MANUFACTURER(S): Nuffield Mechanization & Aero Ltd / English Electric / Leyland - UK
OPERATORS: United Kingdom
Detailing the development and operational history of the Cruiser Tank Mk IV (A13) Cruiser Tank.
Entry last updated on 4/27/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
After World War 1 (1914-1918), and the introduction of the "tank" as a viable battlefield piece, the British Army adopted the concept of utilizing "cruiser" and "infantry" tanks in concert. Cruiser tanks would be fast-driving, well-armed fast tanks fighting alongside heavier, slower-but-better-protected infantry tanks. the infantry tanks would create gaps in the enemy's defensive lines for which the cruisers would then be sent in to exploit now-vulnerable enemy flanks and rears. There proved many cruiser tanks seeing action prior to and during World War 2 (1939-1945), some successful, some not, with one becoming the "Tank, Cruiser, Mk IV (A13 Mk II). This system appeared during the fighting from 1940 to 1941. Evolved from the earlier Mk III line, the Mk IV proved of limited combat value in Europe where ost were lost but found greater use in the back-and-forth actions of the North African Campaign. Like other early-war British cruiser tanks, the Mk IV eventually ran its course and was given up in favor of more promising designs.
Despite the arrival of the Mk III series, the British War Office moved ahead on a revised version of the tank with better armor protection. This endeavor became the Mk IV Cruiser Tank which was largely built atop the remains of the Mk III design. Angled turret sides and additional armor - measuring up to 30mm (from the original 15mm) - were added while the original 2-pdr (40mm) main gun was retained (as was its coaxial 0.303 Vickers water-cooled machine gun) and Nuffield Liberty V12 gasoline engine of 340 horsepower. The hull was still suspended atop a Christie suspension system and operational range reached 90 miles with road speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
Rushed into service for 1940, the Mk IV was fielded in time for the Battle of France. However, such a hastily-tested and produced tank naturally fended poorly in combat against well-trained crews of the enemy. British Mk IV crews were largely outmoded by their German counterparts in training and sheer numbers, leaving many tanks to fall under the pressure of the invading foe. As such, the Mk IV line never saw success across the variable European landscape. If there proved a bright spot on the Mk IV's resume, it was in the capable fighting it offered across the North African Campaign where the system provided valuable service in the presented conditions and applied tactics. It gave a good combination of speed across the African terrain and fielded capable firepower when defeating the armor of the earlier Panzer light tanks and could hold its own against the early Panzer III and IV variants. Indeed, the vehicle was largely well-thought of by its tankers in this theater though its light armor made highly susceptible to German guns - including Anti-Tank (AT) crews. The Mk IV fought alongside many of its early cruiser sisters in this theater including Mk I (A9) and Mk II (A10) tanks.
The Mk IV only saw a single variant manufactured, this as the Mk IVA. The gun mantlet at the base of the main gun armament was revised for better protection and the original tank's 0.303 Vickers water-cooled coaxial machine gun was dropped in favor of a 7.92mm Besa air-cooled model. These tanks then saw considerable action in the African Campaign up to 1942 before their useful combat value had expired.