The name Universal Carrier, or Bren Gun Carrier, references a number of light armored tracked vehicles built from 1934-1960 by Vickers-Armstrong. These vehicles were used extensively throughout WWII by the British Commonwealth forces for personnel and equipment transport and are considered some of the top military vehicles. In all, an estimated 113,000 Universal Carriers were manufactured in the UK and abroad, making it the most widely produced armored fighting vehicle in history.
Design and Development of the Universal Carrier
The concept of this carrier family is based on the 1920s Carden Loyd Tankettes, more specifically their Mk VI design. When Vickers Armstrong first manufactured a light vehicle in 1934, it was designed to carry a machine gun or tow a light field gun. Several variants of the Universal Carrier emerged throughout its production run.
By 1945, almost 57,000 various models had rolled off the production line. A number of manufacturers in Great Britain produced the Universal Carrier and production eventually expanded to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Each regiment of the Reconnaissance Corps was issued 63 carriers. In addition, Support companies in infantry rifle battalions, were also equipped with the Universal Carrier. The Support companies started out with ten per battalion. By 1941 the number increased to 21 and in 1943 it was 33 vehicles per battalion. Universal Bren Carriers were also issued motor battalions of the British armored division. Artillery units utilized this carrier to pull anti-tank guns.
The Universal Carriers were all equipped with the Bren light machine gun. Some carriers were also equipped with a Boys anti-tank rifle, which was later replaced with a PIAT anti-tank weapon. Weapons could be fired from inside or outside this armored vehicle. Operation range for the Universal Carrier (Mk 1) was 150 miles at a top speed of 30 miles per hour.
The Universal Carrier, which is also known as the Bren Gun Carrier, is one of the top produced armored fighting vehicles in military history.