The Centurion BARV FV 4018 was developed as a replacement. A mild-steel prototype was followed in 1960 by 12 production vehicles. These were based on the hulls of Mark 1, 2, and 3 Centurion tanks that by this time were redundant. Although initially assigned to the Army, they were passed to the Royal Marines when the Army’s amphibious assault role was given to the Marines. The BARV was basically a Centurion body with built up sides to accommodate wading in water up to 11 feet. The design was functional yet crude with sloped armour built above the tank hull. The tracks for the BARV were reversed so they had better grip biting in reverse.
The Centurion BARV retained the gun-tank’s Rolls-Royce Meteor petrol engine.
Centurion BARVs had a crew of four; two of the crew were members of the Royal Engineers, one of whom was a qualified diver. The Centurion BARV’s were built to provide the essential role for the LPD’s HMS Fearless & HMS Intrepid as part of the Beach Assault Squadrons.
The Assault Squadrons were initially a mix of Royal Marines and Army serving aboard the ships. The transition to this being all Royal Marines was seen to be essential. The crew for the BARV’s would be handed to the Royal Marines with a sergeant, two corporals and marine all qualified vehicle mechanics, responsible for driving and maintaining the tank, and also providing full mechanical breakdown services for all embarked vehicles. The training for the crew would take place at Bovington for driver training and at the home of the BARV, Instow in North Devon, the Royal Marines amphibious testing centre.
There were many occasions when the BARV would break down or get stuck. In 1981 the BARV from Fearless was to be lost at sea off Browndown beach to end up fully submerged. The following year both BARVs would see service during the Falklands War, being the largest land vehicles ashore, with the BARV from Fearless breaking its drivetrain whilst working Blue Beach and spending most of the war not turning a cog.
All the Centurion-derived BARV’s have now left service and have been sold to collectors and museums around the world.