The origins of theUniversal Carrier family can be traced back generally to the Carden Loydtankettes family which was developed in the 1920s, and specifically the Mk VItankette.
In 1934 VickersArmstrong produced, as a commercial venture, a light tracked vehicle that couldbe used either to carry a machine gun or to tow a light field gun. The VA.D50had an armoured box at the front for driver and a gunner and bench seating atthe back for the gun crew. It was considered by the War Office as a possiblereplacement for their "Dragon" artillery tractors and took 69 as the"Light Dragon Mark III". One was built as the "Carrier,Machine-Gun Experimental (Armoured)" carrying a machine gun and its crew.The decision was made to drop the machine gun and its team and the next designhad a crew of three – driver and gunner in the front, third crew-member on theleft in the rear and the right rear open for stowage. A small number of thisdesign as "Carrier, Machine-Gun No 1 Mark 1" were built and enteredservice in 1936. Some were converted into pilot models for the Machine gunCarrier, Cavalry Carrier and Scout Carrier – the others were used for training.
The carrier put thedriver and commander at the front sitting side-by-side; the driver to theright. The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at therear. The suspension was a mixture of the Vickers light tank and Horstmann springs , Directional control was through a(vertical) steering wheel. Small turns moved the front road wheel assemblywarping the track so the vehicle drifted to that side. Further movement of thewheel braked the appropriate track to give a turn.
The hull in front ofthe commander's position jutted forward to give room for the Bren gun (or otherarmament) to fire through a simple slit. To either side of the engine were twoareas in which passengers could ride or stores carried.
Initially, there wereseveral different types of Carrier that varied slightly in design according totheir purpose: "Medium Machine Gun Carrier" (the Vickers machinegun), "Bren Gun Carrier", "Scout Carrier" and "CavalryCarrier". However, production of a single model came to be preferred andthe Universal design appeared in 1940; this was the most widely produced of theCarriers. It differed from the previous models in having a rectangular bodyshape in rear section, with more space for crew.
Production of Carriers began in 1934 and it ended in 1960.Before the Universal design was introduced, the vehicles were produced byAveling and Porter, Bedford Vehicles, the British branch of the Ford MotorCompany, Morris Motors Limited, the Sentinel Waggon Works, and the Thornycroftcompany. With the introduction of the Universal, production in the UK wasundertaken by Aveling-Barford, Ford, Sentinel, Thornycroft, and WolseleyMotors. By 1945 production amounted to approximately 57,000 of all models,including some 2,400 early ones.
The Ford Motor Company of Canada manufactured about 29,000of the Universal Carriers. Smaller numbers of them were also produced inAustralia (about 5,000), where hulls were made in several places in Victoriaand by South Australian Railways workshops in Adelaide, South Australia. About1,300 were also produced in New Zealand.
The Reconnaissance Corps regiments – which replaced thecavalry regiments in supporting Infantry divisions after 1940 – were eachequipped with 63 carriers along with 28 Humber Scout cars.
Universal Carriers were issued to the Support companies ininfantry rifle battalions for carrying support weapons (initially 10, 21 by1941, and up to 33 per battalion by 1943). A British armoured division of1940–41 had 109 carriers in total; each motor battalion had 44.
Artillery units used them as an artillery tractor for theOrdnance QF 6 pounder anti-tank gun.
The British Carrier Platoon originally had ten UniversalCarriers with three Carrier Sections of three Universal Carriers each plus anotherUniversal Carrier in the platoon HQ. Each Universal Carrier had a NCO, arifleman and a driver/mechanic. One Universal Carrier in each section wascommanded by a sergeant and the other two by corporals.
All the Universal Carriers were armed with a Bren lightmachine gun and one Carrier in each Carrier Section also had a Boys anti-tankrifle. By 1941 the Carrier platoon increased in strength to contain fourCarrier sections and one Carrier in the Carrier sections also carried a 2-inchmortar. By 1943 each Universal Carrier now had a crew of four, an NCO,driver/mechanic and two riflemen. The Boys anti-tank rifle was also replaced bythe PIAT anti-tank weapon. The Universal Carrier's weapons could be fired fromin or outside of the Carrier. A Carrier platoon had a higher number of lightsupport weapons than a rifle company.
Mk. I The original model.
Mk. II Equipped with a towing hitch.
A flamethrower-equipped variant, using the "Flame-thrower, Transportable,No 2". The Mark I had a fixed flamethrower on the front of the vehicle fedfrom two fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 100 gallons. 1000 produced.
The Mk II had theprojector in the co-driver's position. The MkIIC (C for Canadian) had a single75 gallon fuel tank on the rear of the vehicle outside the armour protection,allowing a third crew member to be carried.
Carrier Machine Gun Local Pattern No. 1 also known as"LP1 Carrier (Aust)" Australian-built version of the British Bren GunCarrier.
Universal Carrier MG, Local Pattern No. 2 known as "LP2Carrier (Aust)" Australian-built variant of the Universal Carrier. Alsoproduced in New Zealand. The 2A had 1940 Ford truck axles.
2-pounder Anti-tank Gun Carrier (Aust) The Carrier, Anti-tank,2-pdr, (Aust) or Carrier, 2-pdr Tank Attack was a heavily modified andlengthened LP2 carrier with a fully traversable QF 2 pounder anti-tank gunmounted on a platform at the rear and the engine moved to the front left of thevehicle. Stowage was provided for 112 rounds of 2pdr ammunition. 200 wereproduced and used for training.
3 inch Mortar Carrier (Aust) The Carrier, 3-inch Mortar(Aust) was a design based on the 2 Pounder Carrier with a 3-inch mortar mountedin place of the 2 pounder. Designed to enable the mortar to have 360 degreetraverse and to be fired either from the vehicle, or dismounted. 400 wereproduced and were ultimately sent as military aid to the Nationalist ChineseArmy.
T-16 The Carrier,Universal, T16, Mark I. was a significantly improved vehicle based upon thosebuilt by Ford of Canada, manufactured under Lend Lease by Ford in the UnitedStates from March 1943 to 1945. It was chiefly used by Canadian forces duringthe war as an artillery tractor. After the war, it was used by Swiss andNetherlands forces. It was longer than the Universal with an extra road wheelon the rear bogie, the engine was a Ford Mercury delivering the same power.Instead of the steering wheel controlling the combination brake/warp mechanism,the T-16 had track-brake steering operated by levers (two for each side)
Fahrgestell Bren (e) A captured carrier of 1940, reused bythe Germans with a 3.7 cm PaK 36 gun.
Panzerjäger Bren 731(e) Bren carriers captured by theGermans and fitted with a triple Panzerschreck mount, probably the firstarmoured vehicle to be fitted with anti-tank rockets.
Praying Mantis the Praying Mantis was an attempt to producea low-silhouette vehicle that could still fire over obstacles. A one-man designbased on Carden-Lloyd suspension was not adopted, but the inventor wasencouraged to design a two-man version. This version appeared in 1943 and wasbased upon the Universal Carrier. The hull was replaced with an enclosedmetal-box structure with enough room for a driver and a gunner lying prone.This box, pivoting from the rear, could be elevated. At the top end was amachine-gun turret (with two Bren guns). The intention was to drive the Mantisup to a wall or hedgerow, elevate the gun, and fire over the obstacle from aposition of safety. It was rejected after trials in 1944. A Mantis survives inthe Bovington Tank Museum
There were many more different field modified versions as well.