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The A22 Infantry Tank Mk. IV Churchill was an infantry tank that was used by Great Britain during World War II.

Description

The first production model of the Churchill series was the Mk. I, which had a 350 hp (261.1 kW) Bedford Flat 12 engine that was capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h), with a range of 193 kilometers.[1] The Churchill Mk. I had a total length of 7.3 meters and total weight of about 34,473 kilograms. The Mk. I was armed with a single Ordnance QF 2-pounder gun for fighting against other armored vehicles, a co-axial BESA machine gun, and a hull-mounted 76.2 mm howitzer. Although the 2-pounder gun was deemed outdated even before the Churchill appeared on the battlefield, anti-tank weapons were in short supply after the Dunkirk Evacuations and as a result, armament factories could not be retooled to produce the more modern Ordnance QF 6-pounder anti-tank gun.[2]

The Churchill had a crew of five men, with two escape hatches being placed on each side of the lower hull. The 102 mm thick armor that protected the front of the fighting compartment was a welcome relief to the vehicle's crews. The Churchill did however possess some inherent disadvantages, including a slow speed and heavy maintenance requirement.

Variants

Base Variants

  • Churchill Mk. II: Essentially a Churchill Mk. I with no hull mounted howitzer, the weapon instead being replaced by a 7.92mm BESA machine gun
  • Churchill Mk. III: Variant fitted with Ordnance QF 6-pounder in welded turret. Standardized the hull BESA machine gun.
  • Churchill Mk. IV: The Mk. IV was armed with the British Ordnance QF 6-pounder, and one or two 7.92mm BESA machine guns, the total crew was five. The Mk. IV was 7.67 meters long, 3.25 meters wide, and 2.48 meters high. It also had a 350 bhp Bedford petrol engine, propelling it at a top speed of 24.9 km/h. The armor of the Mk. IV varied from 16 mm to 102 mm, and the maximum range was 170 kilometers.[3]
  • Churchill NA 75: Mk. IV Churchill fitted with the American 75 mm M3 gun, mantlet and all. Created by British Captain Percy Morrell, operating out of Algeria, the conversion was meant to address both the lack of a high explosive round for the 6-pounder gun[4] and the fact that in the North African desert, it was noted that the mantlet of the Churchill created such a shadow that it became a reliable aiming point for German anti-tank gun crews.[2]
  • Churchill Mk. V: Variant fitted with 95 mm howitzer so as to act in the role of close support.
  • Churchill Mk. VI: The Mk. VI mounted a British 75 mm main gun, and served as the base chassis for the Churchill Crocodile and Oke.[3]
  • Churchill Mk. VII: Fitted with Ordnance QF 75 mm gun and hull armor up-armored to 152 mm. The hull was also widened, resulting in a greater weight, and ultimately slower speed. The turret was redesigned, featuring both welded and cast parts.
  • Churchill Mk. VIII: Close support conversion similar to the Mk. V, except based on the Mk. VII hull.
  • Churchill Mk. IX: Variant with Mk. VII turret placed on a Mk. VI hull.
  • Churchill Mk. X: Variant with Mk. VI hull with Mk. VIII turret fitted
  • Churchill Mk. XI: Variant with Mk. V hull with Mk. VIII turret.

Specialty Variants

  • Churchill Oke: Churchill Mk. II fitted with Ronson flamethrower
    Churchill with infantry moving to St. Pierre Tarentaine, Normandy, August 3, 1944

    Infantry riding a Churchill in Normandy, August 3, 1944

  • Churchill CrocodileThe Churchill Crocodile Flamethrower[1] was a special variant of the Churchill Mk. V and VI. Over 800 were produced, of which 250 were kept in reserve for operations in the Pacific against the Japanese.[5]The Crocodile mounted the British Ordnance QF 75 mm main gun, a single 7.92mm BESA machine gun, and large flamethrower.
  • Churchill AVRE Mk. I/II: The Churchill AVRE Mk. I and Mk. II versions were designed to carry and support assault engineers during attacks against heavy defenses. Fitted with front and rear dismountable jobs, rear mounted earth spade, two speed winch and 290 mm (11.42 in) spigot mortar for demolition tasks. The Churchill Petard spigot mortar version was fitted with a 290 mm spigot mortar in place of the standard main gun. The mortar fired a casing - whose 40 lb weight included a 26 lb finned explosive charge - over ranges of up to 80 yards.[6]
  • Churchill Ark Mk. I/II/III: The Churchill Ark Mk. I/II/III versions were turret-less[7] bridge carriers used to lay ramps across sea walls, ditches and craters, while the Churchill AMRA/AMRCR/CRID versions were mine clearance vehicles.[1]
  • Churchill Bobbin: Also known as the Churchill ARVE Carpetlayer Type C Mk. II. The Bobbin was a Mk. IV fitted with a steel frame supporting a giant bobbin around which was wrapped a 10 feet wide scaffolding reinforced hessian matting carpet, which was used to provide a firm base over soft sand, as well as a means for vehicles to cross barbed wire.[8]

History

With less than 100 tanks in Great Britain after Dunkirk, the A22 was built hurriedly by a consortium of companies, and this rushed development program led to frequent breakdowns and problems with the early versions. Its size was limited by the British railway loading gauge restrictions, and it suffered from the same disadvantages of other contemporary British designs, namely that it was too narrow to take a larger turret needed for the Ordnance QF 17-pounder.

The Churchill was the first British tank to be completely designed during World War II, and was in production throughout the conflict. The earliest model, the Churchill Mk. I, was built in 1941, armed with a Ordnance QF 2-pounder in the turret and a 76.2 mm close-support howitzer in its nose. With thick armor and a good cross—country performance (albeit slow), it was undoubtedly one of the most well-liked British tanks of the war. It was also the first British tank to mount the American 75 mm gun in some form — the guns and mantlets being salvaged from knocked-out Shermans in Tunisia. One of the first combat actions of the Churchill was during the Dieppe Raid, during which the vehicle performed to a rather disappointing start. However, the vehicle's heavy armor was what gained the type recognition in North Africa.[9] Some 301 Churchill tanks were also sent to the Soviet Union through the Lend Lease Program, serving in such locations as the Battle of Kursk. The Churchill also played a critical role in the march to Rome and beyond during the Italian Campaign as well as in the months following the Invasion of Normandy. In all, some 7,000 examples had been produced during World War II.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 WW1/WW2 Tanks Page 40
  2. 2.0 2.1 Perrett, Bryan. Churchill Infantry Tank 1941-51. Osprey Publishing (1993)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Roger Ford - Page 71
  4. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/great-britain/vehicle/infantry/infantry-mk-iv-a22-churchill-iv.asp
  5. Falconer, Johnathon. D-Day Operations Manual. Haynes Publishing. 2013. ISBN 978 0 85733 234 9 Page 109
  6. Falconer, Johnathon. Page 107
  7. WW1/WW2 Tanks Page 25
  8. Falconer, Johnathon. Page 108
  9. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail-page-2.asp?armor_id=66


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