British Military Vehicles

British military vehicles are second only to American vehicle in popularity among collectors in the English speaking world. Many original designs come from British sources including trucks, tanks and artillery as well as aircraft and ships. The British Land Rover is, of course, famous the world over, standing next to the U.S. jeep as the very symbol of the military.

U.S. Coast Guard manned USS LST-21 unloads British Army Bedford trucks onto a Rhino barge during the early hours of the Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944.
U.S. Coast Guard manned USS LST-21 unloads British Army Bedford trucks onto a Rhino barge during the early hours of the Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944.

Today in WW II: 10 Nov 1941 To increase production, US Army gives Ford Motor Co. a contract to manufacture the Willys designed jeep.  More 
10 Nov 1944 Accidental detonation of 3800 tons of ammunition on USS Mount Hood [AE-11] while anchored on Manus Island [Papua New Guinea] destroys itself and 22 small boats, damages 36 nearby ships, and kills 432 men with 371 more injured.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

British Military Land Rovers

Land Rover Defender in Skopje, Macedonia, August 2001
Land Rover Defender in Skopje, Macedonia, August 2001. Click for larger version of this photo.

The British Land Rover is probably the most successful military light truck in the world, excepting only the US jeep. After World War II, Rover entered the military vehicle market with an 80 inch wheelbase model, similar to the American Willys Jeep. This first "Land Rover" was introduced at the Amsterdam Motor Show, 30 April 1948, and was produced from 1948 to 1953, built at Solihull, in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom. A sequence of other flat-sided, simply maintained models were introduced, with longer wheel bases and larger engines, through the 1950s and 1960s. While these were not specifically military vehicles, many were sold to and used by governments across the world, especially in the British Commonwealth and former colonies.

An outstanding Land Rover feature since the beginning has been the use of a proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called "Birmabright" for all Land Rover bodies, making them last essentially forever, even under adverse field conditions. In addition, most models feature a sturdy ladder-frame chassis suitable for rugged use.

The first Land Rover developed for the British Ministry of Defence was the 1965 prototype Series IIA short wheel base (SIIA SWB) 1/2 ton Lightweight, designed to be air-transportable aboard an aircraft or slung under a helicopter. The weight limit was set at 2,500 lbs. It was in production by 1968 and was later upgraded to a Series III Lightweight, staying in production until about 1980 and delivered not only to the MOD but also to military customers around the world.

Standard Land Rovers, modified with military details, were delivered to MOD and other countries in the Series IIA (1968-1972) and Series III (1972-1980) model years.

Another military Land Rover was the Forward Control 101, named for its 101 inch wheelbase, produced from 1975 to 1978. It was a heavier vehicle, useful for towing artillery and other loads, with a V8 engine and 4 speed transmission. It seated two in front and up to 8 on troop seats in the rear.

The Land Rover Defender series was delivered to the British military starting in 1983, in 90 inch, 110 inch, and 17 inch wheelbase models. Until 1990 the model name was "Land Rover 90" etc. but after that the model name was changed to Defender (i.e. Defender 90 or just Def90). The Defender used the improved drivetrain, suspension and chassis of the previous model of Range Rover.

All military Land Rovers were available in both standard troop/cargo configurations as well as with ambulance bodies and other special configurations. Currently, four Defender core military vehicle platforms are manufactured, including General Service and dedicated Communications vehicles, with 12v or 24v electrical systems. Variants include weapons platforms, ambulances, command vehicles, armour protection to B6+ level and vehicles equipped for fording and arctic operations.

For the 21st century, Land Rover has focused on developing specialized variants such as the Rapid Deployment Vehicle (RDV) and the Demountable Armoured System (DAS), to satisfy a growing need for rapid response capability.

The Australia-based Registry of Ex-Military Land-Rovers has an excellent presentation of facts and photos of ex-military Land-Rovers.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: military land rover. Then click the Search button.

Other British Military Vehicles

Other British military vehicles include:

  • Bedford: a subsidiary of Vauxhall Motors, built large numbers of cargo trucks for the British Army during WW II (top photo);

  • Humber: series of vehicles, including the Humber FV1600 4x4 "Pig" Armoured Vehicle introduced in 1952;

  • Ferret: Armored car developed by Daimler in 1949, 4500 produced 1952-1971. Used by the British Army and 36 other countries;

  • Alvis Stalwart: High Mobility Load Carrier (HMLC), successor design to the Alvis Saladin armoured car with the load carrying capacity of the Saracen APC, deployed approx. 1960-1980;

Many British manufacturers have produced military vehicles, at least from time to time, including Bedford, Leyland, Jaguar, Morris-Commercial Cars, Scammell and Austin. Use Google to find more information on these models.

Visit the Olive-Drab Military Vehicle Charts that start here. Some British vehicles are listed and more will be added as photos become available.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: british trucks ~military. Then click the Search button.