Daimler Armoured Car: Additional Details
The British Army has always been a major user of armoured cars, and the Daimler was one of its best designs. Based on the original and equally successful Daimler Dingo Scout Car, these advanced cars served on all fronts with the British from 1941 until finally withdrawn in the 1960s. They even outlasted their planned replacement, which is something few AFVs have achieved.
Design began in 1939, and resulted in what was basically an enlarged Dingo fitted with a turret, even the hexagonal fighting compartment and hull front bin were found on both. Other items shared with its older little brother were rear engine (but a bigger 6 cylinder, 95bhp, 4095cc one) and transmission via separate driving shafts and universal joints to each of four wheels. Each wheel station was independently sprung, with four large coil springs mounted as two units of pairs one inside the other. This gave a large wheel travel and good cross country performance. The pre-selector gearbox was another Dingo feature, the armoured car having five speeds available for forward or reverse travel using a transfer box via a fluid flywheel.
The original vehicle was to have been called the BSA Light Wheeled Tank, and have two machine guns as per the Guy Wheeled Tank and also four-wheel steering as on the Dingo. This steering arrangement was never fitted in production, indeed only the earliest Dingos had it, and armament was a 2pdr gun even on the prototypes. This gave the car firepower similar to current British tanks and better than the machine guns of earlier armoured cars.
Photos of the prototype show it had no side doors and small detail differences form the production cars. Turret vision slots were different, smoke dischargers were fitted one each side of the turret, and there was a raised section above the driver's position as well as headlight differences. Production vehicles had escape hatches in each hull side. The three man crew was the largest which could be fitted in, and without a major redesign a more powerful gun could not be fitted. One feature which was useful for reconnaissance work was the rear driving position, with a steering wheel and throttle on the left rear of the fighting compartment and a small peep slot in the hull rear. Turret hatch opened in a manner similar to early Crusader tanks, a series of rods and torsion bars allowed the hatch to open with a cantilever action. This meant the hatch was either fully open or fully closed.
First vehicles were issued in the UK in 1941 and small numbers of cars went to North Africa from mid 1941 for evaluation. It was not until 1942 that the 11th Hussars became the first active service users. Initially Daimlers served alongside other cars, mostly Humbers, and armoured car units also used Dingos. Looking at the 1944 establishment, it was possible to see Daimler armoured and scout cars working with Staghounds as command and anti aircraft vehicles, supported by AEC Matador Mk III cars or 75mm guns on half-tracks - surely this gave unit mechanics and logisticians busy days and sleepless nights! Later on, the Daimler became the standard car in British armoured car regiments and the Reconnaissance Corps units attached to infantry divisions in place of Humbers, although Staghounds were used as command vehicles.
As was common, detail improvements were introduced as production progressed. Most noticeably, the external stowage changed, a spare wheel was fitted on the left hull side (unfortunately blocking one of the side escape hatches) and later a rack to carry two sand channels on the right side. I have never seen these used for their original purpose in photos, and indeed cars in North Africa and Sicily often carried a rack for petrol or water cans on the hull side with the sand channels being carried on the front of the hull, while a sun compass bracket could be fitted on the right side of the turret. An external condenser can was carried in hot climates.
It was planned to replace both Daimler and Humber armoured cars with the Coventry, designed and built jointly by both manufacturers. In the event, more Daimlers were built. Mk II cars had a more rounded gun mantlet, the older 'Mounting, 2pdr and Medium BESA MG No 4 Mk II' with its square-ended mantlet being replaced by the 'No 10 Mk I'. There was now an escape hatch above the driver, the left hand side door was eliminated, while improved engine cooling meant armoured louvers over the whole hull rear plate and only two covered slots in the horizontal engine cover instead of four (oddly, the prototype seemed to have had this later arrangement) as well as a number of mechanical improvements.
Post war, both marks remained in service, many photos even show both in use in the same unit at the same time. The only changes made were the replacement of the 4" smoke bomb throwers with sets of six barrelled dischargers as used on many British AFVs of the period.
