Land Rover Centaurs in Wessex

The Laird Centaur was the brainchild of Laird (Angelsey) Limited and was the result of intensive engineering development combining the Land Rover and the Alvis designed tracks of the FV101 Scorpion light tank. 

Many years ago I wrote and had published an article in Wargames Illustrated called Wessex: The Second English Civil War.

Wessex: The Second English Civil War

On March 17th, 1998, Royalists rose up in defiance and took control of key government buildings, airfields and broadcasting stations in the West Country and Cornwall. Supported by army units and Sea Harriers from what used to be the Royal Navy, there was little bloodshed. People came out onto the streets and cheered. The King who had been in exile in Canada flew back and landed at Bristol airport. The Kingdom of Wessex and Duchy of Cornwall was born. The Republican Prime Minister was, of course, very angry at what had happened. He mobilised his Democratic Guards and ordered them to defeat the Royalist rebellion. The Second English Civil War had started. Three hundred and thirteen years after the last pitched battle to take place on English soil, there were going to be more.

My recent blog post on the Laird Centaur Half Track and their proposed different versions got me thinking about what if the Laird Centaur Half Track was a commercial and military success and was used extensively by both sides in the Wessex Civil War.

In the marketing materials they did advertise an armoured version. This got me thinking about scenarios involving an Armoured Laird Centaur Half Track in Wessex.

A Democratic Guard patrol on the M4 near Reading, comprising three Armoured Laird Centaur Half Tracks and a Scorpion Light Tank is ambushed by Royalist Special Forces. The objective of the ambush is to disable the vehicles and then withdraw.

Royal Marines Armoured Laird Centaur Half Tracks are guarding the entrance to the 40 Commando Royal Marines base at Norton Manor Camp. There then follows an assault by Republican paratroopers to rescue POWs being held at the camp.

A Royalist convoy, with Laird Centaur Half Tracks is approaching Gloucester when it is ambushed by a force of Democratic Guards using light scout vehicles, motorbikes and a single Armoured Laird Centaur Half Track.

Democratic Guards using Laird Centaur Half Tracks are landed on the beaches of North Somerset by landing craft, to sabotage the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. Local royalist forces rush to defend the power station and push the Democratic Guards back into the Bristol Channel.

I’ve not found any models of the Laird Centaur, but I do remember once an article in a magazine about how to convert a 1/76th version using the (then) JB Models Land Rover and Scorpion models. Both kits are now available from Airfix.

Laird Land Rover Centaur Half Track

Land Rovers have been used by military forces across the world and many different conversions have been tried and utilised. The most radical conversion of a Land Rover for military purposes was the Centaur half-track back in 1978. It was based on a Series III with a V8 engine and a shortened belt drive from the Alvis Scorpion light tank. A small number was manufactured, and they were used by Ghana, among others. 

This video is from the Tank Museum at Bovington who have one in their collection, though I didn’t see it on my last visit there.

The Laird Centaur was the brainchild of Laird (Angelsey) Limited and was the result of intensive engineering development combining the Land Rover and the Alvis designed tracks of the FV101 Scorpion light tank. The Alvis Scorpion was developed to meet a British Army requirement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T).

Alvis FV1010 Scorpion CRV(T) at the tank museum at Bovington
Alvis FV1010 Scorpion CRV(T) at the tank museum at Bovington

In 1967, Alvis was awarded the contract to produce 30 CVR(T) prototypes. The Centaur made use of a shortened version of the tracks.

The proposed design offered unique advantages in both performance and cost-effectiveness. In addition maintencena nd spares, as well as support could have been based on existing arrangements and mechanisms in place to support Land Rovers and the CVR(T) family of armoured vehicles.

What was interesting were the proposed variants for customers and these were detailed in a pamphlet from Laird (Angelsey).

They included armoured versions that could be used as an APC, reconnaissance and as a command vehicle. Their pamphlet also had weaponised versions including the Milan AT system and even one with a 106mm gun!

It was extensively tested by the British Army, I quite like this winter version that you can see on Flickr.

Land Rover Halftrack

It’s a Land Rover Centaur on trial in Norway with the British army in the early eighties and with a special projects registration.

Here is a video of that vehicle undergoing testing in Norway.

Half track vehicles likes the Centaur have some advantages, it is not difficult for someone who can drive a car to drive a half-track, which is a great advantage over fully tracked vehicles which often require more specialised training.

The main disadvantage is the increased maintenance to maintain track tension, and the reduced life span of the tracks. In addition they perform less well cross country than fully tracked vehicles and perform less well on roads that fully wheeled ones. As a result they are a compromise across both and these disadvantages usually outweigh the advantages. As a result you don’t really see many hard tracks now in modern military service.

The Laird Centaur makes for an interesting what if vehicle and, well that story is for another time…