The start of the Repaint of 169031

    Ready for the new paint job -  she was a sorry sight 

  Sandblasted and ready for her paint job 
Note the wood between the road wheels - They had to cut the seized handbrake cables to move her and so had no brakes to stop her rolling, hence the wooden block!

Splendid in her new colors

The main idea behind this C.D. was to locate and photograph as many surviving Centurions as it was possible to find.

It was my hope that I could see around 15 – 20, and as this was to be for my own use only, there was not much thought put into it, just a photo and a bit of text below it stating anything of interest or history of each Centurion I found.

It was soon apparent that I was going to uncover more than my original estimate. I also started to notice differences in the modifications, and configurations that I was finding. This started an interest to know more, and the thought occurred that maybe others would be interested in these items of interest as well, and the whole agenda started to snowball.

 

Below is what started it all.  This was the Centurion I drove back in the early 50’s and I had a desire to see it again.
 
 

Here are two pages from a UK magazine The left one is 169007 named "Buka Boom Boom" and carrying the call sign 22A

Its pretty exact except the call sign was 24A. This mistake was later explained. When 169007 was returned to Australia it was replaced with 169067 and the name was repainted onto her barrel but it was BUKU BOOM BOOM 11 and its call sign was 22A.  But as the tank above has the Serial No 169007 it was in fact 24A
 The name on 169007
The name on 169067
 
ANYWAY


It all started at Puckapunyal.  
 
As you enter Puckapunyal


 

169031 “BEWILDERED”

HOLDING GROUND AT THE ENTRANCE TO PUCKAPUNYAL

By this time I was all fired up and my desire was two fold. To get inside a centurion with my camera and to sit in the drivers seat again. This, after a lot of knock backs from just about everyone, was finally achieved with the kind assistance of the Vietnam Veterans Museum at San Remo Victoria. And a lasting friendship started with both the Museum and many many Veterans.

It very quickly became apparent that I was going to drive a Cent again before I passed away. Just how this was to be achieved I had no idea. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be driving most of the running Centurions in Australia over the next three years.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I quickly worked out that I needed a Centurion that was running and located somewhere that there was enough room to have a decent drive, although 100 yards would have been ok with me. 

 Lt. Col Peter Jarratt (RETD) was kind enough to give me the opportunity to drive his tank 169005 on his property in NSW. After 40 years I dropped down into the drivers seat and was quite terrified. The drive went great, I missed a gear early on but that was it. I had a great drive over many miles and cut up Peter’s property a fair bit. The hardest part was remembering the hand signals in reverse, the opposite to what was expected, but even that came back quickly. My confidence was booming. After leaving Peter we drove to Holbrook and viewed the Tanks on Vince Ryan’s property that was a storage yard for Tim Vibert the chap that brought the lot from the army.

This lot in the shed are in two rows you cannot see the rear row and that is only two thirds of the shed

 But that is what the inside of the shed looked like

 I was having a ball, like a kid in a lolly shop

These four are in the paddock at the rear and classed as "Old Smokies"
 
 

There are ten in the group of "Old Smokies" they have now gone to the scrap metal yards and been cut up

I was hoping that this would quieten down my burning desire but instead it inflamed it  

  169078 The Dozer
 and a Bridge Layer and an ARV
 

Following up a lead we called into Wangaratta on the way home and there found three more. A Bridge Layer, a Dozer and an ARV above. These three have now been moved to a property outside Wangaratta.

169037

      Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum.

This Centurion was brought at auction for $33,000. The purchaser was the Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum.

It was a runner and is started and moved regularly, which will no doubt keep it in better condition than a lot I have encountered. They own a flat car that was used to transport the Centurions around the country and also to the ship for transport to Vietnam. This Cent served in Vietnam on two separate tours, in April 1968 as C/S 32A. It also was C/S 22C in March 1969 and C/S 22b in April 1969

It then appears to be out of service from May 69 till Oct 70. In Nov 70 it appeared as Forward Delivery And in Jan 71 till Sept 71 it has C/S 3.

I cannot find any damage report on it, so it may have returned to Australia for a Base Overhaul, and then returned to SVN

I spoke with the Crew Commander Sgt. Len Allen. Len now lives just up the road from me at Broadford. He told me of the action when on the way to Balmoral. They were fired on and replied with Canister. The result credited 169037 with the first confirmed kill for a tank since WW2. The search found the remains of two VC bodies. It was in May 1968 that 169037 was commanded by Sgt. Len Allen with the call sign 32Alpha and they were en route to FSB Balmoral when they achieved the first confirmed enemy KIA by Australian Tanks since the Second World War.                     

This historical fact should be noted.

I believe it had a Kookaburra painted on the barrel with a VC held by his hair in its jaws.

The Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum I believe have the largest collection of railway equipment in the world. They plan to build a seventy - mile rail track for tourist train rides

The idea on the Centurion was to have it static on a flat car, but I now believe that it will give displays of driving onto and off the flatcar, which should look quite spectacular. If you are in the Area it will be well worth a look, when it opens. I might add that when I requested some photos, (Due to the distance) they offered to supply film, take photos, have them developed and posted to me. I rang back to offer money for costs and they refused to accept any, really nice people. This was about 2002,I was told in 2005 that it will be fully restored

Today about 4 weeks later I have just received the parcel from The Museum. Here I will insert   two of the excellent photos they provided.
 I did get to Dorrigo about 18 months later, with Rusty Dyson and Brad Baker when we all had a good day driving around the paddock beside the Train Collection

 

I wanted to know why a Steam Train Museum would buy a Centurion MBT and how they would go about it. Also how they did it. I asked for a report on these questions and they were most helpful in replying to me with five pages which I will list here fully, makes great reading and they raised $33,000 in a couple of weeks!

No. 9 - 2110(1 kJ J                  6th November, 2000 Dear Members and Associates,

URGENTLY  NEEDED FUNDING

For many years our Museum has actively pursued the preservation of Freight Wagons. As opportunities arise; we have also collected together a wide range of items to be "carried" on those wagons in the Museum display. A few examples being 6 Holden cars for the car carrier, wooden beer kegs in an "S" truck, a steam roller on the well wagon, an old road grader for a flat wagon, etc. These sort of educational and interesting displays are what will make our Museum a "must see" attraction.

One display that we have always been very keen to establish is the awesome sight of a 52 tonne Centurion Army Tank on a Railway Flat Wagon. We tried to secure a purpose built TE Flat Wagon, but alas they are gone. However, a very good substitute is the recently purchased BME Flat Wagon. We have photographic proof that Centurions were carried on BME wagons, so it is authentic to do so. Centurions were used by the Australian Army in the Vietnam War and were brought to and from the docks in Sydney by rail, for shipment to and from Vietnam. There are photographs of them being lifted off the railway wagons straight onto the ships.

Having at long last included an appropriate wagon in our collection; the obvious next step is to obtain a Centurion Tank. We recently thought that we had secured one, but we couldn't raise the necessary funds quickly enough and it slipped through our fingers. We are now concerned that it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase a Centurion and every time one is sold; the price increases.

There is an Auction of Military vehicles to be held in the middle of this month; only 2 weeks away, at which 2 Centurion Tanks (both in working order) are to be auctioned. One of the tanks to be auctioned was used in Vietnam and actually has some claim to fame in a battle. If we are to secure one for our display; we need to be at this auction with no less than $25,000 in our pocket to offer a realistic challenge to other collectors. The only way in which we can raise this sort of funding in a few days, is for numerous Members to provide those funds on an Interest Free Loan basis.

I am therefore Appealing to Members who can visualise the massive bulk of a Centurion Tank in full military colours sitting on our BME Flat Wagon, or perhaps being driven on and off the flat wagon in public displays and are inspired by the thought; to get behind this Appeal. The Appeal is off to a slow start, but 4 Members have so far committed $3,500; a long way to go yet.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough that this requires a big effort from a lot of people; there is no point going to the auction at all unless we have raised about $25,000. It is not really a big ask; $1000 each loaned by 25 Members, or 5 Members loaning $5.000 each, or dare 1 ,,,-ay 2 at $10.000, BUT the need is extremely urgent ! As soon as you get this Newsletter; I need your telephone call committing yourself to loaning (or Donating) an amount, closely followed by a cheque in the mail.

If you can help to provide funds for the Tank and we do not buy one at the auction; your loans or donations will be refunded immediately. Please don't leave it to "someone else" or it simply will not happen. This is an opportunity that may never come again. The spectacle of a Centurion Tank on our BME Flat Wagon would be awe inspiring and a huge attraction to the Museum on its own. So. if you are in a position to help; please take a few minutes to think about how much you can afford to Loan and then get on the 'phone to let me know. The need is extremely URGENT.

 

No. IO - 2000 KJ:KJ         241h November, 2000

Dear Members and Associates,

Well, I suppose those of you who were inspired by the prospect of having the awesome sight of a Centurion Tank sitting on an appropriate railway flat wagon in our future museum display, are eager to find out if we own one. The great news is that we did raise sufficient funds and we were successful in purchasing a Mark 5 Centurion Main Battle Tank (their full title).

Personally, I am greatly inspired by the purchase of the Tank and I know that many other Members share that enthusiasm. The Tank will provide us with another major drawcard in the museum display, especially because this particular machine has seen active service with the Australian Army in Vietnam, indeed being involved in battles of some note. It was carried to and from the docks in Sydney en route to and from Vietnam on Railway Flat Wagons and it's inclusion in our display is well justified.

