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Great Britain's Infantry Mk IV Churchill, A22

Photos

Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22, Crocodile:
Great Britain's Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22, Crocodile
Royal Armored Corps Tank Museum
Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22 Ark Mk II (UK Pattern):
Great Britain's Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22 Ark Mk II (UK Pattern)
Royal Armored Corps Tank Museum
Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22 Bridgelayer:
Great Britain's Infantry Mk IV, Churchill, A22 Bridgelayer
Royal Armored Corps Tank Museum
Die Cast 1/72 model, Forces of Valor 85003:
Great Britain's Forces of Valor Churchill 1/72 Diecast Armor

Design

A committee was formed to help come up with a design, chaired by Sir Albert Stern, of which the members had been involved with tanks in World War I. The General Staff came up with specifications for a tank, the A20, that could re-fight World War I, in September 1939. These covered:

  • infantry tank to go over ground cratered by fire and waterlogged
  • able to go over moderate vertical obstacles and trenches
  • 60 mm armor to defend against 37 mm antitank guns
  • 10 mph speed
  • 2 pdr main armament with a coaxial Besa MG in sponsons on each side, Besa MG and 2" bomb thrower by the driver
  • main armament requirements were later updated to a 2 pdr and coaxial Besa MG in a Mark II pattern turret, a 2 pdr in the hull, and 2 Besa machine guns on each side of the hull
  • weight of 37.5 tons
  • the tank had to be transportable by British rail which limited its width and weight

A20 Prototype

The first prototypes of the A20 were completed in June 1940 by Woolwich and Harland & Wolff of Belfast. These were built from mild steel and were designated the A20E1, A20E2, A20E3, and A20E4. However, these resembled World War I type tanks. A pilot model was built, except for the turret, and was put through running trials. It didn't have the side sponsons, as requested in the specifications, but had a rather long hull. The small independently sprung road wheels were supposedly inspired by the French Char B1 bis.

The gearbox, designed by Dr. H.E. Merritt, had problems after only a short run. The Meadows 12 cylinder engine didn't produce the required power. Due to the weight of the vehicle coming close the the limit, as defined by the specifications, the 2 pdr gun in the hull would have to be excluded from the design.

In June 1940 the A20 was abandoned.

Creation of the A22

The specifications for the A22 were developed and Vauxhall Motors Ltd. of Luton, Bedfordshire, were to create the design and produce a vehicle straight from the drawing board. This expedited development schedule was because of France's capitulation and it was felt Germany would invade the United Kingdom at any moment. Vauxhall was asked to finish it within a year.

Dr. H.E. Merritt, Director of Tank Design, moved to Luton with a small staff worked on the A22 design. The A20 pilots had the new Bedford 12 cylinder engine installed and run.

It had been intended to have a larger gun than the 2 pdr installed in the turret, but it was the only one available at the time. Because it did not have high explosive (HE) ammunition it was decided to put a 3" howitzer in the front of the hull.

The first batch of 14 completed tanks were delivered on June 30, 1941. These initially had mild steel turrets that were signified by the "Caution Unarmored" plates on the turrets.

Most had to be modified before being issued to troops. Due to the rushed development there were numerous defects that led to many breakdowns. A War Office survey in November 1941 showed there were 16 modifications that were needed before the tank could sustain operations in the field. Most of these had to do with improvements needing to be made to the steering and transmission. Almost 1,000 vehicles had to be modified. Even with these changes, it was found in July 1942 that some tanks were failing after only 150 miles of use.

Vauxhall Motors eventually assigned some of their own engineers to the tank brigades so that they could learn what other modifications were needed.

In 1943 it was decided to stop production of the Churchill as it was decided that the A27 cruiser tanks would be more important due to their speed. However with the success in Tunisia it was decided to continue production.

Layout

The hull was made out of steel plates that were joined together by steel angles that were then riveted. To this the armor plates were bolted. Escape doors were installed on either side of the hull. These doors (except in the Mk VII and Mk VIII) have quick opening ports. There were double hinged doors above the driver and front gunner.

