Cruiser Tank Mk II (A10)
The Cruiser Tank Mk II was a short-lived British tank designed by Sir John Carden - only 175 examples were produced.
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The A10 was of conventional design weighing in at 15.7 tons (short). She fielded a running length of 18 feet, 4 inches with a width of 8 feet, 4 inches. Her height to the turret top was 8 feet, 8 inches which made her a relatively small target at distance. The multiple crew was charged with operating in very tight confines though communication was relatively open with no compartment bulkheads featured. The engine was fitted to the rear of the hull which allowed for an expanded forward-set crew area. The drive sprocket was at the rear with the track idler at front and three track return rollers used to guide the upper track regions in place. The running gear included six rubber-tired road wheels with the two-most out ones being of a noticeably larger diameter than the four inside pairings. Riveted hull construction was highly apparent and presented a danger to the crew inside in the event of a direct hit (rivets and shell splinters could ricochet all about the inside). A pair of circular headlamps was installed at each front hull corner for low-level/night time driving. Not an imposing specimen, the A10 nonetheless filled a required need of the time.
First production quality vehicles entered service in late-1939/early-1940, the sole operator only ever being the British Army (the type was never exported). 175 units were ultimately ordered and this production was spread across Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company (45), Metropolitan-Cammell (45) and Vickers (10). A follow-up order with Birmingham Railway Carriage netted the final 75 units which proved rather distinct in their additional armor protection - though this did little to prove the type effective in modern combat of the day.
The A10 managed only a short service life in World War 2 when it was pressed into action during the defense of France through the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Despite their being built around speed, these cruiser tanks had trouble navigating the variable French countryside under the stresses of combat that consisted of obstacles, uneven terrain and mud. They did prove reliable under certain circumstances, however, particularly when in use at the defense of Tobruk in the dry African desert during 1941. It was to be noted that many examples actually fell to their own mechanical shortcomings, primarily in the track links which were prone to breaking free of the running gear, than actual enemy fire during their short time abroad. With A10s still in supply, the type was also shipped for combat in Greece and gave a good account of themselves there on the whole. However, their use after 1941 fell off precipitously through basic wartime/mechanical attrition and more modern, capable models coming online in the British inventory.
Despite its limited production numbers, the A10 saw three major variants produced beginning with the original 31 examples under the base Mk II designation. The Mk IIA was similar with the exception of a protected radio station and the coaxial Vickers machine gun replaced by a BESA type for improved logistics (the same ammunition could now be used across both machine gun installations). The Mk IIA CS saw its 40mm main gun given up in favor of a 94mm field howitzer for use as a close support system (hence its "CS" designation). The Mk IIA CS model was primarily intended to supply on-call smoke screens for advancing (or retreating) friendly units. The A10 chassis went on to influence another more well-known British Army tank, the Valentine Infantry Tank of 1940 which saw production figures reach over 8,200 examples.
One example of the Cruiser Mk IIA CS resides at the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK.