Thornycroft Bison Concrete Armoured Lorry (E1992.210)

Thornycroft Bison Concrete Armoured Lorry
vehicle info
Precise Name
Thornycroft Bison Concrete Armoured Lorry
Main Utility Type
Command
Country of Use
U.K.
production
Manufactured
1940, Thornycroft
Concrete Ltd.
Manpower Services, United Kingdom
Era
World War 2
Nationality
British
location in the museum
Britain at Bay
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
VEHICLES Features
Wheeled - 6x4
Tracks/Wheels
None
Armament - Main Weapon Type
Mobile Pillbox
Additional Features
4 cylinder, petrol
Engine
Leaf springs
Suspension
4 forward, 1 reverse plus two speed auxiliary
Transmission
Vehicle Statistics
77bhp
Power (Engine Output)
Volume (Fuel)
Petrol
Type (Fuel)
Radius (Range)
5/6
Number (Crew)
Maximum (Speed - Road)
Maximum (Armour Thickness)
15tons
Weight (Overall)
6.73m
Length (Overall)
2.33m
Width (Overall)
Height (Overall)