At this point of time, the
information and stories and found Centurions have slowed a bit, but they have by
no means stopped. So I have decided to go back over my CD’s and list some
information from them, as my Web Site was started after the CD’s were
finished. As people who have been following my efforts will know there is no
order, no index and I have been known to repeat myself. This effort will be no
different. I know before I start that I will repeat some items / photos. But to
be honest I am now at the stage where I am not sure if something was in my web
site or my CD’s. Anyway who cares, it’s all free! I hope there are people
out there that enjoy my little effort. Once again I will state I am no
historian, I do the best I can and that I am afraid is it!!!
Courtesy of Shane Lovell – Bruce Cameron – Mike Cecil Curator of Military
Technology, Australian War Memorial
I do get a lot of help
NS AND SERIAL NUMBERS:
All Centurions were given an
Australian Serial Number In the case of Gun Tanks and ARV’s these all started
with the number 169. In the case of bridge layers they had 115541, 115542,
These numbers stayed with the tank
for its lifetime and even in the case the hull was replaced it still carried the
old hulls number. Some confusion rose with 169080, which had a new hull fitted
and retained the old number as it should. But much later the OLD hull was
restored as a museum piece due to its history and has no number on it, but then
the old paint was removed and both the Australian and the British number were
seen, people claimed it was169080. Which it was indeed, but the other 169080
also has the right to hold the serial number.
Call signs were also misleading, as I found out. Having a list, of the call signs and the dates they were used in Vietnam and also the serial numbers and time they were in country, I thought I could identify from photos. Alas this was not to be in all cases, unless the date was with the photo. The crew commander had the call sign and when he moved tanks for many reasons he just took his call sign plate and hung it on his next tank. The only thing wrong with this is that it gave me headaches. There were even cases where the rest of the crew mistakenly referred to the incorrect tank serial numbers.
At the age of 65 years I suppose we
all start to look back a bit. One day I decided to drive to Puckapunyal, which
is not all that far away from my home at Kilmore, about half an hours drive. My
first view on arriving at Puckapunyal was to see civilians manning the Security
Gate. They were very polite and very business like. Obtaining a pass, my first
sight was a Centurion holding ground, just inside the entrance. This was my
first Centurion seen in 44 years, and I stopped and had a walk around it.
The name “Bewildered” on the
side bins and the number 169031 stood out on the front glacis plate. I wanted so
much to climb onto the guard and open the driver’s hatch, but it was made
quite clear that this was not to be. There was something different about 031 and
I noticed that the main gun was different. It had been fitted with the 105 mm
which was the gun fitted to the new Leopard Tank. As the barrel took the whole
of the case and projectile, there was no need to change the breach block or make
other modifications. Basically just screw on another barrel and it was modified.
This was the only one that I found with this configuration.
At a much later date I discovered that this had been a
Centurion converted to a Drivers instruction tank and the turret had been
removed. It was later still I learnt it had been consigned to the gunnery range
as a hard target. It was rescued from this situation, and a turret refitted. But
there were no barrels available, so a 105 mm from a Leopard was installed. So
the difference! Just to hand is information that Bewildered is to be repainted
and cleaned up, Great news. It took about 12 months but it was in time restored,
a process I watched from start to finish.
Ready for the new paint job she was a sorry sight
Ready for the new paint job she was a sorry sight
Sandblasted and ready for her paint job
Splendid in her new colours
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.
are two pages from a UK magazine The top one is 169007 named "Buka Boom Boom" and
carrying the call sign 22A
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 BUKA BOOM BOOM 11
and its call sign was 22A.
But as the tank above has the Serial No 169007 it was in fact
But as the tank above has the Serial No 169007 it was in fact24A
The name on 169007
The name on 169067
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.