Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car Mk. II (20mm Breda)
Vehicle design and service history:
In the early months of 1938, authorities in South Africa began funding the development of a new armoured car for their defence that could be manufactured locally. The initial progress was slow, but with the outbreak of the second world war, a vehicle was rapidly designed using the knockdown kits of the ford 3-ton truck chassis. This was due to SA completely lacking a locally developed automotive industry, leaving them dependent on imported vehicles to supplement their needs, with bodywork often done locally. The chassis was chosen, as it could be readily purchased from Ford Canada, which was further supplemented by a four-wheel drive train produced by the American firm Marmon-Herrington, resulting in its designation. The armament would be produced in the UK, except for the Browning machinegun, with only the armoured plates being produced locally at the South African Iron & Steel Industrial Corporation, ISCOR. With all the components accounted for the final assembly would then be done at the local manufacturing facility of the Dorman Long company, though it was designed in such a way that cottage industry production was possible as required.
Because of this simplified design the first version of the “South African Reconnaissance Vehicle” Mk I, was ready to enter service in 1940. The vehicle in question was a long-wheelbase four-wheel chassis, with the drive initially to only one axle. The armament was rather lacking, being just two Vickers machine guns, but even so it saw action against the Italians in the western desert before being swiftly relegated to training units, when the MK II became more readily available.
The MK II possessed a shorter wheelbase, and was the first variant to be fitted with 4 wheel drive. This vehicle was known as the Armoured Car, Marmon-Herrington Mk II in British service. It was also known as the “Middle East Model” to denote it serving with the British in the North Africa Campaign. This variant was fitted with a Boys AT rifle, and a single coax Bren gun. A rarer variant was also made known as the Sub-Saharan Model, which was again armed with twin Vickers machine guns.
This Boys equipt variant would see extensive combat usage in North Africa, due to its reliability and large numbers. Issues were found with the anti-armour capability of the Boys rifle rather quickly, and due to being both under-gunned and rather light it was not uncommon to see the car’s up-gunned with German, Vichy French or Italian weaponry, which were captured in large quantities during the desert engagements. Due to the turret lacking any provision for larger armament, the turret was simply removed, leaving the crew members dependent on the gun shield of the mounted gun for protection. A relatively well-documented field modification involved the addition of a 20 mm Breda Model 35, which was used in both an anti-tank, and anti-air capacity by several armoured car units in the British army around Tobruk Libya in the middle of 1941, with at least two vehicles converted based on photos of the Royal Dragoons that exist today.
Mass 6.4 tonnes
Length 15 ft (5.51 m)
Width 6 ft (1.83 m)
Height 7 ft (2.29 m)
Armour up to 20 mm
Main armament 20 mm Breda Model 35
Engine Ford V-8 petrol (95 horsepower (71 kW))
Power/weight 14.2 hp/tonne
Suspension wheeled; 4 x 4 drive
Operational range 200 miles (322 km)
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)
Additional historical photos and image:
- Engines of the Western Allies in WW2 (Source of most of the pictures)
- https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205203541 (Source of first picture)
- Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car - Wikipedia (Wiki page for the type)
- Armoured Cars 30 (01)-960 (Magazine covering the British use of the type, including service history)