Thursday, 31 March 2016

Heroic Driver

"Award Order
  1. Name: Kharitonov, Nikolai Pavlovich
  2. Rank: Starshina
  3. Position and unit: mechanic-driver of a T-34 tank, 1st Tank Battalion, 65th Volnovakha Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1915
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since 1944
  7. Participation in the Civil War and subsequent combat action in defense of the USSR: Western Front, 1st Belorussian Front.
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: 1937
  10. Recruited by: Kuzovatskiy recruitment office, Ulyanovsk oblast.
Brief and specific summary of personal heroism or achievements: While fighting as a part of the 1st Tank Battalion on the 1st Belorussian Front from January 14th to January 20th, 1945, T-34 tank driver Starshina Kharitonov executed his orders flawlessly, demonstrated bravery, tenacity, skill, and heroism.

Maneuvering with skill on the battlefield, he allowed his crew to complete their objectives. His tank travelled over 400 km without a single breakdown, despite having already exhausted its warranty period during summer battles. As a result of his skilled maneuvering, his crew destroyed 2 150 mm guns, 1 75 mm gun, 3 MG nests, 12 cars, and 22 fascists on January 15th in battles for Bortodsee,Yusefuv, Druzhanki, and Kuchki.

On January 16th, 1945, in the Milishsk settlement, the destroyed one PzV tank, a tractor with an 88 mm AA gun, 6 cars, and 13 fascists.

On January 19th, 1945, he was the first to ford the Pilitsa river under enemy fire south of Tomanluv and, catching up to an enemy column retreating to Lodz during a night reconnaissance mission, he crushed 28 carriages with military cargo and 17 fascists.

He is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-51

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

T-34 Improvements, 1943

"To the Chief of the GABTU Technical Directorate, Major-General of the Tank Forces, comrade Afonin
CC: NKTP Main Inspectorate Chief, Engineer-Lieutenant-Colonel comrade Gutman

I attach excerpts from proposals to improve the T-34 tank and its armament from the 3rd Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts for December of 1943.

From the report of the 3rd Ukrainian Front:
  1. On the design of the commander's cupola in the T-34 tank:
    1. The commander's cupola cannot provide 360 degree vision to the commander as the vision slits are too high and cannot be used with a closed hatch (the eyes are lower than the slits). On the other hand, the cupola impedes viewing through the PT-4-7 periscope. Also, the slits are very narrow.
      Proposal: use mirror periscopes like in the KV-1S cupola. This will allow reduction of the size of the turret and improve vision.
    2. The two piece hatch is heavy and uncomfortable, and has an inconvenient and difficult to operate latch. Opening the latch and cupola hatch takes a lot of time. If the commander is wounded, this almost always leads to his death.
      It is necessary to make the cupola hatch one piece and easy to open.
    3. There were cases of penetration of the cupola by enemy aircraft, as the cupola does not have a shape that facilitates ricochet and the armour is thin.
      Using mirror periscopes will allow for the reduction of the cupola's height and introduction of an aerodynamic shape.
  2. The escape hatch on the T-34 is inconvenient as it opens outwards by unscrewing nuts holding it to the floor. It is necessary to make the hatch open inwards and unlatch easily, while making sure that it cannot be blown off and that it remains watertight.
  3. The trigger mechanisms in our tanks are slow, which can lose a target if the tank is moving. In addition, they can jam.
    It is desirable to use electric firing mechanisms in our tanks like the German StuG tank or English Matilda and Valentine tanks. In case this is not possible, put a manual firing mechanism on the elevation or traverse handles like on the PzIV German tank.
  4. Sights: the existing diopter sight for the hull gunner/radio operator gives a very small range of vision. It is hard to find targets through it. Experienced hull gunners observe and correct fire through the upper driver's periscope (KV-1S).
    The hull gunner in the T-34 is in an even more difficult position.
    It is necessary to install either a sniper's sight or a periscopic sight. Add a mechanism to clear the periscopes of snow.
  5. The spare tracks on T-34s are placed on the fenders. Experience shows that the fenders are torn off in battle and those tracks are lost. Immobilized tanks are left without spare tracks.
    It is necessary to place the tracks on the rear angled armour, the least vulnerable area to enemy fire.
  6. Spare fuel tanks installed on the rear of the T-34 tank at factory #184 are inconvenient to use. After they are emptied, they are thrown away due to their inconvenient angled shape. The best fuel tanks are installed at the Kirov factory, and all factories should produce these. For rapid identification, it is desirable to label the tanks "fuel" or "oil".
  7. Install smoke grenade launchers on subsequently produced tanks in order to conceal the tanks if they are disabled. A deployed smoke grenade will help the crew leave the tank. In addition, smoke can play a significant role after penetration of the enemy's defenses, hiding the tank from the AT guns that it passed.
  8. It is desirable to install additional spaced armour on the sides of the tank, along the turret platform. 
  9. It is necessary to install the D-5 85 mm gun on T-34 tanks. In the future, include a high velocity gun. When installing the D-5 gun, make sure that:
    1. The gun does not stick into the ground when driving off road.
    2. The gun barrel is protected.
  10. Replace glass periscopes with metallic ones..."
From the report of the 2nd Ukrainian Front:

"The commander's cupola on the T-34 still has not proven itself, as it is easily penetrated by even small caliber artillery and the hatch jams in battle, which can lead to wounding or isolation of the commander.

The most convenient way to open the cupola hatch is not upwards, but to the side, similar to how it's done on the German Panther tank."

I ask you to give your conclusions regarding these suggestions and send them to the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Front Armoured Forces, and a copy to GBTU.

Chief of the GBTU UET, Major-General of the Tank Engineering Service, Pechenikin"

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Quality for 1945

"Attachment to GOKO decree #6868s issued on November 4th, 1944

List of further design and production improvements of tanks and SPGs.

