Amphibious Bren Carrier in Burma

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by sol, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Seems that during advance of 14th Army toward the central Burma during 1945 2nd British Division used/tested amphibious Bren Carriers for crossing the Mu River, probably somewhere in Ye-U area. At least two of this carriers adapted as amphibious were photographed. One with tac sign 87 which should mean that it belonged to the HQ of 5th Infantry Brigade and the second, T34963, with tac sign 60 and that should be the most senior unit of that Brigade, 7th Worcestershire Regiment (I guess, even though that three out of four members of crew wear Tam o' Shanters)

    [​IMG]

    A Bren gun carrier fitted with empty oil drums as a flotation device after crossing the Mu River on the way to Mandalay, February 1945.
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN BURMA 1945 | Imperial War Museums


    Only I could find about them is one article in the Popular Mechanics:

    Bren Gun Floats Across River On Oil Cans

    When it was necessary to transport a Bren gun carrier across the river in Burma for the battle of Mandalay, British engineers strapped empty oil cans and a wooden rudder to each vehicle. As soon as there was sufficient buoyancy, the carrier was waterproofed and tested on the river, then paddled through the water by its own caterpillar tracks.
    and description on one of the photos of the carrier which is almost the same

    Amphibious Bren Gun Carrier

    Ingenuity is necessary in Burma where transportation problems are most difficult. Assembling armor for the battle of Mandalay British engineers of the 14th Army devised an ingenious method for getting Bren Gun carriers across the Mu River. Floats were strapped to each carrier and when sufficient buoyancy was obtained the carrier was waterproofed and tested on the river. Motive power was supplied by the carrier's own caterpillar tracks which paddled through the water.
    Does anybody know anything else about them? Where they ever used in action?
     
    Dave55 and Paul Reed like this.
  2. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Good find - not sure I'd want to go in it though!
     
  3. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Looks like something from 'Scrapheap Challenge', but a great example of Army ingenuity. Any ideas on how many were adapted ?
     
  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Having filled my 3 tractors with diesel just this afternoon, my thoughts are how little fuel drums have changed over the decades.:)

    Agree with you Paul, would not want a ride in that across 800 yards of Burmese River and straight into the arc of enemy machine gunfire or worse still skilled Japanese mortar bombardment.
     
  5. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Two additional photos. On the first photo is the carrier with tac sign 87 while the second is another photo of T34963
     

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  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    There's nothing in the 7 Worcs history regarding the Carriers but there is some mention of the Mu etc. and a failed river crossing (Irrawaddy) but that was in boats. The CO was killed and the Camerons CO took command of the battalion which may explain the head dress in the picture.
     
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Enes,
    You sure the senior unit in 5 Inf Bde wasn't 1st Bn Cameron Highlanders ?
    I've been doing some digging & had a couple of websites say it was.
    5 Infantry Brigade

    1 The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders
    2 The Dorsetshire Regiment
    7 The Worcestershire Regiment


    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Infantry_Division_(United_Kingdom)

    World War II
    1st Bn. Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    2nd Bn. The Dorsetshire Regiment
    2nd Bn. The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Until 5th Feb.1940)
    7th Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment
     
  8. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Cheers Andy. By that time reconnaissance platoons of the infantry battalion (both Indian and British) in the Indian Divisions mostly had lost they carriers and they were converted to defence platoons for protection of battalion's HQ and administrative units. Also carriers from the mortar platoons were usually changed for jeeps. But not 100% sure about units of the 2nd British Division. There are number of photos of carriers from this division, so maybe that wasn't rule for them.

    I guess that not too much of them been adapted, as I said at least two different carriers were photographed. Doubt that they were ever used for direct assault, probably for bringing supplies across the river before more suitable solution was found.
     
