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Mike Cecil
Mike Cecil

A Tale of Two Meteors: The Repetitive Lifecycle of a Tank Engine

Mike Cecil ... Colbert, WA, USA

When Centurion tank number 169069 'cooked' its Meteor engine while on operations in Vietnam on the last day of March, 1968, few involved in its repair gave much thought to either the engine being removed, or to the one being installed. Indeed, at the time, the engine change was probably considered to be grossly inconvenient more than anything else, happening as it did while on an operation remote from workshop facilities at Nui Dat.

The tank was recovered the short distance to the nearby Fire Support Base, and a RAEME Forward Repair Team (FRT) from 1 Armoured Squadron Workshop deployed to undertake the changeover in the field. It was both the first Meteor engine change in South Vietnam, and the first to be changed by an FRT. There would be many, many more during the course of the Centurion tank family's operational deployment in South Vietnam, as indeed there had been - and would be - throughout the life of the Centurion family of armoured vehicles in Australia from late 1951 to mid 1977.

The first Meteor engine change in South Vietnam was also the first carried out in the field by a Forward Repair Team from 1 Armoured Squadron Workshop. The replacement engine, R49655, is shown here undergoing some final work prior to being lowered into the tank's engine bay by the crane of the adjacent M113A1 Fitters carrier. The top of the 'cooked' engine, R48029, can be seen at the lower left of frame. Both engines were rebuilt several times during their service life with the Australian Army's Centurion fleet.
Photo by John 'Rusty' Dyson

But what of the two Meteor engines involved in what is, in retrospect, a rather historic event? Both engines were rebuilds, and both would have their own histories by the time the Centurion tanks were retired from active service in 1977. Their histories are certainly not unique - most of the Meteor engines that powered the Centurions in Australian service experienced similar lifecycles. So tracing what happened to these two engines provides some insight into the lifecycle of all the Meteor engines that powered the Australian Centurion fleet.


© 2011. Mike Cecil. May not be reproduced without the permission of the author.

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