Member Terry Boardman has also pointed out that Centurions were moved by rail on numerous other occasions. One example being; from military sidings at Seymour (Victoria) to Rydalmere in Sydney and vice versa, for use by the Royal N.S.W. Lancers. Another being from Seymour to Clapham in Queensland and return for military exercises at Tin Can Bay, the route being via Cootamundra, Parker, Binnaway, The Gap crossover at FVerris Creek, Telarah triangle near Newcastle and up the North Coast line. The moves to and from Rydalmere only comprised one, two or three tanks at a time, but the Tin Can Bay moves involved a complete squadron and used every flat wagon the N.S.W. Railways had, that could carry the 52 tonnes which the tanks weighed.

The Centurions are l l feet wide and when they were carried on railway flat wagons they were well outside the normal loading gauge. They had to be centrally positioned on the flat wagons to a tolerance of half an inch, the tracks hung over the side of the wagons by nearly a foot each side. The trains conveying the Tanks were "Out Of Gauge" trains and travelled very slowly under "Single Line Out Of Gauge" conditions, with frequent stops to check the chains securing them to the wagons. The Tanks were always accompanied by representatives of the Loading Superintendent and Army personel.

For safety reasons, the Tanks were usually carried with the barrels of the guns pointed towards the rear of the train and elaborate routing was arranged to avoid reversing the train. This involved the use of seldom used triangles and The Gap crossover near Went Creek.

I have been trying to secure both a Centurion and a wagon that could carry it, for over 20 years so that our Museum can mount what will undoubtedly be a "must see" for both railway and military enthusiasts, historians, school groups and the general public. This sort of display within our Museum will earn us the reputation World wide as being a place that must be visited. This of course will convert into healthy financial income from public admissions to the display, justifying the expense many times over. It is very hard to make profits from train operations because the overheads are so high, but because we own our site and the collection; overheads for the Museum display are minimal and the income from admissions is therefore almost all profit. Displays such as the Centurion on a wagon guarantee the patronage needed.

The response to my urgent appeal for Interest Free Loan funds (or donations) to enable us to go to the auction with a realistic amount to spend, was inspirational. We raised $26,300 prior to the auction, mostly in Interest Free Loans, in a week ! Thankyou to everyone for this magnificent support.

A very long story, condensed for the purposes of avoiding boredom and using too much space reads as follows. The auction was held on Saturday the 1 8th of November commencing at I1 am. at Lue, just South of Mudgee, N.S.W. and was precipitated by the closure of a military museum. There were approximately 500 lots in the auction, mostly small items, many of them not military related (land rover parts, farm machinery, old cars, etc_). .

The main items of interest were 2 Centurion Tanks and as with all auctions with such unusual, large, historic items; there were far more "sticky beaks" than buyers present, but despite the incessant rain, the resultant muddy quagmire and an unbelievable traffic jam of many bogged vehicles, the attendance was large; perhaps 300 people.

The Centurions were Lots 85 and 86. Lot 85 was the one that we preferred because it was the one that had been purchased new by the Australian Army and had seen active service in Vietnam. Lot 86 was a Mark 3 Centurion, purchased second hand from Hong Kong by the- Australian Army, but not having been to Vietnam and not having fired a shot in anger; had no additional historic value. Our Museum would have settled for the second Lot (the Mark 3) but as luck had it; the one that we preferred was auctioned first, so that's the one we concentrated on.

Hindsight is a great thing (if only we could buy it at the hardware store). Because our preferred Tank was auctioned first, I thought that was a good thing, because if we missed out on the one we really wanted (die first one) we could then bid on the other one. If it was the opposite way around, we would have been undecided whether to bid vigorously on the first one, if we let it go and then couldn't afford the second one; we could easily miss out on both of them. The underlying factor being that Centurions are not available very often, indeed, rarely and at increasing prices. It will soon be too late to get one.

The bidding for Lot 85 was started at $5,000 by one chap, I bid $6,000, another fellow bid $7,000 and then 2 of us were bidding $1,000 per second, until about $25,000, then in $500 jumps it continued until I won the last bid of $30,000 1! However, the G.S.T. componentt and commission added another S3,000 odd, so we obtained the option to purchase the Tank for a little over $33,000.

There was much clapping and hand shaking as a result of our success. The military enthusiasts in particular were very pleased that tills particular Tank was to go to a Museum, very pleased that it was not going overseas and greatly relieved that it wasn't purchased by someone to become a joy ride machine for thrill seekers to destroy it "scrub bashing" somewhere. It is complete, in very good order, fully operational (except that it cannot fire shells and it's machine gun has been removed!) and is a mammoth piece of machinery. One military enthusiast at the auction told me that in his opinion it is the Centurion in the best condition, in private ownership.

Perhaps our Museum can demonstrate the loading and unloading of the Tank, to and from the railway wagon, on special days, or perhaps just have it sitting on the wagon with it's turret revolving.

