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Standard Beaverette Armoured Car

Feature on the Standard Beaverette: (or the Beaverette Virtual Museum)

Warning, this is a large page with lots of graphics and will take a little time to download, unless you are a broadband user.

Beaverette Mark III at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Photo: John Harris

I have put together on this page all that I (and my tame researcher, Google) can find about the Standard Beaverette. I really ought to get out more! Perhaps I will be presented with the Standard "Anorack" award for 2006? This material has been collected from a variety of websites and other sources, some of which contradict themselves. The idea of this page is that you should write in to me if you have any further information, pictures or details,  so that in time, this becomes the definitive reference point for Beaverettes, though I don't purport that it is just yet!

How did it come about: 

The idea for the Beaverette is accredited to Lord Beaverbrook, conservative MP and owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard. (Before the war, The Daily Express had the largest daily circulation in the world)

Lord Beaverbrook was prominent in Churchill’s wartime government as Minister of Aircraft Production (40-41), Minister of Supply (41-42), Minister of War Production (42), Special Envoy to the United States on Supplies (42), and Lord Privy Seal (43-45).  

It is to be expected therefore that Max Aitkin, for that was his "real" name,  must have been acquainted with Captain John Black, who in the late 30's had received government funding to build two Shadow factories in Coventry to build aircraft for the hostilities. 

The Beaverette therefore came about because of 3 facts:

Hence the Beaverette was born:

Beaverette Mark I and II

The first cars were the most crude in design. The 12Hp chassis was fitted with a 14Hp engine , to propel the predicted weight of the machine, which was fitted with a steel plate body of, shall we say, angular proportions. The Mark I is said to have carried oak planks to the rear extension for the armour did not reach that far back. Clearly Standard had a number of front wings also left over so these were the only consideration made to what might be called "styling". Whilst I can not confirm this, I believe the Mark II was steel plated to the rear extension as well, that being the only substantial difference.. A Bren .303 machine gun was the usual fitting and some carried a wireless set. The driver and gunner sat in an open cockpit, the driver having a horizontal slot to view the road and the gunner a vertical slot to fire out of. Some shots show a third crew member, though he appears to have no seat and stands behind the driver with the appearance of waiting to be shot!

Archive Photography:

These all appear to be Mark I or II's, though note that in the 4th picture there is an extra rib around all sides - is this the distinguishing feature of the Mark II?

The only distinguishing feature on the Mk I is the rib around the waist line, evident on the left hand car. The remainder are Mk IIs.

Today, we would call this a Beaverette Rally, is this the same gathering just breaking up in the large photo below?

The page below is from an unidentified magazine of August 1940 where the cars are incorrectly titled "Mosquitos" and called Ironsides, . The text also says that they are in exercises with a "famous cavalary division" which contradicts the popular wisdom that these cars were only ever in service with the Home Guard and for RAF Airfield protection. It looks to me like the centre shot is at the same large gathering as the two shots above. Note also that the first shot is the only one available of a rear view and clearly shows soldiers jumping from the flat rear floor of the car

Beaverette Mark III and IV.

By this time Standard appeared to have exhausted the supply of front wings and chassis so the next batches of cars were purpose built.  The 12 Hp chassis was shortened to remove the rear overhang and the tin wings were replaced with armoured steel.  For the mark III, a  turret was added to the top of an enclosed cabin. There were two types of turret:

The Mark IV retains the enclosed roof and turret, but there is a redesign of the armour around the driver and navigators heads. Clearly this was designed to  mean that the driver no longer had to lean forward to see out of his "slot" but his slot was also reduced in size". The navigator gained two smaller slots in a vee configuration, again designed to improve visibility (!)

Archive Photography:

All the below are Mark III's 

The Mk III's with enclosed turrets and Bren Machine guns are above and those with the larger twin Vickers machine guns are below.

This Mk III resides in the Imperial War Museums collection at Duxford: My thanks to John Harris for these shots.