On IS tanks and SPGs:
  1. Prevent the premature wear of the engine crankshaft splines and main friction clutch flywheel splines. Due: January 1st, 1945
  2. Ensure that road wheels, track links, and track pins have a lifespan of at least 1000 km and, by January 1st, 1945, provide measures necessary to increase that lifespan to 1500 km.
  3. Prevent the premature wear of the actuator cup and falling in of the main friction clutch pedal. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  4. Provide reliable operation of the ball bearings of the idlers and road wheels. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  5. Investigate the issue of protecting the main friction clutch from dust. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  6. Investigate the issue of improving lubrication of the road wheel ball bearings. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  7. Provide new crew hatches for testing with a load-balancing device for easy and convenient opening. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  8. Increase the quality of the spring and friction coupling clutch of the inertial starter. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  9. Install MDSh smoke canisters on every tank and SPG. Due: February 1st, 1945
On T-34 tanks and SU-100 SPGs:
  1. Plan measures to convert all T-34 tanks to the 5-speed gearbox. Due: January 1st, 1945.
  2. Ensure that track links and track pins have a lifespan of at least 1000 km and, by January 1st, 1945, provide measures necessary to increase that lifespan to 1500 km.
  3. Prevent the premature wear of the engine crankshaft splines and main friction clutch flywheel splines. Due: January 1st, 1945
  4. Prevent the premature wear of the actuator cup and falling in of the main friction clutch pedal. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  5. Investigate the issue of protecting the main friction clutch from dust. Due: December 1st, 1944.
  6. GBTU must complete trials of a T-34-85 tank with a commander cupola with a one piece hatch with a load-balancing device by November 15th of this year and, jointly with NKTP, make a decision regarding mass production."

Monday, 28 March 2016

T-34 with Big Guns

"Factory #221
To the People's Commissar of Armament of the USSR, comrade Ustinov
To GAU Chief Lieutenant-General of Artillery comrade Yakovlev

RE: 152 mm gun and 203 mm howitzer SPG

By personal initiative, the design bureau of the factory created a project for SPGs for the 152 mm gun and 203 mm howitzer. Main blueprints and an explanatory note are attached.

The project uses existing components as much as possible, including suspensions, engines, and the guns themselves.

The suspension and engine used are taken from the T-34 tank produced by the Stalingrad Tractor Factory. As for the artillery systems, we propose the use of the 152 mm Br-19 gun and 203 mm B-4 gun produced at our factory, including the use of upper equipment.

This solution allows for powerful SPGs with good mobility, matching the speed of tanks (about 40 kph).

The aforementioned unification of parts and good cooperation conditions between us and STZ ensures that production could be set up very quickly.

We consider that, in this very mobile war, a highly mobile high power SPG would be a very useful asset to the Red Army.

We ask for your cooperation in building and testing an experimental prototype. Namely, we ask for you to order the People's Commissariat of Medium Machinebuilding to order the Stalingrad Tractor Factory to send us working blueprints of the T-34 tank and one T-34 tank (sans turret). The factory promises to quickly (2-2.5 month) produce a prototype and perform trials.

We consider this work to be very meaningful at this time. We expect a quick answer and cooperation on this issue.

Attachment: 13 blueprints, explanatory note
Factory Director Gonor
Chief Designer, Ivanov"

CAMD RF 81-12038-103

I posted about crazy guns on the T-34 before, but judging by the fact that they're only ordering one hull, these guys have an even crazier design in mind.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Light Tank M22: Steel Locust

Thanks to John Walther Christie, the USA was the leader in airborne tanks before WWII, but with one caveat: not a single one of his vehicles was actually accepted into service. However, Christie's experiments resulted in a very good understanding of what an airborne tank should be like. The idea of a tank with wings was quickly discarded in favour of a light tank that was attached under the fuselage of a heavy bomber or transport plane. This concept was used to make the Light Tank M22.

Christie's Last Chance

Christie received some funds to develop his airborne tank after a relative success in Britain. The tank was converted into the M1938 tank, which didn't have much luck with the American military either. Christie, experiencing major financial troubles, sold his company to William J. Bigley and his United States Convertible Systems Inc.

The situation changed in early 1941. The British, who were planning on mass purchases of American tanks, were interested in an airborne tank. The Americans immediately remembered Christie and his wonder-machines. In late 1941, the Christie M1936 airborne tank was tested at the Aberdeen proving grounds. During the trials, the vehicle broke down constantly, but showed impressive characteristics. The report referred to it as "Bigley-Christie".

Airborne Christie M1936 tank. In late April of 1941, the Americans performed trials of this vehicle and ordered a Christie tank as a result.

This is a good time to mention why the American army did not adopt any one of Christie's designs. The problem was that Christie designed tanks based on his own personal logic. Frequently, this logic contradicted what the customer ordered. For example, with airborne tanks, Christie considered the tank itself the most important thing. The army will figure out a delivery method.

In addition, not a single Christie tank past 1933 had a turret. His airborne vehicles had one calling: speed. The American army, on the other hand, was much better grounded. yes, speed was important, but they needed a tank, not a race car.

On May 22nd, 1941, specifications for the T9 Airborne Tank were developed. This vehicle would weigh 7.5 tons (sans crew), its length was 3.5 meters, width 2.13 meters, and height 1.68 meters. The armament, either a 37 or 57 mm gun, would be housed in a rotating turret and equipped with a gyroscopic stabilizer. The crew was 2-3 people. Remember the small dimensions of the vehicle and armament, which had to be in a turret.

The Christie M1942 Light Tank. The military received something completely different from what they asked for.

United States Convertible Systems Inc. began development of the new tank in July of 1941. A model was also built. Christie agreed to build the tank for $126,000, a very serious amount of money for the time. However, the proposed tank did not fit into the T9 specifications. The width was fine, but the length was 5.6 meters, more than 1.5 times than what was in the specification. The turret, or rather its absence, was also a problem.

Christie proposed another one of his visions in November of 1941. The Christie M1942 Light Tank also had no turret. Instead it had a casemate with a 37 mm gun. Five machineguns were placed in the hull. Christie ignored the fact that the rigid specifications came from the capabilities of the C-54 transport airplane that was currently in development, and soon he himself was ignored.

The story continues. In May of 1942, Christie proposed the same tank to the USSR. He was ready to travel there with his colleagues for the same price: $126,000. However, Major-General Lebedev put an end to the idea.

By the Book

In May of 1941, when the specifications for the T9 Airborne Tank were being developed, the Bureau of Ordnance decided to play it safe. In parallel with Christie, they tasked Marmon-Herrington Company Inc. and Pontiac with development of an airborne tank. Pontiac was likely a last resort, as the company had no experience in tank design. As for Marmon-Herrington, they had a respectable amount of tankettes, armoured cars, and light tanks, which were not only in production but already saw combat.

An alternative to the Christie tank: Light Tank T9 designed by Marmon-Herrington. A wooden model of the tank was presented in August 1941.

The full sized model of the Light Tank T9 was presented in August of 1941. Marmon-Herrington didn't reinvent the wheel and based their design on the CTLS light tank. Nearly the entire suspension, with the exception of the idlers, was borrowed from this tank. Externally, the tank was similar to the T7, which was currently being designed by the Rock Island Arsenal.

