The Atomic Tank
As mentioned before, a Centurion MBT was placed very close to the blast point of an Atomic test at Emu Plains in the early 1950's The tank was sent there and I have never been able to get the whole story but have had many people tell me parts of it
I believe it went by low loader but some miles from the area the sand stopped the low loader. The tank was unloaded and driven the rest of the way to the site. Again many people claim to have been there but I believe it was quite a small group which included members from the RAEME.
I was told that the tank was within 1/2 mile of the blast site and had the motor running and the radio's working. When they approached it after the blast, they were upset that the motor was not still running -- but in fact it had only run out of fuel.
Now I have received a couple of photos from the site. The first one below
As can be seen the blast blew off the side plates, turret bins and front guard extensions
But the mantlet cover seems to had suffered no damage at all?
This shot shows the people going out to inspect the blast damage -- they appear to be protected by white overalls and hoods
Rather them than me!
I was told that the tank was cleared of radio active material with a fire hose???
The Atomic Tank was 169041 it served in Vietnam and now holds ground at Palmerston N.T.
A couple of friends from Kilmore, Mick and Patsy Andrews, gave me the photos below of the explosion site, that they visited on one of their many trips over Len Bedals road network in that area.
An old shot of an M60 (Aust) place and time unknown
This would bring tears to many an eye, making an armoured reef with old carriers.
Over the last couple of years I have been collecting some items with the thought of a small display to put at the Vietnam Veterans Museum. I wanted to flank them with 2 x 20 pounder shells. These items were in themselves very hard to locate and acquire. But over time I manager to procure two shells. Then I was able to buy on Ebay a projectile that had been cut down the middle and made into an ashtray. I brought it with the idea that it would make a good sample to turn out some blank projectiles, but I then decided to use it as it was. The Canister round was easy to turn up out of wood. My first idea was to have the five Centurion projectiles in between the two shells, but they were just about impossible to procure.
So this weekend I made up a mock up on my rear porch, two 20 pounders , four .50 cals and an armoured badge blown up and framed with the words
1st Armoured Regiment
I also placed a 1 / 25 scale Centurion above the picture. This tank was given to me a few years ago by John Billings and he has agreed to it being converted and placed in the V V Museum
In fact the tank tracks will be level with the top of the picture. The lot will sit on a nice base board.
I have two 1 / 25 Centurions , the one shown above and the one shown below
As neither are Vietnam model tanks, MK5/1 Aust, I decided that the one above should be converted. I thought a 100 gallon fuel tank, a IR Spotlight and a couple of road wheels would do the trick.
At this point of time I approached John Myszka from Mouse House Enterprises, in Canberra. I had met John a few years ago when I was searching around the Snowy Mountains for Gabe Zulians Centurion. John was kind enough to offer me the hospitality of his home and I stayed there the night, spending a very pleasant time with John and Shane Lovell, who wrote Military Briefs on the Australian Centurion in Vietnam. Both passed on a wealth of knowledge to me.
Now about three years later, out of the blue I hit John for a donation. John markets the items to dress up most of the Australian and Israel armour and has the full kit for the MK5/1 Aust
(See Mouse House advert on the index page of Steel Thunder)
John was back to me immediately with a donation of items that should arrive next week. Not the four items I asked for but the whole conversion package, complete !!
Three days later the parcel arrived with all of the Mouse House items
The Australian Turret top. The slag does get trimmed off
The 100 gallon fuel tank and extension phone container and first aid kit
The track side bins
The replacement "B" Barrel
The up armoured Glacis Plate and two road wheels with the off set fittings
30 cal and 50 cal ammo liner box's
The rear turret IR cage . This comes with a set out frame and a sheet of excellent mesh (not shown)
H.E. and Canister rounds and more .30 cal and .50 cal liner box's
The I R Spotlight --a 30 cal flex machine gun and liner box and full flex mount
The decal page which will let you design a five Australian Centurions from the Vietnam conflict
The 10 metal jerry cans used to store water these sat across the rear of the engine covers and were often mistaken for fuel containers, but in fact they carried water for the crew.
