The Machine Gun Carrier and Universal Carrier

Following the use of tankettes, the Universal Carrier was introduced in the late 1930s to provide mechanised transport to the Vickers MG Platoon both during WW2 and after the war. It wasn’t initially used with the Vickers machine gun as there was a dedicated ‘Carrier, Machine Gun’ which mounted the Vickers in the forward compartment.

Carrier, Machine Gun

The Machine Gun Carrier was one of the series of carriers in use by the British Army at the start of the Second World War. They included the Bren Gun Carrier, Scout Carrier and Cavalry Carrier alongside the Universal Carrier.

Bren [sic] gun carriers of 53rd Striking Force, Royal Armoured Corps, passing through a town in southern England, 9 August 1940.

A full PDF of the Instruction Book for the Machine Gun (and other) carriers is available on the Other Official Publications page.

Carrier, Universal

Gradually standardising on the Universal Carrier, the British Army developed a variant for Medium Machine Gun service. It mounted the Vickers on the engine deck so that it could be used in any direction. It was not intended to be used as an offensive vehicle; the armour was for low-level protection and the benefit of the carrier was its tracks enabling better off-road performance. From 1944, it was introduced across all machine gun battalions, previously having been used in single companies with the other companies using the 15-cwt truck.

PLATE 6 – Gun on emergency mounting

The Universal Carrier MMG saw extensive service in North West Europe, across the Machine Gun Battalions and the Independent Machine Gun Companies, as well as the Machine Gun Platoons of the Motor Battalions.

It was also used by the British-supplied allies, including the Dutch and the Polish.

The first Vickers machine gun manual that included the Universal Carrier is the 1944 Small Arms Training manual, Volume I, No. 7, Part II – available on the Small Arms Training page. Different configurations of carrier were utilised within the Platoon. The manual contains a series of stowage photographs (included below) and the Association has a copy of the draft photographs and covering information in its archives. These were taken at the Small Arms School, Netheravon.

The stores carried in each configuration varied depending on the role that it was carrying out.

The 1951 Infantry Training manual series on the Medium Machine Gun includes all the drills used for the carrier and the post-war stores carried.

The Platoon Commander’s Carrier

(MG Platoon (WW2)) Occupied by the Platoon Commander and two Driver / Operators.

1943 draft photograph of Platoon Commander’s Carrier

(MG Platoon (1951-)) Occupied by the Platoon Commander (a Captain), two Driver / Operators and a Driver. It also carried a Light Machine Gun, two No. 31 radio sets (forward and rear link) and a No. 88 radio set.

The Platoon Sergeant’s Carrier

(MG Platoon (WW2)) Occupied by the Platoon Sergeant, the Platoon Commander’s Batman and a Driver / Mechanic. It also carried the Platoon Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT).

1943 draft photograph of Platoon Serjeant’s Carrier

(MG Platoon (1951-)) The Platoon Sergeant used a Car, 5-cwt (“Jeep”) rather than a Carrier.

The Section Commander’s Carrier

(MG Platoon (WW2)) Occupied by the Section Commander, a Rangetaker and a Driver / Mechanic. Within the Platoon, there were two sections.

1943 draft photograph of Section Commander’s stowage

(MG Platoon (1951-)) Occupied by the Section Commander, a Driver / Operator, a Driver and a Private who was the Rangetaker. It also carried a Light Machine Gun, a Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT), a No. 31 radio set and a No. 88 radio set. There were three MMG sections.

The MMG Carrier

(MG Platoon (WW2)) Occupied by the Driver, the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.

(MG Platoon (1951-)) Occupied by the Driver, the No. 1 (a Corporal), No. 2 and No. 3. There were three MMG sections, each with two MMG carriers.

Specialist fittings

To make the Universal carrier suitable for the MMG, it was necessary to fit it with fixtures and fittings particular to the Vickers and the associated equipment. The engine deck mounting for the gun was a specialist emergency mounting that could be removed and the Mark IV tripod crosshead fitted.

There were also ammunition liner cages, brackets for the spare parts case and a special bracket to stow the Vickers safely rather than travel with it on the mounting. This could be used for the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT) on the Platoon Serjeant’s carrier.

Vickers MMG and PIAT stowage bracket

The Universal Carrier was developed in Mark I and Mark II variants which were converted to the MMG role. Different fixtures and fittings were used depending on the Mark of the carrier.

When the carriers with special fittings weren’t available, there is evidence of standard Universal Carriers being pressed into service with machine gun units.

2nd/7th Bn, Middlesex Regiment – Italy, 1944

The Universal Carrier saw service in Korea with the Machine Gun Platoons of Infantry Battalions serving there; however, it was replaced with the Land Rover Series 1 and the Austin Champ as the Universal Carrier was phased out during the 1950s.