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THE WW2 BREN GUN CARRIER (UNIVERSAL CARRIER)
After World War One the British Military foresaw the need for a tracked lightly armed vehicle capable of transporting troops armed with machine guns to be able to deal with enemy machine gun posts. During trench warfare the machine gun was responsible for the slaughter of thousands of troops on both sides as they advanced over no mans land. There was no protection from its hail of bullets. The envisaged armoured Universal Carrier would be able to protect its crew whilst it neutralised the enemy’s strong points with its Bren light machine gun. There were many different versions of this tracked ‘Universal Carrier’ but they were all given the name Bren Gun Carriers by its users.
It had a riveted hull with complete armour protection around the whole of the front and rear compartments. The driver and gunner sat in the front either side of the radiator bulkhead. The loud noise of the fan drowned out any conversation. In the back of the vehicle there were two rectangular compartments, one on each side of the engine. These compartments could be used to carry troops, ammunition, weapons and stores. There was also a locker for the crew ‘s belongings. The Universal Bren Gun Carrier had reasonably good cross country agility and for its time was very fast. The driver controlled movement with small steering wheel and steering brakes. The third crew member sat in the rear compartment behind the driver and his compartment had timber or rubber firing rests fixed to the armour edges.
Bren Gun Carriers were used in most campaigns of World War II. Even the Germans used captured Bren Gun carriers for patrolling and policing captured territory in France and Northern Europe. They had limitations. They were too lightly armoured and easy targets for tanks. They were extremely vulnerable to flank attacks. They also lacked any overhead protection and the crew were vulnerable to sniper fire, shell splinters and grenades. Bren Gun Carriers were mainly suited for infantry support work for which they were designed. Initially it was designed to carry a crew of three, driver and independent machine gun team. This idea was replaced with the view that the vehicle and crew were the machine gun team, able to operate inside or deploy outside the vehicle.
In late 1937 the Carrier, Machine Gun, No.2, MkI went into service. It was originally fitted with Vickers .303 Medium Machine Guns but later later equipped with the .303 Bren Light Machine Gun and/or a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. They first saw operational service in action in France and the Low Countries. Many were left on the beaches and approach roads to Dunkirk during Britain's withdrawal of her troops from France in 1940. So many were captured, and subsequently altered, that the Germans even gave them their own vehicle designations.
The Carrier, Scout, MkI was a modification of the Bren Gun Carrier. It first appeared in service in 1938. It was designed as scout machines for the light tank divisions. It carried the No.11 wireless set and had a high sided armour enclosure for the wireless operator's behind the driver. The Carrier, Armoured, OP No.1, MkI was another modification of the Bren Gun Carrier based on the Carrier, Scout, MkI . It was designed as a forward observation post for the Royal Artillary. It carried the No.11 wireless set and had a high sided armour enclosure for the wireless operator's behind the driver. It had a cable drum on the rear cover plate and an adjustable shutter over the gunners firing slot to facilitate the use of binoculars.
The British War Department realised that producing a standard vehicle which could be easily altered to suit the various roles required by the army was a much more economical option so in 1940 the Carrier, Universal No.1 MkI appeared. The Carrier, 3 in Mortar, No.1, MkI was a modified Universal Carrier MkI. It was converted to carry a 3 in mortar, its ammunition and crew. The Mortar base plate was carried on the front of the Bren Gun Carrier and on the rear in later models. It carried a crew of five including the driver and front gunner.
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