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Universal Carrier
Universal carrier (mortar carrier) 9-08-2008 14-53-48 (2).JPG
Universal Carrier as mortar carrier
Type Armoured personnel carrier/weapon carrier
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Production history
Number built 113,000
Specifications (Universal Carrier, Mk 1)
Weight 3 ton 16 cwt laden[1] (3.75 t)
Length 12 ft (3.65 m)[1]
Width 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)[1]
Height 5 ft 2 inch (1.57 m)
Crew 3

Armour 7–10 mm
Bren light machine gun or Boys anti-tank rifle
Vickers machine gun; M2 Browning machine gun; 2-inch mortar; 3-inch mortar; Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank carried
Engine Ford V-8 petrol[2]
85 hp at 3,500 rpm[2]
Suspension Horstmann
150 miles (250 km)[2]
Speed 30 mph (48 km/h)[2]

The Universal Carrier, also known (incorrectly) as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built in the United Kingdom and abroad, it is the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.

Design and development

The origins of the Universal Carrier family can be traced back generally to the Carden Loyd tankettes family which was developed in the 1920s, and specifically the Mk VI tankette.[3]

In 1934 Vickers Armstrong produced, as a commercial venture, a light tracked vehicle that could be used either to carry a machine gun or to tow a light field gun. The VA.D50 had an armoured box at the front for driver and a gunner and bench seating at the back for the gun crew. It was considered by the War Office as a possible replacement for their "Dragon" artillery tractors and took 69 as the "Light Dragon Mark III". One was built as the "Carrier, Machine-Gun Experimental (Armoured)" carrying a machine gun and its crew. The decision was made to drop the machine gun and its team and the next design had a crew of three – driver and gunner in the front, third crew-member on the left in the rear and the right rear open for stowage. A small number of this design as "Carrier, Machine-Gun No 1 Mark 1" were built and entered service in 1936. Some were converted into pilot models for the Machine gun Carrier, Cavalry Carrier and Scout Carrier – the others were used for training. The carrier put the driver and commander at the front sitting side-by-side; the driver to the right. The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear. The suspension and running gear was based on that used on the Vickers light tank series using Horstmann springs[4] Directional control was through a (vertical) steering wheel. Small turns moved the front road wheel assembly warping the track so the vehicle drifted to that side. Further movement of the wheel braked the appropriate track to give a turn.

The hull in front of the commander's position jutted forward to give room for the Bren gun (or other armament) to fire through a simple slit. To either side of the engine were two areas in which passengers could ride or stores be carried.

Initially, there were several types of Carrier that varied slightly in design according to their purpose: "Medium Machine Gun Carrier" (the Vickers machine gun), "Bren Gun Carrier", "Scout Carrier" and "Cavalry Carrier". However, production of a single model came to be preferred and the Universal design appeared in 1940; this was the most widely produced of the Carriers. It differed from the previous models in having a rectangular body shape in rear section, with more space for crew.

The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear.


Australian-built machine gun carrier displayed at the Returned & Services League Club in Roma, Queensland.

Production of Carriers began in 1934 and it ended in 1960.[2] Before the Universal design was introduced, the vehicles were produced by Aveling and Porter, Bedford Vehicles, the British branch of the Ford Motor Company, Morris Motors Limited, the Sentinel Waggon Works, and the Thornycroft company. With the introduction of the Universal, production in the UK was undertaken by Aveling-Barford, Ford, Sentinel, Thornycroft, and Wolseley Motors. By 1945 production amounted to approximately 57,000 of all models, including some 2,400 early ones.

The Ford Motor Company of Canada manufactured about 29,000 of the Universal Carriers. Smaller numbers of them were also produced in Australia (about 5,000), where hulls were made in several places in Victoria and by South Australian Railways workshops in Adelaide, South Australia. About 1,300 were also produced in New Zealand.

Operational history

The Reconnaissance Corps regiments – which replaced the cavalry regiments in supporting Infantry divisions after 1940 – were each equipped with 63 carriers along with 28 Humber Scout cars. Universal Carriers were issued to the support companies in infantry rifle battalions for carrying support weapons (initially 10,[5] 21 by 1941,[6] and up to 33 per battalion by 1943[7]). A British armoured division of 1940–41 had 109 carriers in total; each motor battalion had 44.[8] Artillery units used them as an artillery tractor for the Ordnance QF 6 pounder anti-tank gun.

The British Carrier Platoon originally had ten Universal Carriers with three Carrier Sections of three Universal Carriers each plus another Universal Carrier in the platoon HQ. Each Universal Carrier had a NCO, a rifleman and a driver/mechanic. One Universal Carrier in each section was commanded by a sergeant and the other two by corporals.

Displayed at the Roma (Qld) Returned & Services League.

All the Universal Carriers were armed with a Bren light machine gun and one Carrier in each Carrier Section also had a Boys anti-tank rifle. By 1941 the Carrier platoon increased in strength to contain four Carrier sections and one Carrier in the Carrier sections also carried a 2-inch mortar. By 1943 each Universal Carrier now had a crew of four, an NCO, driver/mechanic and two riflemen. The Boys anti-tank rifle was also replaced by the PIAT anti-tank weapon. The Universal Carrier's weapons could be fired from in or outside of the Carrier. A Carrier platoon had a higher number of light support weapons than a rifle company.

Carrier section composition (after 1943)

Task Rank Weapon Notes
Orderly Private Sten Equipped with a motorcycle
Carrier 1
Commander Sergeant Rifle
Driver/mechanic Private Rifle
Gunner Private Bren
Rifleman Lance corporal Rifle No.38 Wireless set
Carrier 2
Commander Corporal Rifle
Driver/mechanic Private Rifle
Gunner Private Bren
Rifleman Private Rifle 2-inch mortar with 36 rounds
Carrier 3
Commander Corporal Rifle
Driver/mechanic Private Rifle
Gunner Private Bren
Rifleman Private Rifle and PIAT


Mk. I
The original model.
Mk. II

Universal Carrier Mk II

Equipped with a towing hitch.

