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Corowa Military Vehicle Rally

 

The Russian T34/85 in action at the Corowa airport. The tank is still in excellent condition due to its continued indoor storage.    

by Paul D. Handel

 

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Introduction 

Since 1980, military vehicle enthusiasts have gathered in the town of Corowa, situated on the NSW/Victorian border, to see what has become the largest military vehicle rally in Australia. The event has become known as the Annual GPA Swim-in and Ex-Military Vehicle. In recent years the event has been “themed” and in 2008 it was the Year of the Tracked Vehicle, and in 2009 it was the year of the Amphibian and the Year of the Blitz 2. This mainly photographic report covers the events in 2008 and 2009. It focuses on armoured vehicles, although it should be remembered that these form only a small part of the vehicles attending.

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29th Annual Event 2008

This event recorded 179 vehicles in attendance and will be remembered for the extreme heat, the temperature touching 40 Degrees Celsius on several days.

The attendance of many different tracked vehicles at the rally was good to see.  The star attraction was undoubtedly the T34/85 Russian tank, from the collection of the Australian War Memorial. The tank was originally given by the Soviet Government to the Australian Government, and the AWM recently made a long-term loan of the tank to the Army Museum Bandiana. The tank was put into running condition by the staff of the Army Museum Bandiana. Accompanying the T34/85 from Bandiana were an M113A1 Fire Support Vehicle with Saladin Turret, an M113A1 Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle with Scorpion Turret and a Tracked Rapier mounted on a modified M548A1 chassis. The Tracked Rapier was from the collection of Tim Vibert.

 

Corowa 08-05 An Australian Army Mack carrying the Australian Army Tank Museum’s M113A2 Prototype. The M113A2 was one of four prototypes. The Mack transport vehicles were of great interest to the public as being examples of current military equipment.

 

The Army Tank Museum, Puckapunyal, participated in the rally for the first time, bringing an M113A1 Medium Reconnaissance vehicle with Scorpion Turret, a prototype of the M113A2 with Australian designed machine gun turret and an M3 halftrack modified by the Israeli Defence Force to mount a 90mm cannon.  The IDF halftrack had only recently completed a restoration and repaint, and despite some cooling and tyre problems ran very well.

Two M3 Stuart Tanks were present, and despite mishaps with both prior to the convoy run through the town on Saturday, both vehicles ran very well.  These vehicles were a credit to their owners. The large contingent of machine gun carriers was quite a sight, with many variations of colours and markings.

 

Corowa 08-02 One of the M3 Stuart Light Tanks attending the rally. The stowage boxes fitted to the right front and rear of the tanks are common to many Commonwealth Stuarts.

 

John Belfield brought along his Linn Halftrack, which has a retractable tracked bogie unit. It is understood this vehicle was used by the US Navy during WWII. Being most unusual the vehicle attracted plenty of interest. A second IDF modified halftrack was in attendance, fitted with the GM 6V53 Diesel engine, and most participants agreed it was the loudest vehicle in the rally.

Other armoured vehicles included an M8 Armoured Car and  Ferret Scout Cars.

As with most military vehicle rallies, the ubiquitous jeep was well-represented, as was the Landrover family and Austin Champs. Dodge Weapon Carriers and Studebaker trucks were also in attendance. The Canadian Military Pattern vehicles, known as Blitzes in Australia, were also evident amongst the large numbers of wheeled vehicles attending.

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30th Annual Event 2009

The 2009 Rally had as its theme the Year of the Amphibious Vehicle and Year of the Blitz 2. As the rally originated with Ford GPA (amphibious jeep) enthusiasts, it was fitting that this year’s rally was dedicated to the amphibian theme. Apart from a number of the small Ford GPA amphibians, a DUKW participated in the rally, as well as a LARC V which was brought along by the Army Museum Bandiana from their large collection of Australian Army vehicles.

The total number of vehicles registered for the event was 194. The organizers were hoping to break the 200 figure. 

John Belfield actually swam his Buffalo tracked amphibian in the Murray River at Corowa. The Buffalo was used by the Australian Army very late during WWII for training and then served on until the mid- 1950s.

 

Corowa 09-10 The LVT(A)4 Buffalo tracked amphibian belonging to John Belfield. This vehicle was floated in the Murray River during the rally in 2009. It is shown aboard a modified 15 tonne Tilt Bed Trailer towed by an M816 Recovery Vehicle.

 

The Australian Army Tank Museum attended for a second time, and brought along the M113A1 Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle with Scorpion Turret, the M3 Halftrack modified by the Israelis to carry a 90mm gun and the Canadian Scout Car Lynx.

The British Scorpion Light Tank Familly was represented by Colin Brown’s Striker Anti-Armour variant and a Sabre all the way from Tasmania. The Sabre is one of the later versions of the Scorpion with a Fox armoured car turret and 30mm gun.

