Morris LRC MK I "Firefly"
The Morris LRC was one of many interim armoured cars put into production in response to the catastrophic loss of equipment the British sustained during the fall of France. Because of this pressing need to replace former stocks, two designs presented by Morris were promptly accepted and put into service as soon as feasibly possible. Due to this time constraint, the vehicle like many of its contemporaries was based on a pre-existing chassis, in this case, that of the Morris light truck, which was in production at the time.
The Nuffield Group design was intended to supplement the production of the vehicles being made by Standard Motor Company (Beaverette) and Humber (Humber LAC, also known as “Humberette”). Compared to its contemporaries though the vehicle had a rather unusual internal arrangement, with the three-man crew sitting side by side with the driver in the middle. The crewman on the right would man a small multi-sided turret, that was normally equipt with a Bren gun, whilst the man on the left would be armed with a Boys anti-tank rifle, which would neatly mount in the brackets of the hull roof hatches. This rifleman would also be tasked with operating a no 19 radio situated to his side.
Other aspects of the design were rather standard, with the engine just being a standard Morris four-cylinder petrol engine, which was capable of propelling the car to speeds of up to 50 mph. The aforementioned truck chassis was unmodified, and instead, an armoured body was affixed atop of it, which increased the vehicle weight to 3,760 kilograms, whilst providing between 8-14mm of protection. Due to the rushed nature of initial production, some MK. I did not have steel armour plates on all sides and on the rear aspects of some vehicles, the steel was instead replaced by 3 inches of oak wood.
The vehicle itself was only about 1.8m tall including the turret, which in combination with a length of just over 4 meters, made for a short and squat armoured car with a smaller profile than its contemporaries. This helped against its mediocre armour that was only capable of providing protection from rifle calibre ammunition, though the Morris would not really see any action outside of home defence, training and airfield defence, though some did see action in the war in North Africa and Europe, even though over 2000 examples of the vehicle in various forms would be made before production ended in 1944.
There were several variants of the Morris LRC made over the course of its career, with the most interesting being the “Firefly”, which despite the name was no relation to the famous Sherman derivative that earned a name for itself as a big cat hunter. No, instead the Morris Firefly was a product created by the demands of manoeuvre warfare by the British army encountered in North Africa. During this campaign, the British invested heavily in SPG’s and highly manoeuvrable armoured cars, in order to counter the highly mobile german and Italian forces present in the region. Initially, 2-pounder guns had proven sufficient for this task, but as the war continued the flaws in the weapon began to become apparent when compared to the punch of the more capable 6-pounder.
The initial idea of the British army had been to use the AEC MK II to fill the role of an anti-tank capable vehicle to support recce units, but as previously highlighted in my suggestion for the AEC Griffin production delays ran rife. Because the British were unable to get the AEC MK II into production in good time, a series of stopgap armoured cars were developed, such as the aforementioned Griffin and the Deacon.
The Morris Firefly was another less successful example of a vehicle designed to fulfil this need, as it involved the mating of a Mollins 6-pounder to the modified hull of a Morris LRC MK I. The modification included the removal of the cab roof and the installation of a Mollins 6-pounder in the centre of the vehicle. This necessitated moving the driver to the position previously occupied by the right crewman, reducing the crew of the vehicle to two. The Mollins gun was in service with the Royal Navy at the time and was effectively a QF 6-pdr with a shortened barrel and equipped with an autoloader that was capable of firing 6 rounds in the space of 6 seconds. This gun was normally used to engage enemy E-boats, and in order to maintain the rate of fire without damage to the gun was fitted with a smaller propellant charge.
The six-pounder at the time served a dual role in armoured car units as both an anti-tank gun and a close support gun, and it can be inferred that the Mollins modification was selected to attempt to reduce crew load for the two-man crew of the Firefly. Aside from this increase in firepower, and the removal of the roof the Firefly was mechanically unchanged from the normal LRC MK I. Unfortunately for this ambitious design, it was found to be unsatisfactory for service, and would instead by rejected, as just like with the Griffin, by the time it was being trialled the AEC MK II had overcome its delays and was entering production, meaning it was no longer required, leaving it an odd one-off prototype, in the footnotes of British armoured car design.
Mass 3.7 t
Length 13 ft 4 inch (4.06 m)
Width 6 ft 8 inch (2.03 m)
Height 6 ft 2 inch (1.88 m)
Armour 8-14 mm
Main armament 6-pounder Mollins gun (57mm with naval ammunition)
Engine Morris 4-cylinder petrol engine (72 hp (54 kW))
Power/weight 24 hp/tonne (14.6 kW/tonne)
Suspension 4 x 2 wheel
Operational range 240 miles (385 km)
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)
- Morris Light Reconnaissance Car - Wikipedia (Wiki for the morris LRC)
- Missing Links Peter Brown Morris Light Recce Car Mk I Article (Additional source)
- WarWheels.Net-Morris Light Recon Car Mark 1 & Mark 2 Index (Another source for the LRC)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38KVoM4eeEI&ab_channel=TheTankMuseum (Tank museum video for the class)