With the Fall of France in May-June of 1940, the German invasion of the British mainland became a very real threat across the Channel. In response, the British enacted many local measures to ensure survival of the Crown - special forces were established and low-cost, easy-to-use small arms and vehicles were all part of the movement. One product of the period became the Standard "Beaverette", a crude four-wheeled armored car designed as an emergency measure for homeland defense and training purposes - it was not a complete success but, thankfully, was also not needed to help thwart a direct German invasion of British shores heading into 1941 (Hitler's "Operation Sea Lion" was shelved indefinitely thanks to the results of the "Battle of Britain" air campaign).
The vehicle emerged in 1940 championed by influential businessman Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964 - as such the car was given the name "Beaverette" (at this time, Beaverbrook served as the Minister of Aircraft Production in the British ranks). A Standard Motor Company "Saloon" four-wheeled commercial car chassis was used as the framework for the new car and to this was added a riveted, open-air armored hull that would fit a crew of three and a single 7.7mm BREN Light Machine Gun (LMG). Up to 11mm of steel protection was offered the crew and this was reinforced by a 3-inch layer of oak wood for good measure. The engine compartment remained at front, the driver's position at right, and the basic four-wheeled configuration was retained as-is complete with leaf-spring suspension system. The BREN machine gun was designed to fire through a vertical slot in the front panel of the hull superstructure (left of the driver) so it had limited left-to-right traversal.
Some Beaverettes gave up their single 7.7mm BREN guns for 2 x Vickers Machine Guns which were excellent for the low-level anti-aircraft role. Others were seen with single 0.55" Boys Anti-Tank Rifles for a mobile tank-stopping capability.
Power was from an in-house Standard Motor Company 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 46 horsepower. This allowed for road speeds of 24 miles per hour to be reached on prepared surfaces. The armored hull no doubt reduced performance on these roads and made heavy offroad travel impractical. The hull also did no favors to the driver who was forced to use limited-vision slots for situational awareness, relying on the rest of the crew to make various clearances encountered. The vehicle also had an excessive turn radius requiring some planning by the driver before committing to the action. As was the case with many automobiles and trucks of the period, the long nose over the engine compartment also reduced driver vision.
Initial forms were the "Mk 1" open-air-hulled model and these had a weight of 2.2 tons (short) with a length of 13.5 feet, a beam of 5 feet and a height of 5 feet. The "Mk II" incorporated more practical all-around armor protection and featured a revised, horizontally-set, radiator unit (as opposed to veritcal). The 2.9 ton "Mk III" (known as the "Beaverbug") emerged with a shortened overall length and revised (open-air) hull design. A machine gun turret emplacement gave more tactical flexibility while armor reached 9mm thickness. Dimensions included a length of 10.1 feet, a beam of 5.7 feet and a height of 7 feet. The "Mk IV" sported a modified glacis plate section to help improve vision for the driver's position, had armor up to 12mm thick, and fielded its armament in a cylindrical machine gun atop the hull roof.
As an emergency war measure, the Beaverette succeeded by relying on local knowhow and industry to make something out of nothing at a time when it was needed most. The cars did not see any combat for their part in the grand war but were featured in British paper propaganda of the time. In these appearances it was given such names as "Mosquito" and "Ironsides".
In all, some 2,800 Beaverettes were produced into 1942. New Zealand railway industry manufactured a similar defensive-minded vehicle as the "Beaverette (NZ)" out of Hutt Valley. These used a commercial Ford 3/4 or 1-ton truck chassis with a crew of four instead and had armor plating added as usual. Total production reached 208 units.
November 2018 - The Tank Museum of Bovington, UK is a proud recipient of a Standard Beaverette as part of its extensive land warfare collection. The acquired example is a Mk IV form with the cylindrical turret atop the wholly-enclosed, pyramidal-style hull superstructure.