Why walk, when you can ride in a...
The FV1611 Humber ‘Pig’
Background information by Guy Bowers
The Humber ‘Pig’ was originally a stop-gap vehicle produced to provide the British army with an armoured personnel carrier. With the end of the Second World War, the British army had a number of obsolete Universal Carrier vehicles, which it either sold or scrapped, without ordering a replacement vehicle. However, the Malaysian emergency in the late 1940’s showed that there was still a desperate need for an enclosed APC for the British Army. One result was the Saracen APC. The other, introduced to fill the gap in Saracen availability, was the Humber Pig.
The basic design is an armoured hull built on a standard truck chassis of the Humber 1 ton truck, the FV1601. It was apparently nicknamed the Pig for it’s snout like front and it being a pig to drive! In this respect, the Pig is similar to the Armadillo (of Home Guard fame) and the Soviet BTR 40, an armoured adaptation of an existing chassis. Some 1700 were originally produced. By the book, there are two crew and six passengers carried. Practically, this would be eight to ten passengers or a standard rifle section with at a push twenty being carried very uncomfortably for short periods! Two rectangular firing ports are mounted in the side and there is a firing port in each of the rear doors. Its 4.5 litre 6 cylinder Rolls Royce B60 engine developed 120 brake horsepower and a speed of 64kph.
The original Pig had radio command (FV1613) and Ambulance (FV1612) versions. Another version, the FV 1620 Hornet, consisted of an armoured cab and a launcher for the Malkara ATGW, a first generation Anti Tank Guided Missile.
By the late 1960’s, the Pigs were gradually withdrawn from service and either mothballed, sold abroad or simply scrapped.
Then came the ‘Troubles’. The rapidly deteriorating situation in Northern Ireland required a vehicle that could carry troops and police safely through areas where they could be exposed to hostile crowds throwing missiles or terrorist attack. The Pig was the ideal vehicle for the security role: It was small and manoeuvrable, therefore not so politically embarrassing. Had larger or tracked vehicles (like the FV 432) the British Government would have been accused of ‘sending in the tanks’.
Some 500 ‘pigs’ were brought back into service, some being bought back from abroad. Throughout their new career, the pigs have been modified to meet the new challenges that faced them. Faced with the Terrorist used of steel core AP bullets, the Pigs were modified with extra armour. A tail-board was added to stop bullets striking the feet of troops disembarking or sheltering behind the vehicle. Bull bars were added to the front, to push through barricades. The side stowage boxes were usually removed to prevent incendiaries and devices being placed inside. The versatile Pig proved relatively easy to adapt to its new role.
Numerous modifications were made to the basic Pig. There were ambulance and EOD (Explosive Ordinance Demolition) versions. The riot controlled version, the ‘Flying Pig’ has large mesh screens that fold out from the sides of the vehicle from just behind the front doors. The screens open forward to form a makeshift wall. Another version the ‘Kremlin Pig’ was covered with wire mesh as protection from RPG 7 rounds. One with a Perspex screen mounted on top for an observer was called the ‘Holy Pig’, due to the screen’s similarity to a pulpit. Along the border with Southern Ireland (Bandit Country), Pigs were modified with roof-mounted turrets from Shorland armoured cars. Others were modified with rear water tanks fitted in the passenger compartment for a water cannon.
Most army Pigs retained their dark green and very dark green, although versions for the RUC could be found in dark blue and white. After a riot or patrol, quite a few came back covered in paint (usually thrown in milk bottles). As this was often not removed back at base (a waste of time considering it’d be repainted next patrol), Pigs could take on a bizarre multicoloured ‘Picasso’ appearance.
With the relative peace in Northern Ireland, most Pigs have again been retired from service. However, they can still be seen in service, notably at Dover (used by the Paras) and at British nuclear facilities (in dark blue with POLICE in white written on the side).