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Great Britain's Cruiser, Comet I, A34

Photos

Cruiser, Comet I, A34:
Great Britain's Cruiser, Comet I, A34
Aberdeen Tank Museum

Cruiser, Comet I, A34:
Great Britain's Cruiser, Comet I, A34
Royal Armored Corps Tank Museum
Cruiser, Comet I, A34:
Great Britain's Cruiser, Comet I, A34

Design

After the initial battles in the Western Desert in 1941 and 1942 it was seen that the British didn't have guns that were able to easily defeat the German armored vehicles.8 The General Staff told the Tank Board that there was a need for a cruiser tank with an antitank gun that could penetrate the armor on German tanks.8

In January 1943 official policy changed that medium tanks didn't have to use the 6 pdr but could have the 75 mm instead.8 The Challenger had its limitations and it was decided to develop a tank that could replace it.8

In February/May1 1943, Leyland Motors started to design the Comet.5,8 It was to be built with as many of the components of the Cromwell as possible.9

By July 1943 a proposal was presented to the General Staff and in September 1943 a mock-up was ready for inspection.5,8 In October 1943 an order was placed for three prototypes and one hull (that could be fired at).5,8 The order was placed with the thought that the A41 Centurion project would soon replace it.8 But with the delays in the A41 the Comet was eventually put on high priority production status.8

Construction

The hull and turret were all welded which were part cast and part rolled.7,8 There were doors that opened to the side for the driver and hull gunner.8 The turret was made up of three welded bent armored plates.8

Turret

The turret was traversed by electrical power from the main engine.1,8 Armored storage bins were over the tracks and behind the turret.5,8 On the rear of the turret was a storage bin that had heavier items and spare tracks were hung from it.8 These provided a counter-weight helping to balance the turret.8

Crew

The driver was on the right and the hull machine gun gunner on the left.5 The commander and gunner sat on the left of the main armament, with the gunner on the left.5 They were all in a suspended turret basket.5 The cupola for the commander was the same as on the Cromwell and provided good all around vision.9

The bow plate was sloped, but to install a hull machine gun a vertical section was added.5 Some crew felt that the hull machine gun wasn't of much value as it wasn't used as much.5

Main Armament

Initially the 17 pdr was considered to arm the Comet, but it came down to choosing between the High Velocity (HV) 75 mm or the American 76 mm.8 Using the 76 mm would have required that the gun would be modified to fit the layout of British turrets.8

The High Velocity (HV) 75 mm was a modified 17 pdr (76.2 mm) that had been designed by Vickers-Armstrong.8 It could fire the same shell as the 17 pdr but the barrel wasn't as long so muzzle velocities was reduced.1,8 The performance of the 77 mm was nearly as good as the 17 pdr.9

To reduce confusion with other tank weapons this gun was designated the 77 mm.8

It could also fire a 20 lb HE shell.6

Suspension

A stronger suspension was needed and return rollers were added.1,5,9

Prototype

In February 1944 a mild steel prototype was completed.8 Firing trials of the 77 mm began in March 1944 and it was found to be very effective.8

During the trials some criticized that there was still a hull gunner (many thought he wasn't needed) and that there wasn't enough armor in the hull to protect against mines.8,9 These were put aside as it was felt that any redesign would result in more delays.8,9

By June 1944, 20 pre-production vehicles were to be ready.5 After about 60% redesign it was ready for production.

Production

  • Comet: 1,200
    • Production: September 1944 - ?4, September 1944 - 1945
    • Manufacturer: Leyland Motors Corp.6

Usage

Based on experience in Normandy, exhaust cowls added to help reduce the visibility of the Comet at night.1 This also helped with carrying infantry.1

The A34 Comets were sent to Belgium in November 1944 for their first assignment.4,8

11th Armored Tanks Replaced

In early December 1944 the 29th Armored Brigade of the 11th Armored Division was withdrawn from combat to replace their M4s with Comets.4,8 This process was interrupted by the Ardennes Offensive and the unit reequipped with their M4s to go fight the German threat.8 In mid-January the 29th Armored Brigade was again withdrawn from combat to resume its conversion.8 The 11th was the only division to have all it's units reequipped with the Comet.4 The 23rd Hussars, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, and the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry were reequipped with the Comet.8

The 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars, the reconnaissance regiment, had their Cromwells replaced by the Comets.8

The 11th Armored Division then went back to the front on March 11, 1945.8

Rhine Crossing

Regiments first received them after the Rhine Crossing in March 1945.7,9

Berlin Parade

The 1st Royal Tank Regiment participated in the Allied Victory Parade, in Berlin, with their Comets.8

