|British tank used in World
In 1940, after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force
from Dunkirk, the British government commissioned the design of a new
tank to replace its earlier lightweight infantry tanks. The first
Churchill model, the Mark I, was ready by June 1941 and entered
large-scale production soon afterward.
The Mark I was armed with a
2-pounder gun in the turret and a 3-inch howitzer mounted on the hull.
Like subsequent Churchill models, the Mark I had good speed and turning
ability, a robust suspension system, heavy armour plating, and a low
silhouette. In the Mark II model, the 3-inch howitzer on the hull was
replaced by a machine gun.
From the time they entered service in
mid-1942, the Mark I and II tended to be outgunned by German tanks, but
their ability to climb hills served them well in the closing phases of
the North African campaign. Faced with the need to upgrade their tank's
main armament, the British fitted the next model, the Mark III, with a
6-pounder gun. Even this gun was barely adequate by 1943, when the Mark
III entered service, so later versions of this model were fitted with a
The Mark IV closely resembled the Mark
III, but its turret was welded rather than cast. The Mark IV was perhaps
the most prolific Churchill tank and probably saw the most combat of any
model. It was armed with either a 6-pounder or a 75-millimetre gun. The
tank weighed 39 tons, had a top speed of 17 miles (27 kilometres) per
hour, and had a range of 90 miles.
It was served by a crew of five and
mounted two 7.92-millimetre machine guns in addition to its main gun.
Its successor, the Mark V, was fitted with a 95-millimetre howitzer, but
the Mark VI and VII returned to the format of the 75-millimetre gun.
These later Churchills were still outgunned by their German
counterparts, but their thick protective armour partly compensated for
the inadequacy of their firepower.
Churchill tanks were employed in the
Normandy Invasion in 1944 and in the ensuing Allied drive across
northern France and Germany. Its well-armoured and reliable chassis made
it suitable during these campaigns for a number of special-purpose
adaptations. Perhaps the most fearsome was the "Crocodile," a
Churchill tank in which the machine-gun was replaced by a powerful
Other Churchills, popularly known as AVREs (Assault
Vehicle Royal Engineers), were employed in assaults on fortified
positions, and still others, called "carpet layers," were
fitted with large rolls of steel mesh, which they laid on soft ground to
provide a firm surface for other vehicles. A total of 5,640 Churchill
tanks were manufactured, and some remained in service with the British
army into the 1950s.
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