The Armadillo was an Armoured Fighting Vehicle developed by Britain in the wake of the Fall of France and the Dunkirk Evacuations when much of the British Army’s heavy equipment was lost.
The Armadillo was envisioned as a quick response to a very real threat. It was realised that air fields were extremely vulnerable to attack by paratroops who sought to capture airfields intact so as to use them to land airborne troops. To prevent this the RAF felt airfields needed a mobile defensive vehicle which could be quickly deployed and would be a match for any lightly armed German paratroops.
In the summer of 1940 the RAF settled on the quick conversion of commercial trucks into armoured fighting vehicles. These trucks were to be outfitted with a bastion which could contain several Lewis Guns and riflemen, with an overall crew of five. The bastion on the back of the truck would be made out of two layers of 3 inch thick wooden planks with a dense 6 inch wide layer of gravel between - this offered fair protection from the type of small arms likely to be carried by paratroops. Only the engine and drivers compartment was protected by steel plates, this minimised the need to use desperately needed armour plate.
One serious drawback of the design was that the bastion was open topped making it susceptible to grenades and air attack. However, as the Armadillo was intended to be a mobile fighting platform and not a stationary pillbox once it had engaged the enemy this was not seen as a problem as the vehicle would continue to manoeuvre.
Mk I Armadillos production line at the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) workshop at Wolverton, near Milton Keynes (source)
The Armadillo was to be stored away from the main buildings of the airfield and under camouflage and to only deployed when the base was attacked. Several Mks of Armadillos were produced between 1940 and 1942. The MkI Armadillos used requisitioned civilian commercial trucks with the bastions and protected cabs quickly added. The MkII were built directly onto newly built Bedford trucks while the MKIII saw a clip-fed semi-automatic 37mm Coventry Ordnance Works Gun mounted to the rear of the truck’s bed significantly increasing the Armadillo’s armament (see images #1 & #3).
In all 877 Armadillo Armoured Fighting Vehicles were produced between 1940 and 1942, when Britain’s situation had improved somewhat. The Armadillos were replaced by newer armoured cars and the surplus vehicles were either passed to the Home Guard or were refurbished for other uses.
Image One Source
Image Two Source
Image Three Source