THE AMERICAN CENTURIONS
There were 12 Centurions sold from Australia to an American Movie Company
The movie Company wanted to make a movie on the Gulf War but they could not beg, borrow or steal any Abrams from the American Defence Force
So they brought the Centurions from Australia, from Empire Trading of Wangaratta. The Cents were shipped over and some people went with them to teach them how to drive and maintain them.
They were modified and using fibro glass panels were made to look like American Abrams.
I spoke with a chap from America who drove one for the period of the movie. He was a Tankie and had driven a host of American tanks and assorted vehicles. He told me that the feeling he got from the Cent far surpassed anything in the American Army, his words were, "They were just great to drive!" When one needed to be set on fire for the movie there was nearly a riot, "you are not burning our tank!"
After the movie was made two were sold to private owners in Mississippi and the other ten stayed with the movie company where they are today.
I have tried to locate these two for over two years but with no luck at all, until last week when an email told me of one being offered for sale in USA. I have made contact with the chap running the web site and he has forwarded the address of the owner, who I wrote to today. Hopefully I will obtain some info and maybe the serial number. Also the whereabouts of the second tank as well, with a bit of luck
This shot is of the tanks on the movie set
These two shots are of the one for sale. Now known to be 169137
I have received an answer from Robert Creely who lives in Mississippi USA. Robert owns 169137 and said she is still a runner but at the moment has a small water leak from the motor. The tank is used for Demo's at the moment and is for sale. Robert is the proprietor of "Military vehicle Preservation Activity in Tupelo He also passed on the name of the other chap that brought the other Cents from the group. This is Mark Sonday of Kenosha Military Museum in Pleasant Prairie USA who I will be contacting a.s.a.p. to find out what I can about his Centurion
OLD FIFTIES MEETING
On February 19th 2005 a get together of old 1st Armoured Regiment troops that served in the early 1950's, took place at Pentridge Prison in Coburg Melbourne Victoria.
This was organized by Don Weedon who was ex 1st Armoured Regiment and also an ex Governor at Pentridge, and as I also served 13 years as an officer I was able to give Don some assistance.
We all met at 10.30 am at the Main Gate at Pentridge
where we drove inside and parked in what used to be known as the "Square".
Pentridge is set up with four prisons which were all separate but interconnected.
The main one was know as "Central" or Pentridge and the others were "North", "South" or Metro and Jika Jika.
Central housed "B" Div. and "E" Div. a Hospital, Store and Kitchens, and an industries area and also a farm area.
The Northern Prison held "A" Div. and "J" Div and also "H" Div and a Print shop.
The Southern or Metro held "G", "F" and "D" Div.
Jika Jika was the maximum Security Prison.
The prison has now been closed and Jika Jika has been removed completely, in fact all the newer parts have been demolished and its now full of housing. The only parts remaining are the old Bluestone buildings and walls.
This is "B" Division built in the mid 1800's
This is one wing of "B" Division. There are three wings ,one on each side and one at the rear
This is "Main Gate Tower" an armed post overlooking "The Square "and back to the Main Gate
The cat walk off Main gate Tower, which did at least give you a chance to stretch your legs.
A view from "The Square" back to the opened Main Gate
Ex Tankies having a look around
Don Weedon in the centre passing on some info.
Looking out of "B" Div entrance note three separate gates
One wing of the bottom tier of "B" Div
Stairway to the Top Tier
View of bottom and top tier
Note the air condition ducts, they came after my time
An older type wooden door as used in my day, using a large padlock and slide bolt
A later model steel door with snib and key built in. These were installed after I left "B" Division to go to Jika Jika.
Cell is set-up for two prisoners using a two bunk bed, not much room.
When I was in "B" Div it was only one to a cell
L to R Merle Fuller, Max Fuller, Charles Walsh standing, Alleyne Walsh, Kath Lovell. Ray Doo, Back of Max Murray, Elizabeth Billings, Jim Davis, Val Weedon
Old Troopers having a cup of tea in "The Circle"
L to R Ray Doo, Max Murray, Elizabeth Billing, Jim Davis, Val Weedon, Wayne Callander, Ian Laurie
It was a good day enjoyed by all.