This similarity was not a coincidence, as the evolution of the tanks happened in a similar way. The tank received a riveted hull, traditional for American light tanks, with the exception that it was very low, due to the project's limitations. The plan was to install a cast two-man turret similar to the one on the Medium Tank M3 with a 37 mm gun and a coaxial Browning M1919 machinegun.

The vehicle was inspected by the Bureau of Ordnance, was well as representatives from the air force and Douglas company engineers. The latter were present for a good reason. As mentioned above, the C-54 transport airplane developed by Douglas was going to be the delivery method for this tank. In November, a full scale model was developed for Douglas to check the fit with the C-54. The tank was carried underneath the fuselage. The turret was demounted and carried inside the airplane. The turret was relatively light, and loading it into the plane was not particularly difficult.

Light Tank T9, Pontiac concept.

The competitor vehicle from Pontiac was presented in September of 1941. In general, the concept was the same as the Marmon-Herrington vehicle. The difference was in peculiarities of the hull and engine. The hull was going to be welded with the use of cast components. Two 6 cylinder 3.9 L 90 hp Pontiac automobile engines would power the tank. By comparison, the Marmon-Herrington tank would be equipped with a Lycoming O-435T  7 L opposite aircraft engine, which was just entering production in 1942.

The tanks were so similar that the cost was the main deciding factor. Marmon-Herrington's project was cheaper, which led to their victory.

An experimental prototype of the Light Tank T9, April 1942. The driver received a pair of machineguns so he wouldn't be bored.

Pontiac was not particularly disappointed, as an SPG was going to built on the chassis of their T9. This vehicle, the T42 GCM, evolved into the T49 GMC. From that point on, Buick, another division of General Motors, started working on that vehicle. The result was the T70 GMC, otherwise known as M18 Hellcat.

Necessary Lightness

The first experimental prototype of the Marmon-Herrington Light Tank T9 was finished by April of 1942. By then, a series of changes were made to the design compared to the initial project. First of all, the hull was fully welded. Only the upper front plate was bolted on to allow access to the transmission. Second, the Americans found only one coaxial machinegun insufficient. As a result, the tank received a pair of Browning M1919 machineguns in the hull. The driver would fire them, but the loader, sitting in the turret, would reload.

The tank was compact, but very reasonably laid out.

In April of that year, the tank was sent to Fort Benning where it underwent trials and fitting to a model of a C-54 fuselage. During trials, it was discovered that the suspension is insufficiently stiff. To resolve this problem, channel brackets were installed between the bogeys, and later special reinforcers developed by Marmon-Herrington engineer William A. Cost. Further trials demanded additional changes, which made the tank somewhat heavier. Due to the tank's low mass and powerful engine, it turned out to be fairly agile. Not as fast as Christie's tank, but the maximum speed of 56 kph was a very respectable figure.

On May 31st, 1942, in the middle of the trials, an unpleasant surprise arrived from the Americans. According to revised specifications, the mass of the tank had to be 7.1 tons, or 400 kg less than initially specified. Removing 400 kilograms was no easy task, especially since Marmon-Herrington engineers were already constrained by weight. Something important had to go.

The first thing to disappear was the pair of Brownings in the hull. Future loaders could breathe easier. The gyroscopic stabilizer and turret traverse motor followed. They were useful, of course, but not necessary. After that, the T9 continued trials, which ended only in January of 1943. Later, this vehicle was used by Marmon-Herrington as a display model.

Light Tank T9E1, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, December 1942. The altered hull is obvious in this photo.

Work on an improved T9 tank began in February of 1942. In April, a full sized model, indexed T9E1, was sent to Fort Benning to be fitted under the C-54 fuselage. As a result, the hull was radically changed. Once again, the influence of the T7, or rather the T7E2, was clearly visible. The upper front plate was composed of one piece, positioned at a sharp angle.

Other parts of the hull were changed, especially the rear. The driver received a separate cabin, which improved visibility. The turret design was also changed, and one large hatch was replaced with two small ones.

This is how the T9E1 was to be attached to the Douglas C-54 Skymaster.

The first experimental prototype of the T9E1 was produced in November of 1942, and intensive trials started that same month. The second vehicle was sent to England immediately after assembly. Both parties were satisfied with the result, and in April of 1943, the Light Tank T9E1 entered mass production. In total, Marmon-Herrington built 830 tanks of this type before February of 1944, the biggest success for the company in the field of tank building.

The T9E1 index was used in reference to the tank until September of 1944, when the vehicle was finally standardized as Light Tank M22. As for Britain, it was named "Locust" there. The tank was never called "M22 Locust", much like there was no "M4 Sherman". M4 Medium Tank was the American name, while the British called it Sherman I.

In 1944, an alternative appeared for transporting the Light Tank M22: the Fairchild C-82 Packet. The tank could fit inside of it whole.

Work on the T9E1 didn't end with mass production. In November of 1943, a program to install the T24E1 81 mm breech-loaded mortar into the turret started. In August of 1944, one tank was equipped with the weapon, indexed T9E2. However, no progress was made past some experiments.

Limited Viability

Most T9E1 tanks went into the American army, but these tanks were never used in combat. The army received the tanks coolly. The tanks were mostly developed for British needs, and looked quite weak by the middle of 1943. In addition, the M24 light tank, already in development by then, was also somewhat airborne, even though it had to be taken apart and transported in two C-82 airplanes.

Soviet foreign intelligence learned of the T9 and T9E1 in July of 1943. The tank interested the Soviet leadership with its high mobility. However, the T7E2 light tank, which later became the M7 medium tank, was deemed much more interesting.

GAL. 49 Hamilcar Mk.I glider, Britain's main airborne tank delivery system.

The British received 260 T9E1 tanks. Locusts in the British army were indexed T.15877 through T.159376. Judging by the numbers range, the order was initially for 500 tanks, but was later reduced. One of the reasons for this could have been mechanical problems that were revealed by trials. A second problem was the lack of obvious advantages over the domestic Tetrarch I.

Of course, unlike the British tanks, Locusts had HE shells in their arsenal. However, right as Locusts started making it into the army, the Tetrarch I gained HE shells for its 2-pdr (40 mm) gun. The British tank was faster, more comfortable, and the armour of both tanks could only protect it from small arms. Weighing the pros and cons, Locusts were left in reserve. Old but still competitive Tetrarchs flew into Normandy, and were only replaced with Locusts in fall of 1944 when the British adapted the Littlejohn adapter to American guns, which drastically increased the muzzle velocity and with it, penetration.

