Tanks of England in the interwar period

Tanks of England in the interwar period
Tanks of England in the interwar period

After the end of the First World War, England has accumulated a lot of experience in the creation and use of tanks in combat. The use of only heavy assault tanks turned out to be insufficient to effectively suppress the enemy. The need arose for light maneuverable tanks to support the infantry on the battlefield, the effectiveness of which was confirmed by the FT-17 light French tanks. According to their purpose, the military divided the tanks into light, medium and heavy and developed tactical and technical requirements for them, in accordance with which the development of three classes of vehicles began.


Heavy tanks Mk.VII and Mk.VIII

Despite the not entirely satisfactory characteristics in terms of habitability and mobility of "diamond-shaped" tanks of the Mk1-Mk5 family, the development of a line of these tanks was continued. At the end of 1918, a batch of Mk.VII tanks was manufactured, which differed from their predecessors by the presence of a hydraulic transmission, which provided smooth control of the movement and rotation of the tank. Due to this, the driver's work was significantly simplified; instead of levers, he controlled the car using the steering wheel.


The tank weighed 37 tons, the crew was 8 people, it was equipped with two 57-mm cannons and five machine guns. The engine "Ricardo" with a capacity of 150 hp was used as a power plant, providing a speed of 6, 8 km / h and a power reserve of 80 km. Due to the large weight, the specific ground pressure was 1.1 kg / sq. see. Only a small batch of tanks was made, and it was not accepted for service.

The last of the series of "diamond-shaped" tanks was the Mk.VIII, which was tested in 1919. The tank weighed (37-44) tons, the crew was 10-12 people, was armed with two 57-mm cannons and up to seven machine guns.


The design of the tank was riveted with two sponsons on the sides, in which the guns were installed. On the roof of the hull there was a combat tower, in which two machine guns were installed in a ball bearing, there were also two machine guns on each side and one in the frontal and aft compartments. The thickness of the tank's armor was 6-16 mm.


The power compartment was located at the back and was isolated from the manned compartment. All crew members, except for the mechanic, were in the fighting compartment and, due to the pressurization system to remove smoke and fumes, were in more comfortable conditions than in the tanks of the previous generation. The tank was equipped with a 343 hp engine, providing a highway speed of 10.5 km / h and a cruising range of 80 km.

A batch of 100 Mk.VIII tanks was jointly manufactured with the United States, where this tank was put into service, was the main heavy tank of the US Army and was in operation until 1932.

Heavy tank A1E1 "Independen"

In the early 20s, diamond-shaped tanks clearly lost the confidence of the military due to claims about their passability, poor maneuverability of fire due to the placement of weapons in sponsons, limiting the sectors of fire and unsatisfactory living conditions. It became clear that the time of these tanks is gone, and they are a dead-end branch. The army needed completely different vehicles, maneuverable, with strong cannon armament and more powerful armor, capable of providing protection against the anti-tank guns that appeared.


The layout of the A1E1 tank was fundamentally different from the "diamond-shaped" tanks, based on the classic layout with the front crew compartment and the engine-transmission compartment at the rear. Five towers were installed on the hull of the tank, the crew of the tank was 8 people.

The central part of the fighting compartment was set aside for the installation of the main turret with a 47-mm gun, designed to combat tanks and artillery. The tower housed the tank commander, gunner and loader. For the commander, a commander's cupola was provided, shifted to the left relative to the longitudinal axis. A powerful fan was installed on the right, covered with an armored hood.


In front of and behind the main tower there were two machine gun turrets, in which one 7.71 mm Vickers machine gun was installed, equipped with an optical sight.

The machine gun turrets were domed and rotated 360 degrees, each of them had two viewing slots protected by bulletproof glass. The upper part of the tower could be folded up. For the interaction of the crew, the tank was equipped with an internal laryngophone communication system.

The tank was provided with maximum convenience for the mechanic-driver's work, he sat separately in a special ledge in the tank hull and through the observation turret he was provided with a normal view of the terrain. The tank was equipped with a V-shaped air-cooled engine with a capacity of 350 hp. and a planetary transmission, thanks to it and the servos, the driver easily controlled the tank with levers and a steering wheel, which was used during smooth turns. The maximum speed of the tank reached 32 km / h.

