Sentinel tank

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Australian Cruiser Tank Mk. 1 "Sentinel"
[A production AC1 tank]
An AC MkI tank on trials
Type Cruiser tank
Place of origin Australia
Production history
Designed 1941
Manufacturer New South Wales Railway Company
Produced 1942
Number built 65
Specifications
Weight 28 long tons (28.4 t)[1]
Length 20 feet 9 inches (6.32 m)
Width 9 feet 78 inch (2.77 m)
Height 8 feet 4 34 inches (2.56 m)
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Loader/Operator, Driver, Hull MG gunner)

Armour Hull front 65 millimetres (2.6 in)
sides and rear 45 millimetres (1.8 in)
Turret 65 millimetres (2.6 in) all round
Main
armament
2 pounder tank gun, 130 rounds
Secondary
armament
two .303 (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns, 4,250 rounds
Engine 3 x Cadillac V8
330 horsepower (246 kW)[1]
Power/weight 12 hp/ton
Suspension Horizontal Volute Spring
Operational
range
150 miles (240 km)[1]
Speed 30 miles per hour (48 km/h)

The Sentinel tank was a cruiser tank designed in Australia in World War II in response to the war in Europe, and to the threat of Japan expanding the war to the Pacific or even a feared Japanese invasion of Australia. It was the first tank to be built with a hull cast as a single piece, and the only tank to be produced in quantity in Australia. The few Sentinels that were built never saw action as Australia's armoured divisions had been equipped by that time with British and American tanks.[2]

History[edit]

When design work began in November 1940, the AC1 was originally intended to be a 2 pounder gun-equipped vehicle, that was intended to be a true Cruiser tank,[3] with a weight of between 16 and 20 tonnes.[4] Due to a lack of home grown experience in tank design a mission was sent to the US to examine the M3 design and Colonel W.D. Watson MC, an artillery officer with many years of tank design experience was provided by the UK. He arrived in December 1940.[5] Like the Canadian Ram, the Australian Cruiser was to be based on the engine, drive train, and lower hull of the American M3 Medium tank,[6] mated to an upper hull and turret built closely along the lines of a British Crusader. By 1942, attempting to keep pace with German tank developments,[7] the design specification had become more like an American medium tank, resulting in a heavier design and a higher silhouette profile.[4]

The Australian Cruiser tank Mark 1 (AC1) was designated "Sentinel" in February 1942.[8] Manufactured by the New South Wales Railway Company,[4] fabrication took place at Sydney's Chullora Tank Assembly Shops with serial production vehicles emerging in August 1942, the premises also being used as a testing ground. The design used existing parts where available from other tank designs, simplified where necessary to match the machining capacity present in Australia. The hull was cast as a single piece, as was the turret; a technique not used on the hull of any other tanks of the era.[9]

The Sentinel was designed to mount either a QF 2 pounder or a QF 6 pdr (57 mm, 2.25 in).[10] However as the production order for 6 pounder tank guns had not been acted on, none of these were available and the first 65 tanks were built with the 2 pounder.[8] Two Vickers machine guns were carried as secondary armament, one in the hull and a second mounted coaxially beside the main gun. The preferred engines suitable to power a 28 tonne tank, a Pratt & Whitney Wasp single row petrol radial, or a Guiberson diesel radial, were not available within Australia, so the Sentinel was powered by the combined output of three Cadillac 346 in³ (5.7 L) V8 petrol car engines installed in clover-leaf configuration (two engines side-by-side to the front and a single to the rear: all three feeding a common gearbox). Sixty-five production vehicles had been completed by June 1943.[11]

The completed Sentinel tanks were used for evaluation purposes only and were not issued to operational armoured units. The Australian Cruiser tank programme was terminated in July 1943 believing it better for Australia to put the effort spent on the AC tanks towards building her own railway locomotives and supporting the large number of US tanks due to arrive.[12] The tanks that had been produced were placed in storage until the end of the war.[13] In 1943, the 3rd Army Tank Battalion was equipped with a squadron of AC1 tanks which had been modified to resemble German tanks. These tanks were used in the filming of the movie The Rats of Tobruk. This appears to have been the only time a squadron of Sentinels was used for any purpose.[14]

Further experiments[edit]

AC E1 development vehicle with a test turret and 17 pounder gun

The Sentinel was to be succeeded by the AC3 Thunderbolt, a much improved design with better armour protection, and most importantly increased firepower. The next step up in firepower available in Australia was the 25 pounder (87.6 mm, 3.45 in) gun-howitzer. This was quickly redesigned as a tank gun, work that would later prove useful for the design of the Short 25 Pounder.

In an effort to further improve further still the firepower of the Australian produced tanks, a new turret was built and placed on the first of the earlier development vehicles to assess the vehicle's ability to mount the foremost Allied anti-tank gun of the day – the British 17 pounder (76 mm, 3 in). This was achieved by mounting two 25 pounder gun-howitzers which when fired together would significantly exceed the recoil of a 17 pounder.[15] It was later fitted with a 17 pounder and after successful gunnery trials the 17 pounder was selected for the AC4. On the AC4 the 17 pounder was to be mounted in a new and larger turret, attached by a 70 inch (1778 mm) diameter turret ring, the space for which was accommodated by changes to the upper hull permitted by the compact nature of the "Perrier-Cadillac".[8] The design for the AC4 was not finalised before the programme ended.

Survivors[edit]

The AC1 Sentinel tank at the RAAC Tank Museum.