Obviously, I had exceeded (he amount that was committed prior to the auction, but the popularity of the Appeal told me that more funds would come in after the auction and they have. Bidding at an auction can be a very nerve racking experience, especially when one is spending R1,000 a second !! This is where the hindsight part comes in; Lot 86 (the Mark 3) was sold for $19,000 ! Mind you, if we were bidding for it, the purchase price would have gone much higher. Lot 85's vital statistics areas follows:

Mark 5 Centurion Main Battle Tank. Serial Number 169037. Weight (fully laden): SO tons (52 tonnes). Power Plant: Main Engine - Rolls Royce Meteor V12 cylinder liquid cooled petrol engine. Charging Engine - Morris 4 cylinder side valve petrol engine.                        Crew: 4. Maximum road speed 21.5 m.p.h.(34.6 km_p.h.). The first Centurion to arrive in Australia was in 1952.

There are no immediate plans to transport the Centurion to Dorrigo; we have sufficient transport commitments for the rest of this year already. My thanks to Members Ken Davit and Steve Cotters for assistance at the auction and to Board Member Andrew Hawk for background information on Centurions.

The photographs on page 4 of this Newsletter weir. taken in the gloom and rain at Lee on the day of the auction. I therefore apologise in advance if they are not up to scratch. The uppermost and middle photographs show our fully equipped Mark 5 Centurion, standing in the steady rain, not long after our successful bid for it. The bottom image captures our Mark 5 Tank on the left and the Mark 3 on the right. The most visible difference between the 2 versions is that the Mark 5 has a fume extractor approximately half way along the barrel, whilst the Mark 3 has a muzzle weight on the. tip of the barrel.

Obviously there is an Appeal open for Donations to purchase and transport this priceless piece of military history. I hope that despite it not being a railway vehicle; Members will support it's purchase with Donations, die Appeal for Loans was highly successful, please make the Donations flow so that we can repay the Loans to our Members as soon as possible. Some loans are strictly on a short term basis only. Your Donations are of course Tax Deductible.

The Museum's Centurion Main Battle Tank is now safely in Dorrigo A very small opportunity to move the Tank from Lee near Muddle to  Dorrigo, became available, just before Christmas, so I seized it. Over dimensional Loads are not allowed between about the 22nd of December and the 3rd or 4th of January.

A Centurion is 11 feet wide and our low loader is 8 feet wide, however, when we bought the low loader it was fitted with hinged "wings" on both sides, that effectively widen the float to 11 feet, therefore allowing it to carry very wide machinery like bulldozers and excavators (and Tanks!). We had removed all of these seemingly unnecessary items to reduce the weight of the float and therefore increase the weight that we could carry legally. In the preparations for the trip to Lue we refitted these wings and made all of the other necessary attachments work properly. We also found enough 3 inch thick timbers for use on top of these "wings" to actually carry the tracks of the tank.

I took the Museum's low loader empty from Dorrigo to Lue on the afternoon of Wednesday the 13th of December, 2000. The next morning. Members Steve Cotterall and Ken Davis also arrived to assist with the loading and other tasks. The property from where we bought the Tank has a very good loading ramp that we backed the low loader up to for loading. The former owner of the Tank gave us the vital tips on starting and driving a Centurion Tank and then he proceeded to drive it onto the float without incident.

Many heavy duty chains were applied to make sure that the Centurion stayed on the truck and the mandatory Oversize signs, flashing lights and clearance flags were put in place. Departure from Lue was achieved at 11.45 am on Thursday the 14th and arrival in Dorrigo was at 4.45 pm on the Friday. No problems were encountered en route, except that every time I stopped to check tyres or the load, curious people would stop their cars to enquire where it was going, etc. Several Vietnam Veterans pulled up to reacquaint themselves with what they said were indispensable tools of War in Vietnam. They were very pleased that the Tank was destined for preservation.

In Dorrigo, I used our backhoe to tidy up a pile of loose dirt on the earthworks site, so that I could back the low loader up to it. Then very cautiously starting the tank for the first time and nervously driving it off the float without mishap.

The interest that the Tank has created is amazing. In a small town like Dorrigo (population 1200), the news of the arrival of the Tank spread quickly and we were inundated with curious locals and tourists wanting to see it. Even some of the Museum's local knockers just couldn't avoid the temptation to come and have a stickybeak. The Coff's Harbour Advocate newspaper (a long time critic of our Museum) did a very positive front page (and page 9) story, with colour photograph of the tank. We can bring as many trains to Dorrigo as we like and The Advocate is not interested, but bring a Tank and they're here!

All of this attention has strengthened my resolve that the Tank was a very worthwhile addition to our future display, especially because it fought in Vietnam under the Australian flag. We are currently obtaining more information about our Tank's individual history and it is getting very interesting indeed. When it is all collated, l will publish the details in the Newsletter.

The purchase of the Centurion has created some controversy within our Membership, one Member has even resigned because of it. One of the arguments put forward against the Tank's purchase is that the $33,000 paid for it would have been better spent on one of the other major jobs confronting the Museum. In particular, it was suggested that the funds should have been spent on a building to house some of the collection.