  9. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Enes,
    You sure the senior unit in 5 Inf Bde wasn't 1st Bn Cameron Highlanders ?
    I've been doing some digging & had a couple of websites say it was.
    5 Infantry Brigade

    1 The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders
    2 The Dorsetshire Regiment
    7 The Worcestershire Regiment


    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Infantry_Division_(United_Kingdom)

    World War II
    1st Bn. Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    2nd Bn. The Dorsetshire Regiment
    2nd Bn. The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Until 5th Feb.1940)
    7th Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment

    Well Owen, I have a same doubt. Problem is that other two battalions in the brigade were, in theory, senior to the Camerons. From the orbat I found on the net, 7th Worcesters was most senior, same as obrats in Pearson in the "End game Burma" and Lyman's "Japan's last bid for Victory"
     
  10. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Bloody memory. The Bren Carriers from the 7th Worcesters had tac sign 62

    [​IMG]

    Deddington OnLine - Les Legerton

    So it could be 2nd Dorsets or, after all, 1st Camerons carrier.
     
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Yeah same thougths here regarding senority of regiments after posting that earlier.
    With Camerons being the old 79th Foot are Junior aren't they ?

    edit: nice find that pic you just added.
     
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Nigel Watson has quite a bit on floating carriers in Vol.1.

    Seems that until the welded bodies came in it was very difficult and involved a convoluted plugging of gaps, but he does have a few diagrams on waterproofing from 'Flotation Instructions for Univresal Carriers MkI, I*,II & IIW, 3-Inch Mortar MkI & II, MMG & AOP MkIIIW'.

    Kapok filled mattresses seems to be what was tested/recommended in Canada, with an awareness that any floating local material attached in the same way was understandable.

    An impellor was developed that fitted onto the front mudguards directing water back under the vehicle. No notes on issue but a decent illustration.

    Part of his captions for Sol's pictures read as follows:
    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/attachments/weapons-technology-equipment/71973d1326839393-amphibious-bren-carrier-burma-02-jpg
    "This seems a much easier method than than any of the previous ones [outlined in the book] and would be quicker to do. Notice how impellors have been fashioned out of the barrel skins"

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/attachments/weapons-technology-equipment/71972d1326839393-amphibious-bren-carrier-burma-01-jpg
    "On the retreat from Burma several carriers belonging to the 2nd IInfantry Division were floated across the Irrawaddy to safety. This is an actual photograph of this happening. .... It is reported that of the eight carriers floated in this way, the unit lost three. The carrier in the picture is a Mortar Carrier MkI."

    Few more notes/pictures of carriers strapped between boats, and then more on Straussler's testing of Flotation gear on the 16th December 1942.
    Not unlike the standard DD method,and reporting a speed of 6 knots/hr and a capacity of 10-12 troops per carrier.
    Looks like very early test of the DD concept, but I'd have to check dates.

    Seems the IWM has footage of the Kapok 'Blackburn' jobbies:
    LAUNCHING AND FLOTATION OF BLACKBURN CARRIER [Main] | Imperial War Museums

    Wonder if Pathe might have more.
     
    sol likes this.
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  14. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Hi guys

    I wish I could give a knowledgeable answer, but I can't. There does not seem to be very much published on the subject of vehicle markings in the Far East. Certainly, in theory, the Worcesters should be the senior battalion, followed by the Dorsets and then the Camerons, but, for example, in theatres nearer home, 62 does not seem ever to have been the AoS number of the senior battalion in a brigade. At various times and in various theatres it was the middle one, and also the junior one, but not the senior one. It would be nice to get some facts on this.

    Any idea when that 62 pic was taken, Sol? The trouble is that AoS numbers changed several times during the war, and units changed divisions too, so any one marking may only be accurate for a certain time period. Same goes for the 87 and 60 signs seen earlier

    Chris
     
  15. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    "On the retreat from Burma several carriers belonging to the 2nd IInfantry Division were floated across the Irrawaddy to safety. This is an actual photograph of this happening. .... It is reported that of the eight carriers floated in this way, the unit lost three. The carrier in the picture is a Mortar Carrier MkI."


    Well I guess he mean during advance, rather than retreat as 2nd Division wasn't in Burma during 1942.

    Thank you Adam for info. Cheers
     
  16. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Hi guys

    I wish I could give a knowledgeable answer, but I can't. There does not seem to be very much published on the subject of vehicle markings in the Far East. Certainly, in theory, the Worcesters should be the senior battalion, followed by the Dorsets and then the Camerons, but, for example, in theatres nearer home, 62 does not seem ever to have been the AoS number of the senior battalion in a brigade. At various times and in various theatres it was the middle one, and also the junior one, but not the senior one. It would be nice to get some facts on this.

