African Reconnaissance Cars
South Africans referred to the vehicle as the "South African Reconnaissance
Car, Mark -" while the British referred to the vehicle as "Armoured
Cars, Marmon-Herrington, Mark -". The South African name for the vehicle
is a more accurately description. There were actually eight versions of
the South African Reconnaissance Car. The last three (Mk VI, VII, VIII)
were produced as prototypes only. Also, the quantity of eight includes
treating the Mark IV and the Mark IVF as different versions.
Final assembly of these armoured cars was accomplished by the Dorman Long structural
steel company. Armour plate was made by the South African Iron & Steel
Industrial Corporation. Prior to the Mark IV, the chassis was assembled
by Ford Motor Company of South Africa (Pty.) using chassis components imported
from Canada and based upon the pre-war Ford 3 ton lorry. The chassis was
modified to four wheel drive using Marmon-Herrington supplied conversion
kits. In the Mark IV, the M-H automotive components were mounted directly
on the armoured hull. The Mark IVF used automotive components from Canadian
Ford F60L 4 wheel drive 3 ton lorry chassis instead of M-H components.
This was due to major difficulties in getting M-H components in 1942. Armament
came from the UK except for the .30 cal. Browning machine guns on the Mark
IV and later models. Please note that the M-H did NOT supply the turret
and armour. While M-H did manufacture armoured cars during the 1930's in
very small quantities, its main product were these 4 wheel drive conversion
kits. It is also interesting that the Mark IVF was called the "Armoured
Car, Marmon-Herrington, Mark IVF" by the British when there was no Marmon-Herrington
components in the vehicle at all.
The Mark I was actually a 2 wheel drive front engined vehicle. It only served
in the South African "Union Defence Force". A total of 113 were built.
Armament consisted of a single Vickers .303 MMG in a circular turret and
a .303 Vickers mounted on the left hand side. Initial delivery was May 1940.
The Mark II was a four wheel drive front engined vehicle. It served with both
the UDF and British forces. It was initially delivered to UDF armoured
car companies in November 1940 while the first units in the Middle East
received them in March 1941. A total of 887 Mark II were built. Deliveries
ended in May 1941. Armament was initially that of the Mark I. However,
the turret and armament were subsequently changed for those serving in
the Middle East to a flat faced turret mounting a .55 cal. Boys ATR and
a Bren LMG. There were pintle mountings on the front roof for an additional
Bren LMG and a pintle mounting for a Vickers MMG at the rear of the turret.
However, it appears that the second Bren LMG was rarely carried.
The Mark III was very similar to the Mark II in appearance. However, it had
a shorter wheel base (117 inches instead of 134 inches). Armament was the
same as the Mark II on Middle East service. A total of 2,630 were produced
with deliveries from May 1941 through August 1942.
There were two versions of the Mark IV. These were the Mark IV itself and the Mark IVF.
The Mark IV design was a rear-engined vehicle of unique construction. Instead
of using a chassis, the automotive components were attached directly to
the all-welded armour hull. The vehicle mounted a 2 pdr on a field-type
mounting instead of a tank mounting. A .30 Browning MG was on a "coupled"
mounting with the 2 pdr. The turret didn't have a mantlet but rather the
weapons fired through slots in the turret face. Another .30 Browning MG
was mounted on the turret roof on an AA mounting. A total of 936 Mark IV
were built commencing in 1943.
The Mark IVF was developed because of shortages of M-H automotive components.
Hellenic Army Mark IVF: a survivor (Click on the image for further information)
the Mark IVF, the automotive components from the Canadian Ford F60L 4 wheel
drive 3 ton lorry chassis were used. Apparently, the automotive components
were stripped from F60L that were diverted to South Africa from British
War Office orders destined for the Middle East. These were then directly
mounted on the armour chassis as in the Mark IVF.
Mark IVF for sale
(Click on the image for further information)
components on the F60L were almost identical to the M-H components. The
basic design and armament for the Mark IVF is the same as the Mark IV.
A total of 1,180 Mark IVF were made.
can be seen, it is highly debatable whether to treat the Mark IV and the
Mark IVF as one version or two separate versions.
The Mark V was a vehicle that employed a suspension system of four rigid axles
with power applied only to four of the eight wheels. At the initial tests
trials in February 1942 the vehicle weighed 16 tons without armour, this
gave an acceptable performance on road and other surfaces, however in soft
sand the vehicle soon bogged down.
SA National Museum of Military History
Development continued to a point where the vehicle was sent to the Middle east for
trails. Armour of 60mm and a six pounder gun added to the weight, which
went up to 23 tons.
No details have been discovered about the ultimate fate of this vehicle, as the project was soon abandoned.
The Mark VI was an eight wheel armoured car similar to the German heavy armoured
cars. It was a rear-engined vehicle that used 2 sets of M-H 4x4 components
and mounted 2 Ford V-8 engines. Armament for prototype #1 was a 2 pdr gun
with a coaxial .30 Browning MG and twin .30 Browning MG on a ring mount
on the top of the vehicle. Prototype #2 had a 6 pdr gun, a coaxial 7.92
mm Besa and a .50 cal. Browning in an AA mount on the top of the turret.
It was designed for use in the North African desert but was not ready in
time. 750 cars were ordered in 1942 for delivery but delays in the receipt
of automotive parts from North America held back production of all armoured
cars in 1942. By the time production was ready in 1943, it was clear that
this design was no longer needed. Production was cancelled.
The Mark VII was a front engined car without a turret. Armament was a Vickers
.303 cal. MMG on an open ring mounting. It was not produced beyond the
The Mark VIII was also a conventional front engined vehicle but mounting a 2
pdr gun in a long turret. This also failed to get beyond the prototype
units that used the Mark II and/or Mark III versions of this vehicle in
the Middle East included the King's Dragoon Guards, the Royal Dragoons,
the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, the 3rd South African Reconnaissance
Battalion, the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment, the 6th South African
Armoured Car Regiment and the 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion.
There may have been others. In addition, the 3rd Indian Cavalry regiment
had a small number of these vehicles (not sure if Mark II or Mark III)
in Malaya in 1941/1942.