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Thornycroft Bison Concrete Armoured Lorry (E1992.210)


E1992.210  - Thornycroft Bison Concrete Armoured Lorry - Command Vehicle - 29 April 1993 - 4551-D5

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Bison is a good illustration of the desperate state of Britain's defences in the summer of 1940. In fact improvised armoured vehicles were being constructed all over the country but the Bisons were exceptional, being protected with concrete. The idea is attributed to Mr C B Matthews, managing director of Concrete Ltd (whose trademark was a Bison). Concrete pillboxes were springing up across Britain and these vehicles were really no more than mobile pillboxes.

There was no such thing as a standard Bison. Redundant lorry chassis of every shape and size were pressed into service so long as they could take the weight. Our exhibit, which is part original and part replica, uses an ex-War Department 3 tonner, a pre-war Thornycroft Tartar powered by a 74bhp, four-cylinder engine. Concrete was used to cover the engine and cab at the front and create a separate pill-box at the back. Armoured shutters were fitted over the rifle slits but protection for the crew was not good. Thick concrete might keep out rifle fire but it was easily chipped and would be smashed by heavier weapons.

Due in part to the weight of concrete, and to the fact that the lorries were mostly quite elderly, they were relegated to airfield defence, there being no hills on airfields. In the event of an enemy landing by glider, troop transport or parachutists, the Bison would deploy to various parts of the airfield and probably fight from static positions. The pillbox crew entered via a trapdoor in the floor (not on this replica) while the driver and his mate could only leave the cab by climbing over the top.

Recreated at Museum of Army Transport, Beverley, using original Thornycroft chassis, original pillbox body and artificial cab

Other Numbers

21092 Original Accession
1992.1066 Original Entry

Main utility type


Country of Use

U.K. (1940)
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Object Production

Manufactured 1940 Thornycroft United Kingdom Chassis
Manufacturer Concrete Ltd. Pillbox
Manufacturer Manpower Services Cab - and final assembly with Museum of Army Transport


World War 2


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Current Location

BOVTM - B18 - WW2 Hall - Britain at Bay
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Part NameDescriptionNotes
Tracks/WheelsWheeled - 6x4
Armament - Main Weapon TypeNone
Additional FeaturesMobile Pillbox
Engine4 cylinder, petrol
SuspensionLeaf springs
Transmission4 forward, 1 reverse plus two speed auxiliary


Part NameDimensionValueUnitPrecisionNotes
Engine Output Power 77 bhp
Fuel Volume
Fuel Type Petrol
Range Radius
Crew Number 5/6
Speed - Road Maximum
Armour Thickness Maximum
Overall Weight 15 tons
Overall Length 6.73 m
Overall Width 2.33 m
Overall Height
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