Panzer Divisions at War 1939-1945 (Images of War)
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By the later stages of the North African campaign the infantry tank concept had fallen from favour. Mobility was now prioritised over protection.
However, the need to keep production running at full tilt meant that Matildas, Valentines and Churchills were churned out in large numbers, at the cost of other more promising tanks then in development. The Churchill — due for retirement in — gained a reprieve after proving its ability to cope with the hilly terrain of Tunisia.
Its thick armour also gave it an advantage and it soldiered on for the rest of the war. Meanwhile, the search for a more effective cruiser tank continued. After the Battle of France, the War Office had issued a specification for a new tank with thicker armour and a turret big enough to take the 6-pdr gun. It was to be in production by the spring of Unsurprisingly, given its parentage, the Cavalier was a disaster.
It was afflicted by the same lubrication and cooling problems that blighted the earlier tank, and development was eventually abandoned. It was powered by a new engine, the hp Meteor, which was derived from the famous Merlin aircraft engine.
Luftwaffe Flak and Field Divisions 1939-1945 (Images of War Series)
The Meteor promised much greater power and reliability, but the Ministry of Aircraft Production refused to make them available before its own demands had been met. It was not until late that supplies were assured. The shortage of Meteor engines meant that Leyland Motors was tasked to provide a third variant of the new tank, the A27L Centaur, fitted with an upgraded Liberty engine. The Centaur's development ran parallel to that of the Cromwell, but reliability issues meant it continually struggled in service trials.
Like the Cavalier, it was never accepted as a front-line tank. In total, Cavaliers and 1, Centaurs were built, which represented a colossal waste of time and resources at a crucial time for British tank development. The army also tried and failed to get Valentine and Crusader production reduced to speed up the Cromwell programme. The need to avoid disrupting tank supply with abrupt factory changeovers meant that 1, Crusaders and 1, Valentines were built in alone, compared to Cromwells.
Only in was the new cruiser finally given priority, and other firms brought in to accelerate production. The Cromwell's complex protracted development meant that by the time it entered service it was already obsolete.
Its armour compared badly to that of its German counterparts, especially the new Tiger and Panther. Ironically it was never fitted with the 6-pdr, the weapon for which it had been designed. The need for a good dual purpose gun meant it received instead the British Ordnance QF 75mm gun — effectively a 6-pdr bored out to take the US 75mm round. So despite the Cromwell's speed and reliability, which were a definite boon during the pursuit operations in the last year of the war, it was always under-gunned and unable to withstand the heaviest German weapons.
This was all the more frustrating because a gun was now available that promised to reverse British inferiority at a stroke. Artillery development had always been well ahead of tank design in Britain and work had begun on a replacement for the 6-pdr in This new weapon, the 3-inch pdr, became one of the best anti-tank guns of the war, able to penetrate the thickest armour at normal battle ranges.
The first versions on modified field gun carriages were rushed out to Tunisia in May to combat the new German Tiger tank. But such was its size that it could not be fitted into any existing British tank. The pdr's effectiveness inspired the War Office to call for a new tank to be built around it. The first proposal was the A30 Challenger — basically a stretched Cromwell with a bulky new turret.
The new tank was badly designed. Its armour had to be reduced to allow for the weight of the gun, which meant it was less protected than a standard Cromwell.
Other problems dogged development and it was not ready in time for D-Day. Fortunately another option had presented itself.
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It had been discovered that with a little ingenuity the pdr could be made to fit — just — into a Sherman. The result was the Sherman Firefly, the most significant British tank adaptation of the war. The Firefly provided a desperately needed extra punch for the armoured regiments in the North-West Europe campaign, but there were never enough of them. Being based on a standard Sherman they remained very vulnerable to enemy fire, but they finally gave British tank crews the chance to outpace and out-shoot the German Panthers and Tigers that dominated the European battlefield. Few saw combat, but it remained in service until BU The successor to the Cromwell, and the ultimate British cruiser, was the A34 Comet.
Specified in it was to have a new 75mm high-velocity HV gun built by Vickers. The calibre was later changed to This gun was more compact than the pdr but just as effective, and gave the tank hitting power equal to the Panther. Inevitably, development was slow. It was the best British tank to see service, but only in the last months of the war.
By , British tank development and production had matured considerably. The Department of Tank Design's influence and expertise had significantly grown and was now at last living up to its name. The requirement to produce outdated designs to keep numbers up had finally been dropped. Production was now mostly standardised on Cromwells, Comets and Churchills, and the number of firms involved reduced from 27 to This was only possible because of the continuing reliance on the Sherman, 8, of which were imported in and Industrial techniques had improved and manufacturing processes simplified.source site
Ground-German Wehrmacht WW II
Britain finally caught up with other nations and started to use welding instead of riveting, which made for lighter, stronger hulls and turrets. The British reputation for shoddy construction and unreliability was overturned, and the Cromwell and Comet were a world away from the Covenanter and Crusader in this regard. There were other projects, including wasteful plans to develop a class of heavily armoured assault tanks.
The A33 Excelsior, designed to replace the Churchill, was tested in and abandoned in The A38 Valiant was an up-armoured and up-gunned Valentine that never got beyond testing in The monstrous A39 Tortoise weighed 78 tons and was an attempt to produce a tank resistant to the heaviest German guns, but the pilot models were only delivered after the war ended. Unfortunately it was just too late to see service. The final significant development in Britain's wartime tank story was the A41 Centurion.
It began as an idea in for a tank that combined several battlefield roles. The desert war had shown that pure 'cavalry-style' tank versus tank combat predicted by the pre-war visionaries rarely occurred. Similarly, the infantry tank concept — believed in to be the most important — was too restrictive on a modern battlefield.
Experience had taught instead that the main function of the tank was to act as mobile fire support in both attack and defence. With this in mind the War Office and the Department of Tank Design looked towards a 'universal tank' that could fulfil all these functions. By , the old width and weight restrictions had been abandoned, and so designers had a free rein. The new tank was to have good cross country performance, mount a pdr gun and be protected by thick, sloped armour able to resist the German 88mm gun. AEC was authorised to begin work in July , but the war ended before it was finished.
Apart from the moderate success of the Churchill and the later cruisers, the story of British wartime tank development is a sorry one. It had got off to a bad start as a result of insufficient pre-war funding, and a lack of political and military drive to develop the armoured forces. Uncertainty over the role of tanks led to the conflicting developmental paths of infantry tanks and cruisers. Defeat in prompted the panic building of inadequate designs, which impeded the development of more promising tanks. Rushed production and design flaws led to reliability issues.
External constraints meant tanks had limited capacity for future armament upgrades. Sell one like this. Similar sponsored items Feedback on our suggestions - Similar sponsored items. Last one. Almost gone. Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing. Item specifics Condition: Very Good: A book that does not look new and has been read but is in excellent condition. No obvious damage to the cover, with the dust jacket if applicable included for hard covers. May be very minimal identifying marks on the inside cover.
Very minimal wear and tear.
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See all condition definitions - opens in a new window or tab Read more about the condition. Back to home page Return to top. American bodies decently clothed are occasionally in evidence, but they are notably intact. In these, no matter how severely wounded, Allied soldiers are never shown suffering what in the Vietnam War was termed traumatic amputation: everyone has all his limbs, his hands and feet and digits, not to mention an expression of courage and cheer.