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169096

I have located 169096 and after obtaining her for the Vietnam veterans Museum, who decided that they were not happy to have a complete Vietnam Model Centurion with great history from the Battle of Binh Ba, for free. I then approached a couple of R.S.L.'s, but they decided that they would rather have a shell only Leopard. Why they would want a Leopard that has never served in action with Australian Troops I do not know. I was a bit upset with all this, so I then approached Frank and Chris Nicholls the owners of 169093. They had done a first class job of restoring 169093 and the only thing missing was that she was not a tank that served in Vietnam. Anyway they went and had a look at 169096 and brought her more or less on the spot.

Then of course she had to be got running. She had been driven into a shed in 1990 and sat there ever since. Andrew the owner hooked up some batteries and she turned over quite well, but had no fuel. Should not be any worries getting her started I thought. Wrong. Another trip up there and we tried everything, with no luck. Not a kick, cough or a backfire, nothing. It was my considered opinion that it was not plugs,(24 -- one should at least give a kick) (Not Magneto's as both dropping out at the same time was a bit much to expect) Remember this great observation !

Not Booster coil as we had replaced it with a new one. Not batteries as we had good batteries. Fuel was getting through to the plugs!. Anyway it was back again yesterday for another go and Tim Vibert was contacted, and said he thought, --- Magneto's! I arrived just as the first magneto was removed and sure enough, no spark. Tim did some magic and -------there was  spark!!! The second magneto was removed and same story. (It's easier to remove the magneto to clean and adjust and replace it than it is to work on them in place)  Replaced the second one and then it was time to see if we had won. Short turn over about 2 seconds and we had a cough. Second try and she fired up and ran quite well. And would you believe it NO smoke at all --- nothing --- Even when warmed up and driven.

She was removed from the shed and driven around the paddock, but not running well (Fuel trouble which will require some work -- no power) but running well enough to load onto the low loader later this month to take her to her new home. It was great of Tim to come to our help, and as he had 105 which I imagine he had much the same trouble with a lot of them, he was the guy with the knowledge and experience, and he sure saved the day. And did he make it look easy! Well that is one trick that will not stop me in the future, you cannot beat experience.

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Chris about to remove the second magneto.                                                                                        Tim cleaning the points and checking the spark

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There are twin points in each magneto                                                                                                As can be seen they are easy to work on when removed from the tank.

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     Ok time to travis the main gun over the back                                                                             She is running at about 1400 revs --- no sign of any smoke!                                                                                                                                                                                               

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Move her forward to free up the tracks -- no worries at all                                                     Bringing her back -- expected to have to do this a few times to free up the tracks but once was enough

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Tim checking the mufflers for engine misfires                                                                                        Out she comes -- not much room --had a couple of tries

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Last go and she is coming out at last                                                                                                                Down to the gate into the large paddock

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                                Driving through the gate                                                                                                Parked in the paddock waiting for the low loader to come in a couple of weks

 

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Left to right -- Chris - Tim - Frank - these are all dedicated guys and made a great team

Sliding  / Ready Bins

I have been asked a bit about the ready ammo bins, also know as sliding bins There are two ready bins which are just what they are called. Two bins that hold 2 x 20 pounder rounds in each giving ready access to four rounds. These bins are fixed to the turret ring and travel around with the turret ----turret moves so does the ready bins. They are on rollers and roll around or slide around with the turret. Hence their other name --sliding bins. They can also be moved forward or backwards from their position about 18 inches by hand.

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In the closed position - note locking arm                            Rear -  showing rollers                                        Bin with doors open showing holding clips

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Note the clip halfway up the left hand side. The door when closed is hinged in the middle. The locking clip is raised and the doors kicked in the middle which allows the centre to move in about 2 inches and the left hand side then clears the side clip and both doors cab then be opened

 

169056

A.W.M Centurion

Michael Martin sent me these photos today

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These pictures show just how much time and dedication and hard bloody work has been put into this display, not only by the museum staff but also by matt McMahon and his crew of helpers. Its a credit to them all.