Armor protection was differentiated: the forehead of the hull was 28 mm, the side and stern were 13 mm, the roof and bottom were 8 mm. The weight of the tank reached 32.5 tons.

The chassis of the tank largely repeated the chassis of the Medium Mk.I tank. Each side had 8 road wheels, combined in pairs into 4 bogies. Suspension elements and road wheels were protected by removable screens.

The first sample of the tank, which turned out to be the only one, was manufactured in 1926 and passed a test cycle. It was being improved, but the concept of such huge tanks was not in demand and work on it was stopped. Some of the ideas implemented in the A1E1 were later used in other tanks, including the Soviet multi-turret T-35.

Medium tanks Medium Tanks Mk.I and Medium Tanks Mk.II

By the mid-1920s, in parallel with the development of heavy tanks, Medium Tanks Mk.I and Medium Tanks Mk.II were developed and adopted, featuring a rotating turret with armament. The tanks had a good design, but the front location of the power plant complicated the work of the driver and the tank's speed of 21 km / h no longer satisfied the military.


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The layout of the Vickers Medium Mk.I tank differed from the layout of heavy tanks, the driver was located in the front right in the cylindrical armored wheelhouse. To the left of the driver was the power plant. A fighting compartment with a rotating turret was located behind the driver. Observation slits were used for observation. The tank's crew consisted of five people: a driver, a commander, a loader, and two machine gunners. The crew landed through the side hatches in the tank hull and through the aft door.

The hull of the tank had a "classic" design for that time; armor plates 8 mm thick were riveted to the metal frame.


The power plant was an Armstrong-Siddeley 90 hp V-type air-cooled engine. and a mechanical transmission located at the back. With a tank weight of 13.2 tons, it developed a speed of 21 km / h and provided a cruising range of 193 km.

The armament of the tank consisted of a 47-mm cannon with a barrel length of 50 calibers, from one to four 7.7-mm Hotchkiss machine guns installed in the turret, as well as two 7.7-mm Vickers machine guns mounted on the sides of the hull. To observe the terrain, the commander had a panoramic periscope sight.


The undercarriage of the tank consisted of 10 small-diameter road wheels interlocked in 5 bogies, two independent rollers, 4 support rollers, rear drive and front idler wheels on each side. The undercarriage was protected by an armored screen.

Modifications of the Vickers Medium Mk II tank were distinguished by structural changes to the turret, the presence of a coaxial machine gun with a cannon, armor protection of the chassis and the presence of a radio station.


Medium tank Medium Tank Mk.C

In 1925, development began on a new medium tank, indexed Medium Tank Mk.C. The layout of the vehicle was "classic" with the location of the power plant in the rear of the tank, the control compartment in front and the fighting compartment in the center in a rotating turret. A 57 mm cannon was installed in the turret, and a machine gun in the rear of the turret, and one machine gun each was placed on the sides of the tank. A course machine gun was installed in the frontal sheet of the hull. The body of the tank was riveted with an armor thickness of 6.5 mm. On the frontal sheet, the door for the landing of the crew and the protrusion for the driver's legs were unsuccessfully placed.


The aircraft engine Sunbeam Amazon with a power of 110 hp was used as a power plant, with a tank weight of 11.6 tons it reached a speed of 32 km / h.

The crew of the tank was 5 people.


In 1926, the tank was tested, but despite a number of successful design solutions (classic layout, rotating turret and high speed), the tank was not accepted into service due to poor security. Nevertheless, the customer for the tank was found, the Japanese purchased it and created their own Type 89 medium tank on this base.

Medium tank Medium Tank Mk.III

The experience and groundwork of the Medium Tank Mk.C was used in the development of the Medium Tank Mk.III with a cannon turret in the center of the tank and two machine-gun turrets on the hull of the tank; each turret had two machine guns with one machine gunner. There were two commander's turrets on the central tower. Then one machine gun was left in the machine-gun turrets and one commander's cupola was removed.

The frontal armor was 14 mm thick and the sides were 9 mm thick.


The power plant was an Armstrong-Siddeley V-engine with a power of 180 hp, providing a speed of up to 32 km / h with a tank weight of 16 tons.

In 1928, an improved version with a 500hp Thornycroft RY / 12 diesel engine, indexed Medium Tank Mk.III A3, was created. On trials, the tank showed good performance, but due to the outbreak of the financial crisis, the tank was not accepted for service.

