Ausarmourfest 2017 at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum, Cairns (Part 3)

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One more look at the south wing of the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum before we go outside and see some armour in action. So far we have covered post WW2 armoured vehicles and artillery from WW1 to the present. Now let's get up close to a great selection of WW2 AFVs.

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The first is a SturmgeschŘtz III, the most produced German AFV of the Second World War.

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This StuG III is a fully working replica built on site at the museum using a spare British Type 432 armoured personal carrier chassis. Looks pretty good to me.

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The next is an Australian LP-4 (Local Pattern 4) armoured car. Designed in the late 1930's, only a handful of these vehicles were built in the months before WW2.

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The LP-4 was fitted with a Marmon Herrington All Wheel Drive kit making them a four wheel drive vehicle. It was armed with a single .303 Lewis machine gun. Fortunately the LP-4 never saw action and the type was declared obsolete in 1942.

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The LP-4 was replaced by the Dingo scout car in 1942. Another Australian designed vehicle based on a Ford truck chassis with the Marmon Herrington All Wheel Drive kit, 245 Dingos were built but none saw active service.

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This is the Canadian Lynx scout car was based on the Daimler Dingo and were operated by Canadian armoured car regiments and signals units in armoured formations. it had a crew of two and was usually armed with a single Bren LMG.

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The first true tank on this virtual tour is the Matilda Mk.II, which was the only British tank that was operational from the first day of the war in 1939 to the last day in 1945. The Australian Army's 4th Armoured Brigade used Matildas in the jungles of New Guinea and Borneo from late 1943 to 1945.

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The Matilda Tank-Dozer was an Australian modification of the Matilda Mk.II. It was used for engineering tasks including track construction through the jungle.

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The 2 pounder Tank Attack Carrier was a stop gap tank destroyer based on the British Universal Carrier. The chassis was lengthened and strengthened to take the weight of the 2 pounder gun, which could be rotated through 360 degrees. The engine was also moved to the front of the vehicle.

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In trials they proved effective with a low profile and were relatively fast and agile. The Desert War was almost over by the time production started however so the 200 Tank Attack Carriers remained in Australia to be used for training and home defence.

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One type of 2 pounder self propelled gun that did see service in the Western Desert was the 'Portee'. Early on the Desert War it was identified the 2 pounder anti-tank gun was prone to damage when being towed behind a vehicle over rough terrain. To remedy the problem the gun was mounted on the flatbed of a 15cwt truck (usually Morris, but also Chevrolet or Ford models) where it could fire from the vehicle if necessary but still be quickly unloaded for ground deployment.

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The AC1 Sentinel was the first (and only) tank Australian designed tank ever produced and it was the first tank to be built with a hull cast as a single piece. The AC1 was armed with a 2 pounder gun, the intended 6 pounder not available at the time of manufacture. Only 65 Sentinels were produced from 1942 to June 1943 when production was halted due to the large numbers of US and British tanks becoming available. The closest the AC1 got to action was when a squadron was used to represent German tanks for the film 'Rats of Tobruk' made in Australia in 1944.

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This Sentinel is also an AC1 modified to represent the AC E1 prototype (also known as the AC4) armed with a 17 pounder gun. The mantlet and gun mount were fabricated in the museum workshop.

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The Valentine Infantry Tank was intended as a replacement for the Matilda Mk.II. Initially equipped with the same 2 pounder gun like this one, later versions were up-gunned with the 6 pounder (57mm) and the 75mm. Mechanically reliable, 8000 Valentines were produced and served in North Africa, Europe, in the Pacific with the New Zealanders and on the Eastern Front with the Red Army.

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The Archer was a self propelled artillery piece based on the Valentine chassis mounting a rearward facing 17 pounder (76.2mm) anti-tank gun. It was designed in 1943 to get the new 17 pounder mounted on a proven vehicle as quickly as possible. Issued to Royal Artillery anti-tank regiments from October 1944, the Archer was deployed to Italy and northwest Europe. After the war the Archer continued service with the British Army of the Rhine until the 1950's and was also used by the Egyptian Army, last seeing action in 1956.