It is important to remember just how the Museum's fund raising works. Our Museum is somewhat unique, in that Members can Loan or Donate funds for specific purposes and the funds are used for those purposes. The Centurion was paid for using funds that were Loaned or Donated to purchase the Centurion. Those same funds were not available to build (a very small) part of the future static display building. One of the reasons that our Museum s so successful in it's fund raising is because Members can see where their money goes. A Member gets great satisfaction out of seeing their funds achieving something that they wanted to see done. A Member can walk past an exhibit and feel pleased that they helped save that item. Generally speaking, the Members who contributed the funds for the Centurion were not the usual contributors to appeals.

In any case, the construction of the static display building is not yet on the Museum's agenda. We could not even build the first stage of the building, because the earthworks are currently about 60 metres wide and the building will be 100 metres wide! The real bottom line is that if we didn't soon purchase a Centurion, we may never get one because they are getting rarer and more expensive, every time one is sold.

Since arrival in Dorrigo the Centurion has been started and moved around a little for the benefit of visiting Members. The cost of Fuel, Oversize Permit and sundries to get the Tank to Dorrigo runs to $865, which will be added to the Appeal for funds to purchase it. Please don't forget to send in your Tax Deductible Donations for the Tank, so that we can repay the loans advanced by the Members. My thanks to Kim Broderick, Steve Cotterall, Geoff Rodway, David McKensey, Greg Lunney, Shane Sawtell and Ken Davis for assistance in various ways with the movement of the Tank to Dorrigo.

 

  WHAT IS IT???

 

Note the round tube sloping inwards towards the center of the Turret situated to the right of  the Pressure relief valve. It does appear to swivel.  I have only seen it on two Centurions.

Discovered much later that it was a 2" bomb thrower, use was stopped after the Mk 3, so these are old turrets

 

This is the view from inside the Turret of 169040, one of the two tanks that have this fitting. One suggestion was it was a mortar discharger, if so how would you aim it and fire it from inside. I do think it has another job.

 This is the turret on 169005 and there is a plate that appears to be a replacement for the fitting

 On the left bottom you can see a V has been cut into the housing to allow the water to drain  -- simple and did the job!

 

"BABY DOLL"

Ron Saw, a reporter, discussed the Centurion Tank “Baby Doll” in an article in the early 1960’s. The item sent to me is a photocopy. I am unable to find out who Ron was or what paper this appeared in. I have retyped it as written and hope Ron has no objections to my using his report.

Baby Doll hung lewdly over the side of the ship and I stood looking up at her with warm, happy admiration. As long as I had known her she’d had most of the qualities of a whore. She had been obstinate, tawdry, expensive and dangerous. Many men had known her and many found her beautiful. I, as a voyeur, had seen her lose her virtue. I as a lover had seen her regain it. Now, yesterday, she was up to her old whorish tricks again. Baby Doll is a Centurion Tank. I first saw her years ago when, for reasons which to this day remain inscrutable, the Army decided to prove that the Centurion was not only big and dangerous but mobile; that she could get herself around in the event of a running war. So they saddled up Baby Doll and moved her from Puckapunyal to Singleton, and while I don’t say Hannibal had it easier getting his elephants over the Alps, I’m certain he did not have it much harder.

            She smashed just about everything she touched. Her great steel tracks, with 50 odd tons to press down on them, broke up roads and pavements. She depressed so much of the Hume Highway, that for a while it seemed likely to be more profitable, to forget about repairing it and to simply fill it with water and rename it the Hume Ship Canal. She frightened the horses, the cattle, the sheep and the hogs. Fowls fluttered screeching at her advance, farmers threatened her with shotguns and their wives threw their aprons over their heads and hid in the barns.

            As my newspaper’s official tank watcher I dutifully reported every tragic embarrassment: and at a time when I felt sure nothing more delicious could possibly happen, Baby Doll got herself jammed, stuck fast on Toole’s Bridge. An overgrown culvert five miles from Gundagai. What I wrote about that was not, I suppose, great journalism, but it was to the point: “Baby Doll, the Army’s wayward tank, suffered a fate worse than death on Toole’s Bridge, five miles from Gundagai at 3.10pm yesterday”. Shortly after that I left her. My editor told me to stay with Baby Doll – but he could not see the faces of   her crew      changing from pink to choleric crimson; he couldn’t hear the grinding of their teeth.

            I left her and forgot about her till March 1968, when I came out of an operation in the Long Hai Hills of Vietnam, asked for and was given a bed and a dish of coffee at a fire support base, and saw the tanks. They had not been there long, but they’d done splendidly. There, where everything and just about everyone was being smashed and trampled anyway, it did not matter much how much damage they did to the fool roads and bridge’s. The country at that time of the year was flat and dry and the tanks were mobile. Later, when the rains came, they would take to the high ground—ground designed to drain into the paddies, and keep moving. But just now they were giving artillery support to the diggers who were slogging up the side of Hill 323 (drearily named so because it was 323 meters high). And there incredibly was Baby Doll.

