Effects of more standardized British tank for WWII.

Historically the British armour production in WWII was somewhat all over the place, while the British empire did build an impressive number of tanks, this was spread out over a vast array of makes and models, crusader, coventry, cavalier, churchill, comet, valentine, matilda, and many others. Many of these tanks suffered from having a small turret unable to mount a gun larger than they had been initially designed for, such as the two pounder, and later six pounder.

What I am wondering is what the effects would be if the British developed, say in 1941, a tank design that would be the equivalent of the German Panzer III and IV, the Soviet T-34, and the American M4 series. Say this theoretical tank is known as the Champion, production is being setup as France falls, and after the evacuation of Dunkirk the tank is rushed into production, as most of the setup is already in place. The vehicle is relatively fast, but also well armoured and mechanically reliable. With modification being a relatively simple affair.

The vehicle is built initially in just a handful of factories, as post Dunkirk the British army needs all the tanks it can get, even older models, and so cant afford to convert totally to a new type. The Champion has a two pounder initially, though it is designed for the six pounder, again the British are building all the guns they can to replace losses, rather than convert production to new types. The tanks are initially kept close at home to defend the British isles from German invasion, only later being sent to fight in North Africa. The type proves very reliable, and is built alongside the Valentine and Churchill tanks as well.

The tank is rearmed in the 42-43 period to the new six pounder guns and recives a bigger turret with better radios, and a new engine to make it faster, even as it gets heavier armour in response to newer German guns. From there the tank proceeds to fight in Sicily, Italy, and the Normandy landings. Serving alongside the British Shermans, as well as the Churchill. The tank is experimentally rearmed, in some versions, with the 17 pounder, but this proves very cramped. Much more so than the Sherman Firefly, and the conversion is not carried out to a large scale.

The end of the war in Europe sees the Champion finally brought out of production as the vehicle is now showing its age. The new Comet with a seventeen pounder largely fills the roll the Champion had largely filled before. The tank is instead exported in large numbers to many of the new nations emerging out of the war, as well as the nations emerging from decolonization.

Not certain how this would come about exactly, or how plausible it is, but just thought I would throw it out there and ask, what would the effects be on the British army if they had a semi-standard tank model? How would the war have been different if the British army had a well armed and reliable tank in the desert? And how would the British army have fared with a capable and well armed, but fast tank for the normandy landings, and would the British have had to rely as heavily on American tanks in the latter stages of the war?
 
THe problem was the Invasion panic. The 6lb gun was ready to go, hell it was ready on 39, but re-arming and the need to develop new kit pushed that back massively and then the Invasion panic meant that the UK couldn't switch over from the 2lb gun to the 6lb earlier as they needed something, anything and the 2lb was available and still perfectly workable against German tanks.
You'd have to get rid of Nuffield and co or at least limit their influence and you'd have to slap the war office around and treasury, whilst fighting off the Ministry of Supply and trying to ignore the howls coming from the artillery branch about your tanks possibly firing a HE shell which is THEIR job.

Don't forget that during the Battle of France the main German tank was the smaller Panzer III, not the Panzer IV which was more an infantry support vehicle with its short barreled HE lobbing 75mm gun, the 37mm gun on the PZ3 was the real anti-tank weapon.

To get something like the Champion around you'd need planning and approval pre-war.The UK's tanks were always like a year too late. The Cromwell would have been dominating in 42 - 43 in the desert, it came into service in 44, the Comet would have been a match for the Panther and Tiger around Normandy, it came into service in 45. If the UK had something like the Champion, a vehicle that was reliable (many British tanks were not, the Cromwell was less reliable than the Sherman and far far harder for the crew in the hull to bail out of (as is shown in here -
)

But if the Brits had a fiarly easy to repair and upgrade tank it would have made things probably a damn sight easier for tank crews and the like. Having to rely less on things like the Crusader and its ilk, making sure wastes of metal like the Covenanter are not made and so on, its all good. Hell it might even mean the Valentine's produced in more limited numbers.
 
The main problem was that it was 1938 when HMG decided that a continental army was required. This after a decade of telling the Armed forces that their would not be a requirement At the time light tanks had been deemed worthless but made up the lions share of the AFV ‘estate’ . So in order to go to war with a more standardised fleet of tanks a much earlier decision to stand up a continental army along with the equivalent of the Shadow factory scheme for AFVs (and trucks etc) needs to be enacted. This would allow for much larger numbers of better AFVs earlier (only 2 Matilda II had been built when war was declared and only 23 odd went to France). Also had the Valentine design (which was intended to be built by train and boiler makers and use shared components from the Cruiser tanks) been accepted in 1938 then it might have allowed for even greater AFV numbers. But timing is the key.
 
