Humber Light Reconnaissance Car/ Ironside/ Humberette

The Humber Light Reconnaissance Car was originally produced in response to the crisis of 1940, but evolved into a useful reconnaissance vehicle that remained in use with British infantry units to the end of the Second World War.

The Ironside I or Humberette was one of a series of improvised armoured vehicles produced in response to the loss of most British tanks and armoured cars in France in 1940. It was produced by the Rootes Group, which then owned Humber. It was built on the chassis of the Humber Super Snipe, but with War Department pattern wheels and run-flat tyres. It had the engine at the front, and a crew compartment at the rear. The crew compartment had sloped sides, and was widest about two thirds of the way up, sloping in towards the roof and down towards the floor from there.  

A number of Humberettes were converted into armoured transports for use by the Royal Family and Churchill, partly for protection in air raids and partly in case of German paratroop attack. These were known as the Special Ironside Saloons. The interior was converted to Pullman luxury standards by the coachbuilders Thrupp and Maberley, but the first version entirely lacked windows. The King and Queen soon moved to more conventional looking armoured Humber Pullman saloons with bullet proof glass and hidden armour.

The most important versions of the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car were the Mk III and Mk IIIA. These were produced in much larger numbers than the Mk I or Mk II, and remained in use to the end of the war in Europe, even seeing service in the Far East.

A total of over 3,600 Humber Light Reconnaissance Cars of all types were built. The first 198 were accepted in 1940. Production rose to 348 in 1941, peaked at 2,223 in 1942 and dropped to 830 in 1943, the last year the vehicle was in production. They were used by reconnaissance regiments and by the RAF Regiment, which received about 600 vehicles for airfield defence. 

A small number of Humber Light Reconnaissance Cars in Australian service took part in the desperate defence of Java early in 1942.

The 56th Reconnaissance Regiment was equipped with the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car when it took part in Operation Torch, landing near to Algiers. After that the type was used during the campaigns in Tunisia, Italy and North-Western Europe.

By 1944 the Humber Mk III and IIIA were the most common light reconnaissance car in use with the Reconnaissance regiments of infantry divisions. They remained in use with these units to the end of the war.

Reports on the Humber collected late in the war recorded that its crew liked its reliability and its good safety record when mined. They didn’t like its high silhouette or its long length, which made it hard to turn around in an emergency. It was also hard to get out of in an emergency, and its 10mm armour was much thinner than the 30mm of the Daimler Dingo. The Bren gun mount was too flimsy to allow for accurate firing, The smoke launch could only fire straight forward making it rather useless when trying to escape trouble.

The Humber remained in use after the war, serving with the British army in Palestine.

Humber Light Reconnaissance Car, Ironside Mk I

The Mk I weight 2.8 tons. It had 12mm thick armour and a top speed of 45mph. It had 4x2 wheel drive.

Humber Light Reconnaissance Car Mk II

The Mk II had an armoured roof and a shield for its light machine gun. It was armed with \  Boys anti-tank rifle next to the driver and a Bren light machine gun behind a gun shield on the roof. It carried a crew of three.

Humber Light Reconnaissance Car Mk III

Otter Light Reconnaissance Car in Rough Ground Otter Light Reconnaissance Car in Rough Ground

This was the main operational model of the Humber Light Recon Car. It used the same Humber Super Snipe chassis as earlier models, but with four wheel drive. It carried a Bren gun in a small turret, on a mounting that allowed it to be used as an AA gun. At the front it carried a Boys anti-tank gun and a 4in smoke discharger.

The Humber Mk III was also the basis of the Canadian Light Reconnaissance Car Mk I Otter I, of which some 1,700 were built.

Production: 3,600+ (all types)
Hull Length: 14ft 4in
Hull Width: 6ft 2in
Height: 6ft 10in
Crew: 3
Weight: 3.17 tons
Engine: 80-87hp 6-cylinder inline petrol engine
Max Speed: 75mph (road)
Max Range: 110 miles
Armament: One Bren gun, One Boys anti-tank gun, one smoke discharger
Armour up to 12mm

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 February 2024), Humber Light Reconnaissance Car/ Ironside/ Humberette ,

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