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The US M3 light tank known as the 'Stuart' in Commonwealth service was deployed by the Australian Army to New Guinea in late 1942 where they saw action with the 2/6 Armoured Regiment in the battles for Buna and Sanananda.

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The US M3 Grant medium tank became the standard AFV of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps from 1942. Although it had been planned to deploy the Australian 1st Armoured Division to the Middle East in 1943 the end of the Desert War removed the need to send this formation overseas. As a result Australian M3 medium tanks did not see any action.

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The M3 Lee was also supplied to Australia by the USA. In all 522 M3 Grants and 255 M3 Lee tanks were received by the Australian Army between 1942 and 1944. Even as late as 1955 the 2nd Armoured Brigade still operated 50 M3 mediums.

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Not surprisingly the ubiquitous M3 medium tank chassis was used to produce a number of specialist vehicles. This one is the Australian Yeramba self-propelled gun mounting a 25 pounder field gun. It was actually produced after WW2 and patterned after the Canadian Sexton SPG. Fourteen of these guns were delivered from 1950 to 1952 and saw service with the 22nd Field Regiment until 1957. They never fired a shot in anger.

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The Canadian Ram Kangaroo armoured personnel carrier was a vehicle based on the M3 chassis that did see action in WW2 from September 1944 until the end of the war in Europe.

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The US M4 Sherman formed the backbone of the armoured forces fielded by the Western Allies from 1943 onwards. Almost 50,000 M4s were produced in literally dozens of models and variants. This vehicle is the M4A1 with a cast hull and armed with a gyro-stabilized 75mm M3 gun. Another long-lived vehicle, Shermans remained in front line service with armies all over the world from 1942 to the late 1960s.

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The Churchill was designed an infantry tank following the experience of WW1 - heavily armoured with a slow speed and trench crossing capability. This Churchill Mk.VII armed with a 75mm gun was one of 31 vehicles brought to Australia for jungle trials in 1944. It was found to be superior to the Matilda due to better low speed handling and improved protection. The war ended however before any could see action.

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This Churchill AVRE (Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers) was a post-war British Army conversion of the Churchill Mk VII with the 75mm gun replaced by a 6.5-inch (165-mm) L9A1 demolition gun which fired a 64-lb (29-kg) plastic explosive-filled round used for demolishing emplacements and obstacles. A bracket was fitted to the front of the tank to carry large fascine bundles used to fill in ditches and trenches. The type served with the Royal Engineers until 1963.

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Another post war variant, this Churchill Flail FV3902 or 'Toad' was one of 42 vehicles built for the Royal Engineers in the 1950s. This example is the only known survivor.

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Three US built armoured cars in this photo from right to left - the White scout car (20,000 built), the T17E2 (Staghound AA) armoured car armed with twin .50cal M2 machine guns in a Frazer-Nash turret and the T17E1 Staghound armed with a 37mm gun. The last two whilst designed and built in the USA did not see active service with the US Army but were supplied to British Commonwealth forces as part of the lend lease programme. After WW2 the Staghounds served in many armies in western Europe, the Middle East, central and south America and Africa. Australia took delivery of the Staghound in 1943 and 18 vehicles were used with the 1st Armoured Car Squadron serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan between 1946-48. My father was a national serviceman in Australia in the 1950s and recalls Staghounds tearing around on exercise in western Queensland. In fact the last Australian Staghounds were not retired until 1970.

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The M3 half-track was the standard US half-track vehicle used through WW2 and long after. 40,000 of these vehicles were built (including the export M5 and post-war Israeli versions) seeing service in thirty countries.

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The US LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) or 'amphtrac' is an amphibious vehicle and landing craft used to ferry troops and equipment from ship to shore. The USMC, United States Army, and Canadian and British armies used the LVT during WW2 and continued in service until the late 1950s.

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Coming back to German vehicles (well actually Czech in this case) we have the Pzkpfw 38(t) (Panzerkampfwagen = armoured battle vehicle) armed with a 3.7cm gun. It was designed and produced by ČKD (Českomoravskß Kolben-Daněk) in Czechoslovakia as the LT vz. 38. After the German annexation in 1939 the Wehrmacht adopted the vehicle as the Pzkfpw 38(t), as it was superior to the early German Pzkpfw I and II. They were withdrawn from front line service with the Wehrmacht in 1942 but continued to be used by second line units and for anti-partisan operations. This example was brought to Australia from Norway.

