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The “Other” Alvis

The “other” Alvis…here are a few detail shots of the Collections 1970 Alvis Saracen. This was created in the the 1950’s, and is one of the the first “post war” Armored Personnel Carrier designs. Originally at 8 tons, many later received an “extra” hull layer welded on on top to provide more protection from Armor Piercing small arms ammunition …. a bit more on that later.

It shares many design aspects with its relatives, the Stalwart HMLC and also, the turreted fire support Saladin, and the Airport Crash Fire Truck, the Salamander. All use the six wheel “no slip differential ” systems, and share the B-80/81 Straight 8 Rolls Royce engine.

The Saracen entered the public consciousness in Northern Ireland as a long lasting symbol of the “troubles”, and our example, is no exception, having served most of her life in Belfast. It still wears scars of bullet impacts fired by the IRA decades ago, one bullet splash mark is within 3 inches of the drivers forward hatch.

Its is marked as “Felix”, from the 321st Bomb Disposal Unit.

It took an interesting route to get to Ireland. Ours was one of a batch originally built for the Kingdom of Libya, but the order was cancelled by the British Foreign Office after an young upstart Lieutenant named Qaddafi, staged a coup, and took over. We learned this during the hull restoration as we had to pull off sections of the welded outer armor, and this exposed the factory “Desert Stone” paint.

After being stored, it was sent to Belfast, still in its Desert Stone Paint! And having seen pictures, to say it stood out in the streets is an understatement…bullet magnet is more appropriate, and with the IRA now using AP ammo….

It was provided with a “kit” from Alvis to upgrade the armor, something you can see in the picture below of the firing port, the original hull still visible around the opening, raising the weight to 11 tons.

As with all our artifacts, we have stories about how the pubic interact with them, the Saracen is no exception.

All on the same day, at an Ottawa show, we had one man come up to us and say how, as a boy in Belfast , he used to throw rocks at the British Army as they drove past, later, another man said, how at 19 and a new private in the British Army, in Belfast, he jumped out the back, to return fire , with bullets banging off the hull…never so scared in his life, but thankful of the Saracens Armor. To round out the day, a new arrival to Canada, with his family, from Iraq, learning that he was not alone in his country facing Sectarian Violence…he felt the world looked upon his religion as the only one that killed each other…. He was never aware of the fact that other religions fought with themselves like his countrymen did…his words on hearing the history of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. ” Yes, we hurt each other so much over stories…it is why we are so thankful to be here in Canada, so we are safe to learn how to be better people to each other.

Our Artifacts speak in so many ways.

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