The Cents in Vietnam also carried .30 and .50 cal liners inside the tank in the normal storage areas, but the crew carried a lot of extra rounds, behind the crew commander in an ammo rack. These were .30 cals for the Crew commanders Flex .30 cal. There were more both 30 and 50 cal liner box's carried on the top of the 100 gallon fuel tank. Often there were extra 20 pounder rounds and empty shell cases laying on the engine compartment or transmission covers. The storage of these items loose in these areas demonstrates the stability of the ride in a Centurion
The amount of detail that Mouse House has gone to with the detail of the Australian model of the Centurion is first class. I am sure that when John Loughman installs these items the tank will look great, and hold a place of honour at the Vietnam Veterans Museum
My sincere thanks to Mouse House Enterprises
Next it was a email to John Loughman at Bendigo. John is a great modeller and has done some great stuff for the museum. One of his models was the Clive Steel. I was aware that this upgrade was out of my league as the old fingers are not that good now. John was only to happy to help and will do the upgrade for me. It would be nice if it was ready for the official opening in mid February! Well we will try!
Today I drove to see John at Bendigo. What an experience! John did his first model about ten years of age and has been doing them all his life. I have seen some of his work at the Museum, but a visit to his shed was indeed an enlightening experience!
There were racks of models -- Planes, army vehicles, tanks and ships of every description, plus dozens and dozens of kits in box's. John showed me how he makes items and moulds things like small nuts, as if its an everyday thing that anyone could do. I am well aware now, that I could not even start thinking about serious modelling
A few photos taken this morning in John's shed
Sorry about the reflection
John is now working on the upgrade of the 1 / 25 Centurion for me and hopefully in about a month it will be finished
Royal New South Wales Lancers
Centurion --- out for a run
169126 is most likely the best presented and maintained Centurion in Australia
The work of a dedicated lot of helpers
She is taken out quite often for a run and this time is at a display at Menangle in NSW
Ready to go
Even running in dusty conditions like this and at places like the Dust Bowl
The tank is always in immaculate condition
Return from Vietnam
I have some old photos with no information on when they were taken
I think this one is of the tanks being unloaded for Vietnam
Note 20 pounder barrel in place and being unloaded onto a smaller boat
This one I feel is the return to Melbourne in 1972 note no barrels fitted and it looks like barrel cases on the top left hand part of the photo. I believe they could not fit in with the barrel in place?
John Panton suggested the name for 169080 and I believe Phil Reeves did the art work on the Track Bins
This Centurion has been featured before, but some new photos have arrived
Very early days in Vietnam, C/S 30 still has side plates on. This was Operation Pinnaroo in march 1968. They were firing H.E. into caves in the Long Hai Hills, about 4000 metres with good results. At this point they were stopped and John Panton is on the engine covers making a brew.
The tank in front of 169080 doing a turn in the main street of Baria the nearest town to Nui Dat and is the intersection of a couple of major "highways" in the Phuoc Tuy Province. The tank is turning on "Madison Matting" an interlocking metal panel system used on airfields
A turn or a neutral turn would chop up the road no end.
Still early days, note the windscreen carrier box on top of the Glacis plate and still has the smoke dischargers fitted and turret bins. This shot was
taken near the Dinh Co Monastery down near the Horseshoe. They parked there for the day after supporting grunts on a sweep through the area
after US B52's carpet bombing
Ambush setup on the river for boat traffic. The morning after. Illegal sampans were intercepted .
At home at the Dat. Note still has front lights and fittings still onboard
Home at the Dat.
Another shot of home.
30D note damage to left hand rear guard
169080 in Vietnam just after the mine explosion
The damaged hull - Just looks like a big dent but it threw everything out. The turret could not travis and everything was out of plum. Items like gear change rods were out of adjustment and the gunnery would have been u/s. It was deemed BER in Vietnam and sent back to Australia. There it was completely stripped and a N.Z. hull used . It was then completely rebuilt and returned to service
These photos that have just come to hand show the damage inside the turret. The hull damage does not in anyway reflect the damage to the inside of the turret
The hull with the under floor ammo bins opened
Items from inside the turret removed and laying on the engine decks
The finished rebuild which is now Holding Ground at Bandiana at the old 4 Base Workshops Area
The old hull was saved and a spare turret and tracks fitted. It is now on display at the Puckapunyal Tank Museum. The damage to the hull base can still be seen today