Universal Carrier
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked
Caterpillar track
Continuous tracks or caterpillar tracks are a system of vehicle propulsion in which modular metal plates linked into a continuous band are driven by two or more wheels...

 vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 forces during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 platforms. With some 113,000 built in the United Kingdom and abroad, it was the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.

Design and development

The origins of the Universal Carrier family can be traced back generally to the Carden Loyd tankette
Carden Loyd tankette
The Carden Loyd tankettes were a series of British pre-World War II tankettes, the most successful of which was the Mark VI, the only version built in significant numbers...

s family which was developed in the 1920s, and specifically the Mk VI tankette.

The carrier put the driver and commander at the front sitting side-by-side; the driver to the right. The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear. The suspension was a mixture of the Vickers light tank and Horstmann
Horstmann suspension
Horstmann suspension is a type of tracked suspension devised by the British engineer Sidney Horstmann in 1922.The system uses coil springs and has the advantages of a relatively long travel and, consisting of a self-contained bogie that is bolted to the hull, causing little or no encroachment on...

 springs Directional control was through a (vertical) steering wheel. Small turns moved the front road wheel assembly warping the track so the vehicle drifted to that side. Further movement of the wheel braked the appropriate track to give a turn.

The hull in front of the commander's position jutted forward to give room for the Bren gun (or other armament) to fire through a simple slit. To either side of the engine were two areas in which passengers could ride or stores be carried.

Initially, there were several different types of Carrier that varied slightly in design according to their purpose: "Medium Machine Gun Carrier" (the Vickers machine gun
Vickers machine gun
Not to be confused with the Vickers light machine gunThe Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 inch machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army...

), "Bren Gun Carrier", "Scout Carrier" and "Cavalry Carrier".
However, production of a single model came to be preferred and the Universal design appeared in 1940; this would be the most widely produced of the Carriers. It differed from the previous models in having a rectangular body shape in rear section, with more space for crew.


Production of these combat vehicles began in 1934 and it ended in 1960. Before the Universal design was introduced, production was by Aveling and Porter
Aveling and Porter
Aveling and Porter was a British agricultural engine and steam roller manufacturer. Thomas Aveling and Richard Thomas Porter entered into partnership in 1862, developed a steam engine three years later in 1865 and produced more steam rollers than all the other British manufacturers combined.-The...

, Bedford Vehicles
Bedford Vehicles
Bedford Vehicles, usually shortened to just Bedford, was a subsidiary of Vauxhall Motors, itself the British subsidiary of General Motors , established in 1930; and constructing commercial vehicles. Bedford Vehicles was a leading international truck manufacturer, with substantial export sales of...

, the British branch of the Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

, the Morris Motor Company
Morris Motor Company
The Morris Motor Company was a British car manufacturing company. After the incorporation of the company into larger corporations, the Morris name remained in use as a marque until 1984 when British Leyland's Austin Rover Group decided to concentrate on the more popular Austin marque...

, the Sentinel Waggon Works
Sentinel Waggon Works
Sentinel Waggon Works Ltd was a British company based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire that made steam-powered lorries, railway locomotives, and later, diesel engined lorries and locomotives.-Alley & MacLellan, Sentinel Works, Jessie Street Glasgow:...

, and the Thornycroft
Thornycroft was a United Kingdom-based vehicle manufacturer which built coaches, buses, and trucks from 1896 until 1977.-History:Thornycroft started out with steam vans and lorries. John Isaac Thornycroft, the naval engineer, built his first steam lorry in 1896...


The Universal was produced in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 by Aveling-Barford, Ford, Sentinel, Thornycroft, and Wolseley Motors. By 1945 production amounted to approximately 57,000 of all models, including some 2,400 early ones.

The Ford Motor Company of Canada
Ford Motor Company of Canada
Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited was founded in 1904 for the purpose of manufacturing and selling Ford automobiles in Canada and the British Empire. The Ford Motor Company in Detroit transferred the patent and selling rights to the Walkerville Wagon Company, in order to avoid the tariff rates...

 manufactured about 29,000 of the Universal Carriers. Smaller numbers of them were also produced in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 (about 5,000) and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 (about 1,300).

Operational history

Universal Carriers were issued to infantry units for carrying support weapons (initially 10, 21 by 1941, and up to 33 per battalion by 1943). Artillery units used them as an artillery tractor
Artillery tractor
Artillery tractor is a kind of tractor, also referred to as a gun tractor, a vehicle used to tow artillery pieces of varying weights.-Traction:...

 for the Ordnance QF 6 pounder
Ordnance QF 6 pounder
The Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder 7 cwt, or just 6 pounder, was a British 57 mm gun, their primary anti-tank gun during the middle of World War II, as well as the main armament for a number of armoured fighting vehicles...

 anti-tank gun.

