British Tank Matilda, Valentine
After the severe tank losses of 1941, the Red Army relied heavily on captured enemy vehicles and tanks supplied by Britain and the USA tank. Most Western tanks were seen as inferior, but were vital until new Soviet tanks arrived.
The USA tank, Britain and Canada supplied 22,800 armoured vehicles to the USSR during World War II. Of these, 1981 were lost at sea on the hazardous Arctic convoys to Murmansk. The shipments that did arrive were the equivalent of 16 percent of Soviet tank production, 12 percent of self-propelled gun production, and all of the armoured personnel carrier (APC) production. The first shipment in 1941 totalled 487 Matildas, Valentines and Tetrachs from Britain, and 182 M3A1 Light Tanks and M3 Medium Tanks from the USA. A year later, these figures had risen to 2487 from Britain and 3023 from the USA.
Despite being pressed in North Africa, Britain committed 14 percent of her tank production to Lend-Lease supplies. Though Lend-Lease tanks helped the USSR while it was under serious pressure between 1941 and 1942 after it had suffered huge tank losses, in the long run, US trucks were the real war winners. The USA supplied 501,660 tactical wheeled-and tracked vehicles: 77,972 Jeeps, 151,053 1.01 tonne (1 ton) trucks and 200,662 2.03 tonne (2 ton) trucks. These gave the infantry and logistic troops working with them a tactical mobility. The initials 'USA tank' stencilled on these vehicles were in the USSR taken to stand for the slogan 'Ubiyat Sukinsyna Adolfa - Kill that son of a whore Adolf'.
In the Cold War period, it was common for Soviet tank historians to denigrate the quality of the Lend-Lease tanks supplied by Britain and the USA. It is true that the it medium tanks did not compare well against the T-34. However, the M3A1 light tank was comparable or superior to the T-60 and T-70 light tanks, and the M4A2 Sherman was more durable and re liable than the T-34. lnterestingly, in post-war encounters between the Sherman and T-34 in Korea and the Middle East, the M4 often came off the winner, even though it was theoretically an inferior design. The first unit to go into action with Lend-Lease armour was in the Staraya Russa and Valdai areas, fielding Valentines, Matildas and captured German tanks.
THE VICKERS-ARMSTRONG VALENTINE
The Russians admired the robust and simple automotive design of the 1940 British Mk III Valentine tank, but were merely polite about the tank's main armament, which fell well below Eastern From requirements. Some tanks had their main armament replaced by 76.2mm (3in) guns in factories in the USSR. The narrow tracks were also reported to be a problem in wimer, first clogging with snow, then freezing, and immobilizing the vehicle.
Designed by Vickers-Armstrong in 1938, the Valentine tank was a private venture project drawing on their experience with the A9 and A10 Cruiser designs. Rather quaintly, the Valentine took its name from the fact that its plans were submitted to the War Office close to the date of St Valentine's Day in February. The War Office took over a year to make up its mind, since there were some reservations about the two-man turret, which was thought to be too small to be up-gunned. However, when they committed to the project, they requested that Vickers-Armstrong make the first delivery in the shortest time possible.
Production ceased in 1944 after a total of 8275 tanks had been built by three companies, representing a quarter of British tank output. There had been plans to stop production in 1943 on grounds of obsolescence, but it had continued for the extra year to satisfy Soviet requirements. The Valentine was produced in Britain by Metropolitan-Cammell and Birmingham Carriage & Wagon, as well as Vickers, and in Canada by Canadian Pacific of Montreal; here, of the 1420 Mk VI tanks produced, all but the 30 retained for training went to the Soviet Army.
The Valentine was originally armed with a 2pdr (40mm (1.57 in)) gun, but this was upgraded to a 6pdr (57mm (2.24 in)) gun in the Mark VIII, IX and X. The Mark XI, fitted with a 75mm (2.95in) gun, was the final production type. Reliability and performance was improved when a GMC two-stroke diesel was installed, replacing the AEC petrol or diesel engines. Production speeded up when all-welded construction replaced all- riveted.
THE MATILDA INFANTRY SUPPORT TANK
The British Matilda II (A 12) has the distinction of being the only British tank to serve throughout the whole of World War II, a rare fear for any tank. The British sent 1084 to the USSR, where it was second only to the Valentine as the most common type of British tank in Soviet service. Proposals by the British Mechanization Board to produce a tank with the same level of protection as the Matilda tank I, but armed with either a 2pdr (40mm (1.57 in)) gun or twin machine guns, produced the Matilda Senior or Matilda II.
The Matilda II was originally built at the Vulcan Foundry at Warrington, where Fowler and Rusron & Hornby under Vulcan's parentage, and later with LMS, Harland & Wolff and North British Locomotive. When production ceased, a total of 2987 Matilda IIs had been built.
Though the armour protection was excellent, it was produced using a timeconsuming and expensive casting process, and later, when there were attempts to up-gun the tank, the turret ring was found to be too small to take a larger-calibre weapon. In Soviet service, sections of steel bar were welded to the tracks to give better traction in snow and mud. The Matilda tank was more heavily armoured than the T-60 and T-70, and so was used as an infantry support tank.