The people that attended
John & Elizabeth Billings
Wayne & Therese Callander
Max & Merle Fuller
Bill & Marie Hayward
George & Kath Lovell
Charles & Alleyne Walsh
Don & Val Weedon
I have been collecting some items for the Vietnam Veterans Museum at San Remo to improve the Armour Display a bit.
One item I was given was an Ammo rack that was fixed behind the Cupola lid on the Centurion. The one below is off a troop tank and holds 10 liner boxes. The Command tank which holds another radio also has another antenna mount that is placed at the left hand side of the Ammo rack. To make room for this the ammo rack is cut down and the section to the right of the radio compartment is cut off allowing only seven liners to be carried. The rack in its smaller shape, is bolted to the original bolts on the right hand side thus making more room on the left hand side, for the antenna.
I felt it would look good displayed as it was when in use in Vietnam. It held .30 cal liners and a PRC10 pack radio. The radio's were repaired and passed on to the Cadet Corps and so were very hard to acquire items, but I managed in time to obtain one.
The liner boxes were just about impossible to acquire and in desperation I started to buy some from Disposal Stores. I called into the disposal store in Richmond and explained what I required, and he cut the price in half from $10 to $5, which I thought was rather nice of him. In time I ended up with sixteen liners
The rack with a full set of .30 cal liner boxes - The space is for the PRC10 radio
I intend to paint the whole thing and obtain a stencil to rewrite the markings on the Liners
Anyone have a quart of army flat green paint, its also very hard to obtain?????????????
I was also lucky enough to obtain some drill rounds and clips, and believe you me, these were bloody hard to acquire. But I contacted Gordon Muddle via the NSW Lancers Museum. Gordon is a collector and licensed so he was able to not only supply some dummy drill rounds but also paperwork to make it all nice and legal.
They came with clips to make up a belt and as a bonus some empty blanks cases. I had to drive to Albury to pick up the ammo as it could not be sent by mail. On the way back I called into Wangaratta to take some photos of the Dozer, ARV and Bridge-layer there, but alas they have now been moved. I wonder if they have gone to the scrap metal dealer like the ones at Gerogery? No it took two days but have traced them to Winton Raceway, Tim Vibert owns a property there and they were shifted over there, at least they are still intact.
I hope one day to have this set-up on 169016 with a dummy .30 cal Flex
I have the base mount for the .30 but am looking for the other section that clips onto the gun
As the .30 is obsolete this year I am hoping someone will donate one to me?????
IT IS FOR A GOOD CAUSE
The Vietnam Veterans Museum - San Remo - Victoria
Directions to the new Museum
This shot of the new Museum was taken last year. It has progressed a lot since then. The place is now at lockup and the office and entrance was ready for the plaster lining to go in when I was last down there. Watching it being built brings home just how much work is involved in the construction
A copy .30 cal machine gun - it is cock and click and exact in every way
A fully reconditioned Rolls Royce V12 Motor
Note the "Wine Rack" ammo storage in the front and also it shows above the centre roadwheels, the under floor storage for the 20 pounder ammo
While on the Museum bit I have some more information on the 8 /13 Victorian Mounted Rifles Centurion at Bandiana. I was given some photos over a period of a couple of years
This one of a Cent on fire in Vietnam but nothing with the photo to id it or any information on the cause
I later obtained this photo also from Vietnam, but again without any info. My thoughts at the time were that it was a photo of the tank in the background taken under the fuel tank for effect. But I was later informed that it was in fact a shot of a damaged fuel tank on Call Sign 31A. It had been hit by friendly fire and took a .50 cal in the tank.
It was later still when I found out that it had caught fire and was in fact the tank on fire above!
