Review by Peter Brown
Traditionally supplied with its military hardware by the United Kingdom, New Zealand found itself without the vehicles it needed just when it needed them most. This resulted in several home-produced vehicles, some more successful and practical than others and some perhaps too complicated for their own success.
In this area, the best-known may well be the Semple Tank which harked back to the earliest tracked vehicles in being based on a commercial Caterpillar D8 tractor. While it may look to be a strange idea to modern eyes, it showed great ingenuity in using what was available to produce an armoured vehicle with what limited means were available. Though it is perhaps best however that it was not called upon to be used in action, its development history makes fascinating reading.
Very different were the wheel and tracked Schofield vehicles. The first was what would now be called a proof-of-concept design but it had enough merit to be further developed from a machine-gun armed vehicle to one carrying a 2-pounder gun as a mobile tank destroyer. It was shipped to England and tested before being unfortunately lost.
More successful were vehicles built in New Zealand which were designed elsewhere. Most numerous were the tracked Carriers, the first were based on the contemporary Bren Carrier as built in the UK while most were built to the Australian Local Pattern design. This type is described in some detail including drawings from the original vehicle handbook.
The other vehicles were both wheeled, the Beaverette like the British design used an available car chassis to provide a basic reconnaissance vehicle which was limited by its 4x2 layout. More mobile was the Wheeled Carrier, using a Canadian-built 4x4 chassis fitted with an Indian-designed body it saw only limited active service.
The other two vehicles were tanks, at first sight the same as built but both modified. Many Valentines were supplied and used in action, these were all equipped with 2-pounder guns which only had armour piercing ammunition available for it. This drawback was partially overcome by making high explosive rounds by combining 2-pounder cases and American 37mm HE projectiles, but several tanks were converted to carry 3" howitzers from Matilda tanks. These served for several years post-war and even inspired a similar conversion on the Staghound armoured car in Italy.
Most numerous type in service were American Stuarts which were also modified. Many were the Hybrid type with the M3 hull and the turret devised for the M3A1 but without the latter’s turret basket. These had improved turret optics and some were tried as tractors for 155mm guns while others were converted to armoured personel carriers, gun tractors and even a recovery vehicle.
All these are described and illustrated using original photos, with 1/35th scale plans of the two tracked and the wheeled Carrier designs, Beaverette, both types of Schofield, the Semple, Stuart Hybrid and Valentine IIICS while colour schemes are given for the Semple, LP1 and Wheeled Carriers, first-pattern Schofield and Beaverette. Armed with this book a range of unusual and unique AFVs can be modelled. Whether you model or not the story of New Zealand’s AFV development and production is one well worth reading, especially when it is as well produced as here.
The book should be available from specialist booksellers, in case of difficulty contact the author/publisher direct via http://kiwisinarmour.hobbyvista.com/Publications.htm
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Page created 15 February 2004