See below for what they started out with-------

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Yep, they did a great job

My thanks to Michael for the photos, as I have said before, with the input from everyone this would not be the site it is today.

 

Michael also sent me some pictures and text on Balmoral

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Report on Balmoral

 

There was also text on an area named as the border of Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh in June 71

 

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There were three photos shown below

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These two I thought were from Balmoral --- the one on the left appeared to me to be the rear area the tanks moved back to during the day and the one on the right, [ notice the damage on the rear guard and muffler area ] I took to be 169069 Mick Butlers  tank, with a different turret crew as they had all been injured when the mortar exploded on the rear muffler / guard.

Every thing fitted and I was quite pleased with my assumption, until I contacted Rusty Dyson and he explained that they were not 169069 as it had no road wheels on the Glacis plate at Balmoral, they were fitted later. Of course they were not Coral either as the Coral battle was more or less at the same time. So it was some other battle !

Rusty was also able to provide some info on this contact. It was a bunker system attacked on the 7th June 1971 and defended by the 3rd. Battalion 33 North Vietnamese Army {NVA) Regiment.   169056 may have been one of these tanks as it was there at this contact.  Then later on June 25th, 2Lt. Bruce Cameron, Troop Leader of 5 Troop, took it over when his tank broke down, and it displayed the C/S 5B. This bunker system was under the control of 1st Battalion 274 NVA Regiment. The Cent was struck by an RPG and the driver Tpr. Peter Cadge was badly wounded. The bunker system was taken. 169056 C/S 5B is now on display at the AWM Canberra, as shown above on this page.

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Rusty Dyson showing the damage to C/S 32 at Balmoral on the 29th.                                                              Close up of the damage. That is Alan Javis the operator, walking towards 169089

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But this was at Balmoral, but again was not C/S 32. But Rusty said it was either 32A or 32B or 32C, but without any ARN or C/S showing there is no way of knowing, as the crew cannot be recognized in the photo!

Well Rusty did id one of the guys, its Bluey Lowe behind the Flex  machine gun ,so the tank is 32C!

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C/S 32 the morning after. Note empty .30 cases and liner box's also damage to right guard looking at the left guard beside the liner box you can see that its also been ripped up. The pick handle in front of the drivers hatch, was one of Rusty's personal weapon.

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Rusty Dyson sitting on the mantlet of 169069 on the beach. Guy behind the .30 cal was Alan Jarvis the operator / loader. Bob Gould the Gunner making a Brew. As the light protectors are still fitted on the Glacis plates I would say it was taken mid 1968. In fact it was just after a night ambush on Pinaroo, at a beach near the Long Hai's.

Note rubbish collected under the rear guard.

THE AUSTRALIAN MINE FIELD

 I watched a documentary on this mine field and the attempt to remove it.

It more or less showed that the Tracks cleared the mine field, and in the final part of the story they did with the help in the long run of Dozers. But there was just about no mention of the Centurions efforts in this exercise.

 

From the Commanders Dairy’s

11/4 /68  32 in Mine field.

(Rusty Dyson driving 32 169069 was the first tank into the mine field.)

Rusty said, "I seem to remember 16 mines that we hit but can't remember where I get the number from and they caused a heap of damage."

 

1/5/68 fitting of beams to 32c

 

11/5/68 2 troop to the minefield

 

12 & 13 5/68  32c detonated  approx: 200 mines

 

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The mine mat being fitted to the front of C/S  32C-- 1st May 1968

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The fitting on the rear of the Centurion. The fittings were fore and aft.

