Sir John Valentine Carden survives.

23 November 1940. Bagush, Egypt.

The arrival of 48th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment had caused a stir among the men of the 5th Indian Division (5th & 11th Indian Infantry Brigades, 16th British Brigade recently attached). The men of the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade prided themselves on the fact that they’d worked with Infantry Tanks before, but when they saw the Valiant Mark I they realised that the A11 Matilda they were familiar with was little more than a mouse beside an elephant. The one thing that they were really disappointed about was the lack of the 2-pdr pompom gun on the new tanks. They’d loved they way the sound of the gun had heralded the end of the opposition. The sharp crack of the 2-pdr gun however had a good sound all of its own, and no Italian was going to like that.


A day or two of mixing and getting to know one another was undertaken, then the work got started of showing the whole Division how tanks and Infantry cooperated. Each of the three tank Squadrons was attached to an infantry Battalion for a day’s work, so that in 72 hours all the infantry had had some notion and experience of cooperation. The men of the 48th Bn RTR were acutely aware that this was an important lesson for them too. Initially, the infantry tended to think that the tanks would do all the work, all they’d have to do would be follow them in and round up the prisoners. The dangers to the tanks from traps, mines, artillery and anti-tank guns hitting something vulnerable, all had to be communicated, and suppressing enemy positions together, practiced. The danger of mines was particularly pressing for the crews of the Valiants. While the chances of being immobilised by enemy gunfire was possible, the loss of a track to a mine was a real danger. This was something that great pains were taken to explain to the Indian Division troops.

The lessons of Arras had been widely shared among the men of the Royal Armoured Corps, especially in the Tank Brigades, of the danger of tanks, infantry and artillery not being in lockstep during an attack. Some members of the 7th Bn RTR who’d taken part in the battle had been posted after Dunkirk to the Territorial Battalions to leaven them with experience. The problem of tanks heading off themselves and running into something they couldn’t deal with had been examined in detail. The question put to Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse and his Brigade Commanders, was how to make sure that the infantry would be able to keep up with the tanks? At Arras the Durham Light Infantry had struggled to keep up with the A11s and A12s who weren’t capable of much more than 10mph. The Valiant Mark I was able to go twice as fast.


Currently most of Western Desert Force’s Motor Transport Companies were involved in the setting up of clandestine Field Supply depots nearer the front to provide five days’ worth of hard scale rations and a corresponding sufficiency of petrol and ammunition, together with two days' supply of water. These three hundred lorries would then be responsible for lifting 4th Indian Division. The RASC who manned these MT Companies were approached for a solution to the question.

One of these Companies was 4th Reserve Mechanical Transport Company New Zealand Army Service Corps. RMT's Company Headquarters and Workshops were stationed at Fuka. A Section was working on supplies from Fuka forward. B Section was in the desert building up and maintaining a petrol sub-park below Garawla, and was also establishing a reserve dump further south. C Section was at Bir Abu Batta, working with RASC 7th Armoured Division, transporting rations, petrol, ammunition, and ordnance stores to the forward Field Supply depot. As the three Sections were likely to be one of the main sources of transport, a visit was made to Fuka to talk over with Major Whyte, their CO, how best to deal with this. The New Zealanders asked whether it would be possible to take part in an exercise together, which was happily agreed to. One of the New Zealanders had the presence of mind to request that someone give some thought to translating between the Indians and their drivers, none of the New Zealanders had much in the way of Indian languages.

The other Motor Transport Company that would work with one of the Brigades was manned by the Cypriot Regiment. When approached, their response was quite different to the New Zealanders. They’d no desire to get any closer to any fighting that was strictly necessary, it wasn’t their job to ‘keep up with the tanks’ was the way their CO put it. The Quartermaster of Western Desert Force was approached with the problem. Although he had a lot on his plate, the setting up of the Field Supply depots, it gave him an excuse to go see his superior in Cairo, Major-General Balfour Hutchison, Deputy Quarter-Master General.

The supply of Motor Transport was one of things that disturbed Hutchison’s sleep more than anything. He’d just lost a battle with General Wavell who’d sent off over 700 lorries to Greece. While he understood why, faced with the lack of rail transport, Middle East Command needed motor vehicles like the body needed blood. The most recently arrived convoy from England, WS 3 had arrived a week previously, and, thankfully there were reinforcements for the MT Companies of the RASC. According to the books, if General O’Connor wanted to carry 4th Indian Division in one lift, that would need 3 Troop Carrying Companies of the RASC. Each Company had three sections with about 30 lorries, designed to carry the marching personnel of a battalion of infantry. Looking at his notes, Hutchison was able to identify two companies that would join the New Zealanders and had his secretary draft orders for them to be moved to Marsa Matruh with all possible haste. This would allow the other MT Companies to concentrate on bringing up supplies to the front, easing the problem of resupply.