The British Carrier Platoon originally had ten Universal Carriers with three Carrier Sections of three Universal Carriers each plus another Universal Carrier in the Platoon HQ. Each Universal Carrier had a NCO, a rifleman and a driver/mechanic. One Universal Carrier in each section was commanded by a Sergeant and the other two by Corporals. All the Universal Carriers were armed with a Bren light machine gun and one Carrier in each Carrier Section also had a Boys anti-tank rifle. By 1941 the Carrier Platoon increased in strength to contained four Carrier Sections and one Carrier in the Carrier Sections also carried a 2-inch mortar. 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 by the PIAT
The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

. The Universal Carriers weapons could be fired from in or outside of the Carrier. A Carrier Platoon had a higher number of light support weapons than a Rifle Company.

Carrier Section
  • Orderly with motorcycle (Private) Sten

  • Commander (Sergeant) Rifle
  • Carrier driver/mechanic (Private) Rifle
  • Gunner (Private) Bren
  • Rifleman (Lance Corporal) Rifle and No.38 wireless set

  • Commander (Corporal) Rifle
  • Carrier driver/mechanic (Private) Rifle
  • Gunner (Private) Bren
  • Rifleman (Private) Rifle and 2-inch mortar with 36 rounds

  • Commander (Corporal) Rifle
  • Carrier driver/mechanic (Private) Rifle
  • Gunner (Private) Bren
  • Rifleman (Private) Rifle and PIAT


Mk. I
The original model.

Mk. II
Equipped with a towing hitch.

A flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

-equipped variant, using the "Flame-thrower, Transportable, No 2". The Mark I had a fixed flamethrower, Mk II had the projector in the co-driver's position. Both had the fuel tank within the rear compartment. The MkIIC (C for Canadian) moved the fuel tank to the rear of the vehicle outside the armour protection, allowing a third crew member to be carried.

LP1 Carrier (Aust)
Australian-built version of the British Bren Gun Carrier.

LP2 Carrier (Aust)
Australian-built variant of the Universal Carrier. Also produced in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...


2-pounder Anti-tank Gun Carrier (Aust)
The Carrier, Anti-tank, 2-pdr, (Aust) or Carrier, Tank Attack, 2-pdr (Aust) was a heavily modified and lengthened LP2 carrier with a fully traversable QF 2 pounder
Ordnance QF 2 pounder
The Ordnance QF 2-pounder was a British anti-tank and vehicle-mounted gun, employed in the Second World War. It was actively used in the Battle of France, and during the North Africa campaign...

 anti-tank gun mounted on a platform at the rear and the engine moved to the front left of the vehicle. Stowage was provided for 112 rounds of 2pdr ammunition. 200 were produced 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
Ordnance ML 3 inch Mortar
The Ordnance ML 3-inch mortar was the United Kingdom's standard mortar used by the British Army from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, superseding the Stokes Mortar.-History:...

 mounted in place of the 2 pounder. Designed to enable the mortar to have 360 degree traverse and to be fired either from the vehicle, or dismounted. 400 were produced and were ultimately sent as military aid to the Nationalist Chinese Army.

The Carrier, Universal, T16, Mark I. was a significantly improved vehicle based upon those built by Ford of Canada, manufactured under Lend Lease by Ford in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from March 1943 to 1945. It was chiefly used by Canadian forces during the war as an artillery tractor
Artillery tractor
Artillery tractor is a kind of tractor, also referred to as a gun tractor, a vehicle used to tow artillery pieces of varying weights.-Traction:...

. After the war, it was used by Swiss
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 forces. It was longer than the Universal with an extra road wheel on 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 by the Germans with a 3.7 cm PaK 36
PaK 36
The Pak 36 was a German anti-tank gun that fired a 3.7 cm calibre shell. It was the main anti-tank weapon of Wehrmacht infantry units until 1942...


Panzerjäger Bren 731(e)
Bren carriers captured by the Germans and fitted with a triple Panzerschreck
Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....

 mount, probably the first armoured vehicle to be fitted with anti-tank rockets.

Praying Mantis
the Praying Mantis was an attempt to produce a low-silhouette vehicle that could still fire over obstacles. A one-man design based on Carden-Lloyd suspension was not adopted, but the inventor was encouraged to design a two-man version. This version appeared in 1943 and was based upon the Universal Carrier. The hull was replaced with an enclosed metal-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 a machine-gun turret (with two Bren guns). The intention was to drive the Mantis up to a wall or hedgerow, elevate the gun, and fire over the obstacle from a position of safety. It was rejected after trials in 1944. A Mantis survives in the Bovington Tank Museum
Bovington Tank Museum
The Tank Museum is a collection of armoured fighting vehicles in the United Kingdom that traces the history of the tank. With almost 300 vehicles on exhibition from 26 countries it is the second-largest collection of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in the world.The Musée des Blindés in France...


A Belgian SPG development, in use from 1954 to 1962. The vehicle was called "Canon antitank d'infanterie automoteur 90mm" and served in infantry units with a paired ammunition carrier.

External links

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