All but three tanks were disposed of by the Australian government in 1945.[16][17][Note 1] The 65 tanks that were not required to serve as a physical record in war museums in Australia and the UK were sold off by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.[16]

Of the three that were retained the first is at the RAAC tank museum at Puckapunyal Victoria (AC1 serial number 8030), and the second is at the Bovington Tank Museum (AC1 serial number 8049), the third and only completed AC3 (serial number 8066) is located at the Treloar Technology Centre at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.[13]

From those that were sold, mostly for agricultural use, a third AC1 was reassembled at the Melbourne Tank Museum using the hull of AC1 8006 and the turret of AC1 8040. This tank was sold to the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation when the Melbourne Tank Museum closed in 2006, and subsequently bought by Wargaming when the MVTF collection was partly auctioned in 2014. It was placed on exhibit at the Camp Mabry Museum in Austin, Texas,[18] for a period before being shipped to the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum to be repainted and put on display.[19] A second Australian cruiser tank is also on display at the AAAM. This tank, acquired from the MTM, has a largely uncut hull, with turret, gearbox and running gear, otherwise bare inside. This vehicle consists of the hull of AC1 8040 and an AC3 turret. The tank was externally restored in 2014. It now has a 17 pounder barrel in an attempt to represent the AC4 prototype; the mantlet and gun mount were fabricated by the AAAM.[20] An AC3 mockup was assembled from unused AC3 armour castings and a mix of AC3 and AC1 parts at the Melbourne Tank Museum in 1996–97, this piece was sold to a private collector in 2006.[21]

Variants[edit]

  • AC IA[8]
  • AC IB[8]
  • AC III "Scorpion"[8] An AC1 that was to be produced in Victoria with mostly components imported from the US. Not related to the AC3 Thunderbolt.
    • one 2 pounder gun
    • two Vickers machine gun
    • one single row Wasp Radial engine

See also[edit]

Tanks of comparable role, performance, and era
Other Commonwealth tanks of the Second World War

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ Some sources state that the Sentinels were used for training after the cancellation of the program, and were not declared obsolete by the Australian Army for this purpose until 1956, see Mellor 1958, p. 308 and Bingham 1972, p. 73. However, Koudstaal 2005 states that the Sentinels were too different to the M3s and Matildas to be used for training and would require modifications and the manufacture of spares if they were to be used as special purpose vehicles. In 1945, three had been selected for preservation in war museums, while the remainder were dismantled.
Citations
  1. ^ a b c Department of Armoured Fighting Vehicle Production (March 1943): Provisional Workshop Manual, Tank Australian Cruiser Mk. 1
  2. ^ Hopkins 1978, pp. 66–67.
  3. ^ Bingham 1972, pp. 65–66.
  4. ^ a b c Norris 2012, Chapter 5 – The War Widens: The Campaigns of 1942.
  5. ^ Mellor 1958, p. 304.
  6. ^ Bishop 2002, pp. 29–30.
  7. ^ Ross 1995, pp. 382–384.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "MP508/1, 325/703/3084 G.S. Specifications Cruiser Tank AC3 and AC4". National Archives of Australia. 
  9. ^ Bingham 1972, pp. 65–73.
  10. ^ "MP730/13, 10 Armoured Fighting Vehicles: file of newspaper cuttings and other information relating to tanks". National Archives of Australia. 
  11. ^ Ross 1995, pp. 391–392.
  12. ^ Bingham 1972, p. 70.
  13. ^ a b Koudstaal 2005.
  14. ^ Handel 2003, p. 166.
  15. ^ Bingham 1972, p. 66.
  16. ^ a b "MT1274/1 325/0118/1". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 June 2014. Australian "Cruiser" tanks: dismantling and disposal of 63 in total 66 
  17. ^ "No Demand For Army Tanks". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Townsville, Queensland: National Library of Australia. 2 February 1946. p. 2. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Sharik, Lisa (28 January 2015). "What is that?". Texas Military Forces Museum. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Tanitha (1 November 2015). "Sentinel to return to Australia". Wargaming WoT. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  20. ^ "Exhibits". The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  21. ^ "The Melbourne Tank Museum Sale". Antiques Reporter. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2016. 

References[edit]

  • Bingham, James (1972). Australian Sentinel and Matildas. AFV/Weapons Profiles 31. Windsor, United Kingdom: Profile Publications. OCLC 220833374. 
  • Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. New York: MetroBooks. ISBN 9781586637620. 
  • Handel, Paul (2003). Dust, Sand and Jungle: A History of Australian Armour During Training and Operations, 1927–1948. Puckapunyal, Victoria: RAAC Memorial and Army Tank Museum. ISBN 1-876439-75-0. 
  • Hopkins, Ronald (1978). Australian Armour: A History of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps 1927–1972. Puckapunyal, Victoria: Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum. ISBN 0-642-99407-2. 
  • Koudstaal, Michael (2005). "Australian Military Vehicles Index: Australian Sentinel Tank". Sentinel. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  • Mellor, D.P. (1958). The Role of Science and Technology. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 4 – Civil. Volume V. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 4092792. 
  • Norris, John (2012). World War II Trucks and Tanks. Stroud: The History Press. ISBN 9780752490731. 
  • Ross, A.T. (1995). Armed and Ready: The Industrial Development and Defence of Australia 1900–1945. Wahroonga, New South Wales: Turton & Armstrong. ISBN 0-908031-63-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fletcher, David (1989). The Great Tank Scandal: British Armour in the Second World War Part 1. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-290460-2. 

External links[edit]