South African Reconnaissance Car, better known under as Marmon-Herrington Armoured Car, was a series of armoured vehicles produced in South Africa and adopted by the British Army during World War II.
In 1938 the South African authorities began funding development of a new armoured car for the Union Defence Force. The outbreak of World War II led to a vehicle based on a Ford 3-ton truck chassis.
As South Africa then lacked a developed automotive industry, many components of the vehicle had to be imported. Chassis components were purchased from Ford Canada and fitted with a four-wheel drive train produced by the American company Marmon-Herrington (hence the designation), UK-made armament (with the exception of the U.S.-made Browning machine gun) and armour plates produced by the South African Iron & Steel Industrial Corporation, ISCOR. Final assembly was done by the local branch of the Dorman Long company among others
The first version, the "South African Reconnaissance Vehicle" Mk I, entered service in 1940. It was a long wheelbase four wheeled chassis with drive to only one axle. It was armed with two Vickers machine guns: one in a cylindrical turret and the other in the left hand side of the hull. There were two large access doors in the rear. It saw a brief action against the Italian forces in the Western Desert and thereafter relegated to training use. Some were donated to Hellenic Army units and saw action during the Battle of Greece, but proved inadequate against heavier German armour.
The Mk II had a shorter wheelbase than the Mark I and four wheel drive by using a kit from Marmon-Herrington that offered a front-driven axle. It was known in British service as Armoured Car, Marmon-Herrington Mk II. The Mark I continued in production (until the end of 1940) while supply of parts from the United States was resolved. Mark II, "Middle East Model" denoted the vehicles serving with British forces in the North African campaign. This variant was fitted with a Boys anti-tank rifle and a single coaxial Bren light machine gun. A second model intended for sub-Saharan deployments was armed with twin Vickers machine guns.
Marmon-Herringtons saw extensive combat in North Africa, being the only armoured car available to Commonwealth divisions in sufficient numbers, and had a reputation as a dependable, if somewhat light and undergunned, vehicle. As an unusual quantity of German, Vichy French, or Italian weaponry was captured during desert engagements, Allied troops began modifying their Mk IIs with Breda Model 35, Breda Meccanica Bresciana, 3.7 cm Pak 36 and the 2.8 cm sPzB 41 anti-tank guns. As the turret made no provision for larger armament, it was simply removed and crew members dependent on gun shields for protection. Besides those cars utilised for reconnaissance, others were adopted for use as mobile command posts, military ambulances, recovery vehicles, and Royal Air Force liaison.
The Mark III was created with thicker armour plate on a compact body, which included a shorter wheelbase. More than 2,000 Mark IIIs were exported before production ceased in mid-1942. Some were dispatched to the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and arrived during the East Indies Campaign. Local crews adopted the earlier South African configuration of twin Vickers machine guns; in Dutch service these were designated Zuid-Afrikaanse pantserautos and continued to serve as late as the Indonesian National Revolution. A number were captured by invading Japanese forces in March 1942.
In March 1943 a completely redesigned Mk IV/Mk IVF entered production. It was a monocoque with rear mounted engine and a turret-mounted 2 pounder with a coaxial 0.3 in Browning machine gun as the standard armament. Due to the inability of Marmon-Herrington to supply sufficient drivetrains, the F used a Canadian Ford drive train. Further versions were designed but never got beyond the prototype stage. By that time, the North African Campaign had ended and the mountainous geography of the Italian campaign did not suit armoured cars and in late 1943 the British and Commonwealth armies were receiving enough armoured cars from other sources.
In total, 5,746 Marmon-Herrington Armoured Cars were built. About 4,500 were used by South African units, while others were employed by British, Indian, New Zealand, Greek, Free French, Polish, Dutch and Belgian forces.
After World War II, a few were given to the Transjordan and saw combat with the Arab Legion in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Mk IVF saw combat as late as July–August 1974, during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when it was used by the Cypriot National Guard. The Greek army used Marmon-Herringtons in the islands of the Aegean well into the 1990s, in mechanized infantry battalions of special composition, alongside Jeeps, M-113s and Leonidas AFVs. They were finally phased out of service with the introduction of VBL AFV, six decades after their introduction.