The suspension was compact and the "pannier" space was almost uninterrupted. This space was used for ammunition, equipment, and the fuel tanks.

The hull was split into four sections:

  • the front, with the driver on the right, and on the left the gunner
    • Below the driver's vision door was the steering control.
    • A Lockheed hydraulic system was connected to the steering brakes.
  • fighting compartment
    • Turret was mounted on a ball race.
    • The commander, gunner, and wireless operator were on a suspended platform.
    • Turret was traversed by electric and hand.
    • The radio equipment was on a shelf at the rear of the turret.
  • engine compartment
    • On the outside of the hull were heavy armored louvres protecting the air intakes. When transported by rail they could be removed.
    • The Bedford horizontal drives the tracks through the rear sprockets.
    • Their were 2 engines that shared a common crankshaft. The gas pump line was located under the engine and had a tendency to burst.
  • gearbox and steering brakes
    • A two cylinder Clayton Dewandre air compressor assisted the steering and clutching.
    • Gearbox was transversely mounted and parallel to the final drive.
    • The Churchill was the first British tank to use the Merrit-Brown regenerative steering system.
    • 5 speed gearbox in early models was replaced by 4 speed which gave similar performance.

11 bogies each side, independently suspended. These wheels were 10" in diameter. Idler at front and driving sprocket at back.

Comparison of Main Tank Armament Performance

Production

  • Churchill Mk I: 303
  • Churchill Mk II: 1,127
  • Churchill Mk III: 675
    • Production: 1941 - ?
    • Manufacturer: Vauxhall Motors Ltd.
  • Churchill Mk IV: 1,622
  • Churchill Mk V: 241
  • Churchill Mk VI: 200
  • Churchill Mk VII: 1,600
  • Churchill Mk VIII: 1,600
  • Total: 5,460, 5,640
    • Manufacturer:
      • The Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd.
      • Beyer, Peacock and Co. Ltd. (Manchester)
      • Broom and Wade Ltd. (High Wycombe, Bucks.)
      • Dennis Bros. Ltd. (Guildford, Surrey)
      • The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd.
      • Harland and Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
      • Leyland Motors Ltd. (Leyland, Lancs.)
      • Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd. (Wednesbury, Staffs.)
      • Newton Chambers and Co. Ltd. (Sheffield)
      • Charles Roberts and Co. Ltd. (Wakefield, Yorks.)
    • Production: 1941 - 1945

Comparison of Main Tank Production

Comparison of Main Tank Production

 

