Tuesday 16 December 2014

Universal Carriers

I've taken a temporary break from working on my Desert Raiders project to finish off some Universal Carriers I started on some time ago. To be honest I have been so busy with the new job these are the first things I have painted in weeks. While they are a bit of a diversion from painting Italian aircraft I'm just happy to be painting again. This little side project has also given me a chance to road test my new painting desk and I have to say I'm really happy with the extra space I have.

The Universal Carrier is one of those vehicles that I think gets overlooked by wargamers and historians as something of a joke. Its a strange looking design and at first glance its purpose is hard to define. It has speed and manoeuvrability similar to a Jeep but also has some limited armoured protection for the crew, but being open topped is vulnerable to air attack and artillery fire. It could carry of crew of three but I have seen pictures of it being used to transport a couple of passengers as well. It wasn't particularly well powered as a tractor but it was fast and it could be adapted to tow light loads such as a 25pdr gun. Over 113,000 were built making it one of the most produced AFV's in history!

Bren Carriers somewhere in the Middle East

The Universal Carrier can trace its ancestry back to the Carden Lloyd tankette developed in the 1920's. By the mid thirties a larger version was needed and a range of new Carriers were designed for various roles. However it soon became clear that rather than half a dozen variants a single type was more efficient to build and easier to maintain, and thus the Universal Carrier was born. The design was improved with the Mk II which became the heaviest produced of the variants.

Being used to tow a field gun
Despite its ungainly looks the Carrier was a popular vehicle. Its speed, agility and versatility saw it in active service across the whole of the British Army with most Infantry battalions equipped with several platoons. They performed as scout vehicles, transports, gun carriers, artillery tractors and as a fire base for heavy mortars. Because they were so light and small they could be carried in Gliders, and unlike a Jeep they had some armour protection if the landing zone was 'hot'.

The utility of the Universal Carrier was even recognised by the Wehrmacht which used machines captured after the fall of Dunkirk and re-purposed them (swapping the Bren for MG34's or MG42's) for largely similar roles to the British. This vehicle saw service through the whole of the second world war and amazingly continued to be built well in to the mid 60's and was still in service (for training) as late as 1984!


  1. Wonderful work Lee. I love my UCs for Flames of War. Hope yours do as well for you...

  2. Nice work and interesting history lesson.

  3. Surplus carriers became Farm equipment in NZ after WWII.
    Your tiny carriers look really good. In Flames of War I would very rarely take a Brit/Commonwealth force without them. As far as rules I think they are handled very well in those rules.

  4. I couldn't figure out what was weired about that 3rd picture..and then I realised it's actually a model! Not as nice as yours though... nice work!


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