The Terrapin "4-ton amphibian" was a British manufactured, amphibious armored transport of the Second World War. It was first used at Antwerp in 1944, and to great effect during the Battle of the Scheldt.

The Terrapin served with the assault teams of Royal Engineers as part of the 79th Armoured Division. They were used to carry infantry units (Canadian and British) over the rivers.


Due to a shortage of US manufactured DUKWs the British Ministry of Supply commissioned Thornycroft to design an amphibian capable of ferrying supplies and troops from ship to shore for the D-Day landings.

Some 500 Terrapin Mark 1 were built by Morris Commercial, the commercial vehicle side of the Morris Motor Company.

A Mark 2 Terrapin with a number of improvements reached the prototype stage, and with the ending of hostilities coupled with an adequate supply of American DUKWs available, none entered production.

Design of the Mark 1

The Terrapin was a high open topped vehicle; high because of the size of the tyres. The vehicle had full drive to all eight wheels powered by two 85hp Ford GAA V8 engines, mounted side by side with each motor driving one side. When being driven on a level surface the vehicle was supported on the four middle wheels, with the front and rear wheels clear of the surface. The front and rear wheels provided support and traction on soft surfaces and when climbing slopes such as riverbanks. Maximum road speed was 15 mph

When driven in the water it was propelled by two rear-mounted propellers giving a water speed of 5 mph.

Unlike the unarmoured American DUKW the Terrapin was protected by 8mm of Armour plate for its crew and cargo.

The vehicle however did have a number of flaws:

  • It used lever steering, which made it very difficult to handle in rough water.
  • The driver had poor visibility as he was located in the middle of the vehicle. This was compounded by the installation of a canvas cover over the forward hold. As a result another crew member typically had to stand behind the driver and provide directions.
  • As its two engines drove different sides of the vehicle, if one engine broke down the Terrapin tended to swing around violently.
  • The 4-ton of the name indicated that it could carry a load of 4 long tons but the physical size of the load was limited as the load space was split into a front and rear area due to the engines having been placed in the center of the vehicle for stability. This prevented large loads such as guns or vehicles from being carried.

Design of the Mark 2

This was similar to the Mark 1 but had a forward driving position. It was a much longer vehicle, being 31 feet long compared with the 23 ft length of the Mark 1.


Crew 2
Weight 26,411 lb
Length 23 ft
Width 8 ft 9 in
Height 9 ft 7 in
Road Speed 15 mph
Range 150 miles


  • Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Philip Trewbitt, Dempsey-Parr, 1999)

External links

See also

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