Tanks of England in the interwar period

Despite this, the progressive ideas of this tank were used on other tanks. The armament scheme with two machine-gun turrets was used on the Vickers Mk.E Type A light tank, on the Cruiser Tank Mk.I and the German Nb.Fz.

This experience was also taken into account in Soviet tank building, the Soviet procurement commission in 1930 acquired a number of samples of British tanks, with the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI being the basis of the Soviet T-27 tankette, and the Vickers Mk.E as the basis for the T-26 light tank., and the ideas embodied in the Medium Tank Mk.III were used to create the Soviet T-28 medium tank.

Light tanks

After the not entirely successful use of the first heavy tanks in combat, the military set out to create a light "cavalry" tank. The first British light tank was the Mk.A "Whippet". After the end of the war, a whole family of light tanks was created in England, which found application in the British army and the armies of other countries.

Light tank Mk.A "Whippet"

The light tank Mk.A "Whippet" was created at the end of 1916, mass production was launched only at the end of 1917, and at the end of the war in 1918 it took part in hostilities.


The tank was supposed to have a rotating turret, but problems arose with its production, and the turret was abandoned, replacing it with a casemate wheelhouse in the rear of the tank. The crew of the tank was three people. The commander stood in the wheelhouse on the left, the driver sat in the wheelhouse on the seat on the right, and the machine gunner stood behind and served the right or stern machine gun.

The tank carried four 7, 7-mm Hotchkiss machine guns, three were mounted in ball mountings and one was a spare. Landing was done through the aft door.

Two 45hp engines were used as a power plant. each, they were in the front of the hull, and the gearboxes and drive wheels were in the rear, where the crew and weapons were located.

The hull was assembled with rivets and bolts at the corners from sheets of rolled armor with a thickness of 5-14 mm. The protection of the frontal part of the wheelhouse was somewhat increased by the installation of armor plates at constructive angles of inclination.

The chassis was with a rigid suspension, assembled on armored frames along the sides of the hull.The tank weighed 14 tons, developed highway speed of 12.8 km / h and provided a cruising range of 130 km.

On the basis of the Mk.A, small batches of Mk. B and Mk. C with a 57 mm cannon and three machine guns. Some models were equipped with a 150hp engine. Tanks Mk.A (Mk. B and Mk.C) were in service with the British army until 1926.

Light tank Vickers Mk.E (Vickers six-ton)

The Vickers Mk.E light infantry support tank was developed in 1926 and tested in 1928. 143 tanks were produced. The tank was developed in two versions:

- Vickers Mk.E type A - two-turret version of the "trench cleaner", one machine gun in each turret;

- Vickers Mk.E type B - single-turret version with a cannon and a machine gun.

Structurally, all Mk.E tanks were almost identical and had a common layout: transmission in front, control compartment and fighting compartment in the middle, engine compartment in the rear. The crew of the tank is 3 people.


In the front of the hull there was a transmission, which occupied a rather impressive compartment. Behind it, in the middle of the hull, a characteristic turret box was installed, which has become a distinctive feature of all "six-ton ​​Vickers". The crew was located inside the box, the driver's seat was on the right side. In the right tower was the commander's seat, in the left of the machine gunner. The standard armament consisted of two 7, 71 mm Vickers machine guns.

In the Type B modification, the armament included a 47 mm cannon and a 7, 71 mm Vickers machine gun. The gun ammunition consisted of 49 rounds of two types: high-explosive fragmentation and armor-piercing. An armor-piercing projectile pierced a vertically mounted armor plate up to 30 mm thick at a distance of 500 meters, and this tank posed a serious threat to other tanks.

The weight of the tank was 7 tons when the front of the hull was 13 mm, the sides and stern of the hull were 10 mm, the turret was 10 mm, and the roof and bottom were 5 mm. A radio station was installed on certain modifications of the Type B tank.

An Armstrong-Siddeley "Puma" 92 hp air-cooled engine was used as a power plant, which quite often overheated and failed. The tank developed a speed of 37 km / h and provided a course of 120 km.