The Littlejohn Adapter was first designed for the 2-pdr gun. The Bovington Tank Museum retained a Littlejohn for the 37 mm gun installed in the Locust.

The Locust was used by the British in combat only one time. On March 24th, 1945, the Allied forces carried out Operation Varsity to cross the Rhine. The British 6th Airborne and American 17th Airborne divisions were the main forces in this operation. The British extensively used gliders during this operation, including heavy GAL.49 Hamilcar Mk.I for transporting tanks.

The operation began at 10:00. Main British forces were deployed north-east of Wesel. The strike group had 8 Locust tanks. The first never made it across the Rhine: after an AA gun hit the glider, is bottom fell out, the tank fell into the river, and the crew died. A second tank was lost during landing when its glider crashed into a local farm. One of the remaining tanks damaged its gun during landing, a second its machinegun, and the third broke its engine.

A Locust from the 6th Airborne Brigade.

Unlike Normandy, where the Tetrarch's main enemy was parachutes that tangled in their tracks, the Locusts had a warmer welcome. Minutes after landing, Lieutenant Kenward's tank ended up face to face with a Panther. Since the nose of the Hamilcar glider did not open, the tank had to ram its way through. The Lieutenant fired off a dozen shots with no visible effect. The Locust was knocked out by return fire, but two crewmen survived, including the commander. The tank with a damaged engine made a fine bunker, supporting its infantry with artillery fire. According to reports, the tank crew claimed about 100 dead Germans.

The remaining four tanks supported the British paratroopers. With their help, the 6th Airborne attacked German positions. The tanks kept fighting on the next day. On March 26th, the main forces crossed the Rhine, and the Locusts were replaced with the much better armed Cromwells. This was the end of the tank's service history with the British army.

In 1946, the Locust was deemed completely obsolete. They began to be written off. A small number made their way to Belgium. Many more were sent to Egypt, where they replaced the Light Tank Mk.VI. Compared to these vehicles, dropped by the British in 1941, the Locusts were quite modern. As of 1948, the Egyptian army had 50 Locust tanks that formerly belonged to Britain.

IDF soldiers inspect a knocked out Locust, December 1948.

During the Israeli War of Independence fought from 1947 to 1949, Locust tanks fought a lot more intensively. On May 14th, 1948, Israel declared its independence. On the next day, forces of neighbouring Arab countries entered Israel to erase it from the face of the Earth. The most well known episode in the service life of Egyptian Locusts was Operation Assaf (December 5-7th, 1948). The Egyptians attacked Sheih Noran (today, kibbutz Magen). A 57 mm anti-tank gun (also a former British weapon) knocked out 5 Locust tanks. The Egyptian attack failed. Another tank made it into Sheih Noran, but was knocked out by a British PIAT grenade launcher.

The Locust was used in battles for Al-Awja with similar success. Three tanks were captured by the IDF in working condition and remained in use until 1952. The Egyptians kept their tanks until the mid 1950s when they were finally deemed obsolete.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Medium Tank Mk.I: First of the Maneuver Tanks

The end of the First World War coincided with the decline of vehicles designed by William Tritton. Drastic budget cuts meant that further development of heavy tanks in Great Britain stopped. As for the first post-war medium tanks, they turned out to be too heavy, and could not repeat the success of the Mk.A Whippet. In late 1918, development of the Medium Tank Mk.D began, directed by Lieutenant Colonel Philip Johnson. The result was truly revolutionary and could reach a record of 20 mph (32 kph), but a large amount of mechanical problems brought about the end for that tank. After trials, the tank was not approved for mass production, but it did not disappear into nothingness. Later on, the Americans used it as a basis of their Medium Tank M1921. In England, the Vickers company had a go at making tanks and attained success with its first steps, creating the successful Medium Tank Mk.I.

New Player

The steel casting Vickers company started its rise to the spot of one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world towards the end of the 19th century. In 1897, it bought out Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company, propelling the steel casters from Sheffield into leading positions in the small arms and artillery markets. Slowly, Vickers acquired shipbuilding companies and naval artillery producers. Finally, in 1919, they bought Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Company which, along with making wagons, was making tanks since 1917.

Vickers' rise to greatness was connected with two figures. Sir George Thomas Beckham was Vickers' chief designer. He managed new types of weapons that were developed and produced by the company. He is linked to another figure, Sir Arthur Trevor Dowson, the controlling director of the Vickers company from 1906 to 1931. Nearly all new developments at Vickers that had to do with armament were patented by these individuals.

During the First World War, Vickers, or rather its child company Wolseley, built armoured cars. The company had almost no direct connection to tank building. This changed in the early 1920s. The heavy and medium tank crisis was a chance that was too good to miss for Vickers. A decision was made to not compete with the Medium Mk.D, but to stake a claim on the barren light tank market.

In 1921, Vickers received a contract to develop and produce three light infantry tanks. The first prototype was ready by December of 1921 and sent to Farnborough, where a research facility was established at the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Armoured Corps. In 1928, it was renamed to MWEE (Mechanical Warfare Experimental Establishment). The tank later received a registration number: MWEE 7.

Vickers Infantry Tank No.1, Britain's first light tank.

Vickers' design was progressive and conservative at the same time. The Vickers Infantry Tank No.1 had a rhomboid hull, and its suspension was also similar to that of the WWI "rhombus" tanks, but there were many more innovative elements in this design.

This sounds comical, but a whole six years after the Renault FT and FCM 1A, the British finally put a turret on their tank. Vickers engineers equipped their brainchild with a fully rotating turret which fit all the tank's armament, three Hotchkiss machineguns. The bearings that the turret rotated on were outside of the hull. This solution was used on subsequent Vickers tanks.

There were innovations outside of the hull, too. The designers of the tank created a very compact fighting machine with a mass of under 9 tons. Despite the rhomboid hull, the tank's layout was classical. Compared to the "rhombus" tanks, the driver of the Infantry Tank No.1 lived like a king, and the commander had a cupola on top of the turret. The entire crew was housed in the front of the tank, and the engine compartment was isolated. This was enormous progress compared to the "rhombus" tanks where the engine was placed in the middle of the hull.

The second prototype, Vickers Infantry Tank No.2, was ready in July of 1922. It received the registration number MWEE 15. It repeated the design of the previous vehicle, but a 3-pounder (47 mm) gun was installed in the turret.

