AEC Armoured Car Mk III
Vehicle design and service history:
The AEC Armoured Car was a series of British Heavy armoured cars built by the Associated Equipment Company (AEC) during the Second World War. The armoured car was designed based on experience gained by the British in the Western Desert against Italian armoured cars, as at the time British armoured cars were only armed with light and heavy machine guns, resulting in captured Italian and German autocannons being mounted on vehicles in order for them to effectively engage enemy reconnaissance vehicles.
The Daimler Armoured Car was currently under development at the time, armed with the 40mm 2-pounder, as used on British tanks at the time, but no armoured cars were envisioned with the armour to go along with the armament of a tank. Because of this AEC undertook the development of a private venture for a vehicle based on one of their artillery tractor lorries, which would have armour directly equivalent to the contemporary cruiser tanks in service at the time. The Matador artillery chassis was initially developed for towing medium field and heavy anti-aircraft guns and was based on AEC’s previous experience manufacturing truck and bus chassis.
Using this chassis as a base, a mock-up armoured car was presented to officials in 1941 during a horse guards parade in London, where it made a favourable impression with Winston Churchill, who requested an initial contract for 120 vehicles, which would lead to 629 being produced from 1942 to 43.
AEC aimed to build an armoured car with protection to match its firepower, and as such the first version mounted the same turret as the Valentine Mk II infantry tank, including the 2-pounder gun. This would be supplemented by a single Besa machine gun, a 2-inch bomb thrower/ smoke grenade discharger, a no.19 radio set and a Bren light machine gun for defence against enemy aircraft. The driver was provided with two periscopes for vision when buttoned up; otherwise, in a non-combat situation, he could raise his seat to see over the glacis, by poking his head out of the top hatch. The engine was also mounted at a downwards angle to reduce the angle of transfer on the shafts, which heightened the rear hull deck, though, in normal road operation, only the front wheels were driven, so as to not cause undue wear on the chassis.
The turret was electrically driven with a manual traverse option, allowing rapid target acquisition whilst in combat, though the initial 2-pounder armament was soon deemed insufficient and further improvements were requested which would lead in to the later Mk II and Mk III variants. The MK III served as a close support variant of the MK II, which had the normal 6-pounder replaced by the QF 75 mm gun though it retained the same mountings, in the three-man turret designed for the MK II. Other improvements over the MK I included a more powerful engine, the 9.65 litre AEC A197, providing 158 Hp, and the same redesigned front hull of the MK II. These changes allowed for a higher top speed, and improved reliability of the design. This design was intended to replace the US half-track 75 mm self-propelled guns in the fighting squadrons of some armoured car regiments, and did so as supply allowed, meaning the MK III fought in Europe from 1944 to great success and remained in army service until replaced by the Alvis Saladin in the late 1950s. Around 200 MK III were manufactured before the end of production, and in addition to British service, they would also serve in the British Indian army and the Lebanese army.
Mass 12.7 long tons (14.2 short tons; 12.9 t)
Length 17 ft (5.2 m)
Width 9 ft (2.7 m)
Height 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)
Armour 16–65 mm (0.63–2.56 in)
Main armament QF 75 mm
Secondary armament 1 × Besa machine gun
1 × Bren light machine gun on PLM Mount
Engine AEC 197 diesel 158 bhp (118 kW)
Power/weight 12.4 hp/tonne
Suspension wheel 4×4
Operational range 250 mi (400 km)
Maximum speed 41 mph (66 km/h)
Additional historical photos:
- WarWheels.Net-AEC Mark 3 Armored Car Index (Info for mk III)
- AEC Armoured Car - Wikipedia (Wiki for aec car)
- https://web.archive.org/web/20110924072612/http://www.tank2.ru/country/england/broneavtoeng/rmorearaec (Additional history)