            A company from 3 RAR, under Major Ian Hands, of Brisbane, had come in from the sea, killed a few VC, then gone on to take the hill. As they struggled up the ragged, jagged, rocky slopes, Baby Doll had covered them, her long, nosy 20-pounder laying 30 meters ahead of them, brassing up anything that moved in their path. It was a marvellously accurate weapon, capable of putting a shell into a four-foot square target at a range of 2000 meters. As the tankers put it: “any closer and its like shooting fish in a barrel. That 20-pounder can literally knock a man off a log). At one stage of the assault on Hill 323 Baby Doll’s commander, a corporal Phillip Reeves of Toowoomba, say a movement in a cave mouth above the diggers. At his order Baby Doll pointed her long snout and gave a bellowing sneeze and the shell went straight into the cave mouth. There was no more movement. Baby Doll and her girlfriends had what one might call a distinguished tour of Vietnam. How many North Vietnamese and VC they killed doesn’t really matter. Now, as then, it seems more decent to report that they gave protection to the Infantry; and the Infantry loved them.

  Last Friday they came home; on the Japanese freighter Harima Maru – how one wishes that jolly old Jap fancier Sir William Yeo had been there to see it – and yesterday the Army got around to unloading Baby Doll. Well, they tried. I went back down to Balmain to welcome her, to hand her ashore. I looked up and down the line of already unloaded tanks, sitting on the flatcars, waiting to be rolled south (they’re going to the ordnance depot at Bandiana, 180 miles north of Melbourne) I could not see Baby Doll. And then they told me she was still in the hold. “She will not start,” they said. “We need to start her up to move her a bit so we can get the hoisting cables on her. But she will not start, the bitch. We will have to get jump leads to her.”

They did. And I was able to report Baby Doll , the Army's wayward tank, was jumped in the hole of the freighter Harima Maru at Balmain at 4.15 pm yesterday. I'll swear she wriggled her behind and winked at me as they lowered her back onto Australian soil.

 

" Angie Baby"


169094


 

169094 was one of the first Centurions to be sold by Tim Vibert around 1987 and it was sold from the army storage yard at Bandiana. The owner Bob Boatwright asked his mate if he could put a tank on his property for awhile. His mate thinking it was a water tank said OK. He received a surprise when 169094 arrived at his doorstep.

 She is a pretty clean tank . This Cent did not serve in Vietnam.

 169094 did not have the 100-gallon tank fitted , but does have the mounting bars.

The tank was in very good condition and Bob also picked up the radios for it. He owns a brand new motor still packaged as well. But as she runs quite well, some smoke but that goes when she has been run for awhile. Bob was working over seas and so she sat there for about 7 years. Which is not good, but hopefully she will fire up well.

Bob has a property quite close and now has a large shed installed which will hold 169094 as well as Bob's Train, yeah he also owns a train! I was speaking with Bob today and he hopes to very soon have the Cent up and running, small things like freeing up the gearshift, releasing the brakes and starting the motor. But then she will move into his shed, where work to restore her will begin in earnest.

 
 

She appears to have all the scopes fitted, and Bob is lucky indeed that they are still there! 

I first found Angie baby about two years ago after two trips to the area, but at that time the property owner was not available. I was able to take some photos but did not attempt to climb onto the hull. Bob has offered to let me know when the work is started and I will go up again with the trusty old camera.

 

Lets have a look at another old tank

I know its not a Cent but its old and nice

Brad Baker was invited up to see a Grant tank that was putting on a show for the day. Brad as you know owns 169109 and 169120. He was told of the whereabouts' of another Centurion and followed it up. Alas no Cent but a very nice Grant. This belongs to Rod Keyes. Below are some pics of the day and other items of interest that were also on the property.

 Rods Grant nice and very clean looking

 She looks clean and straight from every angle

Would be a cow to enter and exit

All kids love tanks even the little ones!!
It appears the general public finds an interest in them as well
The radial motor has an easy access setup.
 An immaculate interior well set out.


 A Mitilda which is next in line for restoration              Another Grant that may become a Gate Guard

 A few spares around the place are always handy.

She will need a bit of tender loving care- but she appears to be all there.

Rod also has a missile Launcher / Armoured car and most of the parts for a 25 pdr. howitzer. Then in the shed he has a series 11 Landrover, a huge searchlight on trailer, and two 12" battleship projectiles about a metre high. Rod lives on the Sunshine Coast.


 

All the above photos were courtesy of Brad Baker Qld.

