Cruiser Mk III
|Tank, Cruiser, Mk III (A13 Mk I)|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Used by||British Army|
|Wars||Second World War|
|Designer||Morris Commercial Cars|
|Manufacturer||Nuffield Mechanisations & Aero, Limited|
|Weight||14 Long tons (14.2 tonnes)|
|Length||19 ft 8 in (6.0 m)|
|Width||8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)|
|Height||8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)|
|Crew||4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)|
|Armour||6 - 14 mm|
|QF 2-pounder gun
|.303 Vickers machine gun
|Engine||Nuffield Liberty V12 petrol
340 hp (250 kW)
|90 mi (140 km)|
|Speed||30 mph (48 km/h)|
The Tank, Cruiser, Mk III, also known by its General Staff specification number A13 Mark I, was a British cruiser tank of the Second World War. It was the first British cruiser tank to use the Christie suspension system, which gave higher speeds and better cross-country performance; previous models of cruiser tanks having used triple wheeled bogie suspension.
Design and development
Orders for the Mk I and Mk II Cruiser tanks were restricted, since the British Army had decided to produce a more advanced and faster cruiser tank that would incorporate the Christie suspension designed by American inventor J. Walter Christie and have better armour. In 1936, General Martel, a pioneer in tank design who had published works on armoured warfare and pioneered the lightly armoured "tankette" to enhance infantry mobility, became Assistant Director of Mechanization at the War Office. Later that year, Martel witnessed demonstrations of Soviet tank designs including the BT tank, which had been influenced by Christie's work. He urged the adoption of a tank that would use the suspension system and also follow Christie's practice of using a lightweight aircraft engine, such as the Liberty Engine. The government authorized the purchase and licensing of a Christie design via the Nuffield Organization rather than contact the Soviet authorities.
The vehicle obtained from Christie became the basis of the Cruiser Mk III (A13). It had to be extensively redesigned by Morris Commercial Cars as it was too small and had several faults that Christie had not addressed. A new company Nuffield Mechanization & Aero Limited was formed for the development and production of the design.
At a meeting of the General Staff, an official specification was determined. This included 30 mm (1.2 in) armour, a 2 pdr gun, road speed of 30 mph. A subsequent review of the specification by Martel and Hobart approved 30mm armour all round provided cross-country speed could be kept at 25 mph. Pending the delivery of the A13, an interim design was approved - of the A7, A9 and A10, the A9 was selected.
The first prototype (the A13-E1) was delivered in 1937. Following the testing of the two prototypes, the A13 was ordered into production. The original order was for 50 tanks, however, 65 had been built by mid 1939. The Mk III weighed 14 long tons (14,200 kg) had a crew of 4, a 340 hp engine which gave a top speed of 30 mph (48 km/h) and was armed with a 2 pounder gun and a machine gun. However, when it was introduced into service in 1937, the Army still lacked a formal tank division.
Like most British cruisers, the A13 was fast but under-armoured and mechanically unreliable. Most were lost in the French campaign in 1940, but a few were used in Greece and the North African campaign in 1940-41. The basic design was used for the Cruiser Mk IV.
As part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France, the Cruiser Mark III equipped units in the 1st Armoured Division.
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