My Beaut Aussie Cent

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Stephen White
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My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:08 pm

A lot of the pleasure I get from our hobby comes from research.

So ahead of a Cent build blog, here is some of the stuff I've found on the way to re-creating a Royal Australian Armoured Corps Centurion Mk 5/1 which served in Vietnam in 1969.

In June 1969, a combined arms force fought one of the three major engagements of the Australian war in Vietnam, at a village called Binh Ba. The action lasted over three days and resulted in the defeat of a North Vietnamese Army regiment. Two troops of Centurions were involved and the vehicle I've chosen to re-create is ARN 169007, callsign 24A of Four Troop, B Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment,named "Buku Boom Boom".

A good summary of the battle is here:

http://www.5rar.asn.au/narrative/Battle-of-Binh-Ba.pdf

and a short film made by the Australian War Memorial is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK8TJFMs51c

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This is a schematic of the action:

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and here, some photos of the action:

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One of the 2 Troop Cents hit by RPG-7 rocket:

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The Australian War Memorial has a lot of material and I've been able to download the actual War Diaries for the units involved, including the complete After Action Report from the infantry, 5 Royal Australian Regiment. They give a real feel for the operation:

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm95/

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Here is the Australian tactical map of Binh Ba:

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Two weeks ago, I was in Hanoi and in the Vietnamese Army Museum I found by chance a large NVA tactical map, which in an amazing coincidence had this detail of the same area:

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The most rewarding part of this research has been talking via email to Bob Ferrari and other members of 4 Troop and to other knowledgeable members of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, who have all been marvellous. Almost by return of post to one of my early messages, I received a disc with two collections of photos and I've selected a few of Buku Boom Boom below. Bob and his mates have kindly offered to help with getting the detail right and I'm already indebted to them for their kindness.

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A roadside mine that was discoverd:

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The Aussie Cents were progressively modified in theatre and it's a challenge to establish the build standard of a vehicle at a particular time. Shortly after Binh Ba, Buku Boom Boom suffered a hit from a 30lb Chicom mine and was replaced. This adds complication because its replacement appears in a number of photos but was of a later build standard.

The main mods to convert Mark's supreme Mk 5/2 will be:

- 20 pdr gun barrel
- 100 gall external fuel tank
- additional glacis plate armour
- modification of hull catwalks to Vietnam standard
- deletion of smoke grenade dischargers, cable reel and re-position Inf/tk telephone
- addition of .50 ranging machine gun and .30 cal ammunition stowage on turret.
- addition of IR searchlight and modified stowage basket
- addition of spare roadwheel stowage on glacis

Roll on delivery and thanks to Mark for the excellent blog.

Any other Aussie Cents out their? Anyone for a bridgelayer or ARV?

Regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Simon Peck » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:05 am

Hi Stephen.
Thanks for posting, very interesting. The photo where the canvass(?) cover has been shot away reveals some interesting details. Is that framework for supporting the canvass cover? And did all Centurions with that mantlet have that small 'D' handle above the gun barrel?
Cheers,
Simon.

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:58 am

Simon

I'm delighted if anyone finds this historical stuff interesting. It adds a lot for me but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

The framework in the photo is associated with the fit of the IR kit, specifically the large IR searchlight on the left of the mantlet. Don't know about the D shaped fitting. If it is a fixture for the mantlet cover, it would have to accomodate the barrel recoil without ripping the canvas.

Might be worth trawling through Col Filtness' excellent Steel Thunder site where there are lots of photos of Cents in various stages of re-build and photos of Cents in service. Address here:

http://www.centurion-mbt.com/

Regards and thanks for the interest.

Stephen

Geoff Pipprell

Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Geoff Pipprell » Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:59 am

Hi Stephen,

I'm really looking forward to watching this build.

If you don't mind I would like to post a link on our Hobby Havoc forums to this build - I know there are two guys who will go weak at the knees.

Regards,
Geoff.

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Ray Brown » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:43 am

g'day. i've been perusing col's website as well. a great source of info.

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Robert E Morey » Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:27 am

Hi Steven,
I enjoy the historical stuff a lot! For me, its what makes the models come alive. I wasn't too excited when Armortek announced they were venturing into modern armor. But now that I've seen the centurion prototype and know more about its history I cannot think of a better model to release! It looks like quite the beast! The model will be most impressive esp after super detailing!

The cent had a really long service history - but all I knew about was in Israeli service.

Is that a twin mg in gun mantlet on the Aussie tanks? It looks like one MG is larger caliber than the other, perhaps a ranging gun (cannon) for the main 105mm?

Thanks for all the great information,
Best regards,
Bob

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:31 am

Hi Bob, great to see you on this Cent topic. We should get a lot of different Cent types, which will be great and will complement all the Tiger Fiebel fare.....

The Cent Mk 5/1s carried a .30 coaxial MG and a .50 ranging machine gun. We also had the latter on Chieftain before lasers came in and it was a remarkably effective system. The RMG was solenoid controlled to fire three round bursts, all tracer. You fired bursts until you got an elevation bracket (one burst minus, one plus) and then read off the range onto the main armament scall. The ammunition was ballistic ally matched to the main armament high explosive low velocity rounds. The high velocity anti tank rounds (APDS) were such a flat trajectory that iballistic matching didn't matter. The Aussies in Vietnam used to hold the solenoid open and fired it as a conventional MG. The accounts of Binh Ba contain a number of references to the need to get maximum rounds down in close in fighting in a built up area.

Thanks for the interest. Geoff - yes, very happy for you to copy the link. Great website!