Trials showed mixed results. The tank reached a speed of 24 kph on a highway, which was very good for the early 1920s. The tank also performed well off-road. However, both tanks were plagued by transmission problems, and the design of the track links proved far from perfect. As a result of trials, the tanks were rejected.

18-pdr Transporter. Its chassis was used as a basis for the new tank.

It was clear to Vickers that their infantry tank won't cut it in late winter of 1922. Because of this, they did not build a third prototype, instead building a transporter for the 84 mm (18-pounder) field gun. Work on this vehicle, named 18-pdr Transporter, began in March of 1922. This vehicle had nothing in common with the Vickers Infantry Tank No.1. Instead of a step forward, it was a leap in comparison to any other vehicle currently in development.

The above applies to the suspension more so than any other part of the vehicle. The best thing that was available at the time was a half-rigid leaf spring suspension. Vickers engineers developed a system with two-wheel bogeys that were attached to vertical coil springs. New track links were developed, named No.9 Link Track. An 80 hp Wolseley motor was used, with the engine in front and transmission in the rear. The 18-pdr gun would roll inside the hull and the crew would sit on its perimeter, facing each other.

The first trials showed how progressive the transporter was. Vickers Infantry Tank No.1 was forgotten, and Vickers received an order to build a tank on the 18-pdr Transporter chassis. Interestingly enough, another Vickers tractor would become a chassis for a tank, but in Germany, not in England. There, a Vickers tractor was the basis of the Kleinetraktor project, better known as Pz.Kpfw.I.

Light to Medium

According to specifications, the new Vickers tank was also in the light category. Its maximum speed was rated at 15 mph (24 kph), but the military's appetites grew after the transporter reached a speed of 20 mph (32 kph) during trials. The crew would consist of 5 people, same as the Vickers Infantry Tank No.1. Since the tank was a light one, its armour was only a quarter of an inch thick (6.35 mm). This armour was rather questionable, as even the Renault FT had 16 mm of steel protecting it from rifle caliber bullets.

An experimental convertible drive Medium Tank Mk.I: "Wheel-cum-track Light Tank Mk.I". The driver's hatch has a completely new design.

The prototype that Vickers produced in late 1922 is often called Vickers Medium Tank Mk.I. Indeed, the tank was "promoted" to the medium class when it was accepted into service in the mid-1920s. The tank weighed in at 11.25 tons, which was still in the light tank category. Also, the name of the company was often missing in official documents. The manual simply calls it "Tank, Medium, Mark I". This is not surprising, as the tanks weren't only built by Vickers. According to the contract, only 13 tanks were built there, and 14 more were built by ROF Woolwich.

The appearance of the Medium Tank Mk.I coincided with two more novelties. One, the Ministry of War introduced letter indices for tanks. Strangely enough, the "pioneer" for this system was the A1E1 Independent, and the Medium Tank Mk.I was indexed A2E1. The second novelty was introduction of registration numbers. The first character was a letter, followed by numbers. The letter T meant tank, tractor, or transporter. Oddly enough, the Woolwich tanks received indices T.1 through T.14, so the very first Vickers prototype, made from mild steel, was indexed T.15.

An old system existed in parallel with the new one. This system consisted of a registration number of two letters and four digits, painted on the front of the tank. For example, T.7 had the registration number ME9923.

Layout of the Medium Tank Mk.I, figure from the manual.

The design of the new tank was similar to the 18-pdr Transporter. In addition to the 10 road wheels and 4 return rollers per side, another road wheel was added to the front. The idler mounts were also altered and a reinforcement beam was added to the return roller mounts. After trials of the T.15 pilot tank, another road wheel was added to each side in the rear. The driver was placed to the right of the engine, a 90 hp V-shaped aircooled Armstrong Siddeley. This engine is mistakenly called Vickers-Armstrong, but the two companies didn't merge until 1927. The transmission, like in the transporter, was in the rear, along with the fuel tanks.

A Medium Tank Mk.I in Vickers' courtyard, 1923. As you can see, the crew has no problems getting into the tank.

The Medium Tank Mk.I turned out to be larger than the Medium Tank Mk.A, or Whippet. Its height was a little over 2.8 meters. With a size like that, calling it light was indeed problematic. This excess height was connected with the front engine compartment, but it also allowed the crew's working conditions to be quite comfortable. Entering or exiting the tank could be done through one of three hatches, although the rear one could very well be called a door due to its size. The hull was assembled in the traditional manner for the time: a frame was welded together, after which armoured plates were riveted to it.

Medium Tank Mk.I CS with a 3.7" (94 mm) howitzer. In a way, this was the precursor of the German Pz.Kpfw. IV

The tank's turret was an evolution of the Vickers Infantry Tank No.1. It also rotated around its ring on three large bearings, installed outside of the hull. Vickers engineers decided to discard the dome shape and make the turret similar to the Rolls-Royce armoured car. The turret had a 3-pdr Vickers gun and four Hotchkiss machineguns (three along the perimeter, one AA). Another strange fact was the presence of two Vickers machineguns in the sides. The use of two different kinds of machineguns in one tank is a mystery.

Another interesting fact is the absence of HE shells from the tank. The Medium Tank Mk.I became the first vehicle to implement the controversial "machineguns are enough" concept. This mistake will come back to bite the British military during WWII. However, tanks armed with 3.7" (94 mm) howitzers had HE shells. These tanks received a special index, A2E2 Medium Tank Mk.I CS (Combat Support). Their ammunition loadouts also included smoke shells.

Worthy of Imitation

The first production Medium Tank Mk.I units started rolling out of the factories in 1923. They were mostly distributed among testing centers, but also made their way into the military on a trial basis. An intensive trial period followed, meant to discover the defects in the design so that they could be removed in the next batch. A convertible drive was tested on the T.15 pilot vehicle in 1926, renamed Wheel-cum-track Light Tank Mk.I. The convertible drive system was controversial. On one hand, the tank could convert to wheeled mode in one minute, which gave it an advantage over Christie's system. On the other hand, the tank's speed did not increase, but it became more difficult to control. In 1928, after a series of experiments and a modernization to Wheel-cum-track Light Tank Mk.I*, the idea was discarded.

A Ministry of War commission inspects a Medium Tank Mk.I. Note the open driver's hatch.

At the moment of its creation, the Medium Tank Mk.I was the best vehicle in its class. Nevertheless, it had many drawbacks, although none of them fatal. For one, the No.9 Link Track consisted of several parts, which were riveted to each other. During movement, the rivets could fall out and the tracks were disabled. The Hotchkiss machinegun mounts also proved difficult. The AA machinegun mount was also poor. Some tanks received six rollers for the turret, as three was not enough.

