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The Universal Carrier, or Bren Gun Carrier, was a series of armored personnel carriers that were used by British forces in World War II.

Description

The Bren Gun Carrier Mk. I had a Ford V-8 gasoline engine that could propel the Universal Carrier at speeds of up to 32 mph. The armament consisted of either a Boys anti-tank rifle or a Bren Mk. II and also weapons that were carried by passengers such as rifles.

Originally, there were different types of Bren Gun Carriers used for different purposes. They were used until 1940 when it was realized that a single design would be better.[1] One of these designs was the Carrier, Scout, No 1. The new design was the Carden-Loyd Universal Carrier Mk I. The weight of the Mk I/ Mk II was about 8,000 lb and the length was around 12 feet, 4 inches.[2] The crew was three and the usual number of passengers the Universal Carrier could carry was two. Although this number could be stretched depending on the situation.[3] The Universal Carrier had relatively light armor plus the fact that the crew and passengers were exposed to the battlefield conditions, weather, etc. Sometimes, the crew just improvised and used whatever they had to protect themselves. Even though it was decided to have one universally capable carrier, there were some variants of the Universal Carrier.

Variants

Allied Variants

One notable variant was the wasp which utilized a flamethrower as its main armament and it appeared in 1944. The Universal Carrier Mk II was fundamentally the Mk I only it had a tow bar so it could carry artillery. Both models of the Universal Carrier (Mk I and Mk II) with slight modification could carry mortars and they could also be used by artillery units for observation. The United States also built their own Universal Carriers which they shipped to Great Britain. These models were redesignated the T16 and one carrier that can be confused with the Universal Carrier is the Loyd Carrier.

German Variants

Universal Carriers that fell into German hands were converted and used by German forces. Some of these modified Universal Carriers became the Fahrgestell Bren (e) which could either have a FlaK 38 gun or a PaK 36. There was also the gepanzerter Maschinengewehr Traeger Bren 731 (e) which was basically a German modified Universal Carrier that was used for training, carrying troops, etc.[4] the Schneeschaufel auf Bren(e) was a snowplow and the Panzerjäger Bren 731(e) was used against tanks because of the fact that it had 3 panzerschrecks mounted for attacking. This became one of the Panzerjäger Bren 731(e)'s distinctive features.

History

Universal Carrier

A Universal Carrier being used in Europe.

The Universal Carrier's design was inspired by the Carden Loyd tankette which was like a precursor to the Universal Carrier. The Universal began production in 1939 and they were used on almost every single front in WWII. Either being used by Great Britain, Australia, Canada, United States, Soviet Union, or even Germany. The reliability of the Universal Carrier was very good and the versatility was also excellent. However, the fact that the Universal Carrier had light armour lost it the United States favour when it was used almost like a tank in the Pacific. The Loyd Carrier became popular for one of its advantages over the Universal Carrier. This was the fact that the Universal Carrier had no standard tarp or roof for the crew which made them exposed. Despite the disadvantages, the Universal Carrier was common among British troops and it was still used on basically every front in WWII. Germany had captured many of its Universal Carriers during the Fall of France and some evacuations like those at Dunkirk.

References

  1. http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/bren.html
  2. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/unitedkingdom/carriers/universal-carrier.asp
  3. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=278
  4. http://www.achtungpanzer.com/briti.htm
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