Light Tank Tetrach, M2A1
THE TETRACH LIGHT TANK
Twenty British Tetrach (A 17) Light Tanks were also sent to the Soviet Union overland via Iran, but were not popular with their Russian crews. Privately developed by Vickers in 1937, the Tetrach, originally known by the company by the project name 'Purdah', was accepted for service by the British Army in 1938 as the Light Tank Mk VII. Production of the vehicle started in 1940, but this was soon haIred when it was realized that light tanks were becoming increasingly vulnerable on the modern battlefield.
Unlike earlier vehicles in this class, the Tetrach used a modified Christie suspension in which the front wheels could be steered in order to bend the track for gentle turns. This method overcame the problem of loss of power which was found with steering a vehicle by skidding the tracks on the ground. If a tighter manoeuvre was necessary, the controls automatically braked one track in order to allow the tank to make a conventional skid turn. The suspension was pneumatic shock absorbers on each of the four road wheels and it was necessary to maintain the correct pressure with a foot-pump. In the USSR the tanks were often the subject of many photographs which would be used for propaganda purposes.
DEVELOPING THE CHURCHILL
Some 301 Mk I, II and Ills Churchills (A-22) were sent to the Soviet Union in Arctic convoys. and it was related that Soviet forces liked the thick armour but felt that the tanks were too lightly armed. Forty-three were lost at sea and none were supplied after 1942.
The Churchill grew out of British pre-war perceptions that a heavy infantry tank would be required to fight in a future war. It was assumed that this would be are-run of World War I, with its slow trench warfare. The first work on this vehicle, the A-20, was done by the Superintendent of Tank Design, Woolwich and Harland & Wolff. It was found to be under-powered, and so Vauxha ll Motors was tasked with the production of the A-22 and gave it a new Vauxhall-Bedford engine. Until then, the biggest engine Vauxhall had produced was the 53.6kW (72bhp) Bedford truck engine, but in 89 days they designed and built a test-bed engine with 261.1kW (350bhp) to power the A-22.
The final prototype tank was a much lighter vehicle than had first been envisaged. With the threat of a German in vasion in 1940, work was pushed ahead. The first production model vehicle, the Churchill I, produced in 1941, had a cast turret with a 2pdr (40mm) gun and 75mm (2.95 in) howitzer mounted in the hull, but this was soon dropped and replaced with a machine gun. At the Battle of Prokhorovka at Kursk in 1943, the only heavy tanks available to the Fifth Guards Tank Army were 35 Churchills.
THE BREN GUN CARRIER
Widely known as the Bren Gun Carrier, the Carden-Loyd Universal carrier evolved in 1939 from the vehicles that were based on the Carden-Loyd series of light tank vehicles developed in the 1930s. A total of 2656 were supplied to the USSR. They were not popular because their narrow tracks performed badly in snow. Britain also delivered to the USSR, a total of 25 Valentine bridgelayers, as well as 6 Cromwells.
THE US M3 SERIES
From the USA the Soviet Union received 1386 M3 Medium tanks of various models. They were not widely liked, being inferior to the T-34. A number were captured by the Germans, who then used them against Soviet forces.
Events in Europe after mid-1940 when 1000 M2A1 Medium were ordered demonstrated that a 37mm (1.46 in) gun was an inadequate main armament for a battle tank. German tanks with 75mm (2.95 in) cannon were sweeping all European tanks - mostly armed with 37mm (1.46 in) or 6pdr (57mm (2.24in)) guns - before them. The US Ordnance Department wanted to fit a 75mm (2.95 in) to the M2A1 Medium, but there was no turret available that was able to take this gun and fit into the limited space atop the barbette.
As a stop-gap measure based upon experience with the earli er T5E2, an installation was devised whereby an M2 75mm (2.95 in) gun was mounted in the right side of the hull of a modified M2A1. The M2 gun was developed from the standard French-designed US Army howitzer and could penetrate 60mm (2.36 in) armour sloped at 30 degrees at a range of 500m (547 yd), making it a better weapon than contemporary German tank guns. The main gun had only limited traverse, 30 degrees in azimuth and 29 degrees in elevation. The 37mm (1.45 in) was rotatable by hand, a 360-degree sweep taking 20 seconds.
A wooden mock-up of the new interim tank was completed in August 1940. Configuration was basically that of the M2A1, with the 75mm (2.95 in) in the place of the right machine-gun sponsons and with a new 37mm (1.45 in) turret on top. The mock-up board ordered several changes, including removal of the remaining machine-gun sponsons, and the lowering of the turret.
The M3A1 was built by the American Locomotive Company (read also the Red Army) with a cast upper hull, rather than a riveted construction with large rivets that would fly about inside when the tank was struck. In total, 300 were built. Only 12 M3A2s with a welded hull and petrol engine were built before production switched to the similar M3A3 with a twinned GMC 6046 diesel truck engine. This offered better economy, range and combat safety, but required many changes at the rear, including armoured radiators. and raised the weight by 1179kg (1.16 tons). The M3A5 was a version (332 built) with riveted hull and diesel powerplant.
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