Medium Tank Mk.IA. Note that the tank still uses the No.9 Link Track.

The driver's hatch design was dangerous. In travel mode, the hatch flipped back on its hinges, giving the driver an excellent view to the left and right. The problem was that the hatch was not fixed in place. There were no problems on even terrain, but the situation became problematic when the tank went off-road. On a good bump, the hatch would slam shut, and the poor driver could lose a few fingers or get a smack on the head.Since the British didn't have tank helmets and the beret helped very little, this could have very unfortunate consequences.

Testing the maximum tilt of the Medium Tank Mk.IA. This angle lets you see the turret roof and redesigned AA gun mount.

The information regarding design defects was assembled and used to produce the second series of tanks, the Medium Tank Mk.IA. The contract was once again split between ROF Woolwich and Vickers. Woolwich vehicles received numbers T.28-T.43, Vickers vehicles were T-44-T.58. Externally, it is easy to distinguish these vehicles from the first batch by the simplified Hotchkiss machinegun mounts. In addition, the turret received a rear slope, which now housed the AA machinegun mount. The driver's hatch was also changed, and now it consisted of two parts. The thickness of the front of the hull and turret armour was increased to 8 mm.

Medium Mk.IA*, serial number T.58.

The No.3 Link Track was developed to replace the ailing No.9 design. The new design with its H-shaped indentation was so good that it affixed itself in British tank design for a good 15 years. However, the new tracks didn't appear on the tanks right away. The first tanks received the old No.9 Link Track. The replacement happened later. Three vehicles from the first batch (T.7, T.14, T.17) received Ricardo C1 engines. This required a change in the design of the upper front plate.

Even the earliest Medium Tank Mk.I were actively used. This tank has a three-colour camouflage and late model headlight covers.

The modernization did not end there. Someone from the Ministry of War finally discovered that the tank had two kinds of machineguns and that the front facing one existed independently of the main gun. The result was the Medium Tank Mk.IA*. The Hotchkiss machineguns were removed, their openings covered up with armour plates. Instead, a coaxial Vickers machinegun was introduced. A commander's cupola replaced the turret hatch, earning the name "bishop's crown". Towards the end of its career, the Medium Tank Mk.I received large protective covers for its headlights.

Medium Tank Mk.I, serial number T.7, with a Ricardo C1 engine.

The last tanks of the Medium Mk.I family were vehicles with serial numbers T.59 and T.60. Unlike the rest of the family, these tanks were referred to as light. The Tank Light Mk.IA(L) was more similar to the Medium Tank Mk.II. The hull machineguns and cannon were removed. Instead, two Vickers machineguns were installed in the turret. In 1925, both tanks were sent to India, where they were tested for three years. After that, they returned to their homeland and were scrapped.

Medium Tank Mk.IA* on exercises at Farnborough, 1935. The closest tank was converted to a command tank, the AA machinegun was replaced with a radio antenna.

Even though the Medium Tank Mk.II entered production in 1925, the first interbellum mass produced British tank remained in service for a long time. Until 1939, these tanks were used during exercises, teaching hundreds of British tankers. Several vehicles were sent to the colonies. One of them, presumably T.14, can be seen at the South African Special Services Battalion Museum.

In the 1920s, the Medium Mk.I was a trendsetter. The designers of the German Leichttraktor and American Light Tank T1 and Medium Tank M2 copied many design elements. Interestingly enough, neither the Germans nor Americans managed to duplicate the success of this tank in due time. By the time foreign "clones" were ready, Vickers already moved on from this design.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Covenanter: Reservist Tank

Winston Churchill's saying "The tank that carries my name has more drawbacks than I do!" in regards to the Infantry Tank Mk.IV is well known. Despite this evaluation, the Churchill was the longest-living British tank, even finding itself useful in Korea. It is not know what the Prime Minister thought about the Cruiser Tank Mk.V, more known as the Covenanter, but there is one fact that says more than enough: it is the most numerous tank of the Second World War that never saw combat.

In a Hurry

The increase in armour of the Cruiser Tank Mk.III that resulted in the Cruiser Tank Mk.IV was a half-measure, unable to radically improve the combat effectiveness of the tank. The British Ministry of War knew that the modernization reserve of this chassis ran out. A deep modernization was necessary to make the tank meet the expectations of the military, and fast.

The Ministry of War, and especially one of the minds behind the cruiser tank concept, Lieutenant Colonel Giffard Le Quesne Martel, did not sit still. In 1936, specifications were developed for a "heavy" cruiser tank. Martel was inspired by the T-28 tanks he saw alongside BT tanks during Soviet exercises. Interestingly enough, the T-28 was initially inspired by the three turreted British Medium Tank Mk.III.

Two companies got to work: Nuffield Mechanization & Aero and the London Midland & Scottish Railway Company (LMS). LMS began work on the A14 heavy cruiser tank, which was indeed similar to a T-28. Nuffield chose a different direction. Their result was more similar to the experimental T-29. Even though the difference in weight between the two tanks was about 9 tons, the characteristics were similar. By 1939, one prototype of both the A14 and A16 was built. Neither the military nor the developers were particularly impressed with them. The result was the same cruiser tanks, but bigger, slower, and more expensive.

Pilot prototype of the Cruiser Mk.V, fall of 1940. The hull machinegun is a distinctive feature of this design.

On February 2nd, 1939, specifications for a new cruiser tank were developed. The maximum thickness of its armour was 40 mm. The Christie suspension was preserved, and the same 2-pounder (40 mm) gun and BESA machinegun were used. The combat weight of the tank was supposed to be about the same as that of the A13 vehicles (Cruiser Tank Mk.III and Mk.IV). Seeing these requirements, Nuffield and LMS themselves asked the Ministry of War to cancel the heavy cruiser tanks, since thickening their armour served no purpose. Another vehicle was needed, a much lighter one.

Work on the new tank, indexed A13 Mk.III, was assigned to three companies. LMS was working on the hull and chassis, Nuffield was designing the turret. A third company, Henry Meadows, was tasked with the engine. This decision was made due to the negative feedback that came from users of the Nuffield-Liberty engines. However, the participation in the A13 Mk.III project didn't mean that Nuffield gave up on their own tank. Instead of the rejected A16, work began on the lighter A15 vehicle.

