Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car Mk. IIIA (2.8 cm sPzB 41)
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. In 1941, the MK. would see a revision to a similar MK.III variant, which possessed a slightly shorter wheelbase, a single rear door, no radiator grille and headlight covers, which was produced in large numbers, with a MK. IIIA variant being produced in this series. The A denoted a modification of armament, as the IIIA had its turret replaced with a ring mount for two Vickers K machine guns, which was protected by a steel skirting. This change made it relatively easy to upgun the MK IIIA compared to the previous MK II, which was a useful change for the troops on the ground who had found the anti-armour capability of the Boys rifle rather lacking as more heavily armoured tanks began to enter theatre in North Africa. The nature of the desert campaign meant that large quantities of German, Vichy French or Italian weaponry, were captured, allowing “official” upgunning of Harrington armoured cars to take place, usually with 1 or 2 receiving an anti-tank gun per detachment. This method was rather simple, with the gun being mated with the pre-existing turret ring, leaving the crew dependent on the captured gun shield for protection. At least one vehicle was fitted with a 2.8 cm sPzB 41 squeeze-bore anti-tank gun, and was used by the Royal Dragoons in north Africa, with the only known photo of the vehicle being one taken when it was bogged down in sand.
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 2.8 cm sPzB 41 anti-tank gun
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)