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PAGE 10

The long awaited trip

I have been waiting two years to visit Matt McMahon up at Oberon NSW.

Also on the waiting list was Bruce Holt at Cowra NSW

So I decided to do the trip this year and also look up a few other people and Centurions

I had planned to leave on Friday 6th October 2006 and spend five days driving around mostly NSW. The day before I was due to leave I discovered that the Bathurst Race was on that weekend. My plan was to drive to Cowra and spend the night and next day there, then drive up to Bathurst that afternoon, staying in Bathurst the Saturday night and also Sunday night and coming back on the Monday and Tuesday. The Race changed all that and a quick phone call to Cowra to my motel and my booking was changed from one day to three. I now stayed in Cowra the Saturday night and driving to Bathurst and then on to Oberon early Sunday morning and returning to Cowra early in the afternoon to beat the race traffic. This worked quite well but I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

My wife Val, who would not recognize a Centurion MBT if she walked into one decided to accompany me on the trip. We left Kilmore at 9 am on the Friday driving to Albury on the Vic - NSW Border, arriving just before lunch. A dismal try on the pokies followed by a nice lunch and we were off again. I called into Vince Ryan's property to see how many tanks were still there. Unfortunately I could find no one around the place, so was only able to have a visual from a distance, as I would not enter without permission. There appeared to be about 12 tanks left two of which were ARV's. From there it was a nice drive up the Freeway to just before Yass where we turned off towards Cowra. I had a problem with the light in my speedo not working, all other dash lights were ok and I could just make out my speed, but I could not see my mileage or trip meter. And does that throw you out, no idea how far to go, us bushies do not bother with maps! Bad mistake.

We arrived in Cowra and booked into our motel, ringing Bruce Holt and arranging a meeting at 9 am Saturday to view 169067 and then Bruce's 169043. I then sat down with the owner of 169067 who does not want his name or address published, so I will refer to him as Des. Des was a very nice guy and we had a great talk and arranged to also meet at 9am to go and visit his tank. I was feeling rather tired so it was a shower and an early night, looking forward to the next morning.

We all met as arranged and drove out to Des's property about 5 kls out of town where he has a property and a large shed. Opening the shed up and inside was a treasure trove.

169067 with Bruce Holt on the left and Des on the right.

169067 is a very nice tank, but she has had her bad times. Has gone through 8 motors (at least, as the log book is not available--again) She also hit a large mine in Vietnam which you can still see the repair under the hull. This mine was a RPG mounted vertical and fired as the tank drove over it.

169067 was the second tank of the late Bob Browning

. Bob's first tank was169007 and when it had covered its maximum mileage it was returned to Australia. It carried the call sign 24A and had the name "Buka Boom Boom" painted on the barrel.

169007 hit a30 lb  mine in Vietnam in about June 1969.  She was repaired in Vietnam Bob then took over 169067 and it also had the call sign 24A and was named "Buka Boom Boom 11".

Bob Ferrari was the operator and also Crew Commander at various times. He was in command when she hit the mine,  a 10-15 lb mine, about October 1969. Later, about June 1970 she hit another mine, and took two RPG hits and was declared B.E.R and returned to Australia.169067 served 8 months in Vietnam

Shane Lovell's book shows it had a hull replacement when returned to Australia, but the Vietnam repair in the floor of the hull can still be seen today so I feel the hull was not replaced?

I had a feeling I had something on this hull and traced back through my filing system (My memory ) and today found this correspondence

 

REPORT SERIAL No:
R5/70
DATE of INCIDENT:
25 Feb 70
VEHICLE:
Centurion 169067
ATTACK:
Mine, 20 to 30lb estimated.
POINT OF STRIKE:
Under left front suspension.
DAMAGE: Seven track links damaged. Idler and track guard damaged.
CASUALTIES:
Driver shocked by blast.
REMARKS:
Vehicle battle worthy in 2hrs.

