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WW2 British Armored Cars

Guy Light Tank (Wheeled)

UK (1939)
Armored Car – 101 built

In 1937, the British Army had just completed re-equipping its reconnaissance formations with a new armored car, the Morris CS9. However, the CS9 had one critical flaw: it only had two-wheel drive. The War Office was well aware of the superiority of a four-wheel drive armored car, however, time pressure had meant that they had selected the CS9, which was based off a commercial truck chassis, for service. With the CS9 in service, this gave breathing space to develop a four-wheel drive armored car. The first port of call was again Morris Ltd, with a joint venture with Steyr of Austria. They produced a large 4×4 vehicle that was delivered for tests. The trials went badly, with the report citing terrible mechanical performance. The final nail in the coffin for this vehicle was the Anchluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, which meant that Steyr now belonged to a hostile foreign power.

The failed Morris-Steyr armored car. Source: WO 194/44

The Morris company then adapted the technology obtained from Steyr for a new design, which also performed poorly in trials. A new contender was sought, and found, in the form of Guy Motors. The starting point for the Guy armored car, was their Quad-Ant field artillery tractor that was being trialed for use by the Army. The tractor had an armored body fixed over the chassis. The exact source of the body design is unknown, but the Guy armored car does have more than a passing resemblance to the Morris armored car, which had its body designed by the Woolwich Arsenal.

A Guy Quad-Ant FAT towing a 18-pounder Mk.IV gun on exercise somewhere in Britain. Some secondary sources state it too was equipped with a 4 cylinder Meadows engine, which produced some 58 hp. Source: www.oldcmp.net

Originally, the Guy armored car was meant to mount a turret very similar to that of the CS9, which was an open-topped cylinder armed with a Boys anti-tank rifle and a Bren light machine gun. However, before production began, the War Office changed the specifications and requested a fully enclosed turret with armament standardised to that of the Vickers Light Tank Mk.VI. This mounted both a .50 and a .303 Vickers heavy machine gun in a square fully enclosed turret. With this weapon change, the vehicle was reclassified as a ‘Light Tank (Wheeled)’. The suspected reasoning behind this change is that a 4×4 armored car could come close to the performance of a light tank, but at a much-reduced cost. At least one of the five Guy prototypes was placed in comparative trials against the Morris four-wheel drive armored car and an Alvis-Straussler built design. The Guy entry comprehensively beat its competitors in every field.

Following this, two prototypes were placed under troop trials with the 2nd Dragoon Guards. One was sent to Egypt where it suffered from severe cooling problems. The troop trials caused some minor modifications to be implemented, with the size of both the tyres and the gap between the wheels and the mudguards being increased.

The Guy Light Tank would begin to enter service in 1939, and would have a very short but interesting career.

Three views showing the prototype Guy Light Tank (Wheeled). The opening in the turret where the weapon mount would go is plated up for the trials. Ssource: WO 194/44

Design

The Guy Light Tank had a body made of 14 mm of armor, with a centralised driving compartment and a box-like structure around the driver’s head. Behind this, the main superstructure mounts a square turret. The sides of the body sloped slightly outwards from the chassis to the widest point, giving an appearance similar to modern Mine Resistant Vehicles, although there is no suggestion that this was done for protection from mines. From the superstructure roof, the rear engine deck sloped backwards to the rear plate.

The first prototype Guy Light Tank had riveted construction, along with all the usual weaknesses this entailed. At the time, the idea of welding the armor plate was considered impossible. Guy Motors, however, offered the War Office a deal. They thought they had cracked the problems with welding, and they wanted to try it on the new light tank. Guy Motors signed a contract that allowed them to experiment with welding, but should it fail, then the company would absorb the cost. The welding was a total success. It made the Guy better protected against small arms and more waterproof, thus being able to ford water bodies easier. Welding even made the vehicle slightly lighter. In addition, it made the vehicle a lot cheaper and quicker to build. The Guy Light Tank became the first vehicle in British service to be of entirely welded construction. The welding technique was then given to the War Office, for free, for use during the Second World War. After the war, the invention attracted an award from the Royal Commission for inventions.

The Guy Mk.I. This view is useful as it is nearly the same as the prototype pictured above, and allows the spotting of the differences. Note how the mudguards now run along the crease in the sides of the front hull instead of below them as on the prototype. (source Wikipedia)

The Guy was a rear-engine vehicle, with a petrol 4-cylinder Meadows 4.E.L, with a 95 mm bore and 130 mm stroke. The horsepower produced by this unit is up to some debate, as one primary source, albeit for the prototype, states the output as 22.38 hp. In contrast, most of the modern secondary sources state the output is 55 hp. The answer could be differing RPM’s when the measurement was taken, or the jump from prototype to production may have included a change in gearing.