You need several things to be in place pre 1939 for a decent Medium tank to be available for 1941.

Get rid of the requirement for tanks to fit inside the smallest British railway loading gauge.

Build a good 300 hp engine such as half a Rolls Royce Merlin, when the tank gets heavier the full cream V12 can be used.

Get rid of the idea that the gunner is also the elevation system because this forces the gun to be mounted with an internal gun mantlet for balance, external gun mantlet allows a bigger gun breech.

Bin the idea that Steam Locomotive works are the best place to build tanks they are not, Steam Locomotives were virtually hand built by blacksmiths in filthy Victorian sheds whereas tanks need an automotive type production line.

Buy lots of Welding machines and get a British factory set up to make them by the thousands most imported heavy duty welding machines went to shipyards. Set up evening classes to train welders.
 
You need several things to be in place pre 1939 for a decent Medium tank to be available for 1941.

Get rid of the requirement for tanks to fit inside the smallest British railway loading gauge.

Build a good 300 hp engine such as half a Rolls Royce Merlin, when the tank gets heavier the full cream V12 can be used.

Get rid of the idea that the gunner is also the elevation system because this forces the gun to be mounted with an internal gun mantlet for balance, external gun mantlet allows a bigger gun breech.

Bin the idea that Steam Locomotive works are the best place to build tanks they are not, Steam Locomotives were virtually hand built by blacksmiths in filthy Victorian sheds whereas tanks need an automotive type production line.

Buy lots of Welding machines and get a British factory set up to make them by the thousands most imported heavy duty welding machines went to shipyards. Set up evening classes to train welders.
Britain was buying all the heavy duty welding kit it could get from the USA but was in competition with US industries and it's own ship builders. Also there were few users trained in using them whilst they were knee deep in riveters.
 
Your first tank is the Valentine which, as in OTL goes up from a 2 pounder through a 6 pounder to a ROF 75mm and power also goes up to match weight increases. It;s main virtue is that it can be made easily and keeps on working.

The OTL replacement standard tank was to be the Cromwell but they cocked up the turret/gun design task but had they done their work properly the Cromwell would have had a Vickers HV 75mm gun so on a par with the Comet which solved the problem that should not have happened.

This was all well within the capacity of British industry and quite achievable with little in the way of POD other than a decent management of a national tank office.

Neither of these would be world beating super cool tanks but adequate work horses that could be turned out in quantity and yes I do know that the larger gunned Valentines reverted to a 2 man turret and British tank designers were skinny midgets who had never made a practical trial of exiting a burning tank through the OTL hatches.
 
The OTL replacement standard tank was to be the Cromwell but they cocked up the turret/gun design task but had they done their work properly the Cromwell would have had a Vickers HV 75mm gun so on a par with the Comet which solved the problem that should not have happened.
Turret ring diameter
Cromwell 1448mm
T-34/76 1420mm
Matilda 1378mm

Matilda with ZiS-5 76mm


The Vickers HV was a pretty close match in performance to the US 76mm
76mm M1A1:
Shell Weight = 7.00 kg (M62 APCBC)
Muzzle Velocity = 792 m/s
Kinetic Energy = 2133 kj

75mm Vickers HV:
Shell Weight = 6.77 kg
Muzzle Velocity = 808 m/s
Kinetic Energy = 2210 kj

And a little more powerful than the ZiS-5
Shell Weight = 6.3 kg
Muzzle Velocity = 780 m/s
Kinetic Energy = 1916 kj

That love of the interior gun mantlet screwed over so many UK AFVs during the War
 
How about instead of a domestic design, the British instead take on a foreign design from the Commonwealth. One tank stands out - the Sentinel. It was initially armed with a 2 Pdr, as per most tanks of the period however that was quickly supplanted by the 25 Pdr, which had a more than adequate muzzle velocity and shell weight to defeat most mid-war Panzers. It was then armed with 17 Pdr gun. Indeed, the results of putting twin 25 Pdr. onto the vehicle to prove it could take the recoil from a (unavailable) 17 Pdr. was used to justify the Sherman mounting the 17 Pdr. in the Firefly.

Another vehicle which stands out is the Canadian Ram tank. Again, armed initially with a 2 Pdr gun and then a 6 Pdr gun, it went onto prove the concept of the modern APC as the Kangaroo. It was built using standard M3/M4 track suspension but built in Canada.

The biggest problem facing this is "not invented here" Syndrome and of course "too many cooks spoil the broth". There were simply too many people who thought they had the right idea about how to design a tank in Britian and they were given their heads to do so. When Tank Design board tried it's own had at designing a tank, they got it right the first time and created the Centurion one of the best, longest serving tanks in the West.

