British Tank Tree
Research and tree image by Chuffy
Photos and models by kind permission of Nick Turner
1. British Pre-Alpha Tree
2. Selected Vehicle list
- Vickers Light Tank
- Harry Hopkins
- Matilda II
- Black Prince
- Additional pictures
3. Chuffy's notes and thanks
1. British Pre-Alpha Tree by Chuffy based on this source. Link to the full Hi res version of this image (2000x1550).
I have adjusted the slightly tangled middle section of the tree for clarity. The links, tiers and branches remain the same.
If I have misidentified any premium & special vehicles, please let me know. Confusingly the original Russian text identifies both Tank Destroyers and Self Propelled Guns as CAY (SPG)
Note 1: The Sentinel AC III is listed as штурмовая САУ (Assault SPG), possibly meaning Tank Destroyer. The AC III classification may be an error or the intent of the designers. Until we can work out what they meant, the AC III is listed as a Tank Destroyer. It'll be changed if we can find out what it's meant to be in the game.
2. Selected Vehicle list
Vickers Light Tank
Based on the Carden-Loyd Tankette, the Vickers Light Tank was developed in the 1930s. Whilst mobile and fast across country, it proved inadequate due to its thin armour and machine gun armament. Early in World War II, lack of equipment forced the British to use them in combat rather than reconnaissance often with disasterous results. Around 1,000 were produced. Note: This tank is not actually on the British Tree, it's to give you some idea of Vickers tanks, EU poster Eat_Uranium has suggested this would make a better starter tank than 'Little Willie'.
The Light Tank Mk VII Tetrarch proved early on in the war to be too lightly armed and armoured and was quickly withdrawn from combat. It was later adapted as an Airborne tank and a Hamilcar glider was designed to carry it. Used by the British on D-Day, the then upgunned Tetrarch still proved ineffective against axis armour.
Named after one of President Roosevelt's chief advisors, the Light Tank Mk VIII "Harry Hopkins" was produced as a successor to the Tetrarch. Obselete by the time it was produced, none ever saw combat. It was later adapted into the Alecto, an experimental self propelled gun.
The A12 Matilda first saw action during the fall of France. It fared reasonably well in the early stages of the North African campaign being sturdy enough to withstand most German Tank guns and outclassing the armour of the Italians. The turret limited the gun to a maximum of 40mm making the Matilda obselete by 1942. About 3,000 were produced and served both the British and Commonwealth forces as well as the Soviet Union under the lend-lease programme.
The Infantry Tank Mk III Valentine first saw combat in North Africa. Relatively undergunned and slow the Valentine did at least have decent armour. Armament gradually improved as the war progressed and 11 different marks were developed. A total production of more than 8,000 made it the most widely built British tank of WWII. It was used by both the British and Commonwealth forces as well as the Soviet Union under the lend-lease programme.
The Cruiser Tank Mk V Convenanter was beset by technical problems during it's development and before it could see action was declared obselete. Some vehicles were used for training purposes and a Bridgelaying version was used operationally, however most were scrapped. Around 1,700 were produced.
Early production. Note the uncovered track tops.
Named after Winston Churchill, an early proponent of Tank warfare during the first World War, the Infantry Tank Mk IV Churchill was not fully introduced until 1943. Performance during the Dieppe raid in 1942 was disappointing, however the Cromwell proved mobile over the rough terrain of North Africa. The Tank excelled in specialised variants, such as the AVRE, Crocodile flame thrower, bridgelayer and more. In the end the Churchill gave excellent service and was not retired until the 1960s. Over 7,000 were produced and it was used by both the British and Commonwealth forces as well as the Soviet Union under the lend-lease programme.
The Cruiser Tank Mk VI Crusader first appeared in 1941. Fast and mobile, their suspension was so tough that the theoretical maximum speed was often exceeded. However they were thinly armoured and lacked firepower, being no match for their German counterparts. Inspite of improvements, it was replaced as quickly as possible when the M4 Sherman became available. Over 5,000 were produced.
Developed from the hard lessons learnt during the fall of France and the North African Campaign, the Cruiser Tank Mk VIII Cromwell combined stronger armour and armament with increased speed. First seeing action in Normandy during June 1944, around 4,000 were produced.
The Infantry Tank A43 Black Prince was a prototype designed to accomodate a 17 pounder gun on a larger modified version of the Churchill chassis. The Churchill's standard engine was not powerful enough for the Black Prince, which was 10 tonnes heavier. Only 6 pilot models were made before production ceased.
Not to be confused with the Challenger I and II post war tanks, the Cruiser Tank Mk VIII Challenger was based on a Cromwell chassis enlarged to carry a 17 pounder gun. In order to keep weight down, hull armour thickness had to be reduced. Only about 200 were made before production ceased. It first saw combat in Normandy in 1944.