Variants

  • Gun Carrier, 3", Mk I, Churchill: In September 1941 the General Staff asked the Tank Board to investigate the possibility of producing cruiser and infantry tanks with high velocity guns. The cruiser design led to the Challenger. Since the Valentine and Churchill could not mount a larger gun in their turrets it was suggested that a 3" AA gun could be installed in a fixed mount.
    100 3" AA guns were set aside for Vauxhall Motors to design and built them. Designs were done by December 1941, and by February 1942 a pilot model was test fired at Larkhill. The number to be produced was reduced to 24 as the War Office no longer wanted to hold up production of the Churchills with 6 pdr. guns.
    However, materials had already been designated for the 100 and the manufacturer asked that production be reinstated. The order was pushed back to the 100, but was soon reduced to 50. Production started in July 1942. Debate raged as to whether it was a tank or a self-propelled gun. It was decided that it was a tank and many modifications were asked for by the Department of Tank Design. By then it was too late to make these changes in production.
    By late 1942 the Challenger design was making progress and policy changed to use the 75 mm dual purpose guns in the Churchill. The 3" Churchill was abandoned.
    Some of the finished vehicles had their guns removed in 1943 and 1944 and were used in testing the "snake" mine exploding equipment.
  • Churchill Mk I:
  • Churchill Mk II:
  • Churchill Mk III:
  • Churchill Mk IV:
  • Churchill Mk V:
  • Churchill Mk VI:
  • Churchill Mk VII:
  • Churchill Mk VIII:
  • Churchill IX LT (light turret): Churchill Mk III and Churchill Mk IV reworked and with new turret.
  • Churchill X: Churchill Mk VI reworked as Churchill Mk IX but with 75 mm.
  • Churchill X LT (light turret): Churchill Mk VI reworked but kept same turret.
  • Churchill XI: Churchill Mk V reworked with heavy turret. Plus applique armor.
  • Churchill XI LT (light turret): Churchill Mk V reworked but kept same turret.
  • Churchill Oke: Flame thrower. Ronson flame thrower in hull. 3 vehicles at Dieppe. All destroyed before used. Range 40-50 yards.
  • Churchill Crocodile: Flame thrower. Churchill Mk VII modified with trailer attached that carried 400 gallons and the flame thrower was installed in the hull. Range 80-120 meters in 80 1-second bursts. Used in NW Europe. 800 made (250 for Far East).
    Equipped the 31st Armored Brigade of the 79th Armored Division.
    In Italy with the 25th Armored Assault Brigade.
  • Churchill BARV: As ARV Mk I but shingle plates fitted over suspension arms and wading gear installed.
  • Churchill Ark Mk I: Bridge carrier. Fall of 1943 the 79th Armored Division built a bridge carrying vehicle. Turret was removed and trackways and ramps were added. 50 others were built (Churchill Mk IIs & Churchill IVs). 2' wide trackways. The front ramps were 3' 5.25" / 1.05 m long. The rear ramps were 5' 8" / 1.72 m.
  • Churchill Ark Mk II (UK Pattern): Bridge carrier. As Churchill Mk I but wider trackways were made (4ft wide). Ark Is were converted. Vehicle would lower ramps by a quick release. The ramps were 12' 6" / 0.61 m long.
  • Churchill Ark Mk II (Italian Pattern): Bridge carrier. Like UK Pattern tank but used US ramps (12' 3.5" M2 or 15' 1" M1). No built-up trackways, the vehicles tracks were used. Converted from Churchill Mk IIIs in Italy.
  • Churchill Ark Mk III: Bridge carrier.
  • Churchill Bridgelayer: Removed turret from Churchill Mk III or Churchill IV (or Churchill VII 1945-46). Hydraulic equipment was added to launch Bridge 30'. It could support vehicles up to 60 tons. Issued in 1944 to Churchill equipped tank brigades in groups of 3. As more became available other units received them. 99 Built, 25 sent to USSR.
  • Churchill with ARMA Mk IIe: Added anti-mine roller attachment. Not used operationally.
  • Churchill with AMRCR: Produced in 1943 by adding anti-mine reconnaissance castor roller. Device could be jettisoned from inside of tank. Small numbers produced.
  • Churchill ARV:
  • Churchill AVRE:
  • Churchill with CIRD: Canadian Indestructible Roller Device. Produced by the Canadians in 1943.
  • Churchill with Ploughs A-D: Experimental vehicles that added various agricultural ploughs.
  • Churchill with Bullshorn/Jeffries Ploughs: Used agricultural ploughs and used in Normandy landings.
  • TLC Laying Devices: Laid across beaches to help prevent bogging. Fitted in 1942. Produced in small numbers.

Usage

Unit Makeup

In 1941 the Churchills were typically deployed in Army tank brigades attached to corp or division commanders. In 1942 six of the brigades replaced the 3rd infantry brigade in an infantry division. With experience in Tunisia, these mixed divisions were found to not have enough infantry reserves. These were abolished in 1943.

The battalions (regiments) had:

  • regimental headquarters
    • 4: Churchill tanks
  • 3: fighting squadrons
    • headquarters
      • 3: Churchill close support tanks
    • 5: troops
      • 3: Churchill tanks
      • In 1944 in Italy, 2 troops had Shermans
  • reconnaissance troop
    • 11: carriers
    • Later replaced by Stuarts
  • inner communication troop
    • 9: scout cars

Dieppe

First operational use was in the 1942 Dieppe landings with some Churchill Mk Is, Churchill Mk IIs, Churchill Mk IIIs, and 3 Okes participating.

