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Covanter Bridgelayer

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Technical Details  History   Australian Service History

Covanter Bridgelayer

  Technical Details  

iOriginally designed as a tank, a number of vehicles were converted to perform other specialist tasks including bridgelaying. The Covenanter was more commonly known as the A13 Mk.3 Cruiser Mark 5. 1940+

Length: 5.79 m, Width: 2.61 m, Weight: 18.2 tonnes, Crew: 2-3

Power-plant: Meadows flat 12-cyl. petrol, 3OObhp.

Armament: Besa 7.92 mm m.g. Range: 150 km.

Maker: London, Midland & Scottish Railway Co; (LMS) Derby UK.

Bridgelaying version: Fitted with a 9.8 m span, folding scissors bridge' capable of taking a 30 ton load. The bridge was laid by means of hydraulic rams and arms which were installed in the fighting compartment, with power being taken from the engine fan drive.

Interestingly, the bridgelayer was only used by Australian armoured units serving in the Pacific during W.W. II.

(NB: The laying and recovery of the scissor type bridge, should be compared with that of the Leopard Mk1, bridge-layer).


The Covenanter was originally designed as a modified Cruiser tank and was intended to supplement the A13 Cruiser. It utilised Christie's fast tank design', which emphasised large road wheels and the deletion of return rollers for the tracks. (NB: Prior to and during W.W. II, Christies' suspension design ideas, were a major feature of many Russian and British Cruiser' tanks).

To maintain a low height, a Meadows flat 12 cylinder petrol engine was fitted in a rear engine compartment. Unfortunately, a lack of engine compartment space resulted in the radiators being installed at the front of the vehicle next to the driver. However, engine performance was unacceptable owing to the inefficiency of the poorly arranged cooling system.

The undue haste with which this vehicle was produced led to a host of mechanical problems. For example, the ground pressure exerted by this vehicle was unsatisfactory because of its overall weight and the fitting of very narrow tracks. (For example, compare the width and construction of the tracks fitted to both the Centurion and the Matilda) This serious defect, affected its cross country mobility over certain types of terrain.

Because of its poor performance as a tank, the Covenanter was relegated to a training role. Some of the hulls were converted to other purposes, such as close support vehicles, command tanks, AFV recovery and artillery observation posts.

  Australian Service History

The bridgelayer first saw action with Australian forces in Bougainville during 1945. All vehicles formed part of the Armoured Squadron (Special Equipment) 2 Troop, which formed part of the 4th. Armoured Brigade.

It saw action for the first time, on 2nd June on the Bum Road near the Han River ford. It was also involved in landings at Balikpapan where 33 armoured vehicles (of various types) were landed in support of infantry operations.

On 5th July, a Covenanter and other armour were involved in a small amphibious operation aimed at assisting the infantry to capture the airfield at Manggar. However, close reconnaissance found that the bridgelayer would be unable to span the nearby river.

One of the last actions seen by a bridgelayer involved the spanning of a huge crater near the junction of Pope's Track and the Milford Highway, Balikpapan. This feat was performed in six minutes and enabled the accompanying Matilda's (supported by two Frog flamethrowing tanks) to support the advance of the infantry to the junction of the track and highway. All offensive actions ceased on 24th July 1945.


New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
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Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
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