Austarmycrest.gif (8966 bytes)Australian Military Vehicles Research

Australian Centurion 169091- Then and Now
Shane Lovell

cent091.jpg (41195 bytes) 169091 today.JPG (24601 bytes)
Centurion 169091 when held by 1st Forward Delivery Troop in 1969.  The vehicle displays modified track guards and the turret mounted smoke grenades have been removed.

Photo courtesy of Ian Summers

Centurion 169091 as photographed in September 1999.  Note that the camouflage and markings are the result of the present owner.

Photo courtesy of Shane Lovell

Centurion 169091 is one of only two Australian Centurions currently in existence that retains the full range in theatre modifications undertaken in South Vietnam. Originally, 169091 was a Centurion Mk 5 ordered by the Australian Army in 1954, part of a larger order for 51 Centurions. It was manufactured by the Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds, under the United Kingdom contract 6/FV/12738 and received the British Equipment Registration Marking 99BA95. On receipt it was placed in storage.

Late in the first quarter of 1960, 169091 entered service with 1st Armoured Regiment and was still at the regiment in 1962. During the vehicle wireless replacement program in the early 1960s it was configured as a control tank, with two C42 and one B47 radios, indicating that it served with either regimental headquarters or one of the squadron headquarters. At some point between 1964 and 1969 it went through the tank rebuild program at 4 Base Workshops, Bandianna and was uparmoured to Centurion Mk 5/1 status. It also received the 100 gallon long range fuel tank, .50 cal ranging machine gun and was prepared to receive the infra red kit.

During November 1969 the vehicle was dispatched to South Vietnam where it was taken onto the account of 1st Forward Delivery Troop in December. It remained there for 10 months during which time it had the infra red kit installed, along with other in theatre modifications including the removal of the smoke dischargers and new Vietnam specific mudguards made from inch plate.

In October 1970, 169091 replaced 169089 in Squadron Headquarters (SHQ) Troop, A Squadron, being allocated the call sign OD (Zero-Delta). It remained with A Squadron for only a short time, transferring to C Squadron on 17 December 1970, retaining call sign OD. While nominally an SHQ Troop vehicle, 169091 operated for most of its tour as part of a tank troop.

,In January 1971, C Squadron formed a fifth tank by combining SHQ tanks and the Special Equipment Troop tank 'dozer.  Centurion 169091 became the troop leader's vehicle with the call sign 5.   Early in August 1971, 5 Troop became the sole remaining operational tank troop in South Vietnam.  The troop itself was withdrawn some two weeks later.  All the squadron vehicles went through a very thorough wash program when they came in from the field.  On 9 September 1971, two days after the last 5 Troop vehicles had finished being washed, C Squadron participated in a farewell parade at Nui Dat.  The last tanks were then transported to Vung Tau where they went through another cleaning process before being shipped back to Australia.

On return to Australia it did not enter the tank rebuild programme, but was placed in storage still retaining its Vietnam modifications. It was lucky not to end up as a hard target on Puckapunyal tank range and was sold to Mr Tim Vibert of Empire Trading as part of a tender for 110 Centurions in the mid 1980s.

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