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in Australian Army Service

Part One



 Early Trials and Series 2 88 inch Wheelbase Models


Paul Handel 



Landrovers have been a part of the Australian military vehicle scene, in one form or another, for over fifty years.  These ubiquitous vehicles have been used in all manner of roles, from a simple cargo and troop carrier to missile armed vehicles. The following series of articles is not to be construed to be a detailed history of Landrover in Australian Army service, but rather a photographic representation of some of the derivatives which have seen service with, or were tested by, the Australian Army.


Early Days 

During mid 1949, a Landrover was first tested by the Australian Army. Carrying the Army Registration Number (ARN) 153 952, the “Truck, ¼ ton, Landrover”, appears to be one of the early model 80 inch wheelbase vehicles. It was painted the standard Landrover light green colour of the day. It was used in conjunction with a WW2 Jeep as a comparator vehicle during the development of the Truck, Special Survey, a jeep-based vehicle with aircraft tyres which had outstanding cross country mobility. 

Between May and August 1951, the Long Range Weapons Establishment (LRWE) undertook a reconnaissance in central Australia with a view to  testing a special vehicle (a modified Dodge Weapon Carrier) suitable for use cross country in their main rocket range area. The reconnaissance party were mounted in, amongst other vehicles, five special bodied Landrovers and six standard Landrovers.  The special bodied Landrovers were merely standard vehicles with a panel van style body at the rear.  The Technical Services Establishment, Army Branch was invited to send along an observer, thus providing direct Army interest in such trials. All 11 Landrovers were shod with 9.00 x 13 inch  tyres. The vehicles on the trial all carried the Commonwealth Government “C” plates rather than army registrations. 

In July 1951, another Landrover was trialled on behalf of the UK Ministry of Supply. This was one of the test beds mounting a Rolls Royce B 40 4 cylinder petrol engine, as fitted in the Austin Champ CT vehicle.  Although scheduled to be on trial for about 3 months, the vehicle was still running in mid 1955, and was performing reliability testing up to 100 000 miles. This was completed in early 1956. 

During 1958 a trial was conducted in order to determine a replacement vehicle for the WW2 Jeep, which was still in service with the Australian Army. Trials were held between the following vehicles, all in the ¼ ton load carrying class – Landrover Series 2 88 inch wheelbase, M38A1, Austin Gypsy, CJ-3 Jeep and a locally built Freighters vehicle.  All were in the ¼ ton 4x4 class, and an in service Australian Army Jeep was used as a comparitor vehicle.



Landrovers Purchased 

The Army purchased its first “regular” Series 2 short wheelbase (88 Inch) Landrovers in 1958 as a result of these trials.  Entering service in 1959, the vehicles were designated Trucks, Command and Reconnaissance, ¼ ton, and had very few specialised military fitments.  Soon after their acquisition, a number of variants began to appear.  These included vehicles fitted for radio, in this case the British B42/C47 series of radios and an extensively modified version mounting the 106 mm Recoilless Rifle. 

A number were converted to early pattern workshop vehicles, usually towing a WW2 modified Jeep Trailer.  These vehicles could carry lathes and other machinery and were issued to field workshop units of the Pentropic Division. At least one vehicle was also converted to a recovery version by 2nd Base Workshop at Moorebank. 

Some vehicles which had been retired were returned to service after being converted to a Ceremonial Vehicle by the Army. These had a well-upholstered rear body, specially built-up, with perspex screens and grab rails for reviewing officers.  Steps were provided at the rear, and some fittings were chromed and chrome hubcaps provided. It is likely they were re-numbered.



Landrover with 106mm Recoilless Rifle 

This uniquely Australian vehicle married the US M40A1 Recoilless Rifle and mounting onto a modified short wheelbase Landrover.  The basic vehicle had its canopy, rear seats, tailgate, towing pintle, windscreen and centre front seat removed.  Improved springs and shock absorbers were fitted and dual fuel tanks added. The front mudguards (wings) were modified and strengthened, and the rear body modified to accept stowage for  6 x 106mm HEAT rounds and 80 rounds of .50 inch tracer rounds for the .50 inch spotting rifle, used to range the main armament.  A bracket was fitted between the front seats to accept the nose wheel of the gun mounting.  “Aero” style windscreens for the driver and offsider were fitted, and a barrel clamp mounted on the dashboard for travelling. 

The initial vehicle underwent trials in 1962 at the Armoured Centre, and a quantity of the Series 2 vehicles were modified in various RAEME Workshops.  A number of the  Series 2A short wheelbase vehicles were also modified some years later. 