A report indicated that the proposed means of clearing was to use two Centurion Tanks stripped of their external fittings, with each dragging an eight – metre – long demolition mat made from heavy steel anchor chain and R.S.J.’s. But it now appears it was only fitted to one tank 32C, in a front and rear installation. This operation took place over four days, from 10 to 13 April, and was unsuccessful. Even with it's heavy armour the Centurion suffered a lot of damage to tracks and suspension units, with about 1/3 of the mines exploding under the Tank. Information at this point seems to say that only 32C used this attachment,.

After much searching I was in contact with Norm Wells and he supplied the information below, which I copy as I received it

Hi Col,
 
RAEME net fwd your query re mine boom fitted to centurions in early 68
 
Firstly the tanks of C Sqn arrived in NUI DAT on last two days of Feb 68 , Their first deployment was to FSB HERRING across most of Mar 68.
 
During this time consideration was being given to involve the tanks in mine clearing the barrier field that had been breached and tampered with by the enemy and could not be cleanly recovered.
 
C Sqn commanders diary records  21 -30 April - Engineers trying to develop a mine destroyer to mount on a tank.
 
1 -10 May C/S 32C Fitted with large "I"beam back and front to assist mine clearing.
 
11 - 13 May 2Tp along with 1ARU deployed to Long Phouc Hai on mine clearing test.200 mines detonated by device and tank tracks ------- Testing was then stopped due to suspension station shrapnel damage to tank shock absorber oil reservoirs. OC C Sqn flacked up and withdrew his support for the use of his tanks as they would be rendered u/s for operational battle support.
 
The RSJ or I beam (i didn't see it) with dangling dragging  chains was fabricated by either 1 FD SQN WKSP (NUI DAT) or by Sapper welders in 1 Fd Sqn RAE and fitted and removed from the tanks in their unit area (support lugs were welded onto the tanks at fixing points) . The shrap damage was repaired in the Opera House by our wksp welders of 1 Armd Sqn Wksp (I don't think there was a snco wld in the Dat until Dutchy Holland came up fron 102 for the formation of 106) Dick Garcia was the WO GE and Bill Taylor the GE SGT.
 
No further attempts were made to modify Centurions for mine clearing in 68 but the following year the M113 "HMAPC FLINT" was modified by an outriger and u/s tyres ans some up armour and this proved successful. This prototype work was conducted during John Power's time as OC 1 FD SQN WKSP.
 
The recent publication "THE MINEFIELD" by Greg Lockhart outline a lot of detail regarding these and other problems of lifting the long green minefield.
 
Best wishes
Norm Wells
EME OPS Sgt 1 Armd Sqn Wksp Feb - Nov 68

 

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                                    Restored Track with mine roller device                                                                                                            The original track in Vietnam

                                                                                                                                                        The two track photos courtesy of Royal Australian Engineers Association

 

 

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In 1969 169074 had this mine roller device installed, but it was not a success either. It was never used.

The roller device for the mine removal was designed by the O.C. 106 Field workshops at the time. The design was so that it pushed the rollers and would tend to push the dirt up in front of it which would have defeated its purpose. Another design was suggested, that would allow it to trail, and something like a castor would do which hopefully it would climb up over the obstacle rather than push through it. But the original concept was accepted and made up. Then fitted to 169074 and told to take it out and it would be tested the next day. Like all good tankies with a new toy, they decided to test it themselves and so bent it considerable, it was never used again and never cleared a single mine.

A couple of photo's of interest

The Israel Army also used Centurions for many years

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Of interest is the position of the windscreen bin on the guard and no fifty in the mantlet and notice because of this the weights on the flume extractor and much less than on the Australian model. Also the Crew Commander has a Fifty on the flex.

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This model is known as a Nakpadon and is used as an APC, but still a Centurion underneath it all.

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This is 169002 being road tested by Modern Motor around 1967 and pre Vietnam. It appears not to have had the .50 cal fitted as there seems to be no balance weights on the flume extractor. The fitting of the road wheel is also strange for this period, and there is no omega bracket installed. Also note the call sign 24A, same as used by Jock Browning in Vietnam as 169007.

 

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