    Any idea when that 62 pic was taken, Sol? The trouble is that AoS numbers changed several times during the war, and units changed divisions too, so any one marking may only be accurate for a certain time period. Same goes for the 87 and 60 signs seen earlier

    Chris

    I don't know when the photo is taken. According to Les Legerton's record of service, he served in 7th Worcesters between 1944 and 1946, so probably somewhere during that period. I can guess that because 7th Worcesters was TA battalion and the last to join the Brigade he was given tac sign 62. But than again I'm just guessing. The Brigade had the same three battalions from the moment that 7th Worcesters replaced 2nd R Warwicks in France during 1940 (I think) until the end of war. Unfortunately, as you said very little was published about markings of vehicles in the Far East and it's very hard to find photos of them.
     
  17. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    1st Camerons established a bridgehead over the Mu River 3rd/4th January 1945. 1st Camerons succeeded in establishing a bridgehead over the Irrawaddy River 24th/25th February 1945. The Irrawaddy crossing began with 2 forces of the Worcesters and the Camerons. The worcesters lost all their small assault (canvas) boats to long range heavy machine gun fire, only the Camerons made it across under heavy fire. While returning for reinforcements the remainder of their boats were sunk also.
    Men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers succeeded in landing on a small Island near the South bank under heavy fire. A fusiliers Colonel reached the shore in a burning boat with a radio as his only equpment. He and his men held firm, and he directed his forces in hand to hand fighting among the Elephant grass until daylight. Then the rest of the Camerons, the Welch, and the Worcesters, with a battalion of the Dorsetshires, got across covered by air and artillery support.
    By next afternoon a substantial force was established on the far (3000 foot away) bank. Transport and supplies were going across on 'Ducks', and rafts pulled by outboard motor boats.
    No mention of the carriers being fitted with floatation devices.
     

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  18. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    I don't know when the photo is taken. According to Les Legerton's record of service, he served in 7th Worcesters between 1944 and 1946, so probably somewhere during that period. I can guess that because 7th Worcesters was TA battalion and the last to join the Brigade he was given tac sign 62. But than again I'm just guessing. The Brigade had the same three battalions from the moment that 7th Worcesters replaced 2nd R Warwicks in France during 1940 (I think) until the end of war. Unfortunately, as you said very little was published about markings of vehicles in the Far East and it's very hard to find photos of them.


    You may well be right Sol. My own battalion came back from Kenya (where we had worn 7) in 1962 and found we were to wear 10 in the future - in the same brigade and without a more senior regiment being posted in! However, the Warwicks would certainly have been the senior regiment, so it would have been easier for 7 Worcs to take over their number.

    Chris
     
  19. idler

    idler GeneralList

    2 Dorset's Straight on for Tokyo refers to 'flotated carriers' for the Irrawaddy crossing. It's said in a manner that suggests a previous mention, but I haven't found it yet.
     
  20. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    1st Camerons established a bridgehead over the Mu River 3rd/4th January 1945. 1st Camerons succeeded in establishing a bridgehead over the Irrawaddy River 24th/25th February 1945. The Irrawaddy crossing began with 2 forces of the Worcesters and the Camerons. The worcesters lost all their small assault (canvas) boats to long range heavy machine gun fire, only the Camerons made it across under heavy fire. While returning for reinforcements the remainder of their boats were sunk also.
    Men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers succeeded in landing on a small Island near the South bank under heavy fire. A fusiliers Colonel reached the shore in a burning boat with a radio as his only equpment. He and his men held firm, and he directed his forces in hand to hand fighting among the Elephant grass until daylight. Then the rest of the Camerons, the Welch, and the Worcesters, with a battalion of the Dorsetshires, got across covered by air and artillery support.
    By next afternoon a substantial force was established on the far (3000 foot away) bank. Transport and supplies were going across on 'Ducks', and rafts pulled by outboard motor boats.
    No mention of the carriers being fitted with floatation devices.

    Thanks for looking. I couldn't find anything in Graham's books which give good account about Camerons crossing of the Irrawaddy. Thanks again for info.
     

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