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Lanchester 6x4 armoured car and Vickers LMG(?) in Malaya

June 1 2014 at 9:33 PM
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Nelson  (no login)

 
Although the statement is routinely made that no British Commonwealth tanks fought in Malaya from December 1941 to February 1942, there is considerable disagreement about their presence on Singapore Island, specifically as manned by 100th [Indian] Independent Light Tank Squadron. While still in India, the unit manned Indian pattern Marks IV and VI light tanks, armed with .5-inch (12.7mm) and .303-inch (7.7mm) Vickers machine guns. What the squadron was equipped with during its presence in Singapore, however, differs among various sources, with more than one account claiming their vehicles were Carden-Loyd tankettes or machine gun carriers that had seen hard service in the Middle East. These sources assert the vehicles were shipped as-was to Singapore, and their state of repair was not, in short, first-rate. Again, accounts differ whether any of these vehicles were committed to action on the island, but if any were, they were introduced piecemeal in a pitifully small number and had no effect on the outcome of the battle at any point.

What is not at issue, however, is the presence of armored cars, in both Malaya and Singapore. The vehicle most conspicuous there remains the Lanchester 6x4 Mark I armoured car, whose first development dated from 1928. It was by any measure a large and heavy vehicle, equipped with a 6-cylinder in-line, gasoline-fueled engine. Specifically, the car's dimensions were 20 ft (6.1 m) in length, 6.6 ft (2 m) in width, and 9 ft (2.8 m) in height, though that height may or may not include the commander's cupola atop the turret. The armor rather consistently ran to 0.35 inch (9 mm) in thickness, and the vehicle weighed between 7.7 and 8.2 short tons (7 to 7.5 metric tons), one presumes whether empty or loaded. Its armament consisted of one each Vickers .5-inch and .303-inch machine gun in the turret and another .303-inch MG facing front on the left side of the hull, i.e., opposite the driver's side.

Four marks appeared during its developmental and building history: the Marks I and IA (22 or 23 built) and the Marks II and IIA (13 built); the 'A' versions were command vehicles, with a radio set in lieu of the hull MG. The two basic marks differed thus: the earlier one had dual wheels on each side of its two rear axles (both powered), carried a pair of spare tires flush on its left side above the footboard, and displayed a vertical-sided commander's cupola; the later mark car had single wheels on its two rear axles (both powered), one spare tire mounted on each side of the vehicle above the footboard, and presented a slope-sided cupola.

The Lanchester 6x4 armoured car, Mark I, is shown below.

[linked image]

The AFV underwent initial field testing with two regular cavalry regiments, 11th Hussars and 12th Lancers. But however one slices it, the Lanchester armoured car was a heavy vehicle, underpowered, and too slow---top speed 45 mph (or 72 km/h)---for a vehicle engaged in reconnaissance and rear guard action. Sources differ on its off-road capability, but generally all agree that a larger engine and a 6x6 power arrangement would have served it better. [I remain confused about the standard engine provided this vehicle: some sources indicate 40 hp (30 kW), others declare 90 hp (67 kW), and yet others claim 40 hp that developed 88 hp (65.5 kW) max at 2300 rpm.]

Accordingly, the Lanchester 6x4 armoured car was soon relegated to Territorial units at home (typically Yeomanry), and colonial and volunteer units abroad. In Malaya, the Lanchaster armoured car went to a number of volunteer units, but most notably to a regular infantry battalion, 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (photos of the Argylls in training show the armoured car remaining on the road, while crew members deploy into the scrub). Alas, I have little information on its combat history in Malaya-Singapore, so if someone is able to fill in that void, it would be much appreciated.

Following, a series of three photos showing members of 2nd Bn, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, training with the Mark I Lanchester 6x4 armoured car in Malaya. Note the water-cooled Vickers "light" machine gun being deployed by the crew, and the water chest visible in each of the images.

[linked image]

[linked image]

[linked image]

My question is on the curious and to my knowledge little seen Vickers light MG, presumably .303-inch, equipped with a bipod near the muzzle and a monopod on the butt-stock, in the manner of a Boys .55-inch (14mm) antitank rifle. I cannot tell if the ribbed water jacket is the same length as on a standard Vickers water-cooled infantry machine gun, but I am able to say that in my memory, I've not seen this type of Vickers MG before. I have consulted various websites and the hard copy of Smith & Smith's Small Arms of the World, 1973 edition, but no luck in finding this gun. Can anyone shed light on this seemingly rare Vickers LMG? Was it provided only to armored car crews? Its use was clearly dependent upon the provision of a water chest, hardly an asset for an LMG.

Nelson

 
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Responses

  • Re: Lanchester 6x4 armoured car and Vickers LMG(?) in Malaya - Jim Broshot on Jun 2, 2014, 1:06 AM
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  • Lanchester 6x4 armoured car and Vickers LMG(?) in Malaya - Pat Brennan on Jun 2, 2014, 1:28 AM
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  • Additional info in another network54 forum - Nelson on Jun 6, 2014, 7:52 PM
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  • Marmon Herrington MK III Armoured Cars Malaya - Singapore 1941 - 1942 - Luigi on Jan 24, 2018, 4:53 AM
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  • Green - Luigi on Feb 10, 2018, 2:05 AM
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  • Marmon Herrington MK III Armoured Cars Malaya - Singapore 1941 - 1942 - Luigi on Feb 12, 2018, 2:22 AM
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  • Your post of 16 February 2018 - Luigi on Feb 17, 2018, 4:10 AM
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    • Re: rifle - Nelson on Feb 17, 2018, 9:48 AM
     
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