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Marmon-Herrington AC/South African RC

June 23 2014 at 7:56 PM
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Nelson  (no login)

Response to Does it matter?

Jacques et alia,

Two days ago, in the role of spectator (alas!), I enjoyed a part of the 2014 running of the Great Race of vintage cars, to a degree an international event, with teams from Germany, Japan, and Aruba included. Each year it involves a different route, and it won't be back here again, at least in my lifetime. This year the event began in Ogunquit, Maine, and will end in Florida, i.e., for those competitors who make it to the end of the course, which is largely over back roads and byways, replete with check points. The first lunch stop was in Rochester, NH, which is where a couple of friends and I caught up with the race. There are more than 100 vintage cars running in 2014, and each one a gem. So, I'm in the mood for more automotive history, namely the Marmon-Herrington armored cars of WWII (designated by some worthies as the South African Recce Car).

> I am afraid you are wrong here - both vehicles are Mark IIs....IMO, the upper image you refer to is somewhat squashed horizontally (have a look at the tyres) giving the impression of a shorter wheelbase when compared to the vehicle in the second image. Also, the serial number (E22752 ) of the vehicle is lower than that of the vehicle (E22768) in the second image, thus not a later variant - yes, I'm pretty sure both are Mark IIs. >

You're right. The upper photo is squashed and is thus illusory. For all of the characteristics you argue---see below---the AFVs in both photos shown are indeed Mark IIs.

> Several reports mention the 175 SARCs sent to Malaya, but I am struggling to find any evidence of this being the case. I still think that despite the numbers built, not many were available to be sent East and apart from the 16 allotted to the Indian 3rd Cavalry, very few, if any other SARCs were deployed in Malaya....You quoted Mike Taylor: "The Marmons, of which some 175 were delivered to Malaya, were brought down from Kuala Lumpur by Lt. Montgomery-Campbell and four drivers early in 1941." - OK, if not all 175, how many did Monty and his 4 drivers take down to Singapore in early 1941? How many trips would that have taken? (The distance today, on a presumably much improved road, is 220 miles) No wonder the Indian 3rd Cavalry only got theirs in December of that year! >

Whoa, kemo sabe. Taylor and others are quoting secondary sources, such as Moffatt and McCormick (Moon Over Malaya, 1999), who presumably relied on primary sources. Their reference is strictly to the SARCs assigned to 2nd Argylls, which in most sources would be all of three Marmon-Herringtons, although a very few other sources claim four such AFVs. So, most likely three armoured cars, with someone to drive the vehicle they had used to get there, and Mister Montgomery-Campbell in overall charge. Statements that 22 Lanchesters and 175 Marmon-Herringtons were sent to Singapore/Malaya do not imply either that 2nd Argylls got all of 'em OR were responsible for distributing them to all other units. Thus I think we must assume the party under Montgomery-Campbell drove three, maybe four, Marmon-Herringtons down from Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, we mustn't assume that all of the SARCs came in through Port Swettenham. I for one have no problem with 175 such AFVs going to the Far East. And we cannot rule out that some of them got diverted to other places, e.g., Burma, or were turned back to India or Ceylon when everything closed down Out There. What's your take on that bit about most of the Marmons still being in storage when the Japanese barged in?

> Also bear in mind that the 49 sent to the NEI (as compensation for the 49 Vickers light tanks confiscated by the British in 1939) were not newly built ex-factory units but were well-used discards from the North Africa campaign - reportedly in poor condition. >

Thirteen years ago, Tomasz (given elsewhere as Tomek) Basarabowicz, in a response to Tom Womack's piece on the armored vehicles used in the NEI, refused to believe that the SARCs sent there were in such a sorry state.

I don't accept at least one of Mr. Basarabowicz's two premises, viz., that the British used very few Mark III SARCs in the Western Desert, and thus they could not have been the source of worn-out AFVs putatively sent to the NEI. Even if, as he contends, the Mark IIIs were substantially outnumbered by the Mark IIs in use in North Africa, there were still a goodly number of Mark IIIs to send to the NEI, not to mention for the Afrika Korps to kapture. His other argument is that the Mark IIIs were therefore supplied by South Africa, which would have been right off the assembly line or out of storage in a warehouse or from a depot in the Middle East, and thus could not have been heavily used and broken down wrecks. Yeah, okay, that be logical if true, but where is the proof that South Africa sent these AFVs to Java? The conventional wisdom is that much used and badly maintained---and unarmed---Mark IIIs were sent by the Brits to the KNIL, and to describe the recipients as angry and put out would be the understatement of the early 1940s.

