Austin K2/Y

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Austin K2/Y Ambulance
An original fully restored Austin K2/Y ambulance
TypeMilitary ambulance
Place of originUK
Service history
In serviceSecond World War and after in a number of countries
Production history
ManufacturerAustin and Mann Egerton
No. built13,102
Mass3 tons 1½ cwt (3124 kg) (dry)
Length18 ft (5.49 m)
Width7 ft 5 in (2.26 m)
Height9 ft 2 in (2.79 m)
Crew2 – 3

Engine6-cylinder 3462 cc Austin D-Series petrol engine
60 hp at 3000 rpm
153 lbfft 207.4 Nm torque at 1200 rpm)
Payload capacity4 stretchers or 10 "walking wounded"
SuspensionWheels 4×2,
10.50–16 tyres
Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h)

The Austin K2/Y is a British heavy military ambulance that was used by all Commonwealth services during the Second World War.

Built by Austin, it was based on the 1938 Austin K30 30-cwt light truck which as the K2 chassis was built during the war for many uses.


The K2/Y could take ten casualties sitting or four stretcher cases. The rear body, known as No. 2 Mk I/L was developed by the Royal Army Medical Corps and built by coachbuilder Mann Egerton. Simple canvas closures were used in place of driver's cab doors.

The interior dimensions were approximately 2.6 metres long, 2.0 metres wide and 1.7 metres high. At the rear of the vehicle there were two large doors. From the driver's cab the wounded could also be accessed through a small internal door with a seat. The exterior was mainly made from painted canvas.

The Austin K2/Y was generally regarded as having a widely spaced four-speed gearbox that needed to be "understood", but once mastered provided good service. It had two petrol tanks, one on each side (total capacity: approx. 2×12 Imperial gallons (2×54.5 L)). The top speed was around 50 mph (80 km/h).

A total of 13,102 Austin K2/Y ambulances (the front mudguards ended at the 'doors') were built at the company's Longbridge plant almost continuously from 1940 until the war ended. An estimated 50 or more[1] remain today. The Austin chassis was one of three main designs fitted with Mann Egerton bodies, the others being Morris Commercial CS11/30F (the front mudguards ended underneath the rungs) and Bedford ML 54 (the front mudguards ended before the 'doors'). It is estimated there are two remaining Morris Commercials, but no Bedford examples are said to survive.[citation needed]


One veteran of the North African Campaign stated he once managed to carry 27 wounded, with passengers seated on the wings, bonnet, rear steps, and in extra stretchers suspended by rifles across the rear walkway; he was mentioned in dispatches for this feat.[citation needed]

The then Princess Elizabeth was trained to drive one during the war.[2][3][4]

The design was popular with British and Commonwealth troops, as well as American forces which received them in reverse Lend-Lease. The K2 (KTwo) was often affectionately nicknamed "Katy", also by British and US troopers in occupied Germany of the 1950s.

The K2/Y ambulance was also used in the Korean War.


There were two versions of this ambulance: The early version had two round rotary ventilators on the roof and a spare wheel cover with a large hump. The late version had two square fixed vents on the roof and a spare-wheel cover with a much smaller and rounder hump. The spare wheel was moved further into the body to stop drivers hitting the cover (and wheel) when passing other vehicles. The later version also had a larger cut-out in the internal door.

In media[edit]

A K2/Y had a central role in the 1958 film Ice Cold in Alex (a WW II drama) featuring John Mills,[5] Sylvia Syms, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews. The film is based on the novel of the same name (1957) by British author Christopher Landon. However, the vehicle used in that film was a one-off special conversion made for the film using a 4 wheel drive Canadian Military Pattern chassis. The standard 2WD K2 would not have been capable of some of the film "stunts".[citation needed]

Three Austin K2/Y ambulances participated in the VE-VJ days 50th anniversary parade down the Mall in London on 19 August 1995.[4][6]


Exterior and interior[edit]

In action[edit]

The photographs below show that the Austin K2/Y ambulance was used in many parts of the world during whole WW II and beyond.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Austin K2/Y Ambulance Register.
  2. ^ a b Princess Elizabeth 2nd Subaltern 1945 (especially the first 20 seconds) (British Pathé).
  3. ^ a b Princess Elizabeth (1945) (especially from 3 minutes 10 seconds) (British Pathé).
  4. ^ a b THE MALL VE-VJ PARADE PART TWO (from 8 minutes 14 seconds to the end).
  5. ^ Sir John and Lady Mills in Colchester together with an Austin K2/Y Ambulance (1994).
  6. ^ THE MALL VE-VJ PARADE PART ONE (all of it).

External links[edit]