Surviving vehicles are highly prized among UK vehicle collectors, while Mk Is are on display in the Imperial War Museum in London and the Museum of British Road Transport in Coventry, and a Mk II at the Tank Museum in Bovington.
Length 13' 2.5" (hull only 13')
Width 8' 10"
Height 7' 4"
Ground Clearance 1' 4"
Wheelbase 8' 6"
Wheel Track 6' 6"
Tyres 10.5 or 11 by 20
Approx Weight 6.75 tons empty, 7.75 tons in battle order
Bridge Class 7
Range 205 miles
Fording depth 4' prepared
2pdr gun with 52 rounds
7.92mm BESA with 2,700 rounds
.303" Bren AA with 500 rounds
.45" Thompson with 200 rounds or 9mm Sten machine carbine with 300 rounds
2 x 4" smoke discargers or (postwar) two sets of six barrel smoke grenade launchers
16mm turret front & mantlet, hull rear
14mm hull front & turret sides
10mm hull sides
8mm turret & hull top
7mm hull floor
Radio No 19 set
The prototypes were F10472 Light Tank Wheeled Experimental Daimler, and also
F16354 Tank, Light, Wheeled, BSA Daimler. Production vehicles were -
F19919-20418 500 Mk I
F117215-117714 500 Mk I
F207288-208187 900 Mk I
F208190-208689 500 Mk II
F339201-339800 600 Mk II originally, this order was later reduced to only 294 cars
Note - the 'gap' of F208188-9 was for Coventry prototypes, and the subsequent numbers to 208688 were to have been used for Coventry's.
From 1948 cars were renumbered in the new style. Batches were in the range 75ZR40 to 90ZR91, although there were large gaps in the allocation of numbers, and also numbers in the ranges --ZU-- and --ZV-- ranges which may have been allocated when the vehicles were overhauled.
Chassis numbers were from AC1 to AC2694, and may not have followed the exact same sequence as the more visible serial numbers.
Apart from the prototypes and the two marks, there seem to have been few variations other than unit modifications. Photos show some cars had the 2pdr replaced by a 3" howitzer, perhaps following the then current tank policy of CS or Close Support vehicles. These do not seem to have seen action, units used either 75mm guns on half-tracks or other types of car for heavy firepower. One Daimler in the Middle East was fitted with a high angle mounting for the 2pdr and BESA, but this was a one-off. Most units used the vehicles as issued, not only as armoured cars but as homes, so often carried large amounts of stowage. This was draped over and fitted to the mudguards and engine covers, turrets were left clear and usually space left to allow a good view through the rear driving lookout.
The Inns of Court Yeomanry overcame a lack of scout cars in 1944 by taking turrets and mudguards off some of their cars. A Bren gun was carried as anti aircraft protection, together with the PLM mounting to allow it to be used from under armor, although I have never seen photos of either fitted. 11th Hussars fitted a Vickers Gas Operated Observers Gun (the K as used on SAS jeeps) to the turret top of some of their vehicles in Europe, and from 1944 many cars were fitted the Littlejohn tapered bore extension which with special ammunition improved the performance of the 2pdr.
Here the lack of literature shows. Most references to the Daimler are as part of total histories of British armour such as David Fletcher "The Great Tank Scandal" and "Universal Tanks". For the fine detail, email Library@tankmuseum.co.uk or send a letter with two IRCs or SSAE to The Library, Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset, BH20 6JG, England, for details of their Plans Packs which are made up of stowage diagrams etc.
The only direct reference is my old favourite, "Allied Military Vehicles, Collection No 1" from Brooklands Books, Cobham, England (ISBN 0-907-073-778) This is a collection of reprints from contemporary auto magazines, and includes some great detail photos and drawings of the Daimler Mk I and useful text, as well as data on the Dingo and other armoured cars but it is now out of print.
(Note - this article is revised from one which originally appeared in the much missed magazine ARMORED CAR along with comparative reviews of the Accurate Armour and Sovereign 1/35 kits)
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