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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 there 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 this hull there is no sign of either the fitting or the blank off plate.

Any information would be appreciated

"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.