However to make something similar to the Centurion your PoD would need to be in the 1930s, not the 1940s. You would need to beat the companies around the head and have a strongly led Tank Design board which could create and keep a single design going.
 
How to get an early universal tank is simple. Tell Vickers that's what the Army wants and let them get on with it, then set up shadow factories to build what Vickers has designed. Forget the nonsense of placing orders for 50 of one design here, 70 there and 40 with another firm, none of which have built a tank before. Leave it to the experts.
 
Universal tank for 1940.
An up armoured and enlarged Vickers A10 with a 6pdr gun.
This is my normal repost for getting a better tank in service

A better Valentine.

So a few PoDs.

Sir John Carden doesn't die in that 1935 crash, but lives.

In the test to determine a good engine for the cruiser program, the Napier Lion W-12 was tested, but not accepted, as it could not run on the low Pool Petrol of 63 octane reliably, while the Liberty V-12 could.

Sir John was not impressed with the new A.12 Infantry Tank specification that the Royal Arsenal was working on in 1936, and knew he could do a tank with nearly the same armor, but better designed and more mobile, based on his A.10, the better armored version of his A.9 Tank entering production that year.

So Vickers has a tank in 1938 as a private Venture, and updated to be a combined Cruiser and Infantry tank, all in one chassis, a 'Heavy' Cruiser 70mm armor basis on the front, 60mm sides and 25mph speed, back to what the A.9 had.

This would take more power than the 150HP 588 cubic inch AEC 'Comet' bus engine. Sir John heard from Colonel Martel at the War Office who was unable to get permission to get 600 surplus Lions from the RAF for £500. Vickers has no such financial or political limits, and acquires them

Sir John use the Lion, detuned to run on 70 Octane (as the US Army decided on in 1939 for all vehicles) It gets 400HP, and that engine is still in production at Napier for Marine uses, so has availability, but needed the rear deck had to be slightly raised and angled differently to house it and the relocated fuel tanks. Napier is contracted for making parts so the 'Sea Lion' could be used in Tanks, at a slightly higher HP rating, 500HP for later production

A Three man turret was adapted from the A.10, so the Commander could do his job unimpeded, while the gunner and loader could deal with their job
of fighting the 2 pdr or 3" howitzer, while having much thicker armor. It used an electric motor for traverse, mount balanced for the gunner to quickly adjust elevation by shoulder rest, as was demanded by the Royal Armoured Corps doctrine.

Was thought to allow better target following while on the move, think of it as Mark 0 Gun Stabilization. Had big downside, the gun had to be perfectly balanced. This meant an internal gun mantlet, that reduced the size of cannon that could be carried. The Sherman, as did most tanks, had an external mantlet and the guns trunnions located close over the turret ring itself for balance. This was balanced enough to allow easy turret rotation, even when the tank was on an elevation/slope.

BTW, Valentine had a ring diameter of 1466mm , actually bigger than the T34/76 with 1420mm, so main gun has room to grow a little bit, and more than a bit, if the UK gets rid of the idea of gunners elevating the gun by it resting on his shoulder: free elevation.

The completed tank is 21 tons. It is 1938, and in trials against the A.12 built by Vulcan is found to be nearly as good protection wise, but twice the speed, but 4 tons lighter. Best of all, Vickers could build cheaper than Vulcan, and in larger quantities, if needed. It was easier to build by riveting, with few complex castings.

Some downsides were that the tracks were unreliable, with a number of pins sheared in operation, and the drivers preferred the Wilson gearbox on the A.12. It was decided by Sir John to switch from the 5 speed Meadows to the preselector 6 speed Wilson gearbox, despite its complexity, and improving the tracks.

When War breaks out, Vickers has completed 110 Valentine tanks, while Vulcan has completed less than a dozen A.12.

Vickers could make 10 a week, and Sir John was sure that production could be raised to over 40 per week, once some of his associated facilities had orders.
 
I am not sure about using the Lion the RAF stopped using it because it wasn't very reliable. Napier's hand built the engines and I doubt they would be able to produce the number required for tanks, during the war they made a few hundred Sealions and a few prototype Sabres. Rolls and Bristol probably made more engines in a week than Napier's made in 6 years.
 
Universal tank for 1940.
An up armoured and enlarged Vickers A10 with a 6pdr gun.
There was IIRC an A10 variant that simply doubled the Armour?

But at the end of the day it was not the gun, external or internal mantels or hatches (don't get me started on the bloody hatches - act of treason) or engines or general reliability.