Having done the work, the two men enjoyed a pink gin. Over it they starting discussing this idea that was being promoted that the Troop Carrying Companies should have some kind of armoured vehicle. Certainly, the idea of taking the infantry to within range of the enemy before disembarking them was foolishness, far too many lorries might be damaged. A bit of armour on the essential part of the lorry to protect the engine and so on, would add too much weight to the vehicle, meaning it could carry less men and equipment. Hutcheson had commanded the 10th Hussars back in the 1930s and had been present at some of the old Experimental Mechanical Force exercises. If he remembered correctly, the idea of a tracked vehicle to keep up with tanks had been muted then, he had a notion that Dragon tractors had been used to demonstrate the idea. Nothing had come of it though.


If this was going to be something that would be needed more and more, and certainly there was evidence of the German use of their half-tracks as thinking along these lines, then perhaps something might be done about it. The new Loyd carriers that had been arriving were too small but someone must have an idea for this kind of thing stored away in a filing cabinet. Hutchinson decided that in his next memorandum to the War Office he’d bring it up as a matter of priority.

Over a second gin, the confession was made that one of the things had been causing the Quartermasters in 7th Armoured Division some headaches was the build up of the tank forces. While maintenance kept most of them on the move most of the time, when something broke down, getting it back to a workshop was a complete pain. Often another tank had to tow it, and that put a strain on the towing tank’s engine, with the threat of it too breaking down. Now that offensive operations weren’t far off, the RAC men had been complaining about the march from the starting lines to the point of contact. If tanks were going to have to march for hundreds of miles even before they saw action it was wearing out the tracks. If the action took the tanks further away from the workshops and depots, getting broken down or battle-damaged tanks back for repair was a nightmare. The RAOC had some recovery vehicles, but the new Valiant tanks were at the edge of their ability to collect. Having a Tank Transporter Company, similar to a Troop Carrying Company would solve a lot of problems.

Hutchison, having been Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General of the Mobile Division knew these problems intimately, it was part of the reason why he was enjoying a gin with someone whose job he’d had. The good news was that the RAOC had received reinforcements in the last two convoys, Scammel Pioneers SV2S (recovery) and TRCU20 and 30s (20 and 30 ton transporters) had arrived, almost all the army had after Dunkirk. Hutchison thought that there might be enough SV2S for each one to be added to the Light Aid Detachment attached to each Armoured Regiment. If 7th Armoured Division’s RAOC’s Senior Ordnance Mechanical Engineer wanted to keep his TRCUs together, that would be up to him. The 30 ton transporters were going to worth their weight in gold with all these Valiant tanks to carry around. It was just to be hoped that’d the new tanks would be mechanically reliable. It would be a strain on the RAOC resources if too many of them had to be towed or carried back to workshops for repairs.


Talking of ‘worth their weight in gold’, over a third gin, the question was asked about these new jerrycans. Hutchinson’s face went white. If one more person asked him for more jerrycans, then he’d probably have a stroke.

NB Text in italic differs from OTL. There was some training between the 7th RTR and the Indian Division before Op Compass, but not sure just how much.
The Cypriots during one of the live fire exercises abandoned the infantry (See link below). Obviously the lesson of tank/infantry cooperation at Arras here is the main thing, and that has consequences for everything else. Hutchinson sending two more companies of MT is obviously different, but interestingly by 1942 7th Armoured had an extra two RASC MT Companies attached, so I've hastened this along a bit. Regarding the New Zealanders please read this chapter, for the entertainment as well as the information: Always a pleasure reading NZ official Histories:
CHAPTER 2 — First Desert Campaign | NZETC
Battalion, Regiment (British definition) etc. and equivalents have Commanding Officers (CO), sub-units i.e. Company, Squadron, Platoon, Troop have an Officer Commanding (OC). Formations - Brigade and larger have General Officer Commanding (GOC)
 
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Yeah thats why i think sending matildas east would work , especially the pom-pom variants . They can be also sent to the indians and not british if the brits dont want to send a armored brigade east i guess since the indians are setting up a tank divison.

And the east is also where alot of american tanks should go outside training role in this timeline to be honest aswell . Again to give the indians a armored divison or two wich would be super helpful in burma and reconquering malaya and maybe even fighting them in indochina even ?

Also a valiant divison wouldnt be a bad idea in the east in like late 41/42 to be available to fight in burma and if not a divison then atleast a brigade considering british production of them being rather big. Maybe for the indians i mean , there the issue isnt manpower rather than gear to be honest.
 
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Let's talk about ships shall we. Mainly capital ships and dont worry, this is related to tanks.

So the Mediterranean, a British lake before WW2 with plenty of ships sailing around. Now things in the Mediterranean may well be a bit different ITTL, particularly if Crete is held and things in North Africa keep going Britain's way. It stands to reason ship movements will be different from OTL. We could perhaps see more Malta bound ships entering the Mediterranean via Suez to avoid passing Sicily. That changes things for Force H in general and Ark Royal in particular.