The undercarriage of the tank was of a very original design, consisted of 8 support rollers blocked in pairs in 4 bogies, while each pair of bogies had a single balancer with a suspension on leaf springs, 4 support rollers and a fine-link caterpillar 230 mm wide. The suspension scheme turned out to be very successful and served as the basis for many other tanks.

Light tank Vickers Carden-Loyd ("Vickers" four-ton)

The tank was developed in 1933 as a "commercial" tank, from 1933 to 1940 it was produced exclusively for export. On a riveted hull with an inclined frontal sheet, a single rotating turret of a cylindrical or faceted structure was installed, shifted to the left side.


The engine compartment was located on the right, and on the left, behind the partition, the control compartment and the fighting compartment. Transmission and 90 hp engine were located on the right in the bow of the hull and provided a tank speed of 65 km / h. The driver's seat and movement controls were located on the left, above the driver's head was an armored wheelhouse with a viewing slot.

The crew of the tank is 2 people. The fighting compartment occupied the middle and rear of the tank, here was the place of the commander - the shooter. The armament of the tank is 7, 71 mm Vickers machine gun. The view from the commander's seat was provided through the slots with bulletproof glass in the sides of the tower and with the help of a machine-gun sight.

The thickness of the armor of the turret, the forehead and sides of the hull is 9 mm, the roof and bottom of the hull are 4 mm. The undercarriage is blocked, on each side there are two double-wheel balance bogies, suspended on leaf springs. Weighing 3, 9 tons, the tank could reach speeds of up to 64 km / h on the highway.

Depending on the customer's requirements, the tanks differed in design and characteristics. In 1935, a batch of T15 tanks was delivered to Belgium. The vehicles were distinguished by a conical turret and a Belgian version of the armament, which consisted of a 13, 2-mm Hotchkiss machine gun and an anti-aircraft 7, 66-mm FN-Browning machine gun.

Light tank Mk.VI

The final model of the series of light tanks developed in the interwar period was the Mk.VI light tank, created in 1936 on the basis of the experience in the development of light tanks MK.I, II, III, IV, V, which were not widely used in the army.

The layout of the tank was typical for light tanks of that time. In the forward part of the hull, on the starboard side, there was a Meadows ESTL engine with a power of 88hp. and a mechanical transmission from Wilson. On the left side was the driver's seat and controls. The fighting compartment occupied the central and aft part of the corps. There were places for a machine gunner and a vehicle commander. The tower was double, in the stern of the tower there was a niche for installing a radio station.


On the roof of the tower there was a round double hatch and a commander's cupola with a viewing device and an upper hatch. A large-caliber 12, 7-mm machine gun and a 7, 71-mm machine gun paired with it were installed in the turret. The tank weighed 5, 3 tons, the crew was 3 people.

The structure of the hull was riveted and was assembled from sheets of rolled armor steel, the thickness of the frontal armor of the hull and turret was 15 mm, the sides were 12 mm.

The undercarriage was of an original design, on each side there were two bogies with two road wheels equipped with a Horstman suspension system ("double scissors") and a supporting roller installed between the first and second roller.

The drive wheel was in front, the caterpillar was fine-link 241 mm wide. The tank developed a speed of 56 km / h and had a cruising range of 210 km.

On the basis of the tank, several modifications of light tanks and military tracked vehicles for various purposes were developed, in total, about 1300 of these tanks were produced. The Mk.VI was England's most massive tank during the interwar period and formed the backbone of its armored forces.

The state of England's tank fleet before the war

In the interwar period, a program for the creation of heavy, medium and light tanks was implemented in England, but only certain types of light tanks became widespread. As a result of the aftermath of the Great Depression, the serial production of heavy tanks Mk.VIII and A1E1 was not launched in England, and the production of medium tanks of the Medium Tanks Mk.I, II, III series was discontinued. On the eve of the war, only light tanks remained in the army (1002 light tanks Mk.VI and 79 medium tanks Medium Tanks Mk.I, II).

Before World War II, England was not ready for modern warfare; it was developing tanks for the previous war. Of the entire generation of interwar tanks in the European theater of war of World War II, the British army initially used in limited numbers only light tanks Mk.VI, which they quickly had to abandon. These tanks were used in secondary "colonial" theaters of operations against a weak enemy. During the war, England had to develop and establish the production of a completely different class of machines in accordance with the requirements of the war.

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