 

 

THE ATOMIC TANK

When I first came to Puckapunyal in 1955 I can remember seeing the Atomic Tank or 169041, sitting beside the hangers at the School of Armour. There are a few stories of just where she was placed and they are many and varied. My memory was that we walked up through the lines (collection of Nissan huts) to the showers at the top of 1st Armoured Regiment lines. Then went left in a south - western direction passing the Armoured School hangers. Straight ahead were the Regiment Hangers. This has now of course all changed. As we walked past the Armoured School Hangers 169041 was sitting on our left. I cannot remember if the turret was intact but think it was! Some say it was just sitting there, others say it was in a fenced off yard. I cannot remember but think it was in a yard. Don Weedon said that many people used to sit on her when they had their lunch. Myself I never went near it thank God. Now read the article below

Bob Thompson sent me an article from the Geelong paper which I have placed below.


 

The Centurion Tank concerned was 169041 (The Atomic Tank).

Now Holding Ground at Palmerston N.T

 

Geelong Advertiser August. 199O

A lethal Maralinga left-over

By Km Gregson

A CENTURION tank exposed to nuclear tests at Maralinga, was later used by the Australian Army for driver training, an ex - serviceman claimed yesterday.

 

Mr. Bob Thompson, of Geelong, also claimed parts from the tank were transferred to other army equipment, and some were even sent to the Commonwealth aircraft factory in Sydney. Mr. Thompson, who had worked on the tank after the Maralinga tests of the 1950s and'60s, said that of the 16 soldiers in his regiment to be in contact with the tank, l2 had died of cancer.

And he feared other soldiers might also be suffering from cancer after being exposed to the tank, which he described as radioactive.

A Geelong secondary school teacher, Mr. Thompson has been diagnosed as suffering prostate cancer. But is in remission.

The 59-year-old former Warrant Officer Class One is not seeking compensation, but believes other ex-servicemen or their wives could seek some form of reparation.” It is just as easy to say nothing than say something. There are some men and women out there who may not realise they were exposed to radiation and could be suffering from cancer." he said.

A member of the First Armoured Regiment Light Aid Detachment at Puckapunyal during the joint Australian and British test’s, Mr. Thompson claimed guns, trucks and tanks were positioned near the centre of the blast area in outback South Australia to determine the effects from the nuclear explosion.

Former Warrant Officer Bob Thompson says that of the 16 soldiers that were in contact with the tank, only four are still alive. The others died from cancer- His cancer is in remission"

The Centurion Tank was later used for training manoeuvres, was placed close to the center of the explosion, he said. The tank was delivered back to Puckapunyal and converted to a repair vehicle for the Army Ranges Its turret was removed to make way for a three-ton canopy, and then remained idle in a yard at Puckapunyal. On a hot day soldiers, would lie on the turret, Mr. Thompson said. Many who sat on the turret contacted severe boils on their backs and legs. Mr. Thompson has also suffered the same fate.

Warnings from the CSIRO not to touch the tank did not come with an explanation of the dangers. “We did not leave the tank alone, because we needed it for parts. Parts for Centurion Tanks were scarce so Mr. Thompson removed the gearbox and fitted it to another vehicle.  The turret was stripped of its parts for distribution to other army equipment, and the tanks engine was overhauled and sent to the Commonwealth Aircraft factory in Sydney. “These parts were surely exposed to radiation and, unknowingly, we exposed others to it,” Mr. Thompson said. Mr. Thompson only linked the deaths to the tank after a recent Vietnam veterans Reunion in Melbourne. “I was asking questions about the fellows I worked with at Puckapunyal, and was told many of them had died. I worked it out that there were only four of us left,” he said.

The South Australian Government has called for urgent action by the Australian and British Governments, to remove the nuclear pollution from the test sites. It is six years since a Royal Commission revealed that a joint British and Australian test program had left the Maralinga area contaminated by millions of dispensed plutonium particles. The particles had lodged in the soil and dust, fused to metal fragments scattered about the surface and contaminated large qualities of debris in nuclear waste dumps.

Plutonium – lodged in the body through inhalation, ingestion or an open wound – is the deadliest natural substance on earth. Within the 400 square kilometre restricted access nuclear test zone, it has been estimated that 50 square kilometres was directly affected by the seven bombs and more than 700 smaller tests. About two kilometres of the test area, 800 kilometre's northwest of Adelaide, remains fenced off, due to the danger posed by high levels of radioactivity.

Asked if he felt guilty about possibly exposing others to radiation, Mr. Thompson said he did not feel anything. “We were never told of the dangers of the tank or of the nuclear tests. We never heard of the word radiation in the 1950’s,” he said.

The test which involved the Centurion took place at Emu Plains but everyone refers to it as Maralinga.
 

A Glance at The Manual

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a manual

I share mine with anyone that needs it.

I have been saying MY manual, I did explain the story in my Cd's but have just realised that I have not done the same in the Web site, and so many people will not be aware of how this information has become available. The manual was donated to me and some time later when visiting David Hay I was shown a book he had converted to CD. This was a very big job and I was surprised at how well it turned out. David when I mentioned I had a manual offered to scan the book and put it onto a CD. I jumped at this chance and David spent months completing the job (that if I had been game enough would have taken me years)

We both decided that we would make it available free to people that needed it, as neither of us were interested in making it a commercial effort, we both felt that anyone that needed it would in fact NEED it.