That all helps of course.

But the real issue was numbers and the fact that for the still expanding British army 1940 and 41 was amateur hour and it was too small as the decision for proper rearmament, especially regarding the British army had started too late.

And its allies were no better and often worse.

The only way the BEF has a better chance in France is if the BEF is 3 x larger and the French, Dutch and Belgium armies are better and/or perform better.

Otherwise all that a better British tank achieves (apart from a larger impact on the Germans) is that more of those better thanks are abandoned when the BEF is obliged to escape.

OTL Britain only sent some 23 Matilda II tanks to France of the not quite 500 odd tanks that took part

According to Major Gen. Julian Thompson's excellent Dunkirk Retreat to Victory

100 Infantry (23 Matilda II and 77 Matilda I)

170 Cruiser - many of which arrived in France missing parts and the crews were inexperienced.

175 Light tanks - mainly MK IV (I have seen figures of over 300 light tanks being lost in France possibly as part of the 2nd BEF?)

So 250 odd of the above (175 MKIV and 77 Matilda I) were tanks armed with a mix of .303 Vickers/7.92 BESA and .50 Vickers/15mm BESA machine guns

Even replacing those with either Matilda II / Valentine and more and better armored A10s (as Marathag suggests) would improve things

Keep in mind that the Germans invaded France with 523 Panzer Is, 955 Panzer IIs, 349 Panzer IIIs, 278 Panzer IVs, 106 Panzer 35(t)s and 228 Panzer 38

None of those tanks are particularly well armored - most if not all would not be able to resist a 2 pounder AT gun shell at 1 km

The Light tanks however were still being used as late as 1941 in North Africa and on several occasions were found wanting (3rd Hussars at Buc Buc and 2nd RTR at Mechili verses M13/40s) - a situation that would not have happened if they had been equipped with Cruisers.

I think what is required is several PODs - all of which involve the loosening of purse strings*

*yes yes I know......somehow Britain has to get through the Depression a little better than OTL.....or is better led....or something scares them earlier into increasing defense expenditure.

  • The Experimental Armored Force is adopted as a permanent part of the British army in the early 30s - eventually absorbing the Cavalry Division - and the British army continues to develop its armored/combined arms skills (and through this improved tank development)

  • The '16 Tonner Mk III' is ordered in 1934 in at least 'double figures' and forms the basis for later interwar designs. The 3 experimental Mk IIIs were probably the best tanks in the world during the mid 30s - as it was with the failure to pursue the design the only British tank ready for mass production in late 37 was the MKIV Light tank.

  • Had the design been adopted beyond the experimental stage then it is very likely that these would have been built at ROF Woolwich and Vickers and those 2 factory's at least would have had the ability to build lots of then modern tanks by 1937 meaning that Britain is less reliant on the light tank design. Thus in 1937 the design developed from this 16 tonner medium tank forms the basis for a 'universal tank' with the supporting industries far better able to provide and further develop more reliable suspension, engines, gear boxes and tracks and build lots of them

  • The planning and ground work for a 32+ Division Continental force is made in 1936/37 and not 1938/39 - with limited conscription started in 1937 and expanded after Munich. This was planned to be 13 TA Divisions doubled to 26 plus 5 Regular Divisions and 1 Cavalry/armored division and a number of Tank Brigades. Ideally it would be the Cavalry / Armored Division expanded to several armored divisions using a common universal design.
 
Would that pass in Parliament I get the impression that it would have been unpopular in 1937.
It would have been a hard decision for sure

But that is why they get paid the big $

OTL they failed to even prepare to prepare

Much could have been done with just a little bit more - earlier
 
One thing i'd also avoid doing. Buying and having the Besa. Why introduce a new machine gun and new caliber? you've got hundreds, if not thousands of .303 Vickers MGs hanging around, use them instead as the UK was sitting on mountains of .303 rounds, no need to introduce new parts or new ammo, saves money.
 
Well, having EMF stay around would certainly do wonders for the British Tank development, if only because there would be people demanding better vehicles, not to mention that British would have a better idea how to use tanks.

As far as the tanks go, I would argue that slightly modified Valentine would help a lot, even if only major change is somehow making a turret capable of fitting a 6pdr/75mm gun and three men inside. It would be adequate for early war needs, it was relatively reliable, and later on (cca 42) something along the lines of Cromwell would be good enough to see them through the end of the war.

Lastly, threads concerning the British in WW2 are rather common, but does anyone know any threads about improving the French performance in WW2? Invasion of France was a close run thing, and even marginally better led French Army could see Germans fail, and thus ending war years sooner, something like what is happening in Blunt Sickle TL.
 
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