The A13 Mk.III project was ready in mid-April of 1939. Instead of a deep modernization, LMS ended up with a brand new tank which inherited only the suspension type from its predecessor. Even this component was not exactly the same. LMS engineers installed the springs on an angle in order to make the hull lower. Overall, the hull was not only lower, but shorter than its predecessor.

Thanks to the angled suspension elements, the Covenanter's hull was very low.

The low hull was made possible by the 16 Liter DAV engine developed by Henry Meadows. This 12 cylinder 300 hp engine was designed using the opposite layout, which allowed reduction of the height of the engine compartment. The Wilson planetary transmission was paired with this engine.

The aim to make a compact and low hull conflicted with common sense. There was no room for cooling radiators in the engine compartment, so LMS engineers didn't think of anything better than moving them to the front of the hull. The radiators were placed on the left side of the tank, and the driver was displaced to the right. The air vents for the radiators were in the most important place from the point of view of armour protection, and even though there was a deflector that protected the vents from the front, its effectiveness was negligible. It's worth mentioning that the radiators were cooled by fans which were powered by the turret traverse motor. There was also no room in the engine compartment for air filters, which were instead moved to the engine compartment roof and protected with light covers.

Meadows DAV opposite engine which made height reduction possible.

The original plan was to make the hull fully welded, but even by early summer of 1939, it was obvious that there would not be enough skilled welders. LMS was forced to redesign their hull, which increased in mass by 100 kg. Instead of welding, rivets were used as much as possible, which was only natural for a locomotive company. Another feature was layered armour. The armour was composed of two plates without any space between them. For example, the front plate was composed of a 21 mm plate and a 19 mm one, with the inner plate being made from mild steel.

The turret, designed by Nuffield, also had its oddities. On one hand, the armour was sloped. On the other hand, for some reason only the rear and sides were. The front of the turret remained at an almost right angle. The oddities did not end there. Someone clever in Nuffield decided that there is no reason to have a commander's cupola, so it was replaced with a Mk.IV periscope. This periscope was installed right in the middle of the turret, right above the gun breech. Of course, it could be used somehow, but when the gun fires right under the commander's chin, it must have been rather uncomfortable. There was another periscope on the right side of the turret for the loader.

The turret hatch was also interesting. There was only one, but it was large. During travel, the hatch could be flipped back and used as a seat. Aside from a 2-pounder gun and a BESA machinegun, the turret also had a 2" (50.8 mm) breech-loaded mortar for firing smoke grenades.

Cruiser Tank Mk.V production at the LMS factory. April, 1941.

Despite the unusual decisions made during the design process, the tank was deemed satisfactory by the Ministry of War. On April 17th, 1939, LMS received a contract to make 100 tanks with serial numbers ranging from T.7095 to T.7194. No prototype was to be built, and the tank would enter production immediately. However, later, a T.7195 pilot tank was built after all.

English Electric and Leyland Motors were going to be involved in the production starting in September of 1939. The first received a contract for 100 tanks (T.15295-T.15394) and the second for 151 tanks (T.15395-T.15545). The A13 Mk.III was accepted into service as the Cruiser Tank Mk.V before the first tank was even built.

This rush can be easily explained. Say what you will about Chamberlain and his actions in Munich, but he did buy Britain a year of peace. It is fair to say that this year proved decisive for Britain, including Britain's tank production. In fall of 1938 there was simply nothing to fight with. The production of new tanks was just getting off the ground, and the majority of the armoured forces was composed of 4 ton tanks equal to the Pz.Kpfw. I. The British military had to take a risk.

Reliability? Never heard of it

During the construction of the first Cruiser Tank Mk.V, it became clear that the Wilson transmission was a no go. Instead, it was replaced with a stock Meadows gearbox from the Cruiser Tank Mk.IV and combined with the Wilson planetary turning mechanism. This introduced additional problems connected with cooling. Another loss was the decision to not use an aluminium alloy for the road wheels. Even though each wheel weighed 10 kg less than a pure steel one, sacrifices had to be made in the name of simplicity.

Covenanter I from the 1st Armoured Division during Exercise Bumper, September 1941.

The pilot tank T.7195 had both aluminium road wheels and a Wilson transmission. Turning was done with a steering wheel as opposed to levers. The engine compartment size was increased compared to mass production models, which had a positive effect on the engine cooling. The first two tanks also had a hull machinegun, presumably so the driver wouldn't be bored during battle.

The experimental tank arrived sans turret to the Farnborough proving grounds on May 23rd, 1940. It travelled 802 miles (1283 km) during trials, reaching a speed of up to 60 kph. Since it had experimental cooling equipment, no problems with overheating were observed. Later, an experimental Merritt-Brown transmission was installed on the tank, and it drove another 839 miles (1342 km).

The real problems began when the second tank, T.7095, arrived on September 29th, 1940. Aside from the driver's machinegun, this vehicle was exactly identical to mass production models. After 50 minutes of driving, the water temperature in the cooling system was 75 degrees Celsius. After 2.5 hours, the temperature reached 177 degrees! The oil cooling system was also overheating, and there were problems with the gearbox.

A common pastime for Covenanter crews. This "lucky" Covenanter I crew belongs to the 9th Armoured Division.

Attempts to correct the situation resulted in delays. The first tanks only left the factory in late December, and only 7 units were finished that year. They were sent directly to Bovington, where they took part in military trials. A torrent of unkind words followed. The compact layout of the engine compartment resulted in problems during service. There were also complaints about the fighting compartment, which was found equal to that of the competitor Cruiser Tank Mk.VI, which was already in use by the military at the time.

Both tanks had problems with the suspension. Since 242.5 mm wide 102 mm long track links migrated from the lighter Cruiser Tank Mk.IV, the ground pressure increased and the lifetime of the tracks decreased. Work began on 272 mm wide 103 mm long track links, which reduced the ground pressure by 10% and reduced the amount of links per track from 120 to 114. Later, a third type of track link was developed, made with different materials and with different track pins.

Covenanter II from the 9th Armoured Division, 1942. The radiator cooling vents have been redesigned.

Despite the fact that problems with the cooling system were not corrected, the production of the tank was not cancelled. LMS, Leyland, and English Electric made 81 tanks in the first quarter of 1941, 186 tanks in the second quarter, and 212 in the third. These still weren't the volumes that the Ministry of War was looking for. The army's requirement for cruiser tanks alone was 9930 units in January of 1941. Contracts for production of the tank named Covenanter in spring of 1941 were handed out in abundance. Strangely, LMS produced the fewest tanks. Aside from the aforementioned 100 units, it only built 60 more (T.81347-T.81406).

