British armoured fighting vehicles of World War II

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Tanks of the Second World War


A tankette is a type of lightly armed and lightly armoured tracked combat vehicle resembling a small tank roughly the size of a car, mainly intended for light infantry support or reconnaissance. Colloquially it may also simply mean a "small tank".

Medium tanks[edit]

These inter-war tanks were built to supply the British Army after the First World War. Heavier than most light tanks, they proved to be under-gunned and under-armoured. Some did see action in France and the Low Countries in 1940. They were armed with either the QF 3 pdr or the Vickers machine gun. All were withdrawn from service by 1941.

Light tanks[edit]

These were a series of similar small tanks produced by Britain in the years between the First and Second World Wars mainly for use in Imperial duties. They saw use in training, and in limited engagements with British Imperial units in colonial policing actions before the war. All were about 5 tonnes, the earlier models had a crew of two and were armed with a 0.303 Vickers machine gun. The later had a crew of three and a heavy machine gun (the 0.50 inch version of the Vickers machine gun or 15mm Besa machine gun) as well as 0.303 or 7.92mm Besa machine gun. Although some were used in France and North Africa at the start of the war, they were removed as not fit for service in armoured divisions. Like

The last of the light tanks were produced during the war. Not considered suitable for use in the divisions, they were trialled in airborne operations. Armament was the QF 2 pdr anti-tank gun.

Cruiser tanks[edit]

These medium-sized cruiser tanks were the mainstay of British armoured units during the war. Weighing 10-35 tonnes, they were fast and mobile, and were designed to operate independently of the slow-moving infantry and their more heavily armoured infantry tank support. They were built specifically to fight a mobile war against other tanks. They were armed with anti-tank guns, from the QF 2 pdr to the QF 17 pdr or the general purpose 75 mm.

Infantry tanks[edit]

The infantry tank was a concept developed by Britain in the years leading up to the war. They generally carried more armour than the cruiser tanks, as they did not need such a high top speed. They were designed to work as close support for the infantry. They were armed with either the QF 2 pdr, QF 6 pdr, or the QF 75 mm.

Self-propelled artillery[edit]

Self-propelled artillery vehicles were a way of enabling the Royal Artillery to function with the same degree of battlefield mobility as conventional tank formations. They were self-propelled guns, usually based on a tank chassis, which when used for long-range indirect bombardment support on the battlefield. In contrast to American doctrine, mobile anti-tank weapons were also considered self-propelled guns and were similarly operated by the Royal Artillery.

  • Bishop - 25 pdr gun-howitzer on Valentine tank chassis
  • Deacon - 6 pdr anti-tank gun on armoured truck chassis
  • Archer - a self-propelled anti-tank gun

Armoured personnel carriers[edit]

Armoured personnel carriers were armoured fighting vehicles developed to transport infantry

Armoured cars[edit]

Light and medium scout and reconnaissance vehicles were used by most British Army units, especially battalions of the Reconnaissance Corps and cavalry units. These fast wheeled vehicles usually weighed from 3 to 10 tonnes. Armament ranged from Bren light machine guns (or Boys anti-tank rifle), Besa machine guns, up to QF 2 pdr and 6-pdr guns.

Other vehicles[edit]

Commonwealth-produced armoured vehicles[edit]

Armoured vehicles built outside Britain for Commonwealth forces.

Lend-Lease Armoured vehicles[edit]

American armoured vehicles were purchased and sometimes re-fitted with British guns, and were used by British and British-supplied Allied forces throughout the war.

  • Sherman IC and VC - Sherman I and Sherman V medium tank chassis adapted by the British with a redesigned turret to mount a British 17-pounder gun. The 17-pounder could knock out any German tank. Often referred to by the post-war nickname "Firefly", but during WWII this nickname was also used for the 17pdr M10.
  • Lee and Grant - M3 Lee medium tank
  • 3in SP M10 - M10 tank destroyer
  • 17pdr SP M10 - M10 tank destroyer equipped with a British 17-pounder gun
  • Stuart tank (nicknamed "Honey") - M3 Stuart light tank
  • Locust - M22 airborne light tank
  • Chaffee - M24 light tank
  • Priest - M7 self-propelled artillery


These vehicles were never put into production.

  • Black Prince - Churchill development to carry 17-pounder
  • Excelsior - heavily armoured infantry tank
  • Tortoise heavy assault tank - a very heavy armoured tank for use in breaching fixed defences in Europe
  • Valiant - a heavily armoured but small assault tank intended for use in the war in the Far East.
  • Alecto - a self-propelled gun on a light tank chassis
  • TOG1 - tank design suitable for crossing shelled areas and trenches
  • TOG2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spoelstra, Hanno. "Car, Armoured (Aust), LP4 4x4 All-Wheel Drive Conversion Kits". Marmon-Herrington Military Vehicles. 

External links[edit]