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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hero Carrier

Mid week quiz: This week I asked you to identify this tank. Answer as usual after the article.

Last week I was asked to do an article on the humble British Carriers, so here it is.

The carrier series has several names, the two most common ones are the Bren Gun Carrier and the Universal Carrier. what many people don't realise is those two are different vehicles. But as the Universal Carrier came after the Bren Carrier was introduced, they are often misnamed Bren Carriers. The main difference is the body of the Bren Gun Carrier has a small sloped armoured compartment on the back, capable of fitting one man, while the Universal Carrier has the famous square box all the way around the back.

The role of the Bren Gun Carrier was, as its name suggests, to carry the two men of a Bren Gun or Boys Rifle team and their weapon under light armour.
The Carrier was given to infantry units to provide a utility vehicle to do several tasks, however infantry commanders often saw it as armoured, and therefore a tank. This, or dire circumstance, often led to the little Carrier being thrown into the front line of battle.
the honourable Christopher Furness
 Lieutenant Christopher Furness commanded a section of Bren Gun Carriers belonging to the 1st Welsh Guards in 1940 as part of the BEF in France. He was born in London in 1912, the son of a British Peer. In May 1940 he was at the city of Arras in the aftermath of the famous counter attack.
At some point prior to the battle that comes later Lt Furness was wounded by enemy fire, some sources state it happened on the 22nd of May, others over night on the 23rd/24th of May. Either way Furness refused to be evacuated and remained in command of the section of three Carriers.

After the Arras counter attack had failed the Germans had continued to advance deeper into France. By the 23rd of May Arras was surrounded on three sides, so the Welsh Guards had no other option but to retreat. The orders for retreat were issued about midnight, with instructions for the infantry to move out in individual companies and the first men began to move about 0200. A bigger question was what to do with the motor transport which comprised of 40 trucks. The main road was unusable, so a much narrower road was chosen. Lt Furness with his three carriers and ad-hoc formation of three Mk VI light tanks were to provide cover for the column. Luck was with the Welsh Guards, as there was a thick blanket of mist covering the area. The previous three days had all been bright and clear.
After winding their way down the road for about three miles they stumbled upon a strong German position. They were dug in on a small hill, with wire, heavy machine guns and anti-tank guns. The column was still hidden in the mist, however if the mist lifted the Germans on their hill would see the soft skinned vehicles laid out in front of them like a shooting gallery. The quartermaster explained to Lt Furness it would take some time to get the column turned around on the narrow road. Lt Furness still sporting his previous wound replied:
"Don't worry about Jerry, I'll go shoot him up and keep him busy while you turn and get out."

With that his three Bren Carriers, with the three Mk VI light tanks set out to attack the Germans.

The light tanks set up a base of fire and started shooting at the Germans, however they were all quickly set on fire by the German anti-tank guns. However the lighter, smaller and faster Carriers were able to evade the German anti-tank gun fire. Not so the colossal amount of small arms rounds the Germans fired at the Carriers. Such was the volume of fire Carrier #3 had the bi-pod shot off its Bren gun. Soon all the Carriers had wounded men on them. Lt Furness led his Carriers along until nearly on top of the German position then began to drive in a circle around the German hilltop all the while firing with every weapon they could. They managed several circuits inflicting very heavy casualties on the Germans. However the German return fire was beginning to take its own toll. In Carrier #1 Lt Furness was the only man alive, and when the driver had been killed the Carrier had halted. In Carrier #2, just behind Carrier #1, Guardsman David Williams had been killed and the other crew wounded.
At this point Lt Furness dismounted from his Carrier, and seeing the Germans only a short distance away charged, on his own, into the midst of the superior German force. During the vicious hand to hand combat that followed Lt Furness was killed. His actions had allowed the most of wounded crews from Carrier #2 and the light tanks to be evacuated.
Carrier #3 had its Bren Gun jam earlier in the battle, so had pulled back. In some dead ground the crew put their weapons back in order. Then reports that other parts of the column were under attack from a machine gun came in. This lone Carrier went out looking for the gun. However nothing could be found so Carrier #3 then returned to the original German hill to continue the attack alone. As they approached the hilltop they noticed an eerie silence. The Germans had evacuated after the losses inflicted upon them by Lt Furness and his Carriers.
As Carrier #3 was withdrawing back down the hill, picking up wounded from a nearby infantry battalion, it was hit by an enemy AT gun from a wooded area, the shot hit the rear of the carrier and knocked out the engine.

For his actions Lt Furness was awarded the Victoria Cross, the column of trucks he gave his life to defend were able to turn around, and retreat using another road. All reached their destination without a scratch.

Image Credits:
wikimedia.org, onlytruecars.com and nzetc.victoria.ac.nz

Mid week Quiz:
From the Photo the British intelligence officers had this drawing done:
Its the Type 2 Ka-Mi, Japanese amphibious tank, only its not got the floats fitted which you're more used to seeing it with. The link has pictures of it with both floats fitted and without.