So I have passed it on to all Centurion owners I know and a few R.A.E.M.E. chaps and the W.A Army Museum---the Vietnam Veterans Museum---The R.N.S.W.L. museum and a couple of other people that are helping civilian owners repair their Centurions.

BUT I have neglected to menton to many of these people, the effort and time that David Hay has donated, lets face it he did all the hard work. For those people that do not know David, he is a Vietnam Veteran and was most helpful to me in that he has provided a lot of other help as well, including his photograph album and some very interesting sound tapes.

Below are some pages from the introduction

You may need to copy to a document (Word) to expand the text--sorry about that.

 Crew Commanders Seat Late
 Crew Commanders Seat Early
 The Infra  Red Light

The Infra Red  Scope 

 Now let us have a look at a nice little job.
 Replacing a Clutch in a Centurion

 The helpers have arrived

 169040 waiting to have the transmission removed

Time to start I wonder how this will go---no Centurion experience

 The rear cover plates come off fairly easy

 These bolts have not been moved for at least 35 years, maybe a lot longer

 

Every nut is screwed back onto the bolt and all were placed in separate containers, a good idea.

 Next is the cover plate bracket

 At the toe of the boot is the half round front transmission cover and bolts---they came out easy

 The half round side holding plates on the quill shaft were also an easy removal---amazing the little items hold the quill shaft into the transmission, and all that power that's transmitted through there.

The connecting joint for the clutch to motor, its really three pieces

The rear transmission bolts. You would never believe how hard one was to undo---three extension bars all 3/4 sockets and a bar with a four foot pipe over it. One man standing on the top to put some weight onto the bar and two more , one pushing and one pulling. The pipe moved 1/3 of a turn but the bolt did not. Then as I thought the bolt would snap, But then there was a crack and it moved, thank God. It was very hard to undo but it did come out.

 The gear change bracket bottom right of picture under the linkage connectors

 Trying to split the three sections of the joining coupling -  Clutch to Motor

  Trying to remove the last bolt from the Gear shift mounting bracket - very hard to access.

 The crane arrives on a Semi Trailer

 Crane stabilizers being setup

 Transmission is coming out
 There she is

 No he is not standing under it ---He is off to the side of the transmission

 Setting it on the deck

 Transmission showing the input flange

 Clutch in the sling waiting to come out

 The replacement clutch waiting to go in.

 The clutch lifting tool that was not used ---- the crane and a sling did the job

 

At this time I had to leave as I had commitments for the evening. Stu later told me that they had a lot of trouble with the clutch itself. It would not slide out. I could see before I left that while the motor was rock steady (It was bolted in of course) the clutch itself would swing around quite a lot. At this point of time I left. Stu said that he had to undo 8 bolts in behind the clutch to remove it and while it was a rotten job, replacing them would be even worse. The next Saturday I was at Horsham at Ian Puls place (who owns 169055) and he also owns a stationary motor set up on a trailer. While looking at it I mentioned the clutch trouble, and he replied that the clutch should have slid out, there was no need to remove the 8 bolts. That's ok if it will slide out, which this one would not! Stu was hoping to replace the clutch the day I was at Horsham, so when I returned home I emailed the info to him, on the off chance that he had not done the job yet. In that case the offending item may be could be removed and bolted up outside, which would make the job a lot easier.

Tonight I received an Email from Matt McMahon who owns 169129. Matt has had a great amount of experience working on his Cent and this information is invaluable.

You must remove the engine oil seal by removing the small bolts around the sealing flange prior to removing the drive shaft..  The gear drive is larger than the shaft thus making it impossible to slide it out, with out removing the seal. This can be done quite easily via the inspection port in the floor and from over the top of the clutch.. A new felt seal should be installed upon re-installation.

Also you must support the clutch once disconnected from the gearbox or you run the risk of breaking the engine housing!!! This will/could ruin your day and result in a new engine also been installed!!!! 

And the Gearbox must be aligned to the engine prior to the new clutch been installed using the special tool.... Tim Vibert has one and so do I. Other wise the drive will vibrate and you will feel it through the hull

My thanks to Matt for his help, without this information it could have become expensive. We knew about placing a block under the clutch but were at a loss of how the clutch was connected to the motor!

Bob Thompson from the RAEME site suggested the time (About 4 hours) for a first time civilian or even an Army mechanic was good, so all things considered Stu and his mate did a great job.

 Unfortunately the replacement clutch that Stu was given when he brought the Cent, was worse than the one that came out. So now its being reconditioned and the replacement will take place a bit further down the track. At least I will be able to attend now. I will add this section when its done in a later page.ee.

Please select page 6