> The more obvious distinguishing features between Marks II and III being the conical turret and opening, slotted radiator doors of the Mark II, whereas the SARC Mark II had a larger eight-sided turret and fixed nose made possible by the addition of an auxiliary radiator system. At this point I'm not 100% sure, but it appears that the spare wheel was moved to the rear on the Mark IIIs with the elimination of the twin rear doors. Headlamps on the Mk II were protected by square guards, but these were omitted on the Mk III. The difference in wheelbase - 134" for the Mark II versus the shorter 117 1/2" of the Mark III is less apparent in photographs....The Mark II was built in 2 sub-types, the MFF type primarily for the Union Defence Force's Mobile Field Force and the ME type for the Middle East campaign. The MFF type had an armament of two .303 Vickers machine guns whereas on the ME type, the turret was modified to accept a Bren machine gun and a Boys anti-tank rifle with an additional mounting for a Bren gun in an anti-aircraft role. Once in the battle zone many modifications (mostly unauthorised) were made and captured weapons fitted. During May 1941 a batch of 15 Mark IIs were fitted with Italian Breda 20mm guns as standard equipment. Of the Mark IIs, 549 were produced as MFF types and 338 as ME types. >

First of all, yes, the Mark II Middle East or ME type did have a small octagonal turret, so one might claim that while the Mark III SARC did not display a truncated conical or "plant pot" turret, both the Mark II and Mark III had eight-sided turrets (though decidedly different in size). For some other nice little details and images, see

Note in the following images, the storage location of the unditching or sand recovery ramp was shifted from over the rear wheel wells in the Mark II to between the front and rear wheels in the Mark III. The length of that ramp increased in the Mark III, and is not simply an optical delusion. One other thing to contemplate: Were certain changes made in the Mark II vehicle during the course of events and carried over into the Mark III, or did they take place in the Mark III and retro-conversions then made to the Mark II? After all, we don't know when precisely these various photos were taken, so in the absence of any other info, it remains difficult to tell.

In the following three images of the turretless Mark II SARC, more heavily armed than the turreted types, the following changes, obviously done when these cars were manufactured, are evident:

Moderate changes: 20mm Breda mounted; spare wheel and tire still in the middle of the hull; small door immediately adjacent to the driver. Almost certainly this car is a conversion of an originally turreted Mark II.

[linked image]

Major changes: 20 Breda mounted, clearly displaying its butterfly or butterfly wing gun shield; a new middle door appears on the right side of the hull, replacing the original driver's door; in consequence the spare wheel/tire is now carried rearward. I found a photo of this type of AFV with its spare wheel/tire carried forward, just behind the right front mudguard, but the image is simply too big to attach. If you're interested, I'll supply the URL.

[linked image]

Again much the same as the previous image, but with what appears to be a British 2-pounder mounted behind a skimpy gun shield (could be a German Pak 36).

[linked image]

This AFV is (IMO) the more handsome Mark III, armed to the teeth. Note the position of the spare wheel/tire, far to the rear on the left side of the hull to keep it out of the way of the door.

[linked image]

Finally, a Mark III SARC, now in German hands and with its spare wheel/tire moved to the arse end of the vehicle.

[linked image]

> To this day South African National Defence Force has a preference for wheeled rather than tracked vehicles. >

I should imagine so, given that the army has frequently acted in a police role (and perhaps the police in a paramilitary one). Shown is one of the early types from the 1970s, the Buffel. It was built on a Mercedes-Benz chassis, with the driver's compartment armored and having bulletproof glass, and the armored troop compartment angled to deflect the force of an exploding mine that had been laid along the road.

[linked image]



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  • S.A. Reconnaissance Car (I insist!) - Jacques on Jun 28, 2014, 12:16 PM
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