Desert Rat Wake Up Call

80 years ago this week. Official caption: “A Daimler armored car opens fire in the gloom of early morning at the start of the Battle for Tripoli, 18 January 1943.” The car is likely of the famed 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), attached to the 7th Armored Division’s “Desert Rats,” who both used them in North Africa and were present in the Tunis campaign.

Photo by Keating G (Capt), No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, IWM collection E 21333

Note the infantrymen behind, their .303 SMLEs at the ready. They would need them. Over the course of the next five days, Montgomery’s 8th Army would fight one of their last battles with the Afrika Korps and enter Tripoli on the morning of 23 January after Rommel abandoned the town.

When it comes to the Daimler armored car, the company made almost 2,700 of these light (7.6 ton) 4x4s during the conflict. Clad in just 7-to-16mm of steel plate, they were only proof against small arms rounds and shrapnel but were toast to anything .50 caliber or above. Nonetheless, they we fast, capable of 50 mph on good roads and handy both in the open and in built-up areas due to their size. 

Canadian Daimler Mk. 1 Scout Car, Sallenelles, France, LAC 4233182, original color

They proved effective in their standard (40mm Ordnance QF 2-pounder) and Mk I CS variants (with a 76mm gun) enough to remain in use with the 11th Hussars in Northern Ireland as late as 1960 and with Commonwealth and Middle Eastern countries until at least 2012.

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