REPORT SERIAL No:
R8/70
DATE of INCIDENT:
16 Jun 70
VEHICLE:
Centurion 169067
ATTACK:
Mine, 10lb estimated Chicom plus 2 RPGs.
POINT OF STRIKE:
Left centre of fighting compartment floor.
DAMAGE: Hull floor penetrated in two places on left side of fighting compartment. Cartridge cases fractured and propellant ignited. Extensive fire damage in fighting compartment.
CASUALTIES:
Gunner/Signaller minor burns due to ammunition fire.
REMARKS:
First reported use of RPG projectiles as mines - which effected the penetration of the floor.

Regards,
Noel Mc Laughlin

My research so far had led me to believe that the area of the hull floor around the two holes might have been cut out and a new piece inserted from a condemned hull. I gather, however, that each of the two holes was 'plugged'. This is quite fascinating as it's not something that any of us thought of at the time, but something which I know now involved a considerable amount of expertise as far as RAEME were concerned.

 Regards, Bruce Cameron

 Hi Col. I was the driver when 067 hit the mine in 1970.She didnít receive a new hull, as in early 1972 I was posted to ARMD CENTRE and a tank transporter arrived with a rebuild on board. I thought I recognized the number, so I crawled under and there were the two holes welded up, about 3feet in from the front/left suspension station.

 Regards, Geoff Jewell

 Tpr. M F Hyson
218846
Operator
Geoff has already identified himself
The Gunner is on Hols and I will talk to him.
Didnít know that this small incident would cause so much discussion

Maxi Hyson

The VC ammunition technician who manufactured the RPG mines was a very clever person. I've been following his attempts to perfect and replicate the device over a two year period...1970/1971.

I had trouble understanding how he did it. A number of people have helped me realise how clever the concept was. I only hope that it's not employed against AFVs in Iraq/Afganistan etc.

Very briefly....the warhead is not fired upwards. The fuze is modified so that when initiated, it 'thinks' it has struck the target...the cone inverts and the Munroe effect takes over. The optimum stand off for a HEAT projectile is seven times the diameter of the warhead. The diameter of the RPG is about 3 inches, the ground clearance of the Cent is about 21 inches. Engineers used the same concept to demonstrate the Munroe effect at SME...pack explosive around the top half of a champagne bottle, detonate it and the glass inverts into a jet.

Cheers, Bruce Cameron

 My thanks to all those guys

A shot of Bob Ferrari on 169067 Sorry about the quality , but these are over 35 years old slides. But as I say, bad is better than none.

The mine crater where 169067 was damaged, you can see the tank tracks on the left of the two guys, it would appear the tank was coming in the same direction as the two chaps as it coincides with the damage seen under the tank -- front left of hull

The glacis road wheels are brand new and the mantlet cover was in very good condition as was all of the tank.

 

The old name ANIMAL was found by removing some paint

She appears to have everything on her including the IR light being wired up.

A 17 pounder gun -- this is the same barrel as was first fitted to the Centurion when it was first built

This is a nice pair, the left one is a Pack Howitzer and the one on the right is a Bofor

This Ferret was Des's first purchase many years ago for $1400 now worth quite a bit more than that. Des told me he was on a trip away on family holidays when he saw it, and he inspected it, and went outside to his wife and said give me $1400.  I would imagine the holiday was downgraded quite a bit after that!!!!

A nice Grant hull in the process of restoration

The turret is for the Grant hull

Radial 7 cylinder motor from the Stuart

A Saladin Mk2 FV60Armoured Car Turret shot

Another shot of the Saladin

A  M3 A1 Stuart Light Tank.

We now packed up and drove across town to Bruce Holts Property. Here were two large sheds with a breeze way between (nice working place -- quite cooler than in the sheds)

A drive on a bit of dirt road fixed my speedo light and it was now working----Great!

Bruce was an ex-RAEME motor mechanic (the correct name was "A" Vehicle, Tracked, Mechanic)

Bruce purchased 169043 from Empire Trading, the group that purchased 105 of the Centurions from the Australian Army. (The Army did not sell all their Centurions, they kept 37 for display and museums.

