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The Staghound Armoured Car in Australian Service
An early Staghound under test at the Mechanisation Experimental Establishment at Monegeetta. The two colour camouflage scheme was applied to early vehicles arriving in Australia. The seven digit Registered number is painted in black. The MEE sign, a white X on black background, is located to the left and above the number, and the Bridge Classification sign is located on the left front mudguard. (Aust Official)
by Paul D. Handel
The Staghound Armoured Car entered service with the Australian Army in 1943, and the last of the vehicles were retired in the late 1960s. The Staghound was best known in Australia for its post-Second World War service with Citizen Military Forces (CMF) armoured units. Despite its large size, it was a popular vehicle in its time. It was officially designed Car, Armoured, Heavy, but usually the users knew it simply as the Stag.
Following experience gained in the early battles in the Western Desert, the British War Office requested that the United States produce for them a medium armoured car which was larger and more heavily armed than previous designs. The Staghound Armoured Car was designed and produced in the USA by General Motors Corporation’s Chevrolet Division, with production commencing in mid 1942. It was intended to employ the Staghound in Armoured Car Regiments in the Reconnaissance role. The Staghound was designated by the US Army as T17E1, but the identification plates in the vehicles read Armored Car, Medium,M6, even though the vehicle was not standardised by the US Army.
The Staghound’s hull was a robust tank-like design of welded construction. It had a 3 man cast turret mounted centrally on the hull. Twin six cylinder Chevrolet engines were mated to two Hydramatic transmissions which gave the Staghound with a top speed of 55 mph. The engines could be operated individually in case of breakdown, thus allowing mobility to be maintained. Large 14.00 x 20 tyres enabled the Staghound to take advantage of its all-wheel drive capability.
A 37mm gun was mounted in the turret together with a co-axial .30 inch Browning Machine Gun. Those vehicles sent to Australia were fitted with a shoulder control for elevation only. Another Browning was mounted in a ball-mount in the right side of the glacis plate. A third Browning could be mounted on the turret for anti-aircraft defence, but this appeared to have been rarely fitted whilst in Australian service. 103 rounds of 37mm ammunition could be carried as well as 5000 rounds of .30 inch ammunition.
A No. 19 Wireless Set was fitted into the turret bulge for communication.
Staghound 6023278 undergoing a tilt test at MEE. The engine covers have been removed and instruments mounted over the open engine bay. It has no external armoured shield around the 37mm gun at the mantlet. The Australian turret stowage bin has not yet been fitted. (Aust Official)
Staghounds in Australia were fitted with a stowage box on the rear of the turret bulge. This toolbox was identical to those fitted to the Australian Cruiser Tank Mk1 (Sentinel), and is often seen on restored Staghounds in the UK and Europe, clearly showing the origin of the vehicle.
Due to its heavy and robust nature, the Staghound resembled something of a “Wheeled Tank”. It proved easy to drive though its width could be a handicap in close country.
A jettisonable fuel tank could be mounted on each side of the hull and these tanks, together with the vehicle’s main fuel tank, provided a total fuel capacity of 127 gallons.
A crew of five operated the vehicle – a driver and co-driver/bow machine gunner located in the forward section of the hull and the commander, gunner and loader sitting in the turret.
Employment by Other Nations
Although designed and manufactured in the USA, the Americans had no requirement for an AFV such as the Staghound. However, over 3,900 were produced and supplied to British and Commonwealth nations under Lend-Lease arrangements.
Arriving too late for service in the Desert Campaign, the Staghound was first used in action in Italy in 1943, and later in North-West Europe following the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy. The Staghound was used mainly in the reconnaissance role by Armoured Car Regiments, but could also be found in Headquarter Units of various formations as protection or command vehicles. A number of variants saw service, including cars with heavier armament such as a 3 inch Close Support Howitzer, or a 75mm Gun. An Anti-Aircraft variant was also produced, armed with twin .50inch Calibre Machine Guns.
After World War II, Staghound Armoured Cars were used for many years by a number of countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America.
Staghound Armoured Cars first arrived in Australia in late 1943 and were used in training by units of the 1st Australian Armoured Division in Western Australia. A total of 279 were received, the first arriving in August 1943 and 182 vehicles in total arriving by the end of that year. 18 vehicles were used with the 1st Armoured Car Squadron serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan between 1946-48, although the Staghounds were withdrawn in 1947. Further details of the 1st Australian Armoured Car Squadron can be seen in another article on this site “Australian Armour in Japan”.
