Universal Carrier

Universal Carrier
Universal carrier (mortar carrier) 9-08-2008 14-53-48 (2).JPG
Universal Carrier as mortar carrier with Bren mounted at front
TypeArmoured personnel carrier/weapon carrier
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
WarsWorld War II
Indonesian National Revolution
Indochina War
1948 Arab–Israeli War
Korean War
Suez Crisis
Biafran War
Production history
No. built113,000
Specifications (Universal Carrier, Mk 1)
  • 3 ton 16 cwt (3.75 t) laden[1]
  • 3 ton 5 cwt (3.19 t) unladen
Length12 ft (3.65 m)[1]
Width6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)[1]
Height5 ft 2 inch (1.57 m)

Armour7–10 mm
Bren light machine gun or Boys anti-tank rifle
one Vickers machine gun/M2 Browning machine gun, or 2-inch mortar/3-inch mortar, or Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank carried
Engine3.9-liter (239 cu. in.) Ford V8 petrol[2]
85 hp (63 kW) at 3,500 rpm[2]
Fuel capacity20 imp gal (91 L)[1]
150 miles (250 km)[2]
Speed30 mph (48 km/h)[2]

The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier from the light machine gun armament,[3] is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrongs and other companies.

The first carriers – the Bren Carrier and the Scout Carrier with specific roles – entered service before the war, but a single improved design that could replace these, the Universal, was introduced in 1940.

The vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built by 1960 in the United Kingdom and abroad, it is the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.[citation needed]

Design and development

The origins of the Universal Carrier family can be traced back generally to the Carden Loyd tankettes family, which was developed in the 1920s, and specifically the Mk VI tankette.[4]

In 1934, Vickers-Armstrongs produced, as a commercial venture, a light tracked vehicle that could be used either to carry a machine gun or to tow a light field gun. The VA.D50 had an armoured box at the front for driver and a gunner and bench seating at the back for the gun crew. The War Office considered it as a possible replacement for their "Dragon" artillery tractors and took 69 as the "Light Dragon Mark III". One was built as the "Carrier, Machine-Gun Experimental (Armoured)", carrying a machine gun and its crew. The decision was made to drop the machine gun and its team and the next design had a crew of three – driver and gunner in the front, third crew-member on the left in the rear and the right rear open for stowage. A small number of this design as "Carrier, Machine-Gun No 1 Mark 1" were built and entered service in 1936. Some were converted into pilot models for the Machine gun Carrier, Cavalry Carrier and Scout Carrier – the others were used for training.

The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear.

The carrier put the driver and commander at the front sitting side by side; the driver to the right. The Ford Flathead V8 engine that powered it was placed in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear. The suspension and running gear were based on that used on the Vickers light tank series using Horstmann springs.[5] Directional control was through a vertical steering wheel which pivoted about a horizontal axis. Small turns moved the front road wheel assembly, warping the track so the vehicle drifted to that side. Further movement of the wheel braked the appropriate track to give a turn.

The hull in front of the commander's position jutted forward to give room for the Bren gun (or other armament) to fire through a simple slit. To either side of the engine was an area in which passengers could ride or stores could be carried. Initially, there were several types of Carrier that varied slightly in design according to their purpose: "Medium Machine Gun Carrier" (the Vickers machine gun), "Bren Gun Carrier", "Scout Carrier" and "Cavalry Carrier". However, production of a single model came to be preferred and the Universal design appeared in 1940; this was the most widely produced of the Carriers. It differed from the previous models in that the rear section of the body had a rectangular shape, with more space for the crew.