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Marmon-Herrington Two-Man Tanks in Australian Service
by Shane Lovell

During World War Two, 141 Marmon-Herrington (CTLS 4a) two-man tanks served in the Australian Army. For Australia, believed to be under imminent threat of Japanese invasion in early 1942 after the fall of Singapore, the tanks were a welcome addition for the ill-equipped army. They were progressively relegated to second line duties during the second half of 1942, after the arrival of significant numbers of modern tanks, M3 Medium and Light tanks from America, and Matilda infantry tanks from Britain. It is understood that they were later dismantled, their Hercules engines being installed in locally manufactured landing craft. It is the authors understanding that none remain in museums today.

The tanks arrived in Australia as 'refugee cargo' during the second quarter of 1942. Originally ordered by the Dutch for forces in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), the rapid Japanese advance meant that they were still at sea when the islands fell. Consequently, the shipments were diverted to Australia, arriving:

  • 52 vehicles in the week ending 4 April 1942
  • 26 vehicles in the week ending 18 April 1942
  • 24 vehicles in the week ending 2 May 1942
  • 47 vehicles in the week ending 9 May 1942
Marmon-Herrington tanks equipped a number of Australian Armoured Corps units. The following list of users should not be considered comprehensive:
1st Australian Army Tank Battalion 10 received from 2nd Aust Army Tk Bn July 
1942 (Returned to depot late September mid October)
2nd Australian Army Tank Battalion Issued at least 10 vehicles as noted above
2/8th Australian Armoured Regiment 8 received April 1942
2/10th Australian Armoured Regiment 8 received April 1942
1 Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment  8 received June 1942
Army Tank Training Battalion 8 received August 1942
13 Motorised Regiment 8 received June 1942
104 Motorised Regiment 8 received June 1942
18 Motorised regiment  8 received June 1942

Interestingly, the war diary of the 2/8th Australian Armoured Regiment notes on 5 July that as part of the concentration of sub units of the 1st Australian Armoured Division at Singleton, New South Wales, Victorian based sub units would not take their Marmon-Herrington tanks. At this time Victorian based units comprised 2nd Australian Armoured Brigade consisting of the 2/8th, 2/9th, and 2/10th Australian Armoured Regiments. The most likely reason for this decision is that sufficient modern tanks were available to bring all these units up to establishment strength.

A tank situation report of 24 July 1942 identified the distribution of the 141 Marmon-Herringtons:
12 Australian Armoured Regiment 8 (previously 13 Motorised Regiment)
13 Australian Armoured Regiment  8 (previously 104 Motorised Regiment
14 Australian Armoured Regiment 8 (previously 18 Motorised Regiment)
3rd Australian Army Tank Brigade  20 (comprising 1, 2 & 3 Aust Army Tank Bn)
Australian AFV School  10
Royal Military College, Duntroon 3
1st Australian Armd Corps Training Regiment 8
2nd Australian Armd Corps Training Regiment 8
3rd Australian Armd Corps Training Regiment  8
4th Australian Armd Corps Training Regiment 8
Ordnance Depots Victoria 4
Ordnance Depots New South Wales 48

Many units identified mechanical unreliability. One flaw in the mechanical reliability of the vehicles was the fly wheel of the Hercules engine. One workshop war diary notes that these gave considerable trouble and that a local modification was developed and submitted for approval.

In May 1943, 42 vehicles are noted as progressing through 2/2nd Tank Workshop Company for work. Whether these vehicles were reissued remains unclear.

In September 1943, the same workshop notes that 11 vehicles are having their engines removed and are being returned to an ordnance depot. This suggests that orders had been received to commence the installation of the engines in locally manufactured landing craft. What became of the hull and fittings of each vehicle is unclear.

Little is known concerning the camouflage and markings carried by these vehicles on arrival in Australia. Front, side and rear photos published in All Friendly Vehicles, an Australian AFV identification booklet published in December 1942 show a single overall paint finish. This may have been US Olive Drab or Australian Standard Colour Khaki Green No3, the base colour applied to many Australian vehicles during this period. 

Unfortunately, little is known again about the markings displayed by the Marmon-Herringtons. The photos mentioned above show the vehicle carrying an Australian vehicle registration number and a weight making. Both are applied in block lettering and appear to be white in colour.

The Australian registration number is 10178 and was allocated from blocks of registration numbers identified for AFV. The registration number appears on the front end of the hull side. Other noted Marmon-Herrington registration numbers are:

  • 10086, 10087, 10308, 10095, 10096, 10092, 10088, 10303, 10100, 10085 1st Army Tank Bn
The other marking noted pertains to the vehicles weight and states, Tare 8 ½ Tons. This appears behind the registration number in white block capitals.

Sources used in the compilation of this article included:
  • Unit War Diaries:
  • 3rd Australian Army Tank Brigade
  • 1st Australian Army Tank Battalion
  • 2/8th Australian Armoured Regiment
  • 2/10th Australian Armoured Regiment
  • 2/2 Tank Workshop Company
  • 3rd Australian Ordnance Tank Depot Workshop Sect
  • Australian Armoured Corps Training Regiment
  • Australian Army Tank Training Battalion
  • AWM 54: 925/1/7 Arrival and allotment of tanks 1 Armoured Division, July October 1942

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