When the Citizen Military Forces were re-activated in 1948, they, like the Interim Army (which subsequently became the Australian Regular Army), were equipped with the left-overs from the Second World War. The Staghound often replaced Matilda and Grant tanks for Home Training (that is training done from the CMF depots as opposed to Annual Camps or Continuous training), as initially they were much more reliable, easier to maintain and had more spares available. As a wheeled vehicle, they were much more suitable for training purposes than the tracked vehicles of the time.
In a spot of bother in close country. The Staghound 6023278 stuck between trees, with damage to the left front mudguard. The two machine guns are fitted, and the trials instruments can be seen behind the turret. (Aust Official)
By 1955, however, the situation had deteriorated. Although 275 Staghounds remained in the Australian inventory, the peacetime requirement for armoured cars was around 100. The spare parts situation was “unbalanced” according to the DRAC. In August 1956, the DRAC noted that all Staghounds were mechanically unreliable and would be a serious technical liability in an operational theatre, and recommended that only 69 vehicles be retained for training, plus a repair and maintenance stock for five years (approximately 50 vehicles) and that no reserve stock be maintained.
Staghounds were thus disposed of beginning in the late 1950s. Some were given to the RAAF as range targets, some were used on army AFV ranges as targets and yet others, with the 37mm gun de-activated sold to civilian purchasers. By 1970 there were only 36 Staghounds left in the Australian inventory, and they were then finally retired from service.
Colour Schemes and Markings
The first Staghounds arriving in Australia were given a coat of two colour camouflage paint. For reasons unknown, probably because of a mis-understanding, the complete US Army registration number was repainted on the vehicles, including the USA prefix. Later the USA prefix was dropped, but the seven digit registration number was retained. Vehicles seen in Australian Service usually carried numbers beginning with 6022xxx, 6023xxx or 6024xxx. Mostly the numbers were painted in white, although some camouflaged vehicles carried black numbers. No Staghounds in Australian service have so far been seen carrying British “F” serials or Australian numbers.
A Staghound displayed at the Army Tank Museum, Puckapunyal. This vehicle is marked as one belonging to the 1st Armoured Car Squadron , BCOF. (Army Tank Museum)
In Australian wartime service the Staghounds were normally finished in a single dark shade, probably Vehicle Dark Green or Khaki Green No.3. In the 1950s and 1960s the cars could either be left in the wartime colours or repainted in Deep Bronze Green, or occasionally the Olive Drab introduced in 1967, although this would be the exception rather than the rule.
The Staghound Armoured Car in Australian Service Photo Album
the thumbnails in the table below to view the images full size.
A caption is included below each image.
Image 1 - Staghound 6023278 showing the underside of the vehicle during the tilt test at MEE. The engine covers are on the ground behind the vehicle. (Aust Official)
Image 2 - A Staghound of 1st Australian Armoured Division bogged during training in Western Australia. A US Style jerrican is stowed on the left rear mudguard. The white 55 on a red square was the unit sign of the 2/1st Armoured Brigade Reconnaissance Squadron. The inverted triangle, the tactical sign of a reconnaissance unit, is painted on the glacis plate. (Army Tank Museum)
Image 3 - A parade of Canadian Scout, Cars M3 Grants and Staghounds in Melbourne, possibly in the early 1950s. The vehicles belong to 4/19 Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Regiment. Their unit sign, white on a light green background, and the formation sign of the 2nd Armoured Brigade (black mailed fist on a yellow background) can be seen on the leading scout car. The crews wear WW2 Service Dress, blancoed webbing and black berets with the Commonwealth Badge. (Army Tank Museum)
Image 4 - A Staghound of 2/14 Queensland Mounted Infantry in the 1950s. Differing state regulations in Australia required different approaches to vehicle markings. This vehicle carries “Wide Vehicle” painted across the mudguards and a Danger sign, possibly red on white, on the glacis plate. White painted width indicators are also fitted. (L.A. Wright Collection)
Image 5- The BCOF marked Staghound at Puckapunyal showing the turret and hull top. The turret stowage bin, similar to that on the Australian Cruiser Tank is clearly visible. The towing eye on the centre lower ear hull plate is a museum addition during the 1970s. (Army Tank Museum)
Article Text Copyright ©
2008 by Paul D.
Page Created 26 April, 2008
26 April, 2008
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