A 6×4 armored car for colonial duties
The Lanchester motor company, founded in 1899. was a prolific and recognized car maker. It was based in Armourer Mills, Montgomery Street, Sparkbrook, Birmingham. It had produced the famous Lanchester 4×2 armored cars during World War One, which gained a reputation for endurance and reliability, notably on the Eastern and Russian fronts. This time, the War Office requested a 6×4 chassis, for long range operations in remote provinces of the British Empire, colonies and with the territorial army. Lanchester sent in its design in 1927 and was awarded a contract to build two prototypes on 19 July 1927.
These prototypes, D1E1 and D1E2, were ready in March 1928. They tried different turret shapes and armaments and the latter had additional driving controls at the rear. But it appeared, during their trials, that their chassis were not strong enough to cope with rugged terrain and make successful cross-country drives. A first series of 22 vehicles was ordered. These were the Mk.I and Mk.Ia (command), while two vehicles (the other prototypes, D1E3 and D1E4) were kept for instruction. Another series would be ordered later, the Mk.II.
The chassis had no civilian car or truck correspondent, as it was purpose-built and especially strong. It had many similarities with the famous WWI Rolls-Royce armored cars in its body shape. The twin axles at the rear allowed the mounting of larger turrets and a roomier fighting compartment.
The rear-end axle space was used for storage. Two large storage boxes were positioned over the mudguards, right behind the fighting compartment, while a payload could find its way in between. The crew could access the vehicle either through the rear doors or the side ones. The crew counted a driver, co-driver/commander and two gunners/loaders.
The large, cylindrical two-man turret accommodated one 0.5 in (12.7 mm) and one 0.3 in (7.7 mm) Vickers liquid-cooled machine guns in a dual mount. The turret was topped by a small observation cupola which could rotate independently. The co-driver also had an additional Vickers 0.3 in (7.7 mm) machine gun. On radio command vehicles (Mk.Ia and Mk.IIa), this was swapped for a No. 9 radio with a whip type antenna, and the co-driver was in charge of the radio.
Production and active service
The Mark I had doubled rear tires (10 wheels in total). The Mark Ia was the command version and used a radio instead of the left-hand-side machine-gun. 18 and 4 were delivered, respectively. The seven Mark IIs had single rear tires (6 wheels in total), a sloped side turret cupola (or a light tank alternative turret). Six command versions were built. First deliveries began in January 1929, but were finished in 1934. The 11th Hussars was the first unit to receive these. The regiment was relocated in Egypt to replace the 12th Lancers, whereas a squadron of the 12th Lancers was sent, for peacekeeping operations, in the Saar region in 1935. In December, two other squadrons were relocated to Egypt, in response to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. By 1936, they returned to Great Britain and were re-equipped with more modern
The 11th Hussars was the first unit to receive these. The regiment was relocated in Egypt to replace the 12th Lancers, whereas a squadron of the 12th Lancers was sent, for peacekeeping operations, in the Saar region in 1935. In December, two other squadrons were relocated to Egypt, in response to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. By 1936, they returned to Great Britain and were re-equipped with more modern Morris LRCs.
In 1939, 22 of these Lanchesters were sent to the Far East. They were affected to the Selangor and Perak battalions of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, the Singapore Volunteer Corps, Straits Settlements Volunteer Force and the 2nd Battalion of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in Malaya. They took an active part in the Malayan campaign against the Japanese. The others were kept in the Territorial army, 23rd London Armoured Car Company and 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry. In 1940, one was converted as a VIP transport and two were allocated to the 1st Belgian Armored Car squadron. One is on display at Bovington today.
Links about the Lanchester 6×4
Lanchester 6×4 specifications
|Dimensions||6.10 x 2.02 x 2.83 m (20 x 6.6 x 9.2 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||7 tons (14,000 lbs)|
|Crew||4 (driver, co-driver gunner/radio, 2 gunners)|
|Propulsion||Lanchester 6-cyl. petrol, 90 hp (67 kW), 12.9 hp/ton|
|Suspension||6×4 coil springs, front drive|
|Speed (road)||72 km/h (45 mph)|
|Range||320 km (200 mi)|
|Armament||0.5 in (12.7 mm) Vickers machine gun|
2 x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
|Armor||9 mm front & sides (0.35 in)|
A Lanchster Mark I of the 12th Lancers. This was a heavily armed vehicle for the time, armed with a heavy MG and two Vickers medium MGs. The first could destroy light tanks when equipped with AP bullets.
A vehicle of the 12th Lancers, B squadron in Malaya, 1941. This particular vehicle (now on display in a museum) was reequipped with a Light Tank Mark III turret and had only two Vickers 0.3 in machine guns. The Lanchester 6×4 had good off-road capabilities and was rugged and reliable. However, it was too heavy and slow for effective operations in reconnaissance units.