United Kingdom (1914)
Armored car – 180+ built

The British-Russian Austin armored car is one of the most successful and prolific models of World War One. It was used chiefly by the Russian Empire, and also modified locally. Two Russian models were also built locally by Putilov, and are studied separately on the Russian section. At the origin, the development of this armored car was quickstarted by a Russian committee which came to Great Britain to purchase local models, including one with a good overhead protection and two machine gun turrets. The Austin Motor Company quickly produced a demonstrator to meet these requirements.

The Austin 1914

This model was accepted into service as the Austin 1st series on 29 September 1914, as 48 were ordered, at 1,150 pounds apiece, by the Russian government. It was based on the Austin 30hp “Colonial” chassis, with a rear axle drive, 30 hp engine and spoked wheels. However, rubberine-filled self-sealing tires were also carried for war operations. In addition, two Maxim machine guns turrets were mounted rear of the driver’s cab in tandem, both covering 180 degree of lateral angle and combining their fire on the front and rear. The body was made of armor plates 3.54 mm (0.14 in) thick bolted to a body frame over the chassis. The crew of four counted the commander, driver and two machine-gunners, whom could enter the vehicle through a left side door or a rear two-leaf door. At their arrival at Izhorski Works they were stripped of their armor, which was replaced with 7 mm (0.28 in) thick plates. This made them much heavier, adding some stress on the axles and engine, reducing their speed and agility. But the Russians were quite satisfied with this model compared to others and asked for a new improved series. Possibly in 1917-18, extra series I bodies were used on White armored car chassis.

The Austin series II

On March, 6, 1915 a new series was ordered with improved armor. This time, a stronger 1.5 ton truck chassis and more powerful engine (50 hp) were chosen to take the burden of heavier plates. But the main configuration was unchanged, but the cab roof was modified to allow a better traverse and arc of fire for the turrets. However, to stiffen the rear section, the rear doors were eliminated, to the dismay of Russian officers. Back in Russia, the 60 vehicles were taken over and a rear driving post was added, with an additional hatch and extra side shields for the machine-guns.

The Austin series III

Ordered on 25 August 1916, this series was the fruit of war operations experience, and was similar to the second one, except for a modified rear hull with driving post and side MG shields and bulletproof glass on the front vision slots, the side windows were eliminated. By the fall of 1917, yet another series, called model 1918 or 1918 Pattern, was ordered with a reinforced chassis and double rear wheels, but events prevented their delivery. These were the only vehicles used by the British Army. It seems their armored body was also reused on Peerless lorries after the war.

In service

The Austin was used for a long time (1914 – 1939) by many nations. The first customer, Russia, organized them in automobile machine gun platoons modeled after early war experience. The lead platoons comprised three Austins, four staff cars, three support trucks (workshop, tanker) and four motorcycles, with a complement of 46 soldiers. The regular platoon had only two Austins and a Garford-Putilov for artillery support, a staff car, a truck and a motorcycle. However, in August 1916 these units were reorganized into more sizable forces, “armored automobile battalions”, each attached to an army and formed from two to five platoons. By the time of the Civil War, the Austins were used by both sides, although the Red Army had the bulk of it (and most Putilovs), organized into “armored automobile units” of similar strength to a lead platoon. By 19120-21, RKKA vehicles were deployed in the Soviet-Polish war. A few were captured. The British-built vehicles were kept in service until 1931 and the Putilovs until 1933.

The last batch of Austins (1918 Pattern) was exclusively used by the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion of the British Tank Corps, with doubled rear wheels and Hotchkiss machine guns. This unit was active in France from March 1918 to the German surrender. These vehicles distinguished themselves at the Battle of Amiens, capturing a German headquarters 10 miles (16 km) into enemy territory and creating havoc with reserve and support units. This was also the first unit to cross the Rhine. Other vehicles were sent into the Far East and Caspian Sea region. After this, some were deployed in Ireland. Their bodies were reused on Peerless lorry chassis and kept in service until 1939. Other users includes the Imperial Japanese Army (a few), the Polish Army (20, captured), the Finnish Army (3, captured), Estonia (2), Latvia (1), Romania (1), the Mongolian People’s Army (3), the Germans Freikorps in 1919 (4, Kokampf armored units), the Austrian Army (1) and Bulgaria (1, captured in 1916).

Links

The Austin AC on Wikipedia
The Austin in British use – Landships II

Austin series II specifications

Dimensions 16 ft x 6.8 ft x 9.4 ft (4.90 x 2.03 x 2.84 m)
Total weight (as built), battle ready 5.3 tons (11680 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, 2 machine-gunners)
Propulsion 4-cyl Gasoline inline, 4 stroke, 50 hp (17 kW) – 9 hp/t
Speed 35 mph (56 km/h)
Suspensions 4 x 2 leaf springs
Range 200 km (125 mi)
Armament 2 x Maxim Water cooled cal.303 (7.7 mm) machine gun
Armor Maximum 6 mm (0.25 in)
Total production (all combined) Over 168
Austin 1st serie
Austin Armoured car, series I (1914) in Russian service. Original specs were 2.66 tons, road speed 50-60 km/h and range 250 km.

Austin Armoured car series II, 5.3 ton, road speed 60 km/h and range 200 km.

Austin series III in Russia, with a famous bi-tone livery in 1916. Same specs as the series II.
Austin serie III
Austin serie III in 1916.
Polish White Austin
Polish White-Austin “Mars” in 1920.
Austin model 1918
Austin series 1918 in British service, RIC Barracks at Ennis, Country Clare in November 1919.

Gallery

Austin 1st serie, Neva, 1916.

Gun Carrier Mk.I
Russo-Balt Type C
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