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Ron Bond
Ron Bond - 1955

1st Armoured Regiment LAD
Centurion Tank Recovery in the early 1950s

Ron Bond 1952-1958

I joined the Army in 1952 and was allocated to RAEME. being posted to Moorebank Workshop, Sydney to work on Matilda tanks before doing a Recovery Mechanic's trade course at the RAEME Training Centre, Ingleburn with Clive Cook. I joined the Regiment's LAD in late 1953 as a Recovery Mechanic —— two years after the Centurion Gun tank went into service with the Regiment.

When I arrived at the LAD the heaviest Recovery Equipment in Army inventory was the Churchill Armoured Recovery Vehicle and the M1A1 Ward LaFrance Recovery Vehicle (Wheeled)

churchill arv
Photograph — REME Museum
Churchill Armoured Recovery Vehicle
Length 8.38 m (27 ft 6 in)
Width 3.04 m (10 ft)
Height 2.96 m (9 ft 9 in)
Weight 40 tons
Winch 25 tons capacity
Engine Bedford horizontally opposed 12 cylinder petrol
Ward LaFrance Wrecker
Photograph — Brian Brodersen
Ward LaFrance M1A1 Wrecker
Length 7.92 m (26 ft 6 in)
Width 2.51 m (8 ft 3 in)
Height 3.10 m (10 ft 2 in)
Wheelbase 4.57 m (15 ft 1 in)
Front Winch Capacity — 13ton(us) .. 11.6ton(imper)
Rear Winch Capacity — 22ton(us) .. 19.6ton(imper)
Crane Max Lift — 9¾(us)tons .. 8¾(imper)ton
Engine Continental 8.2 litre 6 cylinder petrol
The winch capacities specified above have been sourced from literature overseas. The stated capacity of winches is always open to some conjecture, for example, just one consideration, what number of turns were on the winch drum when the measurement was taken. I do not agree with the winch capacities above; I believe they are significantly too high for operational purposes. Ron Bond

The Ward LaFrance was a most unlikely vehicle to use to recover a centurion tank. Whilst posted at Moorebank Workshop we had a Recovery Team standing by and one Operator was on 24 hour duty, 7 days a week roster system. N Squadron, comprising centurion tanks was moving into the Holdsworthy area and managed to bog a centurion in a creek. We were called to recover it and only had at our disposal a Ward LaFrance Wrecker that provides a 12ton rear winch [See comment above] ; a bit awkward to recover a 52ton centurion bogged in a creek up to the sponsons so it was possible to step straight onto the hull without climbing up. Our major problem was the lack of heavy duty snatch blocks and ropes to connect to the bogged vehicle. Staghound tow ropes saved the day. 2½ days later the bogged centurion was out.

Joe Harlow
Joe Harlow - 1955

At Puckapunyal we used a Churchill ARV that Cpl Joe Harlow had got into running order. This vehicle was under-powered for the job and had a major problem sucking in the Pucka dust


In 1954 a Centurion Gun Tank was made available to us. This Centurion, 169041, had been a target vehicle used for the 1953 Atomic Tests. [More on this link]. The vehicle had been left aside until the radioactivity levels had receded. We removed the turret and added a canvas canopy from a 3ton GS truck mounted on extention rails welded to the hull. This meant we gained a margin of speed and height relative to the terrain. The vehicle became known as the Tug Tank and did a marvelous job as most tanks at Pucka really only needed a pull to put them back on hard standing before heading off to the next bogging

Two Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicles arrived from the U.K. in 1955, making our tasks a lot easier. In true Army style somebody had to sign for them and be responsible for their use and maintenance. I took possession of both ARVs and used one for recovery duties as required. Bringing the ARVs to charge involved laying out on a tarp all the pieces carried by the ARV. The photo shows me bent over identifying bits and pieces for the Q. This drew interest from various personnel, hence the gathering of some mechanical types

Centurion ARV under repair
Photograph — Ron Bond
Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicle — 1955
Taking CES inventory (loose items belonging to the ARV)
Left to Right
Stan Tilley, Ron Bond (rear view), Sid Olinski and Archie McDonald
Not shown.. Ron Vaughan
Length 8.87 m (29 ft 9 in)
Width 3.39 m (11 ft 11½ in)
Height 2.83 m (9 ft 6 in)
Weight 45 tons
Winch 30 tons capacity - direct pull
Engine Rolls Royce designed Meteor 12 cylinder petrol

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