Tracking down a Centurion | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Tracking down a Centurion

My Grandfather Malcolm Sandison was part of C Squadron in the 17th/21st Royal Lancers in the mid-late 1950’s based in Germany. He was the driver of a Centurion Mk3 later converted to a Mk5, registration 02ZR72. For the past few years I have tried to track down his pride and joy, learning that the majority ended up being exported to Hong Kong for the Vietnam war and then onto Australia. I have had no luck in finding this particular Centurion unfortunately as of yet and was wondering if you could possibly shed any light or know anyone whom I could speak to. Thank you so much in advance, I look forward to your reply.


Have you made contact with the obvious in the UK?
I've found the Army Museum very helpful in the past and I'm sure the Tank Museum in Bovington will be likewise. 
If they can't tell you directly, ask them if they know the person who might know the person who knows.

Not sure what you know already but here goes:

The ZR means it was manufactured before about 1949 so will also have had a 'T' number. That means you are, in effect, looking for 'two' tanks. That actually increases your chance of establishing details. 

Action 1: contact the Tank Museum Library and Archive at Bovington and ask them for a copy of the 'Key Card' relating to the tank - they only need the number. The Key Card will include summary details such as the ZR number (obviously!), the T number from which it was converted, the Model number, engine number but, as importantly, it will (normally) state what eventually happened to the tank ('disposed' means scrapped - that's what happened to most of course). With luck it might even mention where the tank was located albeit not every location it ever visited. The Key Card actually contains these basic details for a number of tanks so the other tanks on the Card could also provide circumstantial details. Bear in mind that the Tank Museum is a charity so they may/will ask a fee - I think they charged me £5 when I made a similar enquiry about a year ago. The (extremely helpful) chap I spoke to was Jonathan Holt.  

17th/21st Lancers - the 'Death or Glory' boys. 

Action 2: research the history of the 17/21L re locations etc starting from when he was with them.  Bear in mind that quite often the Regiments kept their tanks when they moved bases - took the tanks with them to the next base - but might have handed them over to the next Regiment at that base - that's where it gets a bit more convoluted.....but not always.....

Centurion tanks were one of the most successful tanks of all time so it could have ended up almost anywhere - that's why the Key Card is crucial to this investigation. Do not be tempted to speculate before you get the Key Card as you could very easily end up wasting a lot of time. 

Action 3: check out any work done by Dick Taylor and Kevin Tucker - they know a lot about tank 'War Department' aka 'Census' numbers. Have you checked their online database for the number? 

Action 4: join the forum (its very easy) and ask the question there. 

Note: I've been down this path myself re my late father's Comet T335335 aka 20ZR65 which ended up serving with several Regiments in Hong Kong - I speak from experience so know what you are trying to achieve is possible. 

....the Tank Museum for a copy of your grandfathers 'Tracer Card'. It's a cut down version of his Service Record - all you need is his name and possibly his Army Number. Again good value for a fiver. 

Thank you so so much! I will certainly crack on with all that you have suggested and let you know how things go! Once again, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write such a helpful reply! 'Death or Glory'!

I have contacted Bovington and spoken with Jonathan Holt! He has sent the key card over to me via email, unfortunately 02ZR72 is at the bottom of the card and suffered wear over the years he said. The majority on that card including 02ZR71 ended up in vehicle storage in Ludgershall, Salisbury in 1966. ZR71 spent 3 years in storage before being sent to Lulworth as a range tower in 1969 and was later sold by the army in 1976. They all got new history cards unfortunately and usually over seas buyers were given them in order to know their history. I will look at this key card myself to see if I can make anything else out!