Now help me out with this all you ship nerds.
The circumstances that lead to Ark Royal being sunk likely won't occur TTL. It stands to reason then that Ark Royal won't be sunk.
Now a small scenario. With Crete in British hands it is hard for the axis to launch air attacks on shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece. In addition a better British performance in North Africa either secures North Africa in say mid 41 or keeps the front line much farther west than OTL, possibly even pushing west and North towards Tripoli.
Now in that scenario I would suggest Britain would be more likely to send convoys into the Med from Suez. If they are going to Malta they are covered from air attack until the last leg and even then it will be long range attacks only.
Now if that scenario is a plausible one then what happens with Ark Royal?
OTL Force Z went east without an aircraft carrier and was never assigned one as far as I am aware. Now ITTL, with Ark Royal still around and a quieter and safer Mediterranean, potentially much safer could Ark Royal be assigned to Force Z? If that happens PoW and Repulse won't get sunk and those three ships could form the backbone of a pretty potent Far East Fleet for the Royal Navy. Add in another KGV and a couple Aircraft Carriers and you are looking tasty, particularly if Singapore can be held.
Shame I can't see a way to save hood via the use of tanks.
 
Shame I can't see a way to save hood via the use of tanks.
I've seen it suggested that Bismarck was sent out at least partially to divert British attention away from the coming invasion of Crete. Now I can't say if that's true or not, but if it is, and there's no invasion planned then the timing of her sortie may be different and other ships sent out to chase her down.
 
Just to add a little depth to the "Tank Development" discussion....

For those of us who don't know (of which I am one), what are the challenges in simply "scaling up" smaller displacement engines where more power is required? I had originally asked myself this question in the context of why the British tried to develop an H-24 cylinder design for fighter aircraft instead of simply scaling up the Merlin, but the same question would most certainly apply to tank engines (diesel and petrol) as well.
The problem isn't really technical but rather a matter of convenience. Upscaling engines will often result in extensive changes that make them fundamentally new engines with new problems to adress and as such take time to refine. Adding more cylinders is easier but still requires a lot of work to keep the engine balanced, and is constrained by how long you want the engine bay to be, on top of being sometiles less efficient than changing the bore and stroke of the cylinders themselves.

Adapting existing high power engines to tanks is comparatively simpler and quicker, even if you lose out in maintainability and durability.

The UK in particular could not design dedicated high power engines by upscaling existing lorry ones because the early war generation of tanks was developped late and deployment to the continent was not expected until 1939. The Treasury was also somewhat opposed to spending money on brand new engines that were not used outside of tanks.
Prewar policy was also to design relatively compact and small tanks to save money, because there was no need for behemoths or because the existing infrastructure and engineering equipment couldn't handle heavier vehicles. Therefore larger high power engines were not necessary or even desirable.

Meanwhile other countries started dedicated high power tank engine programs in time to use them in WW2 (or could have used them). The USSR had the V2, Germany had the Maybach HL series, France had programs from Renault and Talbot, but the US didn't get dedicated standardized modular engine cylinders until 1946-47 for the AVs and AOSes (895,1195,1490,1790 cu in depending on the amount of cylinders).
 
Force Z had the HMS Indomitable originally assigned to it but she ran aground during working up trials in the Caribbean.
Churchill wanted Indomitable but she wasn't part of Force Z at the time of her grounding.
OTL Force Z went east without an aircraft carrier and was never assigned one as far as I am aware. Now ITTL, with Ark Royal still around and a quieter and safer Mediterranean, potentially much safer could Ark Royal be assigned to Force Z? If that happens PoW and Repulse won't get sunk and those three ships could form the backbone of a pretty potent Far East Fleet for the Royal Navy. Add in another KGV and a couple Aircraft Carriers and you are looking tasty, particularly if Singapore can be held.
Shame I can't see a way to save hood via the use of tanks.
Not sure that you save Singapore - by the time the enlarged Force Z is assembled then you just end up with three battleships and three carriers against the Combined Fleet. Given Sommerville's penchant for aggressive engagements it's highly likely that the larger Force Z will get bloodied in the alt-Indian Ocean raid for no real gain. An aircraft carrier and two capital ships won't save Singapore from a land attack.
 
I always understood that was the intention of the Admiralty but her grounding precluded it.
The way I understood it was that Indomitable was always intended to join Force Z at a later date but was not going to be sent out at the same time as Prince of Wales and Repulse. The grounding did delay her being sent but she wouldn't have been in Singapore when the Japanese invaded anyway.
 