Access to the engine was good, provided you had the strength to lift the centre hinged bonnet!

The enclosed turret is fitted to this model

The crew had to crawl in through this, the rear ( and only) door and over the raised hump for the rear axle

The "office" is probably the most uninviting driving seat I have been in!

Modern Photos of Mark IVs

This is the Mark IV that I had the misfortune to drive ( see later) a number of years ago. The change in armour and slots can be clearly seen.

Photo: Phil Homer

Photographed a number of years ago in an underground museum in North Wales, this Mk IV has been cut down for civilian use, also evidenced by the fitting of headlights and sidelights

Photo: Phil Homer

Irish Army Service

The shots below have recently been sent to me by Brendan Bohan. Thes show vehicles used by 11th Motor Squadron FCA (Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil - reserve unit Irish Army) in 1960. The first photo shows Mk IV's cut down as in the photo above, so maybe it was the Irish Army that carried out this modification:

The second photo, below, shows a line up of Ford Armoured Cars, they are the ones with the large gun on top. The Standards can be seen towards the rear of the convoy, just before the soldiers on bikes!

Driving experience: 

About 20 years ago, it was my "privilege" to drive a Mk IV. Well, actually, I got  it off a low loader and into the exhibition hall in which the club was exhibiting at Brighton, that was quite far enough! I can report that visibility was next to nil, as was performance, and the noise was positively dangerous! As you might expect, the steering wasn't exactly light, but there was 2 1/2 tons to drag around without power steering! I have also found the following account of a wartime experience of driving one of these machines:

"We took a packed train to Plymouth, he in a first-class compartment, me in with the workers in the third. On arrival we went to stay in the Royal Ulster Rifles (Sister Regiment) barracks in the City. Next morning we were to take (what we were to call), the 'monstrosity' back to Elstree. The vehicle was a brainchild of Lord Beaverbrook then a Cabinet Minister, a great friend of Winston Churchill the Prime Minister. When the war started the old Standard Car Manufacturer had about 500 car chassis left in stock. Beaverbrook thought they could help to make a perfect Armoured Desert Vehicle. These were to be constructed with about 2 ton of steel plate-fitted on 3 sides of the chassis, with an open back and top.

On the driver's side there were 2 slits at eye level, one directly in front the other on the extreme right-hand side, so that he could see what was happening on his right hand side when turning. The slits measured about 8x2 inches wide and deep. This contraption was impossible to drive without a second person. On the left of the driver a person had to stand up, to look over the front and sides, to help direct the driver. It was a crazy set-up, only a politician could dream up such an idiotic machine. Whether it was all right in the open desert I do not know. It was a "death-trap" as we learned the previous driver had been killed when it had overturned, because of the sheer weight, when turning a sharp bend. I was seriously alarmed when I realized that I was to drive this 'monster' some 200 miles with the officer standing beside me. We started off and immediately I discovered that because of the weight, it was unbalanced, the brakes were virtually useless. Devon with its main roads, then long winding roads, up one hill and down another, was challenging and frightening.

Within about 10 minutes the Officer was screaming at me "I thought you said that you could drive this bloody thing" and I was driving too fast. I told him that I could not drive any slower, the weight of the thing was the problem. We carried on a bit further and he became annoyed with the situation, saying I could not drive at all. He said "I'll have a go", we exchanged places. I was overjoyed to hand over. Within two minutes he was saying "I now know what you mean, its a terrible thing to handle". We then decided to take it in turns to drive, literally crawlng all the way to Bath where he lived in a grand house in beautiful Georgian Royal Crescent.

I was consigned to the basement to spend the night in the quarters of the domestic staff, the Officer was naturally upstairs a real "upstairs and downstairs" situation,

Beaverette Models:

To my surprise, Google has found 4 scale models of the Beaverette, and two of them still appear to be available. They will form the basis of another feature shortly - come back soon.

If you have spotted any errors in the above, or have other information or photographs to add to it, please send them to me.