Four Centurions purchased for scrap
I was given information of three Centurions sitting in a paddock about 30 kl. from Albury NSW. A few phone calls and I found that they were on a property owned by an old school member, who now owned a property at Gerogery NSW.
His name was John Knoble and he informed me that the tanks were there for about three weeks, whilst they were being cut up for scrap. I quickly obtained the owners name and drove to Albury arriving about 10 am. The owners was Dave Robinson and he explained that he had three at Gerogery and a fourth one still to be picked up. I was given the impression that these tanks came from Bandiana Army Camp at Wodonga, and thought I had found some of the 20 missing tanks. But on arriving home and checking my files I found that they were from Tim Vibert's stock, and I had already seen them at Holbrook.
They were from a group known as Old Smokies , parked up the back of the property. And as none of them had starter motors or Booster coils fitted The condition of the mechanicals especially the motors would be suspect, if they went at all!
The row of Smokies
Dave had started to have the Cents cut up, using a thermal lance. This proceeded well with an attempt to cut through the tank from left to right just behind the drivers compartment. That is until there were two explosions. The front was pulled away and they discovered two .50 cal rounds that had exploded, plus many other .30 and .50 empty cases. Whilst poking around among the empties they found two more loaded .50's.
The .30and .50 machine guns were side by side, and when a stoppage occurred the operator waited for a small period of time, to see if the heat of the barrel would cook off the round. If not, the round was then extracted by pulling the bolt back. The rounds did not always fall into the catch bag and often ended on the floor, where they could roll around and disappear from sight. In action I would imagine many went this way, and I know of owners that still pull rounds out from under the floor today.
Some of the empty cases and clips.
Some of the exploded cases and a live round pulled out from under the "Wine Rack"
Dave was not prepared to risk his staff, so all cutting was stopped. My suggestion was that the turret and motor would have to be removed before anymore cutting could be done so as a good search for more rounds could be done.
And this is where it was left. Dave was good enough to give me a lot of small items for the display at the Vietnam Veterans Museum at San Remo, in fact he allowed me to take what I wanted. This was a generous offer and I was only limited by what I could fit into the boot of the Fairlane, but I obtained most of what I wanted. Unfortunately my health does not allow me to climb over Centurions, for very long, unbolting parts that have not moved for about 35 years and I was to suffer for my effort for a week. But a week later I returned with Howard Bull who owns Centurion 169063 who was interested in some parts.
I have notified all owners of the Centurions and many have contacted Dave, the results I do not know at this time.
169024 she is fitted with an "A" barrel
The "wine rack" to the right of the gear stick is the storage bin for the 20 pound rounds for the main gun.
The .30 and .50 machine guns are directly above this. It was under the "wine rack" where the live rounds and empty cases were located.
You can see the damage that the thermal lance has done to the drivers compartment, and also see the thickness of the hull on the left of the seat.
This was 169015
A rear shot of 169015 also has a "B" Barrel
She has, in a lot of cases, only one road wheel fitted instead of a pair. She also has a "B" barrel but no second machine gun drilling in the mantlet
Here are some of the items that Dave donated to the Vietnam Veterans Museum at San Remo.
This lot put the boot close to the ground and was all the Fairlane could carry
Track links - Fire system bottles - Towing lug - Radio Antenna Mounts - Track link pins
Two operator / loader seats
Crew Commanders .30 cal Flex machine gun - base mount with barrel rest
Turret gun indicator
One of a pair of smoke grenade launchers
Pair of track links - You would not believe the weight in these, They are what stopped the Fairlane load
Radio Antenna base's
Drivers compartment radio switchbox. there are three connectors, one to the drivers headset, one as radio in and the third as radio out
the flick switch on the bottom was a call switch. The centre switch was the gain control or volume
Ignition panel with main power switch, with ignition switch to the left and the starter button below it
To the left of the Ign switch are light switches and below them the fuses
Drivers dash panel
Ammo storage rack for .30 cal liner box's and in the middle is a place for the hand held radio
this is positioned behind the Crew Commanders Cupola