English Electric built the following series of tanks:
  • T.18361-T.18660 (300 tanks)
  • T.18661-T.18760 (100 tanks)
  • T.78244-T.78346 (103 tanks)
  • T.81407-T.81446 (40 tanks)
  • T.81447-T.81612 (166 tanks)
  • T.81613-T.81862 (250 tanks)
  • T.130695-T.130719 (25 tanks)

In total, English Electric built a little over half of all Covenanter tanks. In parallel with tanks, this famous company also built Hampden and Halifax bombers.

Nominally a car company, Leyland also built A27L Centaur and then Centurion tanks. As for the Covenanter, the company carried out the following contracts:
  • T.23104-T.23203 (100 tanks)
  • T.81863–81902 (40 tanks)
  • T.81903-T.81962 (60 tanks)
  • T.81963-T.82087 (125 tanks)
  • T.130720-T.130769 (50 tanks)
The last contract was signed in August of 1941, but production went on for a lot longer. The Cruiser Tank Mk.V, Covenanter I, remained in production until the fall of 1941. 500 units were built. Tanks from the early series had the same gun mantlet as the Cruiser Tank Mk.IVA. Later tanks received an improved mantlet that was protected from being jammed by shells.

Covenanter tanks took part in may experiments. For instance, amphibious equipment was tested on this model.

Production of the Covenanter III began in October of 1941. Most of the differences in this model were in the rear of the hull. The tank received improved air filters and a radically redesigned engine compartment, which improved the situation with cooling. This was the most numerous modification: 680 tanks were built. Later models received an external fuel tank, mounted in the rear.

LMS was not particularly saddened by the small amount of tanks it built, as in April of 1942, it began modernization of Covenanter I tanks. The tanks received an improved cooling system, improved air filters, and other equipment, making the life of their crews merely difficult instead of nightmarish. These modernized tanks were indexed Covenanter II, and some of which were converted into Covenanter IICS tanks.

Covenanter III tank from the 9th Armoured Division on exercises, 1942. It is easy to see how the rear of the hull is significantly different from tanks of other modifications.

The last modification, Covenanter IV, went into production in June of 1942. The hull was similar to Covenanters I and II. This modification used a third type of air filters, the same types as used on late Crusader models. The tanks continued to use 2-pounder guns, while Crusader and Cavalier tanks already had 6-pounder (57 mm) guns. There are suspicions that the Ministry of War was already aware of the Covenanter's limited future and didn't want to install expensive new guns on it. Some tanks were converted into Covenanter IVCS tanks with 3" howitzers.

The last Covenanter tanks were produced in early 1943. In total, 1771 Covenanter tanks of all types were built. 20 Covenanter I and 60 Covenanter IV tanks were converted into Covenanter Bridgelayers.

Training Tank

The first unit to receive the Cruiser Tank Mk.V was the 1st Armoured Division. Its tankers already had a go at the Light Tank Mk.VII, which they rejected. The new cruiser tank also caused little joy. In September of 1941, the 1st Armoured Division participated in Exercise Bumper. At their conclusion, the division handed off their tanks to receive Crusaders and left for North Africa.

Covenanter Bridgelayer on trials, 1943. According to Peter Brown's research, this is a conversion of the first prototype of the A13 Mk.III.

The 9th Armoured Division "inherited" the Covenanters. It was formed in December of 1940 as a training unit. The Covenanter was received with enthusiasm at first. This is not surprising, as the unit previously had worn out Cruiser Tank Mk.IV tanks, which weren't famous for their reliability to begin with. This enthusiasm didn't last long, and many complaints about breakdowns were sent to the manufacturers. Tankers of the 9th Armoured Division were forced to endure the Covenanter until September of 1942 when they were replaced with Centaurs.

The Irish Guards also received Covenanter tanks, this time the reliable Covenanter III, which they kept until September of 1943. In May of 1943, this unit participated in Exercise Columbus.

Winston Churchill using a Covenanter III from the 9th Armoured Division as a podium, May 1942.

The last to receive these unlucky vehicles were the Poles. In 1942, the 1st Polish Armoured Division was formed, armed with Valentine and Covenanter tanks. The only "combat" loss of a Covenanter was in this unit. As a result of a night raid by German aircraft on Canterbury in Kent County, a bomb hit a tank that was a part of an armoured train. Covenanter tanks served with the Poles until early 1944.

The 1st Polish Tank Division was the last to use Covenanter tanks. This photo was taken in early 1944.

Due to many problems with the cooling system, the Covenanter never reached the battlefield. To be fair, Crusader tanks weren't exceptional in this regard either, and the Covenanter eventually surpassed its competitor. In July of 1942, during comparative trials, the Covenanter managed to drive for 1600 km, while the Crusader engine only lived for 1120 km. Likely as a result, the military risked sending four Covenanter IV tanks with sand shields to Africa. These tanks were never used in combat and remained at the training camp in Abbasiyah (north-west of Cairo). It's likely that their technical problems never went away.

The only known photo of Covenanter tanks in Africa, March 1943. The tank is in its usual state: undergoing maintenance.

The Covenanter was written off in February of 1944. Nobody particularly cared about these tanks, and only one survives to this day. This is a Covenanter III T.23140, produced by Leyland in later 1941. The vehicle with a personal name "Achilles" was a part of the 9th Armoured Division. It spent several decades at a junkyard, after which it ended up in the Bovington tank museum. In addition, two Covenanter Bridgelayer vehicles survived to our time.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Sherman Conversion

Long time readers already know about Chasovkinov's rather unconventional plan to make the two-gunned ST-II tank. However, this wasn't his first foray into unusual designs. Back during the years of the war, he saw observed Soviet officers preferring the heavier 85 and 100 mm tanks of domestic designs and relegating Lend-Lease vehicles with more humble armament to the second line and thought of some solutions. One was to simply install T-34-85 turrets on Sherman hulls. The was much more interesting.

Chasovnikov and another engineer, Kazarin, proposed converting Shermans into SU-85 or SU-100 SPGs, killing two birds with one stone: raising the firepower of the tanks and freeing up T-34 chassis so more T-34-85 tanks could be produced. The freed up turrets (it's unclear from the sketch, but he was not, in fact, planning to make a supersized M3 Lee) would be installed as fortifications.

Of course, this "solution", as well as many other genius proposals did not specify where the authors were going to get thousands of new guns or the factories that could perform this conversion. In addition, M4A2(76)W tanks started shipping soon after, making this ridiculous proposal completely unnecessary.