The Series 2 vehicles served with Anti-Armour units of the RAAC and Anti-Armour Platoons of infantry units.  Some of these Series 2 vehicles saw long service. For example, 1/15 RNSWL had four Series 2 vehicles until the introduction of the M113A1 Fire Support Vehicle (Scorpion turret) in 1979, and at least one of these was still serving with 6 RAR in the mid-1980s.  The Anti-Armour Platoon of 5/7 RAR had one of the 1/15 RNSWL vehicles in its regimental colours scheme in the late 1980s. 

The nature of the vehicles gave rise to several nicknames by the troops, “Sports Car” being one and “Gun Buggy” being another.



My long-time friend Norm Weeding has kindly allowed the use of some of his photos for this series of articles.  Following his military service, during which he recorded on film many of the vehicles used by the Australian Army, he toured extensively around Australia always with camera at the ready.  Mr Laurie Wright has, as always, provided timely and accurate advice from his vast knowledge of Australian military vehicles.




A still from a film showing the first Australian Army Landrover, carrying the number 153 952.  The trials unit sign is visible on the rear tailgate.  The early Landrover green colour is in evidence. (lrswb01.jpg) (from a Dept of Defence Film)
An Australian Army Jeep, a Landrover, which is most probably the UK Trials vehicle with Rolls Royce B40 engine, and an Austin Champ pictured around 1953.  The Landrover and Champ carry the Commonwealth number plates. (lrb40.jpg) (Dept of Defence)
The Landrover submitted for trials in 1958, to decide on a ¼ ton vehicle to replace the WW2 Jeep.  It also carries the Commonwealth number plate, which was common at this time for trials vehicles. (lrser2.jpg) (Dept of Defence)
A Series 2 Landrover in service with the Australian Army.  The vehicle is painted in gloss deep bronze green, and carries the unit sign of a field workshop and the formation sign of the 1st Pentropic Division.  The bridge classification disc is also painted green and can be seen under the formation sign.  The spare wheel is mounted on the bonnet, and the minimal modifications for Australian service – side lights and indicators – can be seen. (lrswb03.jpg)
This Series 2 Landrover with Jeep trailer was photographed in Tasmania in 1966.  The canopy has been removed and the vehicle has been fitted with an Australian brush guard on the front bumper. (lrswb06.jpg) (Photo courtesy Norm Weeding.)
Two “Command and Reconnaissance” Series 2 Landrovers head a convoy of vehicles from 103 Field Workshop in 1972. Aerials from the standard manpack AN-PRC 25 Radio Set  can be seen protruding through the left side windows of the canopies. (lrswb13.jpg)
A number of Series 2 vehicles were converted to workshop vehicles, and these towed modified Jeep trailers which were fitted with a canopy and some workshops tools.  This is a preserved vehicle, pictured at the RAEME Training Centre, Bandiana in 1986.  At least one Series 2 short wheelbase workshop vehicle served in South Vietnam. (lrswb07.jpg)
 A Ceremonial Series 2 carrying the Duke of Edinburgh during an inspection tour of 4th Cavalry Regiment.  The new bodies were built in RAEME workshops, and each of the old state-based Commands had one of these vehicles. (lrswb08.jpg) (Dept of Defence)
A rear view of the Ceremonial vehicle preserved at the Army Museum Bandiana.  The upholstered rear body, with Perspex screens, door and steps is shown, and the light gloss olive drab finish is typical of the Series 2 Ceremonial conversions. (lrswb09.jpg)
 The trials Recoilless Rifle (RCL) carrier.  This photo shows the gunner in position and a 106mm round being loaded.  The ammunition racks are visible above the tail light assemblies.  The RAAC crew members wear black tank coveralls with ’37 Pattern web equipment. (lrswb10.jpg) (Dept of Defence)
Four of the RCL vehicles of 1/15 RNSWL, photographed in 1976. All carry the unit sign, 37 on an RAAC flash, and the 2nd Division formation sign. The cut away front mudguards are seen in this view, as are the “aero” windscreens for the two front crew members. (lrswb14.jpg)
Two of the vehicles from the previous photo turned out for the Silver Jubilee Parade in Sydney in December 1977.  The just-painted olive drab colour has also been applied to the 106mm RCL. (lrswb12.jpg)
One of the ex-1/15 RNSWL RCL vehicles serving with 5/7 RAR in the late 1980s.  The Battalion  painted all its combat vehicles in a camouflage pattern at this time, with green and dark brown being applied over the standard olive drab. (lrswb15.jpg)
Another of the ex-1/15 RNSWL RCL vehicles, this time pictured on a truck in the 6RAR compound at Enoggerra in Queensland.  This shows another style of camouflage of sand and black. (lrswb16.jpg)


Article Text Copyright © 2001 by Paul D. Handel
Page Created 08 October, 2001
Last Updated 09 October, 2001

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