Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car (South Africa)

The Marmon Herrington Armoured Car was the first major military vehicle to be produced in South Africa, and played a significant role in the early fighting in the Western Desert, where they were the most numerous type of armoured car available to the Allies.

Work on producing a South African armoured car began in 1938 when two experimental vehicles were ordered. Work was slow until the outbreak of war. The South African government decided that their own designs were the best chance of getting any significant number of vehicles and placed orders for both types. Orders soon rose to 1,000 vehicles.

The new vehicle was a multi-national affair. The transmission came from Harmon Herrington in the United States, the chassis was from Ford trucks produced in Canada, the guns from the United Kingdom and the armour from South African steel mills. The Ford engine was mounted at the front and the fighting compartment took up middle and rear of the vehicle. It had gently sloped armour, and an open topped turret. The first two models were designated the South African Reconnaissance Vehicle Mk I and the South African Reconnaissance Vehicle Mk II. The Mk I had a long wheelbase and a 4x2 drive, the Mk II had a shorter wheelbase and a 4x4 drive.

Originally these vehicles were armed with a Vickers 7.7mm machine gun in the open turret and a second Vickers gun in a mantlet on the side of the vehicle. This second gun was soon removed, and a variety of weapons carried on the turret. The standard fit at first was a 13.97mm Boys anti-tank rifle and 7.7mm Vickers gun in the turret. In combat a wide range of alternatives were installed, including captured Italian 20mm Breda cannons, Italian and German 37mm and 45mm anti-tank guns and the British 2-pounder (40mm) tank gun. This last gun became a common fitting on later marks.

The South African Reconnaissance Vehicle Mk I was used by South Africa forces operating against the Italians in East Africa, and didn’t perform well.

The Mk II was issued to South African and British forces fighting in North Africa, where at first it was the most numerous type of armoured car available. It was thus the main equipment used by reconnaissance units during the early campaigns in the Western Desert, where it performed well. Its armour was too thin, and the standard guns too light, but it was rugged and reliable. A wide range of field modifications were made, some with the turret removed to give more space. They were used as command vehicles and repair vehicles. 

South African Reconnaissance Vehicle Mk I

This version had a long wheelbase and 4x2 drive. It was used in East Africa but then went to the training units.

South African Reconnaissance Vehicle Mk II/ Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk II

This version had a shorter wheelbase and 4x4 drive. It had double doors at the rear. It was used in North Africa, where it performed well in the early campaigns.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk III

The Mk III was similar to the Mk II, but with a shorter chassis, and without the double doors.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk IV

The Mk IV was a very different design. It used a monocoque fuselage and had the engine mounted at the rear. It weighed 6.4 tons, and carried a 2-pdr gun and coaxial 7.62mm Browning machine gun in a much larger turret. With the engine at the rear the turret was moved to the middle of the vehicle and the driver sat almost in the nose.

It was also produced as the Mk IVF, using a Ford drive.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk V

The Mk V was the first of two unsuccessful attempts to produce an eight wheeled armoured car, developed in response to the German equivalents. The Mk V was a bulky looking vehicle with a boxy hull that extended out to the outside of the wheels and powered by two Albion 6-cylinder engines that drove the middle two axles. It carried a QF 6 pounder gun in a small turret mounted towards the front of the vehicle. Performance was poor in the desert, so it was rebuilt with both engines at the rear in an attempt to improve things. However this change didn’t work, so development stopped after the first prototype.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk VI

The Mk VI was the second eight wheel design, and saw a major change to the design. The superstructure was narrower, and a long mud guard now protected the four wheels on each side. It had a larger open topped three man turret. Two examples were built. One was equipped with a 2-pounder gun and was sent to the UK, but its transmission was unreliable. This example is now at the Bovington Tank Museum. The second example had a 6-pounder gun, and remained in South Africa.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk VII

The Mk VII was a modified version of the Mk IIIA, which had replaced the turret with a mount for two machine guns. It reached the prototype stage but got no further as heavier guns were now needed in armoured cars.

Armoured Car, Marmon Herrington Mk VIII

The Mk VIII was a development of the Mk III, and carried a 2-pounder gun in a larger turret. Work on the design stopped in 1943 in favour of vehicles armed with a 6-pounder gun.

Stats (Mk II)
Hull Length:
Hull Width:
Crew: 4
Weight: 6 tonnes
Engine: Ford V-8 petrol engine
Max Speed: 80.5km/ hr
Max Range: 322km (200 miles)
Armament: Varied, originally one Boyes anti-tank rifle, one Vickers machine gun.
Armour: 12mm

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 October 2023), Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car (South Africa) ,

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