The engine on the prototype was cooled by a gallay type radial-pump, linked to a four-bladed fan with 3.75 gallons of water. Ignition was of the coil type. The engine also had a Solex 25 RFGVL carburetor. The engine output fed through a four-speed gearbox, with one reverse gear. The forward gear ratios ranged from 7.33 to 1.1, the Reverse gear had a ratio of 10.41. The clutch was a Borg & Beck Dry plate. The wheels fitted to the prototype were Dunlop TG 10.50-16, but these would be increased in size on the production model. Breaking ot the wheels was both foot and hand, linked to Bendix 14in Ferodo systems on each of the wheels. Fuel capacity was 20 gallons, with a 9.5 mpg. Lubrication was provided by 1.5 gallons of oil.

In 1939, the War Office changed the standardised armament for light tanks, switching away from the .50 and .303 Vickers guns. Instead, the new weapons were to be 15 mm and 7.92 mm BESA machine guns. Thus, the design of the Guy Light Tank was updated as well. To differentiate between the two vehicles, those armed with Vickers Guns became the Mk.I, and those armed with BESA’s became Mk.IA. The changeover happened exactly halfway through production, with fifty Mk.I’s produced, and fifty-one Mk.IA’s.

Action Guy

In 1940, the War Office was requesting much-increased production from Guy Motors. However, even with the savings in man-hours that welding provided, the company was just unable to cope with the increased workload without prejudicing its other commitments such as building trucks. Thus, the design was handed to the Rootes group, which produced an almost identical vehicle which became known as the Humber Armoured Car. This was a Guy Light Tank body placed on a Karrier KT 4 artillery tractor chassis. In this guise, it became one of the outstanding success stories of British armored cars from the Second World War.

A column of Guy Mk.IA’s somewhere in the UK. Source: www.warwheels.net

The switching of production to Rootes Group left 101 Guy Light Tanks in service with the Army. The Guy had one unique property, it had enough space to carry around 10cwt (0.56 tons) of stores. This is a remarkably large volume of space, especially considering that the standard truck of the British Army was only rated to carry 15cwt (0.84 ton). This large capacity and roomy interior meant that the Guy Light Tank would be used for two very special roles.

Six Guy Light Tanks were formed into two troops, and joined by a platoon of motorcyclists. The formation carried many names. Officially, they were called either Mission No.11 or the GHQ Liaison Regiment. They also had the code name Phantom. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel George Frederick Hopkinson, the force consisted of about 120 personnel, a large portion of which were trained signallers. The role of Phantom was to provide liaison between foreign armies and perform intelligence gathering duties. This information was then passed to No.3 Air Mission in order to allow the RAF to perform accurate close air support, with relatively up to date information on the ground situation. The reconnaissance was also passed directly to the British Expeditionary Force HQ without having to go through the usual chain of command, thus the data could be acted on in a much more timely manner. Phantom also utilized signal intercepts to obtain information on German movements. Although the intercepts would be encoded, the originating type of unit could be determined, which helped place German formations.

One of Phantom’s Guy Light Tanks captured in France. This vehicle collection point is stated to be at Dunkirk. Source: ww2talk.com

During the battle for France, all the Guy Light Tanks sent to France were knocked out or captured. As the formation was atypical, it lacked the War Diaries that would normally be associated with combat and so we lack any detailed reports on how the Guy’s performed. One action involving a Guy can be pieced together from subsequent accounts and photographs.

On 27th May, Phantom was requested to support the 144th Brigade west of Wormhoudt. The area to their front was contested and the situation very confused. A Guy Light Tank, possibly commanded by Second-Lieutenant Piers Richard Edgcumbe, with Lance-Corporal Leonard Frank Webber as one of his crew, was approaching a café on the Esquelbecq to Zegers-Chappel road, named Hunter’s Rest. It appears from photographs that the Guy pulled out of a T-junction, and was immediately hit by a German anti-tank gun. The car rolled forwards off the road, and stopped partially in a shallow ditch. It was hit a second time, and started to burn. One of the crew was killed outright, the other two managing to get inside the Hunter’s Rest. It then appears SS personnel attempted to close with the two unarmed British soldiers and a bitter round of hand to hand fighting ensued. The British were using what items they could lay their hands on to defend themselves, even resorting to using the cast iron stove lids as weapons. Both British crew were killed.

Two shots of the Guy knocked out at the Hunter’s Rest, which can be seen in the background on the second shot. The two penetrating hits can be seen on the left hand side in the first photograph. One is just in the door, the other in line with the top of the mudguards. Source: ww2talk.com

After the six Guy’s were lost in France, the next role was as part of the Coats Mission. This was a close protection detail formed from the Grenadier Guards to protect the Royal Family. The guns and ammunition on the Guy Light Tanks were removed, and an extra seat fitted in the roomy hull. This, in effect, gave the vehicle the ability to function as an APC carrying three soldiers, or as a VIP transport able to seat one of the royal family, plus two bodyguards. The driver in both cases could double as a fighting-man or stay with the vehicle. Around eight of the Guy Light Tanks were so converted.