Post World War II

The Comets soldiered on in Berlin until 1957 and in Hong Kong until 1959.8 In 1960 the Comet was removed from British Army service.9

Specifications

  Comet
Crew Commander, gunner, loader, driver, co-driver8
51,2,5,6,7,8,9
Radio No. 38 Set8, No. 19 Set8
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 72,800 lb, 78,800 lb5
33,090 kg, 33,225 kg, 35,560 kg7,9, 35,696 kg5, 32,223 kg1
32.5 tons2, 32.7 tons1,3,4,6,8, 35 tons7,9
Length w/gun 21' 6"1,5, 25' 1.5"2,6,7,8,9
6.55 m1, 6.6 m5, 7.66 m7,9
Length w/o gun 21' 6"8
Height 8' 6"6, 8' 8"1,5, 8' 9.5"2,7,8,9
2.67 m1, 2.68 m7,9, 2.8 m5
Width 10'2,5,7,9, 10' 1"1,8, 10' 1.5"6
3.04 m, 3.05 m7,9, 3.07 m1, 3.1 m5
Width over tracks 9' 10.25"8
Ground clearance 1' 5.5", 18"6
0.4 m
Ground contact length 147"6
Ground pressure 13.8 psi6, 13.85 psi5,8
0.88 (kg/cm2)5
Turret ring diameter 5' 4"5,8
1.63 m5
Armament  
Main 1: 17 pdr (77 mm) Vickers HV (High Velocity)1
1: 77 mm OQF Mk. II
1: 77 mm2,4
1: 77 mm QFSA3
1: QF 77 mm5,8
1: 77 mm Mark 2 Gun6
1: 77 mm OQF7,9
Secondary  
MG 2: 7.92 mm Besa MG1
2: 7.92 mm MG2
MG - coaxial 1: 7.92 mm Besa MG3,5,6,7,8
1: 7.92 mm / 0.312" Besa MG9
MG - hull 1: 7.92 mm Besa MG3,5,6,7,8
1: 7.92 mm / 0.312" Besa MG9
Side arms .303 cal Bren MG6,8
Quantity  
Main 615,6,8
Secondary  
MG 5,1755,6,8
Side arms 6006
Armor Thickness (mm) 14 - 1012,3, 14 - 1025, 25 - 1021, 1014,7,9
Hull Front, Upper 3"@0°6
76@0°8
Hull Front, Lower 32@70°8
Hull Sides, Upper 1.7"@0°6
29@0°, 328
Hull Sides, Lower 148 , 298
Hull Rear 1"@0°6
328
Hull Top 258
Hull Bottom 148
Turret Front 4"@0°6
1018
Turret Sides 2.5"@0°6
638
Turret Rear 578
Turret Top 258
Engine (Make / Model) Rolls-Royce Meteor1,2,6,7,9
Rolls-Royce Meteor Mark 35,8
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Water5,6,8
Cylinders V-125,6,7,8,9
Capacity  
Net HP 6006,7,9
600@2,550 rpm5,8
Power to weight ratio 17 HP/ton5, 18 HP/ton8
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type) Borg and Beck8
5 forward, 1 reverse6
Steering Controlled differential6
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system 12 Volt8
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline5,6,7,8,9
Octane  
Quantity 116 gallons6,8
Road consumption 1 mpg6
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°6
Electric or hand6,8
15°/second8
Speed - Road 29 mph2,3,6,7,9, 32 mph1,5,8
18 kph, 47 kph7,9, 50 kph1, 51 kph5
Speed - Cross Country 16 mph
Range - Road 123 miles3,5,6,7,9, 125 miles1, 156.25 miles
196 km5, 198 km7,9, 200 km1, 250 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits +20° to -12°8
Fording depth 3' 8"6, (4' prepared)
1.12 m prepared
Trench crossing 8'5,6,8
2.4 m5
Vertical obstacle 3'6,8
Climbing ability 35° slope6,8
Suspension (Type) Christie type torsion arm6,8
Wheels each side 5 pairs8, 55,6
Return rollers each side 45,9, 55
Tracks (Type) Steel, skeleton, dry6
Length  
Width 18"6,8
Diameter  
Number of links 1146,8
Pitch 4.39"8, 4.4"6
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 8' 4.25"6,8

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  3. The Royal Armoured Corps Tank Museum, 1956
  4. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  5. Battle Winning Tanks, Aircraft & Warships of World War II, David Miller, 2000
  6. Tank Data 2, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, E. J. Hoffschmidt and W. H. Tantum IV, 1969
  7. The Illustrated Guide to Tanks of the World, George Forty, 2006
  8. Profile AFV Weapons #25 Cromwell and Comet, Major James Bingham, 1971
  9. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site