As far as I can tell Churchill was really pushing for Indomitable to be sent with Force Z from the off. The Admiralty however was resisting this very strongly. I think the compromise was Indomitable will be attached after she had worked up. The thing is she had never received any orders to accompany Force Z as far as I am aware and even if she had then the work up would have had to have been abandoned.
 
The problem with the FAA is they've still got Fulmar's which are wonderful recon and long range fighters but they're slow and not very manouverable, if the Ark goes, you'll want to replace all her fulmar's with Sea Hurricanes and even consider weakening her TBR strength to get more fighters aboard.

Force Z was a hodge podge gathering of ships, they lacked modern cruisers and decent numbers of modern destroyers. If Force Z goes along, then don't just send the Ark, send the escorts too, hell even the Renown if she's available as she's a FAR better AA platform than Repulse thanks to her 4.5-inch guns.
 
Not sure that you save Singapore - by the time the enlarged Force Z is assembled then you just end up with three battleships and three carriers against the Combined Fleet. Given Sommerville's penchant for aggressive engagements it's highly likely that the larger Force Z will get bloodied in the alt-Indian Ocean raid for no real gain. An aircraft carrier and two capital ships won't save Singapore from a land attack.
Singapore is defended from Land not the Sea in the first instance. Getting the Australian and new Zealand troops in the Med redeployed East sooner could well save Singapore. That could well happen with an early enough victory in North Africa. Even having those troops there for a month will be enough to at least buy time to reinforce Malaya.

Another thing to remember about Singapore is it did not fall until February 42, just over two months after the deceleration of war by Japan. If Britain has extra troops in the Middle East it does not need then they are getting on the first ship and heading east.
All told I don't see how fighting in North Africa can realistically be kept on going long enough to still be an issue in 1942 and even if it is Britain will in all likelihood hold Crete ITTL. Holding Crete likely saves the lives of some of the roughly 4000 soldiers killed and prevents the capture of around 12500 British troops to say nothing of the Greek troops. Yes not all of those troops may be on Crete TTL as they never went to Greece but even so it is a big boost to the fighting both in North Africa and then the East.
 
Looking back, I'm surprised something like the Loyd Carrier didn't come up a lot earlier. It surely wouldn't have taken much imagination that if you took a Universal Carrier, stretched it out so that the rear bogie was a full, two-wheel unit rather than a single-wheel one (and maybe installed a slightly more powerful engine), that you'd have a carrier with significantly more stowage than the Universals, yet very similar maintenance requirements, and significant commonality of parts.

As to the naval side of things, that really depends on North Africa. If you can take North Africa in 1941, it's quite possible the Siege of Malta doesn't go on nearly as long as OTL, due to there suddenly being no reason for the siege, so Ark Royal quite possibly won't be out in November delivering aircraft, which means that U-81 won't be in a position to take a shot at her.
 
Looking back, I'm surprised something like the Loyd Carrier didn't come up a lot earlier. It surely wouldn't have taken much imagination that if you took a Universal Carrier, stretched it out so that the rear bogie was a full, two-wheel unit rather than a single-wheel one (and maybe installed a slightly more powerful engine), that you'd have a carrier with significantly more stowage than the Universals, yet very similar maintenance requirements, and significant commonality of parts.

As to the naval side of things, that really depends on North Africa. If you can take North Africa in 1941, it's quite possible the Siege of Malta doesn't go on nearly as long as OTL, due to there suddenly being no reason for the siege, so Ark Royal quite possibly won't be out in November delivering aircraft, which means that U-81 won't be in a position to take a shot at her.
The T16 was the American version of a Lloyd carrier. The Windsor was an armoured, better built version of the T16. The Lloyd carrier was unarmoured. The T16 leaked apparently because the welding was insufficient. The Lloyd, the T16 and the Windsor was longer than a Universal/Bren/Scout carrier and featured two full sets of Horstman suspension units, per side.
 
As to the naval side of things, that really depends on North Africa. If you can take North Africa in 1941, it's quite possible the Siege of Malta doesn't go on nearly as long as OTL, due to there suddenly being no reason for the siege, so Ark Royal quite possibly won't be out in November delivering aircraft, which means that U-81 won't be in a position to take a shot at her.
Even a better Performance in North Africa changes the build up to Ark Royal's sinking. If the Army is doing well then some of the operations carried out in May and June and post sinking the Bismark won't happen. There also won't be the pressure to rush convoy's through the Med from Gibraltar. That allows the safer passage round Africa and up to Suez to be used, you then are under air cover most of the way to Malta from Egypt, Cyprus, Crete and all North Arica in British hand's which may well be a lot. In a scenario like this you don't need to use Ark Royal to cover convoys from Gibraltar so no sinking.
 
Wouldn't holding Crete also give Free Greece a rallying point as well? Especially if Greek army units in significant number can evacuate there as well as allowing more air strips which gives the RAF greater cover of the eastern med.

Also locks down sea lanes to the Italians as well.
 
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