Table of contents
|On to an article by Paul Handel on the Oxford Carrier
|The article below was written by Mike Cecil, a senior curator at the Australian War Memorial.|
OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE: The Australian Connection
During the latter half of the 1940s, the Australian Army certainly had the intention to supersede the 909 LP2A Carriers then in service with a more modern and effective carrier. The Oxford Mk1 Carrier was indeed imported for evaluation purposes in the late 1940s as a possible replacement. While the detailed results of that evaluation have not yet come to light, what is known is that the LP2A Carrier was considered by this stage to be only useful for training. This was further reinforced during the early stages of the Korean War, where the " .. use of Carriers MG (Aust) No.2A in the Korean War proved conclusively that it was not suitable for the role of an MG Carrier in modern warfare" Simply, the Australian Army were looking for a modern Carrier to replace the now obselescent LP2A Carriers of World War 2 vintage, and the Oxford was a possibility.
The Oxford, while more modern than the Australian LP2A, was a late-war development which, by 1949, was about to be superseded by an even more modern Carrier, the Cambridge or, "Carrier, Tracked, FV401". The FV401 was first proposed in 1946 and by the late 1940s when the Oxford Carrier was brought to Australia, the pilot model Cambridge Carrier was nearing completion in the United Kingdom. The Cambridge Carrier was far more advanced than the Oxford. It was to utilise independent torson bar suspension protected by armoured skirting, had a better internal crew layout and greater overhead armoured protection. The rear-mounted engine was the powerful Rolls Royce B80.
In all, the prospect of replacing the LP2A with Cambridge Carriers looked very promising. Hence, the Australian Army decided to await developments with the Pilot Model Cambridge. On 9 November 1951, approval was given for the procurement of 482 vehicles as replacements for the LP2A Carriers . It was anticipated that the vehicle would be the FV401 Cambridge Carrier, and advice was received from the United Kingdom that, once a firm order was placed, this number would be included in the scheduled production in the United Kingdom. Delivery was expected to commence in late 1953, so there was nothing to be gained by procuring the older Oxford Carrier in the interim: the LP2A would suffice until the Cambridge became available. It was for this reason that only one Oxford Carrier, assigned ARN 153953, was brought to Australia. Several references, particularly during 1952, indicate that defence planning in relation to carriers was predicated upon receipt of Cambridge Carriers.
But events in the United Kingdom changed this, as the FV401 was not developed beyond the pilot model stage. Developments in the UK and elsewhere during the mid to late 1950s also changed the basic carrier from an open topped, top entry and exit vehicle to a more combat capable, fully enclosed vehicle with rear entry and exit. In the United Kingdom, this was to become the FV432 APC, while the Canadians were developing the ill-fated XC1 Bobcat APC and the United States were working on what was to become the very successful M113 APC. The abandonment of production of the Cambradge coupled with the developments in fully enclosed carriers delayed the procurement by Australia of a tracked replacement for the LP2A. While the LP2A went out of service in the mid-1950s, it was largely replaced by wheeled vehicles: the Ferret scout car and Saracen wheeled APC. It was not until nearly 10 years later, in early 1965, that Australia received its next tracked APC: the M113A1.
How different it may have been in Australia if the Cambridge Carrier had gone on to production!