Best regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:12 pm

Big parcel from the Australian War Memorial shop:

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To quote the publicity material:

Fighting to the finish tells the story of the Australian Army in Vietnam during the period of Australia’s largest and most sustained military commitment to the Vietnam War. As the ninth and final volume of the Official History of Australia’s Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975, it is the successor to the acclaimed To Long Tan by Ian McNeill, and On the offensive by Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins.

The product of years of intensive work, Fighting to the finish reveals the experiences of Australian soldiers in Vietnam in a way that has not been possible before. It describes the activities of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam during its peak years, from the middle of 1968 to the end of 1971. The authors had unrestricted access to official government records, including highly classified defence files and operational records. To this they added extensive interviews with participants, personal papers and correspondence, communist Vietnamese histories, and discussions with former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers.

Fighting to the finish covers the Australian involvement at virtually every level, from the senior commanders and planners to the experiences of infantrymen on patrol and in contact with the enemy. It also contains appendices of authoritative information and data on Australian operations in Vietnam, previously unavailable to general readers, which will ensure its value as the principal reference work on the subject for decades.


I haven't posted it on the Centurion References post because it isn't specifically about Cents but it does have accounts of all the major actions in which the Cent was involved in Vietnam and some excellent photos and maps. This is from the chapter on Binh Ba:

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Regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:20 am

Research is great when one thread leads to another. I suspected that the tank in this photo taken during the assault on Binh Ba was my chosen Cent, 24A, ARN 169007 Buku Boom Boom:

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I've just got a high resolution copy from the Australian War Memorial, which confirms the identity:

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So now comparing the shutters on the building on the left with those on this photo:

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They're the same building and the tank in the photo is almost certainly 24A.

This Cent, taken from the AWM film of Binh Ba, is certainly a 4 Troop vehicle because the troop logo on the turret is clearly visible:


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Whilst I can't confirm it's 24A, it could well be.

Not bad to find pictures of a chosen tank in action. But it gets better. I've now discovered that the AWM archive has a sound recording of the Squadron radio net from Binh Ba which contains the traffic between the two troops in contact and SHQ in the 1 ATF base at Nui Dat. I've ordered a copy.

I now feel better eqipped to go back to the guys who were at Binh Ba with questions.

Incidentally, there is some debate about whether the fishtail exhausts should point upwards or downwards:

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Both ways appear in original photos.

I was able to buy copies of the three volume Illustrated Parts Catalogue at Tankfest and it shows the fishtails pointing downwards.

I now discover on the photo of ARN 169007 at Binh Ba that - yes - the left is mounted pointing down - and the right one points up. As Kent says, it's all in the details.

Regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:20 am

Started to build the 1/35th maquette for my Aussie Mk 5/1. It's the AFV Club kit with a lot of after market parts from Firestorm Models, Tiger Models, Mouse House Enterprises, Eduard Photoetch and Fruili tracks. This is the applique armour plate which will have to be added to the Armortek glacis. The real thing was 44mm thick (which seems a fairly random size?):

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There is a good scale drawing of the applique plate in Shane Lovell's excellent book on the Australian Cents.

For David Wilkins - this is also the plate for your Mark 6.

Best regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Adrian Harris » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:41 am

> The real thing was 44mm thick (which seems a fairly random size?

44.45mm would be 1 3/4 inches thick.

Would 0.45mm be an acceptable level of error in the days before three decimal place digital callipers ?

Adrian.
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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Fabrice Le Roux » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:27 pm

Hi Stephen,

Just curious about your 44mm dimension for the uparmoured applique plate on the glacis. My references, Dunstan (x2), Monro (x1) all state the thickness was 50mm/2in. However, I know how meticulous you are with your measurements, so am assuming this is a thinner plate adopted by the ANZACs. To save weight? Or measured from a non typical vehicle?
Perhaps we need a research mission to clarify..

cheers, Fabrice

PS This photo shows that we were experimenting with welded angled applique plates on captured JagdPanthers as early as 1946. It would be interesting to find a link to the 1956 Cent upgrade requirement.
1920_3264333231613664.jpg
uparmoured JagdPanthers 1946

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:31 pm

Well, my learned friend, this is not easy.

The references are pretty consistent in saying that the original glacis on the Mark 1s and 3s were 76mm at 57deg.

I suspect that the measurement is more properly three inches ie Imperial.

I see that Dunstan et al then claim the applique armour was 50mm which would make the overall thickness 126mm. This is inconsistent as again, most of the references claim the combined thickness was 120mm.

My source for the applique being 44mm is Shane Lovell, who has looked in great detail at the Australian tanks. I trust his judgement more than the other authors. 44mm makes sense as it's close to 1 3/4 in Imperial. The answer, as you say, is to get our bodies down to Bovvy with tape in hand.

Although, in one sixth, we're talking about 1mm difference.

I'll go with 44mm until anyone can supply definitive figures. One thing is clear, that as with many things in the tank world, the written sources are generally inconsistent and in some cases inaccurate.

I'm back from the States at the weekend and can look at the books again.

All the best.

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:36 pm

But I knolw a man who does know.........

Further research suggests that WO194/526 at the National Archives holds the answer. The piece is titled "appique armour for glacis of Centurion 3 and 7".

Now Chertsey isn't that far from Kew................

Regards

Stephen

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Re: My Beaut Aussie Cent

Post by Stephen White » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:49 pm

And in this webpage, someone claims to have measured the glacis applique although rather imprecisely as "four cms". This is closer to the Shane Lovell 44mm than the Dunstan 5cm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACenturion_tank

Stephen

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