Archer (tank destroyer)

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SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer
Archer SP 17 pdr Tank Destroyer.jpg
SP 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer
front (and direction of driving) to left, engine to right
Type Self-propelled artillery anti-tank gun
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service September 1944 - ? (UK)
Used by United Kingdom, Egypt
Wars Second World War, Suez Crisis
Production history
Designer Vickers-Armstrongs
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs
Produced March 1943 – May 1945[1]
No. built 655
Weight 15 long tons (15 tonnes)
Length 21 ft 11 in (6.7 m)
Width 9 ft (2.76 m)
Height 7 ft 4 in (2.25 m)
Crew 4 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armour 14 - 60 mm (.55–2.36 in)
QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) gun
39 rounds
.303 Bren light machine gun
Engine GMC 6-71 6-cylinder diesel
192 bhp
Power/weight 10.1 hp/t
Suspension coil spring bogie
Fuel capacity 50 imp gal (230 L)
140 mi (230 km) on roads
Speed 20 mph (32 km/h)
off road: 8 mph (13 km/h)

The Self Propelled 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was a British self propelled anti-tank gun[2] of the Second World War based on the Valentine infantry tank chassis fitted with an Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun. Designed and manufactured by Vickers-Armstrongs, 655 were produced between March 1943 and May 1945. It was used in North-West Europe and Italy during the war; post-war, it served with the Egyptian Army. The vehicle was unique as its gun was mounted facing the rear of the chassis instead of the front.

Design and development[edit]

The 17 pounder anti-tank gun was very powerful but also very large and heavy and could be moved about the battlefield only by a vehicle, which made the gun more effective in defence than in the attack. An improvised modification to the Churchill tank had been tested in 1942 as a self-propelled gun; the 3-inch Gun Carrier and the US was expected to be able to provide the 76 mm armed M10 tank destroyer through Lend-lease. Other projects were considered using obsolete tank chassis, including the Valentine for its reliability and low profile and the Crusader for its good power-to-weight ratio. In development were tank designs using the 17-pounder, which led to the Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger tank (and its post-war variant the Avenger SP gun) derived from the Cromwell cruiser tank and the Sherman Firefly conversion of the Sherman tank.

The Valentine chassis was soon chosen, as it was in production but obsolescent for British use and was also one of the few chassis that could accommodate such a large gun.[citation needed] The engine in the Archer had a higher power rating than in the Valentine.[3] Since the Valentine had a small hull and it was not possible to use a turret, the gun was mounted in a simple, low, open-topped armoured box, very much like the early Panzerjäger German self-propelled guns in appearance, with the gun facing to the rear, which kept the length of the Archer short. The mounting allowed for 11 degrees of traverse to either side, with elevation from -7.5 to +15 degrees.[4]

On firing, the gun breech recoiled into the driver's space, with the driver staying in position, in case the vehicle needed to move quickly. The rear mounting combined with its low silhouette made the Archer an excellent ambush weapon, allowing its crew to fire, then drive away without turning round. The first prototype was completed in 1943, with firing trials carried out in April 1943. Vickers were given orders for 800 vehicles.


An 'Archer' in position at Rafah, Sinai War, 1956.

Production started in mid-1943 and the Archer entered service in October 1944. It was used in North-West Europe and (in 1945) in Italy.[5] By the end of the war, 655 of them had been produced. The Archer was classified as a self-propelled anti-tank gun and, like the British 3in SPG M10 and 17pdr SP Achilles, was operated during the war by the Royal Artillery (RA) rather than by Royal Armoured Corps units. The vehicles were never called "tank destroyers" as the British and Commonwealth armies never used the tank destroyer doctrine; instead they were called "self-propelled anti-tank guns".

Post-war, the Egyptian Army received 200 ex-British Archers after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[6] Some were successfuly used against Israeli armour in 1956.[7] The Archer served with some units of the Royal Armoured Corps in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in the early 1950s.

Surviving vehicles[edit]

Surviving vehicles are preserved at the Yad La-Shiryon museum in Latrun, National War and Resistance Museum, Overloon in the Netherlands and The Tank Museum in the UK. There is one Archer with a short-barreled gun minus gun mantlet at the Cavalry Tank Museum, Ahmednagar, India.

The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Cairns, Australia


  1. ^ Archer accessed 21 March 2008
  2. ^ Bishop, Chris (2016). The illustrated encyclopedia of weapons of World War II : a comprehensive guide to weapons systems, including tanks, small arms, warplanes, artillery, ships, and submarines. London: Amber Books. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-78274-388-0. 
  3. ^ Fletcher, David (1989). Universal Tank: British Armour in the Second World War - Part 2. HMSO. ISBN 0-11-290534-X. 
  4. ^ British Anti-tank guns 1939–1945 Osprey p. 22
  5. ^ White p. 17
  6. ^ Zaloga, Steven J. (1981). Armour of the Middle East Wars 1948-78. Vanguard series 19. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 0 85045 388 7. 
  7. ^ Gawrych, George Walter. Key to the Sinai, The Battles for Abu-Ageila in the 1956 and 1967 Arab-Israeli Wars (PDF). Combat Studies Institute, Research Survey no.7. p. 40&58. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chris Henry. British Anti-Tank Artillery 1939–1945. New Vanguard. Osprey. 
  • White, BT. Valentine Mk III. AFV No. 6. Profile Publishing. 

External links[edit]