Jack of All Trades – 28 PHOTOS Show Why EVERYONE Used the Universal “Bren” Carrier

Photo: Glunggenbauer / CC-BY-SA 4.0

With over 100,000 built by 1960 within and outside of the United Kingdom, the Universal Carrier is the most produced armored vehicle in history.

The Universal Carrier also called the Bren Gun Carrier from its Bren-type machinegun armament, is a class of light armored tracked vehicle built on the basis of the early Carden-Lloyd tankettes.

The Universal Carrier was indeed a very versatile system. It was originally thought of as fire-power transport, and during combat, the crew members were to dismount and engage. However, it was used in many ways by different nations, it could carry mortars infantrymen, supplies, etc. and also served as a machine gun platform.

A Bren Gun Carrier (Universal-Windsor) brings in a batch of German prisoners during 158 Brigade’s attack

Due to its effectiveness, the Universal Carrier played a major role for the British Commonwealth forces in every front during the Second World War.

The origin of the Universal Bren Carrier can be traced down to the Mark VI tankettes which belonged to the 1920s Carden-Lloyd tankettes family.

Modified Universal Carrier

Following the commercial production of the VA.D50 in 1930 by Vickers-Armstrong, the War Office began considering it as a possible replacement for their Dragon artillery tractors. The VA.D50 was a light tracked vehicle with an armored box for the driver and gunner and a bench at the back for the rest of the crew. It could be used to either carry a machine gun or tow a light field gun.

The War Office requested for a development of these vehicles, as the Light Dragon Mark III. Experimentally, one was built to carry a machine gun and its crew. It was later dropped and a new one was designed for a three-man crew: the driver, gunner, and a third crew member.

An Australian 3 inch mortar carrier

This design was designated the “Carrier, Machine Gun I”. It was powered with a Ford Flathead V8 engine and had a suspension and running gear using standard Vickers light tank’s type and Horstmann springs. Several other slightly different designs followed closely based on their purpose: The Medium Machine Gun Carrier, Bren Gun Carrier, Scout Carrier, and Cavalry Carrier.

A production of a single model was later preferred, and it led to the design of the Universal Carrier in 1940, just in time for the campaign in France.

Australian-built machine gun carrier displayed at the Returned & Services League Club in Roma, Queensland Photo by Bauple58 CC BY-SA 3.0

The Universal Carrier was built in several variants, but the standard version had a rectangular rear, with more space for the crew and was usually equipped with a towing hitch.

Their agility, speed, and versatility were legendary among the British Commonwealth forces, despite their lack of armor and weaponry.

Bren Carrier No.2 – note a single rear compartment for one soldier with a sloping rear plate

The standard Universal Carrier weighed 3 tons, and had a length of 12 feet, with a height of 5 ft. 2 inches. It had an armor ranging from 7-10 mm, and a Bren light machine gun on its main armament, with Vickers machine gun, M2 Browning machine gun, 2-inch mortar, projector, infantry, and Anti-tank on its secondary armament.

Several variants sprang from manufacturing companies in America, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Italy.

They performed mainly at the Second World War, functioning on various fronts as artillery tow vehicles, medevac, infantry support, mobile command posts and demolition, among others.

British Army in Italy 1943 Universal carriers drive ashore from a tank landing ship (LST) at Salerno, 8 September 1943.


British troops leap from their Universal Carrier during an exercise


British Universal Carrier Praying Mantis prototype at Bovington Tank Museum Photo by Hohum CC BY 3.0


Classic Moto Show 2015 in Kraków Photo by Dawid Skwarczeński -CC BY-SA 4.0


The British Army in Malaya 1941 British troops working on a Bren gun carrier, November 1941.


The British Army in Malaya 1941 Bren gun carriers of the 2nd Loyal Regiment in training, October 1941.


The British Army in Greece 1941 Bren gun carriers on the road in Greece, 21 April 1941.


Tanks and Afvs of the British Army 1939-45 Universal carrier Mk II


T16 carrier


Flamethrower-equipped universal carrier at the Israeli Armored Corps museum in Latrun Photo by Bukvoed CC BY 2.5


The British Army in Normandy 1944 A Sherman tank and Universal carrier wait to advance. Note wounded resting under blankets in the foreground.


The British Army in Normandy 1944 A Universal carrier with wading screens attached and half-tracks passing through Hermanville-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944.


The British Army in North Africa, January 1943 Under cover of trees, men of a reconnaissance unit of the 78th Division rest by their Bren carriers and scout cars.


The engine was in the centre of the vehicle with the final drive at the rear


Universal Carrier during the VII Aircraft Picnic in Kraków. Photo by SuperTank17 – CC BY-SA 3.0


Windsor carrier, Overloon Museum


Wasp flamethrower carrier (Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada).


Universal carrier ‘Puddle Jumper’ T249393


Bren Gun Carrier Anti-Tank Variant.


Bren Gun Carrier with Plow Modification.


German Modified Universal Carrier with Crew.


German Modified Universal Carrier.


Universal Carrier Photo by Joost J. Bakker CC BY 2.0

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Universal Carrier Mk II
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