A column of four Guy Mk.IA Light Tanks, oddly they are all lacking guns and even smoke dischargers. Could they be from the Coats mission? Or are they simply training machines on exercise? There is unfortunately no way to tell from this photograph alone. Source: wardrawings.be

The remaining Guy’s were handed out to various regiments, most notably Belgium, Danish and Dutch units being formed in the UK. The Belgium forces received fourteen Mk.IA Guy’s on 2nd October 1941. That winter during an exercise, a local Home Guard platoon blocked a road with a hay cart to spring an ambush on a column being led by a Belgium Guy Light Tank, named Calamité. The Belgium driver reacted exactly as one should when in an ambush; get out of the killing zone. Thus he rammed into the hay cart at full speed. Needless to say, this gave rise to an inquiry, as the Home Guard had to explain to the local farmer why he would not be getting his cart (and hay) back, and the Belgium forces were billed for the damages caused.

The Guy’s remained in their role of training vehicles until they could be replaced with more standardised equipment, and were phased out of service in February 1943.

Dutch Guy Mk.I’s during the Week of Victory parade, held in Birmingham. The Dutch markings can be seen on the front right hull. On Belgium Guy’s they carried a roundel on the mudguards. Also of interest is the large lightly colored square under the gunners view port on the turret front. This may be a patch of gas warning paint, which would change color when it encountered contaminants. Such paint was often placed on tanks in France in 1940, although it disappeared after that campaign. Source: Nationaal Archief

In Dutch use, around four to five Mk.I Guy Light tanks were issued to reinforce the Humber Light Recognizance Cars the Armoured Car Squadron was then equipped with. After brief service as training vehicles, the Guy’s were withdrawn in January 1943. The Dutch soldiers took great pains to refurbish the Guy’s back up to the best standard they could, working hard to replace worn parts and get them in to the best condition possible. They were rather annoyed when the cars were simply sent for scrapping when they handed them over.

A Dutch Guy Mk.I arriving, with the Dutch Father Christmas, Sinterklaas (Sint Nicolaas) and two Zwarte Pieten (one is mounted in the Humber LRC behind) on board to give out presents to all the well behaved soldiers, such as the officer climbing on the side. The Germans did not get presents, only .50 Vickers Machine gun fire! (source: Nationaal Archief)

Conclusion

Although short lived and of a small production run, the Guy’s were Britain’s first truly modern armored car, with four-wheel drive and a welded hull. Up until this point, the armored cars had all been two-wheel drive, with a bolted armored body dropped onto a commercial car or truck chassis. The Guy would show that Britain was on the right course, as the Guy quickly morphed into the excellent Humber, which could keep pace with the other outstanding success story of British armored cars, The Daimler Dingo, which appeared the following year to the Guy.



Guy Mk.1 Armoured Car, standard livery, 1940.


Guy Mk.1a Armoured Car, armed with a Besa 15 mm heavy machine gun. Anti-invasion exercises with the Southern Command, 7 May 1941

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Prototype Mk.I Mk.IA
Height (turret roof) 7ft 6in 7ft 6in 7ft 6in
Width 13ft 9in 13ft 6in 13ft 6in
Width 13ft 9in 13ft 6in 13ft 6in
Length 7ft 1.5in 6ft 9in 6ft 9in
Crew Commander, gunner, driver
Armor 14mm max, rivetted 14mm max, welded 14mm max, welded
Firepower None fitted 1x .50 & 1x .303 Vickers machine guns 1x 15mm & 1x 7.92mm BESA machine guns
Engine Meadows 4.E.L
Horsepower 22.38 hp 53 hp 53 hp
Weight 4.5 tons 5.28 tons 5.28 tons
Speed Requirement asked for 40mph 53 mph 53 mph
Range 190 miles 210 miles 210 miles
Turning circle, Left 57ft
Turning circle, Right 47ft 6in

Sources

WO 194/44 Medium tanks and armoured cars, National Archives, Kew.
Mechanised Force, David Fletcher, ISBN-10: 0112904874
Armoured Car, Issue 16, March 1993
Tussen paard en pantser [Between Horse and Armour] written by Jan Hof, published by ‘La Riviere & Voorhoeve’ in 1990.
www.royalsignalsmuseum.co.uk
sussexhistoryforum.co.uk
ww2talk.com (1)
ww2talk.com (2)
ww2talk.com (3)
www.historywebsite.co.uk
www.warwheels.net

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5 replies on “Guy Light Tank (Wheeled)”

Another great article! For my 2 cents I far prefer the old page layout, but this one is a little easier on my aged eys

My only complaint of the new layout is that it’s too white. I like the “ghost” images at the top of the page and wish they covered the entire page. Also, I wish we could enlarge the images by clicking them.

Thanks for your observations
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