The armored car proved itself an important battlefield tool for the British Army during World War 1 (1914-1918) and also during the inter-war period that followed. The types served well along fluid warfronts and in policing duties across the vastness of the British Empire which led to progressive designs evolving the basic concept before the arrival of World War 2 (1939-1945). During this new global conflict, use of relatively fast, mobile, lightly armored vehicles continued to play a critical role to the success of ground operations and British forces came equipped with a myriad of designs in turn - some forms witnessed during the early war years were already several decades old while other all-new designs followed.
One of the wartime designs appeared as the Daimler Armored Car (DAC) designed by the engineers of the Birmingham Small Arms Company with serial manufacture handled by Daimler. The DAC was developed alongside the smaller Daimler "Dingo", a compact 4x4 wheeled two-manned system used for the scouting role. The DAC differed through its larger overall dimensions (relying on a crew of three), greater inherent power, and installation of a light tank turret (taken from the Mark VII series). This provided the DAC with performance, mobility, and firepower that made it an excellent reconnaissance platform, convoy escort, and internal security solution for the duration of the war and in the years following.
Pilot vehicles of the DAC design emerged in 1939 though developmental issues centered on the powertrain pushed deliveries into the middle part of 1941. Nevertheless the end result was worth the wait - a very flexible, serviceable 7.5 ton vehicle with 4x4 wheel drive and independently suspended (coil spring) wheel units. The crew numbered three and included the driver at front-center in the hull superstructure with the vehicle commander and gunner in the two-man turret over the superstructure roof. Road wheels were large and well spaced, offering excellent ground clearance. Each wheel sat under a large, curved fender assembly. Armor ranged from 7mm to 16mm in thickness offering some protection against small arms fire and shell splinters. Power was through an in-house Daimler Model 27 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine outputting at 95 horsepower and mated to a 5-speed transmission system. Road speeds reached 50 miles per hour out to 200 mile ranges. Dimensions included a length of 13 feet, a width of 8 feet, and a height of 7.4 feet.
The DAC was well-armed for a vehicle of this class as its primary fit was a 40mm QF 2-pounder anti-tank gun with 52 x 40mm projectiles carried. A coaxial 7.92mm BESA machine gun was fitted alongside the main gun for anti-infantry work and 2,700 x 7.9mm ammunition was carried for this weapon. As an optional fit, a single 0.303 BREN Light Machine Gun could be installed along the turret roof to counter the threat posed from low-flying aircraft.
First actions of DACs was in the North African Campaign where crews proved their mettle in the hot desert sun and rolling terrain against battle-hardened enemy forces. The 40mm gun was useful against light-armored vehicles when loaded with AP (Armor Piercing) rounds and doubled as an effective anti-infantry measure when firing a HE (High-Explosive) projectile. However, this gun quickly began to lose its value as enemy armor protection increased which forced some ingenuity by engineers to bring more life out of battlefield systems like the 40mm QF. Later-war use of DACs saw the "Littlejohn" adaptor fitted to the main guns in an effort to help increase armor penetration at the expense of range. The adaptor was fitted to the muzzle end of the gun and perforated along its sides while being tapered to concentrate pressure allowing for a higher out-going velocity to be attained by the exiting projectile.
After the African Campaign had ended, the cars were seen in service all over the World War 2 battlescape including the European Theater and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. In mid-1944, the Coventry Armored Car (detailed elsewhere on this site) was added to the British inventory as the formal successor to the DAC. However, such was the success of the DAC that Coventry production was limited (220 units of the 1,700 planned) and the design arrived too late to see useful service in the war that the older design outlived the newer one - Daimler Armored Cars soldiered on into the post-war years to which production totaled 2,694 units.
Three primary production marks emerged from manufacture led by the initial Mk I model. The Mk I CS ("Close Support") version was fitted with a powerful 76mm main gun for demolition work. The Mk II form followed with a new turret, onboard smoke-generating equipment, improved engine cooling, and a hatch fitted over the driver's position. Some vehicles also saw their turret assemblies completely removed to become dedicated Command Vehicles (CVs) to serve at the regimental level.
Commonwealth operators were Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand and post-war operators included Belgium, Israel, Malaysia, Qatar, and Sri Lanka. Beyond its service in World War 2, the Daimler Armored Car was seen in the fighting of the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the Arab-Israeli War (1948), the Indo-Pak War (1947, 1965, 1971), the Indo-China War (1962), the Ceylonese Insurrection (1971), and as recently as the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009).