Universal Carrier

What was the most produced Armored Fighting Vehicle in history?


If you said “T-34” or “Sherman” you’re wrong!  The answer is the British designed Universal Carrier; sometimes known as the “Bren Gun Carrier” for its most commonly mounted weapon.  After the jump, a look at a prolific and barely armored vehicle.

The origin on this little tracked vehicle goes back to the 1920s, and the idea of the machine gun armed “tankette”.  Many countries built them.  The idea was, a very small two man tank armed only with one or two machine guns.  By the time World War II started, most countries were looking more at real tanks, although every major combatant still had tankettes on strength until 1941.

IMG_8818 IMG_8819

The British had taken a different turn with the concept.  They developed the Universal Carrier, that like any tankette could serve as a lightly armored machine gun nest to accompany any unit on the move.  But it also featured a cargo bed, like a big pick-up, that could mount a mortar, transport a half dozen armed men or move munitions and supplies.  It also had hitching gear for pulling more supplies or light field artillery.


The Carrier was light, fast and dependable.  It would be used with almost every type of formation the British and Commonwealth deployed.  Over 120000 were built through 1960; including production runs in Canada, Australia and the US.  This is from the Tamiya kit, and represents a Carrier that served the 6th Armored Division in Tunisia, 1943.

They wen't that away.... The Universal Carrier is not a large vehicle.

They wen’t that away….
The Universal Carrier is not a large vehicle.

I’d add a personal observation having done a fair amount of WWII war gaming.  The Universal Carrier is often very useful, like light cavalry from an earlier era.  You would never use it against a true tank or to attack a fortified position.  But it is amazing for recon and battlefield clean up.  It can get anywhere fast, unleash a reasonable amount of fire power, and get away.  Don’t under-estimate a small, lightly armed vehicle!

And it certainly isn't a tank!

And it certainly isn’t a tank!

Up Next: Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony  

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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7 Responses to Universal Carrier

  1. John says:

    http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=15317 Thought you might enjoy this, from an earlier discussion.

  2. Theresa says:

    This vehicle was the workhorse in transporting troops over rugged terrain

  3. John says:

    It is featured in ‘The Longest Day’ when the beachmaster gives it a good whack to get it started.

    • atcDave says:

      It’s funny though how often it ISN’T in WWII movies. I mean, the type was really prolific, it was used everywhere near the front, but it seems to be low on the list of vehicles to round up when the filmmaker starts shooting.

  4. John says:

    It is odd, the jeep is iconic, tanks are iconic but the Bren carrier not so much. I guess you have to be iconic to be saved for posterity and by extension be available for movies.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah it’s funny. Makes you wonder why certain things make the cut, and others don’t. I wonder if British readers would react differently?

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