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Machine Gun Carrier LP.2 — The Universal Carrier

During the early years of tracked carrier development in the late 1930’s there were initially several different types of vehicle that varied slightly from one another according to their design purpose. Examples include the ‘Medium Machine Gun Carrier’ (the Vickers machine gun), ‘Bren Gun Carrier’, ‘Scout Carrier’ and ‘Cavalry Carrier’. By 1940 the British Army realised that the production of a single model was the preferred situation, and thus the ‘Universal Carrier’ was born.

The National Army Museum (New Zealand) has a static version of the Universal Carrier on display in the main display hall of the Museum.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

When the General Motors factory in Lower Hutt (New Zealand) started to produce welded carriers in late 1941, they were based on an Australian design, with minor modifications made to account for local requirements. Technically these were ‘Machine Gun Carriers’, and they became known as ‘Local Pattern’ examples, with LP2 and later LP2a variants being built until production ceased. Some of the 1170 carriers produced in New Zealand were supplied to US troops in the Pacific, and about ten were given to the Free French Forces.

New Zealand troops of the 2nd Division rapidly disembark from a carrier during an exercise in the North African campaign during the Second World War.   Photo: National Army Museum (NZ) [Ref.DA1517].

During the North African campaign in late 1942 the NZ Divisional Cavalry was equipped with obsolete Mk.II and Mk.VI light tanks and with British-built Universal Carriers. With these vehicles they performed admirably as a reconnaissance unit, roving ahead and out to the flanks of the 2nd NZ Division. Following the Second Battle of El Alamein the unit was often in the vanguard of the 8th Army as they swept across the desert chasing the retreating German and Italian forces across Libya and into Tunisia. After the Afrika Korps surrendered in May 1943 the Divisional Cavalry returned to Egypt and eventually joined the rest of the 8th Army in Italy in September 1943.

The British Universal Carriers saw service in virtually every theatre of the Second World War and were also used during the Korean War. The locally (New Zealand) built LP2 and LP2a’s remained in service with the NZ Army until 1958.

In this video, owner Mike Tripae talks about the LP2a (Local Pattern) universal carrier that he's restored over a number of years. This video was filmed during an airshow event in 2013 where over 30 WW2-era carriers were gathered together in one place.

Following their retirement from the Army, surplus vehicles were sold off to the general public and many of these became mechanical work-horses on farms throughout the New Zealand. In Taranaki a number of these vehicles were rebuilt with the addition of large blades to cut gorse and boxthorn hedges. Many of these vehicles have been subsequently recovered and restored by dedicated members of the New Zealand Military Vehicle Club.

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