Two very authentic re-creations of Australian wartime vehicles made their appearance. A 3 inch Mortar Carrier, mounted on a 2 Pounder Carrier hull was a very nice conversion. Although Australia made some 400 of these vehicles, all were sent to India and thence China during the war. The Chevrolet CMP Halftrack, although only ever made in prototype form, was another rare sight. This was made by Bob Moseley from Adelaide.

A number of Australian machine gun carriers made their appearance, as well as numbers of jeeps, Studebaker and GMC 6x6 trucks and Landrovers.

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Conclusion

Credit is due to the members of the Khaki Vehicle Enthusiasts Inc. who do an excellent job of organizing the rallies. Rick Cove and Jan Thompson in particular should be complimented on the organization and execution of the event. The 31st annual event for 2010 is already in planning. It will be themed as the year of the jeep, but any ex-military vehicles are welcome.If you are a military vehicle enthusiast in Australia then you should make an attempt to attend future rallies at Corowa.

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Corowa Military Vehicle 2008 & 2009 Photo Album

 

  • The M3A1 Stuart driven by the owner Todd Vail moving from the airport to the forming up place in town prior to the parade. This vehicle suffered a rollover when loading, but with some care was back in action for the  rally .
  • The M3 half track of the Australian Army Tank Museum. This vehicle was converted by the Israeliís to mount a 90mm DEFA gun, which is unfortunately not fitted to this example.
  • An M8 Armoured Car prior to the parade through the Corowa township. These vehicles were not used by the Australian Army.
  • The Tracked Rapier belonging to Tim Vibert, finished in desert sand colour. This is an ex-British Army vehicle.
  • The Linn half track restored by John Belfield. It is believed that some of these vehicles were used by the US Navy during WWII for the recovery of landing craft. The unique drop down track units are an interesting concept.
  • Two Ferret Scout Cars. The olive drab on is a Mark 2 representing a vehicle belonging to 1/15 Royal NSW Lancers and the two tone black and green  version is a Mark 1/2 shown in British Army markings.
  • A nicely restored Machine Gun carrier LP2A. This is a very late model evidenced by its number.
  • The M3 Israeli Halftrack and M113A2 Prototype vehicles of the Australian Army Tank Museum aboard a Mack Freightliner for their return to Puckapunyal. The Mack is equipped with a side-loading crane and is towing a 20 tonne Plant Trailer.
  • A real rarity in the MG carrier world. This is an LP2 MG Carrier fitted with prototype hinged front idlers instead of the sliding centre bogie to achieve the track displacement. This equipment was fitted to the 12 Tracked trucks manufactured in 1944.
  • The Canadian Lynx Scout Car of the Australian Army Tank Museum, being unloaded at the Corowa airport. It is marked as a vehicle belonging to the 1st Australian Armoured Car Squadron serving with BCOF Japan.
  • An Australian 3 inch Mortar Carrier. This vehicle has been mocked up on the hull of a 2 Pounder Carrier, as no Australian Mortar carriers of this type remained in Australia. It is an excellent conversion, although it is understood there is a modern engine and gearbox under the bonnet.
  • A mock-up of an Australian Halftrack prototype on a Chevrolet CMP chassis. This vehicle is configured as in its trials, Another excellent example of mocking up a vehicle that no longer exists.
  • An Alvis Sabre fitted with 30mm Rarden cannon. This vehicle was transported from Tasmania specifically to attend the Corowa rally. One of the later variants of the Alvis Scorpion light tank family.
  • An Alvis Striker anti-armour vehicle. This vehicle was equipped with Swingfire missiles in an armoured box on the top rear of the hull. The box could be elevated and the missiles fired whilst the crew remained under armoured protection. The vehicle is owned by Colin Brown.
  • A nicely maintained Centurion Mk 5 Main Battle Tank. This Centurion mounts the A type barrel and was one of the batch purchased by Australia from British stocks in Hong Kong.
  • The LARC V (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) of the Australian Army Museum Bandiana. This particular vehicle is fitted with a HIAB crane and served with the ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition). The Australian Army supported the ANARE for 46 years using DUKWs and LARCs.
  • The DUKW of the Australian Army Museum Bandiana. This vehicle has the standard yellow-painted upper portion of the hull to assist visibility by other craft when in the water.
  • The Ford GPA Amphibian of the Australian Army Museum Bandiana.
  • An ex-British Army Saracen 6x6 Armoured Personnel Carrier spotted amongst the vehicles on display at the airport.
  • Two Ford CMP 4x4 ambulances. These are Australian conversions of the ubiquitous Blitz. Officially they were known as Trucks, 3 ton, Ambulance, Aust No. 2.
  • A very unusual conversion of the CMP family, the 2 Pounder Portee. This vehicle carries a 2 Pounder Anti-tank gum on the rear, which may be fired from the vehicle or have the wheels replaced on the carriage and used in its more normal ground role. The owner of this vehicle is Tim Scriven.
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Article Text Copyright © 2009 by Paul D. Handel
Page Created 25 April, 2009
Last Updated 29 April, 2009

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