Light Tank Mk VIII (A25) (Harry Hopkins)
Nothing more than a larger and better-armored form of the compact Tetrarch Light Tank, the Harry Hopkins made little impact on the war effort for the British.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
In an effort to better equip British light tank regiments prior to the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), Army authorities invested in the Light Tank Mk VII "Tetrarch". This 16,800lb vehicle entered design work in 1938 under the Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd brand label and under 200 units were produced for service in the Second World War. However, the design was found to be too light for frontline service early on so its direct-combat role as part of the main fighting force was reduced significantly. Before the end, the vehicle was found to be somewhat suitable for airborne forces and used in the famous Allied invasion of Normandy in June of 1944 but even then they went out of service by August of that year.
Despite its initial shortcomings, there proved some notable variants of the Tetrarch line including the Light Tank Mk VIII "Harry Hopkins" - named after the American advisor and New Deal architect, Harry Hopkins (1890-1946). The Harry Hopkins was essentially a dimensionally larger version of the Tetrarch with improved armor protection but retained much of the form and function of the original design. However, the weight gains seen in the Harry Hopkins design precluded it from being transported by military glider as was the case with the more famous Tetrarch series of light tanks.
As with the Tetrarch, the Harry Hopkins was designed by the engineers at Vickers-Armstrong and weighed just over 19,000lb with an overall length of 14.2 feet, a beam of 8.7 feet and a height of 6.10 feet. The crew remained three personnel made up of the driver, commander and gunner. Armament was the same with the main gun being a single Ordnance QF 2-pounder weapon (50 projectiles carried) and a single 7.92mm BESA machine gun (2,025 rounds of ammunition afforded). The engine remained the Meadows brand but the gasoline-fueled system was down-rated to 149 horsepower (from 165hp). The vehicle also held on to the unique steerable wheel arrangement that the Tetrarch had. Operational road speeds reached 30 miles per hour and range was out to 200 miles.
The compact tank had a running gear consisting of four road wheels to a hull side with a thin-width track-link system wrapping around the four units from bow to stern. The hull superstructure had slightly angled surfaces for basic ballistics protection and the turret was situated over the hull roof, this too including angled surfaces for protection. The main gun protruded from the frontal facing in the usual way with a large mantlet seated at its entry point into the turret. The engine was fitted to the rear of the hull.
Metro-Cammell was charged with production of what turned out to be 100 machines (from 1943 to 1945) to the standard detailed above and the line was intended as a direct successor to the Tetrarch itself. However, at the time the Harry Hopkins was ready for service, the value of light-class armored vehicles waned considerably on the modern battlefield - where enemy tanks were progressing in areas of both armor protection and firepower. The poor showing of light tanks in the Battle of France also spelled the death knell for the Hopkins more or less. For a brief period it was suggested that the tank be reserved for the fast reconnaissance role when other vehicles could not meet the demand but this idea eventually fell to naught and the stock was handed to the Royal Air Force (RAF) to protect its various bases from direct attack. One Hopkins prototype was equipped with wings and tested as a air-launched flying "glider-tank" but crashed - ending this idea as well. The "Alecto" was a self-propelled gun / close assault tank offshoot of the Hopkins but this saw just limited production and no combat service in the war.
The Harry Hopkins design path was all but dead before the end of 1942. The American M5 "Stuart" light tank (detailed elsewhere on this site) and the various half-tracks and scout cars more than made up for the gap in inventory.