank would be a Sherman............

    Silly me !......................

    My new vehicle was a Stuart Mk III, Turretless "Honey" !

    When the war in Italy ended that vehicle was swapped for a Bren Gun Carrier and although that was much lighter in weight it was incredibly more manouverable than the Honey.

    The snap shows me looking quite contented with my new home.

    Ron
     

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  14. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    It's also perhaps worth noting that Montefiore reocrds at least three occasions during the May 1940 campaign in France and Belgium when British Bren Gun Carriers were indeed used as AFVs...and scattered attacking German troops!

    It doesn't really matter how "good" an "armoured vehicle" is or isn't....if it's "armoured", mounts an MG of any sort - and you're an infantry unit with little or no real A/T capability...you turn!
     
  15. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Not knowing enough about the UC, but how about the tracked snow vehicles, Snow Trac, BV 202, and Bv 206 as operational sucessors?

    You do not want to use a wheeled vehicle in deep snow.... And you wouldn't want to assault an enemy strongpoint, but for shuffling infantry and supplies around in terrain...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    "This tracked vehicle, a Swedish Hägglunds Bv206, achieves low ground pressure through full-length, wide rubber tracks and a lightweight body. The two sections of the vehicle are articulated, allowing it to keep contact with the ground over broken terrain. The ground pressure is low enough that the vehicle can traverse loose snow without sinking. The vehicle is amphibious, and propelled in water by its tracks"

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, the US did have the M29 Weasel, it could literally go any where and did - snow, water, swamps, etc.
    [​IMG]

    However, it was not produced in quantity . IIRC, only around 15,000 were made, compared with the 110,000+ for the British Universal Carrier.
     
  17. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Here is my example of a British Carrier Platoon, I collected the date through a number of sources so I think its correct.

    British Carrier Platoon 1944-45

    Platoon HQ
    1 x Captain (Pistol)
    1 x Radio Operator (No 18 Set)
    1 x Batman (SMG)
    1 x Driver/Mechanic (Rifle)
    1 x Carrier/LMG (1000 Rounds)

    1 x Platoon Sergeant (SMG + Motorcycle)
    2 x Orderlies (SMGs + Motorcycles)

    1 x Lieutenant (Pistol)
    1 x Storeman (Rifle)
    1 x Driver/Batman (SMG)
    1 x 15 cwt. Truck

    1 x Driver (SMG)
    1 x Fitter (Rifle)
    1 x 15 cwt. Truck

    4 x Carrier Sections each;
    Carrier No1
    1 x Sergeant (Rifle)
    2 x Privates (Rifles)
    1 x Driver/Mechanic (Rifle)
    1 x Carrier/LMG (1000 Rounds)

    Carrier No2
    1 x Corporal (Rifle)
    2 x Privates (Rifles)
    1 x Driver/Mechanic (Rifle)
    1 x 2in Mortar
    1 x Carrier/LMG (1000 Rounds)

    Carrier No3
    1 x Lance Corporal (Rifle)
    2 x Privates (Rifles)
    1 x Driver/Mechanic (Rifle)
    1 x PIAT
    1 x Carrier/LMG (1000 Rounds)

    Yan.
     
  18. CliSwe

    CliSwe New Member

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    Put in the context of a Carrier Platoon, the Universal Carrier seems to have packed a lot of punch. Moving all those AT & AP weapons around the battlespace at ~30mph, looks like a fantastic force-multiplier. Plus the radio comms, which make the system a great reconnaissance asset.

    Cheers,
    Cliff
     
  19. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Parkash Singh, 'Carrier VC'.

    Citation:
    "On the 6th January, 1943, at Donbaik, Mayo Peninsula, Burma, when two Carriers had been put out of action, Havildar Parkash Singh drove forward in his own Carrier and rescued the two crews under very heavy fire. At the time, the crews of the disabled Carriers had expended their ammunition and the enemy were rushing the two disabled Carriers on foot. This N.C.O.’s timely and courageous action, entirely on his own initiative, saved the lives of the crews and their weapons. On the 19th January, 1943, in the same area, three Carriers were put out of action by an enemy anti-tank gun and lay on the open beach covered by enemy anti-tank and machine-gun fire. One of these Carriers was carrying the survivors of another Carrier in addition to its own crew. Havildar Parkash Singh, on seeing what had happened, went out from a safe position in his own Carrier, and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, rescued the combined crews from one disabled Carrier, together with the weapons from the Carrier. Having brought the crews to safety, he again went out on the open beach in his Carrier, still under very heavy anti-tank and machine-gun fire and with the utmost disregard for his personal safety, dismounted and connected a towing chain on to a disabled Carrier containing two wounded men. Still under fire, he directed the towing of the disabled Carrier from under enemy fire to a place of safety. Havildar Parkash Singh’s very gallant actions, entirely on his own initiative, were an inspiration to all ranks both British and Indian."

    He was initially recommended for an 'instant' VC & bar referring to both actions, but eventually 'just' the one medal was seen as adequate...

    VCParkashSingh.jpg
     
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