169043 served in Vietnam  from August 1969 till February 1971, serving with "A" "B" and "C" Squadrons of the 1st Armoured Regiment and I can find no record of major battle damage, so she was indeed a lucky tank. Bruce served as a Tank Mechanic on a ARV and also was the Crew Commander on the Fitters Track. a M113 APC.

 

Bruce standing on the guard of 169043 Note the ladder--in the 1950's it was three steps in about 3 seconds to move from the turret to "Crews Front" in the front of the tank. It now takes me about 3 - 4 minutes and the ladder is a great help

Des climbs aboard. Its a very nice tank starts immediately and once warmed up, no sign of smoke.

 

The engine and transmission compartments are open and the radiators raised--The motor can still be run with the radiators in the upright position.

The mantlet cover is in good condition and it also still has the smoke dischargers canvas covers--most of which are now missing on most tanks.

The road wheels look to be in very good condition., and there are two new ones for a spare and the glacis plate one

Both front idler wheels are the dish type, its nice to have a matching pair as odd ones cause a pull to one side causing wear on the steering brakes.

Everything appears to be in place with the exception of the IR Light cage which has been removed and placed on the 100 gallon fuel tank to make entry into the drivers compartment easier with out having to move the main gun around.

The mufflers and exhaust system are in very good condition and the tow rope is there, as is the cable spool on the rear of the turret. The tracks also appear well adjusted which was nice to see.

The Cent has been shedded ever since Bruce obtained her which is shown in her condition.

The tank is for sale at a very good price and it has quite a few extras to go with it -- all inclusive in the price. The more I see of this tank the more I feel its a great buy. The spare transmission is included

A fully reconditioned Final Drive is also supplied---one drive has a tooth missing and this is a replacement for it

The motor is running and the clutch and steering brakes are spinning but do not show up in the photo

Many people have asked me where the id plate is in the engine compartment. This plate should be in place but many are not?? But without the Log Book (none were supplied with the tanks sold??) or the original ID plate in the drivers compartment (Borrowed by crews when the tanks were to be sold) being sure of the tanks id is very hard. The id plates would have been a nice way to check as would the log book, as it records everything  (mileage, repairs, overhauls, motor replacements, and even shots fired from the main gun) Standing on the left hand air cleaner and  looking towards the front of the tank it would be about the heel of your boot -- Note Red Arrow.

Bruce also has a motor that he removed from 169043 in Vietnam. He was able to buy it at an auction later and has mounted it on a frame. Its a well setup arrangement, but does blow some smoke under power. Starts very well and the exhaust through the twin stacks (no mufflers) is lovely to hear. This setup is for sale at $5000 which is also to my mind a good buy.

A close up of the clutch assembly note its not running any fan belts

The starter panel note all are from a Centurion drivers compartment and there is also a booster coil fitted

Shot of the twin air cleaners and one of the exhaust stacks, with a flap on the top

Note the starter motor and the magneto

Close up of the left hand side magneto

I will list the items that go with the tank as spares

Transmission---Final Drive----IR Light and mounting bracket and a new Red Lens, still in the box.

Two gunners seats---2 twenty pound sliding bins---new radiator header tank still in the box

Slave starter lead (tank to tank)---final drive tool (very rare) ---2 new road wheels---radio antenna

Earphones and tannoy---Gunners sight---9 scopes---track adjusting tool---C C Bino's new in box

Radio control switch box---radio set and power supply---hand held spotlight---spare starter motor

Spare Magneto ---extension hose for grease nipples (English Nipples) --- two sets new fan belts

Anyone interested contact me on 03 5781 1312 and I will pass on Bruce's contact details

Now it was back to the Motel and Val and I then went for a drive around Cowra arriving at the local museum which you would not be surprised if I told you had a Centurion MBT 169092 inside, I was lucky that it also held a heap of items that were of interest to Val.

A dinner at the local Chinese dining room which was excellent and it was time to hit the sack as I wanted an early start tomorrow.