The A34 Comet was the first British Cruiser tank to pose a credible threat to late war German Armour. It's High Velocity 77mm gun was capable of knocking out the Tiger II at 500m and the Panther up to 1500m. Although comparatively lightly armoured, the Roll Royce Meteor engine could propel the Comet to a governed top speed of about 50Kmh. The prototype was completed in February 1944, with the first production tanks following in September 1944. It arrived in service early in 1945 just prior to the end of the war. Around 1,200 were used by the British Army up until the late 1950s.
The Centurion was developed from 1944 by AEC under the designation A41 Cruiser. Six prototypes were completed by the end of the war, but arrived in Germany too late to see any Combat. About 4,000 were produced and post-war Centurions saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, India and Suez.
The FV214 Conqueror was designed in response to the Soviet IS3. It was equipped with a 120mm gun and based on the Centurion. Nearly 200 were built between 1955 and 1958. Ultimately it was too cumbersome and difficult to maintain and was itself replaced by upgunned versions of the Centurion.
At the start of World War II, Canada had no tank units. With no possibility of obtaining tanks from Britain, the Canadians were forced to build their own. The Cruiser Tank Ram Mk I based on the American M3, replacing the sponson for a turret mounted main gun. However it did not see action as by the time it arrived in Europe, the M4 Sherman was being produced in such numbers that is was decided to adopt this as the standard for Canadian units. The Ram's greatest contribution to Allied victory was as the basis for the Sexton self-propelled gun and as a training vehicle. Around 2,000 were produced.
The Heavy Assault Tank A39 Tortoise was first designed in 1942. Only pilot models were produced and were not delivered until 1946-47 and consequently it never saw combat. The thick armour, heavy main gun and overall size limited it's speed to a mere 19Kmh.
3. Chuffy's notes and thanks
In researching the British tank tree I have noticed a recurrent theme from the various sources I have read. A large number of British fighting vehicles during the Second World War were considered by many commentators to be utterly dreadful. Underpowered, underarmoured, undergunned and effectively obselete in the face of Axis armour.
As one book 'Death by Design: British Tank Development in the Second World War' notes: "Britain went from leading the world in tank design at the end of the First World War to lagging far behind the design quality of Russian and German tanks in the Second World War."
The reality is somewhat different. Even the much maligned Valentine tanks possessed armour that could not be penetrated from the front by the majority of contemporary German tank guns. This will have been little comfort to crews taken out by 88mm anti-tank guns at ranges which they could effectively return fire.
However, battles are not fought nor won only with tanks. It was fought with the combined effort of the British and Commonwealth Armies, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force as well as those free forces of the occupied nations. Prior to the direct involvement of the USA, British Tanks were at least helping keep the Axis forces in check in North Africa.
History has damned the design of many British Tanks and with hindsight that is easy to do. But the origins of the Tank in the First World War were as a means of ending the deadlock of trench warfare. Interwar years had seen British tank development largely following that doctrine, the Tank was designed to support the infantry in breaking through enemy lines. Tank versus tank battles on open battlefields had probably not been conceived of at the time.
Over the course of World War II British Tank design did improve eventually. No more was the Tank merely a means of advancing slowly across no-mans land. One of histories most famous and successful postwar Tank designs, the Centurion, was first developed during the war.
In World of Tanks the British Tanks are quite varied in their design, a characteristic they share with their Axis opponents. Where the US and USSR Tank trees often feel like more of the same, the British Tree looks to be as diverse as the German Tree feels.
Presented here is a selection of some of the British Tanks that may appear, along with some pictures by Tank Modeller Nick Turner who has very kindly granted me permission to reproduce the images. You can find many more examples on his website here. Note: All the photos marked as such are the copyright of Nick Turner.
I should also like to thank Kazomir for posting the British Pre-Alpha Tech tree here. It was what inspired me to reproduce the Tech Tree above in the Art style normally used for the official trees.
I have greatly enjoyed researching these tanks histories, but I have tried to keep them brief. You will notice many of the vehicles on the tree are missing from my descriptions. This is because, information was more difficult to come by OR I did not have multiple sources for the information OR I simply ran out of time for the deadline I had set myself.
I invite fellow forum members to help fill in the gaps. And, in cases where I am in error, I welcome corrections. When writing information about the tanks, please do not simply copy paste from Wikipedia because any reader can look it up if they wish. I have sourced my information from a number of books as the internet too often copies and reproduces the same errors. Wikipedia is frequently guilty of this (or rather, the incautious editors are). But there are some good sources on the web, so if you do find them please share links here.
Finally, I make two predictions.
1. The Gold consumable for British Tank crews will be Tea.
You know it makes sense!
2. Wild guess: Little Willie will be replaced by Whippet as the British starter Tank.
Armoured Fight Vehicles - Philip Trewhitt
Jane's World Armoured Fighting Vehicles - Christopher F. Foss
Iron Fist: Classic Armoured Warfare - Bryan Perret
British Armoured Fighting Vehicles - George R. Bradford
Tank Aces - George Forty
Modern Tanks and Fighting Vehicles - Ray Bonds
Tank versus Tank - Kenneth Macksey
Some of these books are quite old or out of print. One of the advantages of living within walking distance of 3 large second hand book shops is that I am not limited to what is currently in print.