First use was with the Calgary Regiment of the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade that was part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Divisional Group at Dieppe.

El Alamein

Six Churchill Mk IIIs were shipped to Africa and found at the 2nd Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. They fought at Kidney Ridge and Tel el Aqqaqir where they sustained 105 hits by armor piercing rounds. One was destroyed, one track damage, and another had it's turret jammed. Seven were killed and eight wounded.

Tunisia

The 25th Tank Brigade arrived in February 1943 west of Le Kef, and within 24 hours was preparing for action.On February 21, 1943, at 1700 hours, the 142 Suffolk Regiment, with Churchills, supported the 2nd Coldstream Guards, 1st Guards Brigade east of the Sbiba-Sbeitla road.

The 21st Tank Brigade arrived between March 23 and 27 and joined the 4th Infantry Division. This was a mixed division with two infantry brigades and one tank brigade.

Six regiments of Churchills were in North Africa by May 1943.

Europe

Churchills equipped the 34th Tank Brigade and 6th Guards Tank Brigade. The 31st Tank Brigade had two Churchill units and one Crocodile unit.

Russia

Churchill Mk Is, Churchill Mk IIs, and Churchill Mk IIIs were shipped to the Soviet Union.

Post World War II

The last of the Churchill tanks was finally retired in 1960s.

Specifications

  Churchill
Crew Commander, gunner, loader, driver, co-driver/hull gunner
5
Physical Characteristics  
Weight  
Length 24' 5"
7.44 m, 7.442 m
Height 8' 2", 10' 8", 11' 4"
3.25 m, 3.454 m
Width 8', 9', 10' 8"
2.438 m, 2.74 m
Ground clearance 2'
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 6 pdr (57 mm)
Secondary  
MG - coaxial 1: 7.62 mm MG
1: 7.92 mm Besa MG
1: 7.92 mm / 0.312" Besa MG
MG - hull 1: 7.92 mm Besa MG
1: 7.92 mm / 0.312" Besa MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 16 - 102, 102
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom Mk I-VI: 16
Mk VI-VIII: 25
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Bedford Flat 12, Bedford
Cooling  
Cylinders 2 x 6, 12
Net HP 350
Transmission (Type) Merritt-Brown 4 forward, 1 reverse
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline
Octane  
Capacity 150 gallons
Fuel consumption - Road  
Fuel consumption - Cross country  
Power to Weight Ratio  
Performance  
Traverse 360°, hydraulic
Speed - Road 12.5 mph, 15 mph, 15.5 mph
20 kph, 25 kph
Speed - Cross Country 8 mph
12.8 kph
Range - Road 90 miles, 120 miles
144.8 km, 193 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits +20° to -12.5°
Fording depth 3' 4"
1.016 m
Trench crossing 10'
3.048 m
Vertical obstacle 2' 6"
0.76 m
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type) Sprung bogies
Wheels each side 11
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type) 1st Models: Heavy cast steel
Mid-Models: Light cast steel
Final-Models: Manganese steel
Length 12' 6"
Width 14"
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Tire diameter 10"
Track centers/tread 9' 1"
  Churchill ARK
Crew 4
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 84,450 lb
38,385 kg
Length 24' 5"
7.442 m
Height 7'
2.13 m
Width 8'
2.43 m
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Armament  
Main None
Secondary  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 16
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Bedford Twin
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Net HP 350
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline
Octane  
Capacity  
Fuel consumption - Road  
Fuel consumption - Cross country  
Power to Weight Ratio  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 12.5 mph
20 kph
Speed - Cross Country 8 mph
12.8 kph
Range - Road 90 miles
144 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth 3' 4"
1.016 m
Trench crossing 10'
3.048 m
Vertical obstacle 2' 6"
0.76 m
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Tire diameter  
Track centers/tread  

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. The Illustrated Guide to Tanks of the World, George Forty, 2006
  3. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  4. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. AFV #1: Churchill, B.I.T. Mk IV, B.T. White
  7. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  8. Battle Winning Tanks, Aircraft & Warships of World War II, David Miller, 2000
  9. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  10. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site