I was later to find out that 31A was in fact 169073 and remembered it was at the 8/13 VMR Museum at Bandiana
While I had seen this particular tank on many occasions, I only had two photos as Security at Bandiana would not let me take any photos. Really do not know how I got these two
Then I started to wonder if the original tank was still fitted so it was another trip to Albury. On this occasion there were no security at the checkpoint so I just drove up and had a look, and sure enough there was the old bolt covered by much paint, but still doing the job after 35 years!
As it was now an unsecured site? I was able to take a couple of photo's
And so another small mystery has been solved (For me anyway)
Anyone in the Brisbane area that has an interest in Centurion MBT's ??
I have a mate that owns a Centurion 169109 which is in NSW but he has been transferred to Brisbane, and has a six hour drive each way to work on his tank
We need someone with some land within 100 kls of Brisbane that either live on the property or have a large shed available, where a Centurion could be stored and worked on. Room to drive it around a bit would be an advantage.
Alan Hill has come to our assistance with an offer to house the cent at his property near Nambour Qld. We spoke on the phone last night and Brad will now go up to meet with him. A strange coincidence, Alan crewed in 33B which from memory I think was 169109, in which case they all will meet again.
Today Alan Hill and Brad Baker met each other and 169109 will be moving to Alan's property in the near future. Alan in my book is a lucky man to have a Centurion placed on his property. I would sell my soul for that chance, but it gets better. Alan has some photos of the full crew in Vietnam of which he was one standing in front of 169109. What are the odds that his own tank from Vietnam, would turn up at his home in Queensland????
Alan is sending down the photo which I will put up as soon as it arrives
And here they are
This one is just for interest and to upset all Taxi drivers
Anyone know the number of this Cent??
169109 bogged in Vietnam . Alan Hill standing on the engine covers
Alan Hill leaning on 169109 at the workshops at the Dat -- May 69
Alan Hill standing behind C/S 33B 169109 at a live fire at the Dat
I was a bit dismayed when I first looked at the pictures to see 169109 as C/S33B and in others as C/S 23B
Alan explained that some people went to Vietnam as an advance "B" Sqn party and were used in "C" Sqn in late 1968 hence the prefix 3 which designated "C" Sqn. When the main party arrived and took over from "C" Sqn they then used the prefix 2 for "B" Sqn.
To make it a bit clearer for people that were never in Vietnam (Myself included)
1 = A Sqn 2= B Sqn 3= C Sqn
The next number shows the troop 2= 2 Troop 3= 3 Troop
the letter shows the tank in the troop 22 would be the command tank 22A and 22B and 22C the other tanks in the Troop
So my old tank 24A would be a B Sqn 4 Troop and the designated tank in the troop as the Troop Sgt. tank 24 would be the troop leaders tank ( an officer)
I hope I have this right as it was a long time ago
While on the Call sign numbers and the serial numbers------ A tank in Vietnam could have many crew commanders as they swapped tanks when they were damaged, in for service or replaced. Also some tanks did the whole three tours and would have had a call sign of 1 2 3 for A B C Sqn. So to ID: a tank from a call sign you must have the date of the photo so as the commander can be identified.
But the good old serial number remained constant and was with the tank for its life. I love serial numbers!
Crew of 169109 Left to Right
Wayne Wormes, Shorty Atkings (squatting) Alan Hill John Meredith
The crew again ---No doubt on the serial number now!
John Meredith Operator - Alan Hill Gunner - Shorty (John) Atkins Crew Commander with elbow on the barrel and Wayne Wormes Driver
Rusty Dyson giving 169109 a try out
Re the Centurions moved from Wangaratta Vic to Winton Vic.
Winton has a motor racing circuit not far from Wangaratta and I believe these tanks are next door and in view from the road. Brian "Spider" Webb sent me these photos which were taken by his son they show the bridge layer and the ARV. I imagine the dozer tank is there somewhere but its not shown in the pictures. My thanks to Spider who has saved me a long drive.