Armoured Car, Humber Mark II

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                        Armoured Car, Humber Mark II

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Design and service history:

The Humber Armoured Car was one of the most widely produced British armoured cars of the Second World War with over 2000 examples being constructed by the time production ended in 1945 with the cessation of hostilities. The Humber armoured car was to replace the subpar Humber Light Reconnaissance Car on production lines and remained in service with Commonwealth forces until the end of the war and with some nations into the early 60s, which is rather impressive when one realizes that the Humber armoured car came into being as an unplanned necessity of the struggling British war economy at the start of 1940.

The inception of the Humber Armoured car came when it became clear that the Guy company lacked the sufficient production capacity to produce the required number of Guy Armoured Cars as well as other vehicles to meet demand after the losses at Dunkirk. Because of this, shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Rootes Group were approached for the request of an armoured car, which at the time was termed a “Tank, Light (Wheeled)” for use by the army. Using the Guy design as a base, Karrier designed a vehicle using the basis of their KT 4 artillery tractor chassis, which was already in production for the Indian army, mated with the armoured body of the Guy armoured car. In order to accommodate this, Karrier moved the KT4 engine to the rear of the chassis and fitted the welded bodies and turrets provided directly by Guy. Due to the fact the new vehicle was fully based on proven elements, trials and prototypes passed without serious issues, and an order for 500 vehicles was placed in late 1940, with the first deliveries made in 1941.

At this time the Karrier name was dropped to avoid confusion with the British Universal Carrier tracked vehicle, and instead, the armoured car was designated the “Armoured Car, Humber Mk 1” using the name of Humber Limited, which was another member of the Rootes Group, even if the production would be carried out by the Karrier plant at Luton. This fast-production turnaround meant that the first Humbers were more or less identical to the Guy armoured car down to faults in the armour, though these weaknesses were soon rectified as production went into full effect after around 300 MK 1 Humbers had been produced.

In terms of design, the Humber was a relatively standard armoured car, possessing a rectangular chassis frame with a rear-mounted engine. The gearbox was mounted to the front of the engine and fed a centrally mounted transfer box, which distributed power to both the front and rear axles. These rigid axles were mounted on leaf springs in the front and hydraulic dampers for the rear axle. The welded armoured hull was then mounted upon this chassis at four points, one front, one rear, and one on either side, giving some flexibility, with precautions in place to prevent excessive movement of the hull on the chassis.

For forward vision, the driver was equipt with a flap in the front of the cab, similar to light tanks in service with the army at the time. This would later become part of the glacis from the Mark II onwards, though the function remained the same, as the flap could be shut during combat while maintaining visibility through a Triplex bulletproof glass block. This block could be replaced when damaged and was supplemented by a pair of flaps on the sides of the driver’s position. In order to see what was behind though the driver needed to use a combination of a flap in the rear bulkhead between the fighting compartment and engine bay, along with a mechanism to manually raise the engine cover in order to see. In the MK 1 Humber, the turret was armed with one 15mm and one 7.92mm Besa machine gun, in a hand-traversed turret, with the vehicle commander acting as the wireless operator.

This armament and design was deemed successful, leading to the production of 300 Humber armoured car MK.1’s, though the Rootes Group were keen to improve the design of the base vehicle and were fast to begin producing the Humber Mark 2 armoured car. The most logical read for improvement was the modification of the main hull, which included a new front glacis plate housing the driver’s cab, and the rear radiator armour now being of a louvred design. This design was deemed successful and 440 units were made to this specification before the Humber mark 3 replaced the MK 2 in production.

These would be the first Humbers deployed overseas, being used by the 11th hussars among other units in the North African Campaign from late 1941. From here Humbers would go on to serve in the European theater by reconnaissance regiments of British and Canadian infantry divisions, with mark only dictated by availability. A few vehicles were also used to patrol the Iran supply route, along with a regiment of numbers being used in the reconquest of Burma.

Vehicle specification:

Mass 5 t

Length 15 ft 1.5 in (4.610 m)

Width 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)

Height 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m)

Crew: 3

Armour 15 mm (0.59 in)

Main armament 15 mm Besa machine gun

Secondary Armament 7.92 mm Besa machine gun

Engine Rootes 6 cylinder petrol engine 90 hp (67 kW)

Power/weight 12.9 hp/tonne

Suspension Wheel 4x4, rigid front and rear axles, rear-wheel drive with selectable four-wheel drive

Operational range 200 mi (320 km)

Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)

Additional historical photos:
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Sources:

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3 Likes

+1 for the 15mm BESA!

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