Flamethrower-equipped universal carrier in the Armored Corps museum in Latrun, Israel

A flamethrower-equipped variant, using the "Flame-thrower, Transportable, No 2". The Mark I had a fixed flamethrower on the front of the vehicle fed from two fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 100 gallons. 1000 produced.[9] The Mk II had the projector in the co-driver's position. The Mk IIC (C for Canadian) had a single 75 gallon fuel tank on the rear of the vehicle outside the armour protection, allowing a third crew member to be carried.
Carrier Machine Gun Local Pattern No. 1 also known as "LP1 Carrier (Aust)"
Australian-built version of the British Bren Gun Carrier.
Universal Carrier MG, Local Pattern No. 2 known as "LP2 Carrier (Aust)"
Australian-built variant of the Universal Carrier. Also produced in New Zealand. The 2A had 1940 Ford truck axles.
2-pounder Anti-tank Gun Carrier (Aust)
The Carrier, Anti-tank, 2-pdr, (Aust) or Carrier, 2-pdr Tank Attack was a heavily modified and lengthened LP2 carrier with a fully traversable QF 2 pounder anti-tank gun mounted on a platform at the rear and the engine moved to the front left of the vehicle. Stowage was provided for 112 rounds of 2pdr ammunition. 200 were produced and used for training.[10]

An Australian 3 inch mortar carrier

3 inch Mortar Carrier (Aust)
The Carrier, 3-inch Mortar (Aust) was a design based on the 2 Pounder Carrier with a 3-inch mortar mounted in place of the 2 pounder. Designed to enable the mortar to have 360 degree traverse and to be fired either from the vehicle, or dismounted. 400 were produced and were ultimately sent as military aid to the Nationalist Chinese Army.[10]
The Carrier, Universal, T16, Mark I. was a significantly improved vehicle based upon those built by Ford of Canada, manufactured under Lend Lease by Ford in the United States from March 1943 to 1945. It was chiefly used by Canadian forces during the war as an artillery tractor. After the war, it was used by Swiss (300) and Netherlands forces. It was longer than the Universal with an extra road wheel on the rear bogie, the engine was a Ford Mercury delivering the same power. Instead of the steering wheel controlling the combination brake/warp mechanism, the T-16 had track-brake steering operated by levers (two for each side).
Fahrgestell Bren (e)
A captured carrier of 1940, reused by the Germans with a 3.7 cm PaK 36 gun.
Panzerjäger Bren 731(e)
Bren carriers captured by the Germans and fitted with a triple Panzerschreck mount, probably the first armoured vehicle to be fitted with anti-tank rockets.[11]

Praying Mantis prototype at Bovington Tank Museum

Praying Mantis
The Praying Mantis was an attempt to produce a low-silhouette vehicle that could still fire over obstacles. A one-man design based on Carden Loyd suspension was not adopted, but the inventor was encouraged to design a two-man version. This version appeared in 1943 and was based upon the Universal Carrier. The hull was replaced with an enclosed metal-box structure with enough room for a driver and a gunner lying prone. This box, pivoting from the rear, could be elevated. At the top end was a machine-gun turret (with two Bren guns). The intention was to drive the Mantis up to a wall or hedgerow, elevate the gun, and fire over the obstacle from a position of safety. It was rejected after trials in 1944.[12] A Mantis survives in the Bovington Tank Museum.


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 AFV Profile 14 p124
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 McNab, p. 142.
  3. Fletcher & Bryan, p. 3
  4. "Britain's Bren Gun Carrier". 1940-05-10. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  5. An Infantry (Rifle) Battalion, ref II/1931/12B/3, notified in Army Council Instructions 6th April 1938
  6. An Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment), ref II/1931/12F/2, notified in Army Council Instructions 4th June 1941.
  7. An Infantry Battalion, ref II/233/2, notified in Army Council Instructions 19th May 1943, effective date 30th April 1943.
  8. AFV Profile p119
  9. AFV Profile No. 14 Carriers p118
  10. 10.0 10.1 Cecil
  11. WW II German Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons: Page 3: Panzerschreck
  12. Fletcher, p47


  • Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,500 Weapons Systems, Including Tanks, Small Arms, Warplanes, Artillery, Ships and Submarines. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 1-58663-762-2. 
  • Cecil, Michael K. (1992). Australian Military Equipment Profiles, vol 2, Local Pattern Carriers 1939 to 1945. Australian Military Equipment Profiles. ISBN 0-646-12600-8. 
  • Chamberlain, Peter; Ellis, Chris (2001). British and American Tanks of World War Two: The complete illustrated history of British, American, and Commonwealth tanks 1933–1945. Cassell & Company. ISBN 0-7110-2898-2. 
  • Fletcher, David (1989). The Great Tank Scandal: British Armour in the Second World War Part 1. Her Majesty's Stationary Office. ISBN 0-11-290460-2. 
  • Fletcher, David; Bryan, Tony (2005). Universal Carrier 1936–48: The 'Bren Gun Carrier' Story. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-813-7. 
  • Harris, J.P. (1995). Men, Ideas, and Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903–1939. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-4814-2. 
  • McNab, Chris (2003). Military Vehicles: 300 of the World's Most Effective Militart Vehicles. Grange Books. ISBN 1-84013-539-5. 
  • Tucker, Spencer (2004). Tanks: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-995-3. 

External links

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