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.
A full PDF of the Instruction Book for the Machine Gun (and other) carriers is available on the Other Official Publications page.
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.
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.
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 Platoon Commander’s Carrier
(MG Platoon (WW2)) Occupied by the Platoon Commander and two Driver / Operators.
(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).
The Section Commander’s Carrier
(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
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.
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.
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.
- Fulham, Kevin Wj (2019). ‘Photos of Prinses Irene Brigade’ shared on ‘The British Army 1939-45’ Facebook group on 26 September 2019. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/411945975837862/
- Laing, 1945a
- War Office official photographer (1940) H 2919. London: Imperial War Museum. Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197249 (Accessed 6 October 2019).
- War Office (1951) Infantry Training, Volume II, Infantry Heavy Weapons, Pamphlet No. 24 – Medium Machine Gun, Part II – Drills and Training. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.