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The Sdkfz 251 halftrack (Sonderkraftfahrzeug = special motor vehicle) was the standard German armoured personnel carrier throughout WW2. Over 15,000 were produced from 1939, with this example being a later 1942 pattern vehicle.

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The halftrack is in fantastic condition, with the interior looking factory fresh.

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The Sdkfz 250 was a smaller version of the 251 produced from 1941. It was designed as a command and reconnaissance vehicle. This 250 was found in Finland where it had served with the 6th SS Division 'Nord'. As part of Ausarmourfest there were quite a few re-enactors at the museum and they were very happy to pose for photos, as well as participate in some mock battles (more on that later).

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With the Pzkfw 38(t) outdated by 1942 it was decided to use the chassis to mount more powerful guns. Several vehicles including the famous Marder series were produced. This one is the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer which was the culmination of these developments. Armed with a 7.5cm Pak 39 the Hetzer entered service in July 1944. Fighting on the defensive in the last months of the war the Hetzer proved quite useful as it was small and easy to conceal, had good frontal armour, was equipped with an effective gun and as it was cheap to build could be supplied in decent numbers. The fighting compartment is cramped however (take it from me!), and the engine underpowered. After May 1945, production of the Hetzer, now designated ST (Stihac Tanku)-I, continued at Skoda and Praga Works in Czechoslovakia until the early 1960s. The Swedish army purchased 158 Hetzers between 1946 and 1952, which remained in service designated as the G-13 until the early 1970s. A small number of Hetzers remained in use by Warsaw Pact armies into the 1950s.

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The Jagdpanzer 4-5 Kanone is not a WW2 vehicle but owes many of its design features to the wartime Jagdpanzer IV. 770 vehicles were produced from 1965-67, and later some were converted to ATGM carriers and artillery observation vehicles.

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Just part of a tank but interesting all the same. This roof panel from an early model Tiger I was dug up in Ukraine. It appears to have been blown off by an internal explosions, likely the crew destroying their own vehicle after it broke down to prevent it falling into Soviet hands. The commander's cupola is one of only three of that type known to still exist.

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Finally we will move on to Russian AFVs. This Soviet T-60 light tank is armed with a 20mm TNSh cannon (tank version of the ShVAK aircraft cannon) and co-axial 7.62mm MG. Over 6000 of these vehicles were produced in 1941-42.

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The T-60 was replaced by the more heavily armed T-70 light tank mounting a 45mm gun.

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From 1942 to 1943 over 8000 T-70s were produced and remained in service up to 1948.

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The SU-76 used a lengthened and widened T-70 chassis to mount the 76.2mm anti-tank gun. Over 14,000 of these vehicles were built serving on the Eastern Front from 1942-45. Post WW2 the SU-76 was also used by East Germany and the PRC, and saw action with the DPRK during the Korean War and the NVA during the Vietnam War.

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Introduced into service with the Red Army in 1944, the T-34/85 was an improved version of the original T-34/76 that so shocked the Wehrmacht in 1941. 49,000 T34/85s were built and some are still in action today in Syria and with Houthi forces fighting in Yemen.

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The SU-100 mounts the 100mm D-10S anti-tank gun on a T-34 chassis. Entering service in 1944, the SU-100 was effective against the German Tiger and Panther tanks. It remained in service with Warsaw Pact and other communist forces for decades after the end of WW2, and some examples have seen action in Syria and Yemen as late as 2016.

I hope you have enjoyed this third instalment of the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum tour. Again I have not posted all my photos (just too many!) but it gives you a taste of the massive collection this museum has managed to accumulate in just a few short years, and the fantastic standard to which these vehicles are maintained. The fourth and last blog post will take us outside where we will see armoured vehicles in action getting noisy and dirty.

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  1. gully_raker's Avatar
    Wow! What a fantastic collection!
    World Class!
  2. Stumptonian's Avatar
    Great pics, Carl.
    Looks like a fantastic museum.
    My first love was armour, so this is right up my street.