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Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M)

Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M)

Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M)

The Cruiser Tank Mk VIII Cromwell (A27M) was the most important British produced tank during the campaign in north-western Europe in 1944-45 by which time it had evolved into a reliable if somewhat under-gunned tank that performed well in the 'great swan' across France.

The basic design for the Cromwell emerged from an under-used Rolls Royce design team led by W A (Roy) Robotham. This team would normally have been working on designs for new Rolls Royce cars, but the company had cancelled all car production at the start of the war and were focusing entirely on the Merlin aircraft engine. Robotham and his team took over the Clan Foundry near Belper and began to look around for suitable war work. In October 1940 Robotham met with Henry Spurrier, the general manager of Leyland Motors and an old friend. The two men discussed the problems with British tank designs.

After this meeting Robotham and his team began to examine the possibility of fitting a Rolls-Royce engine in a cruiser tank. After testing a variety of Rolls Royce engines they settled on the Merlin Mk III, produced an unsupercharged version of the engine, and installed it in a Crusader tank. This was delivered to Aldershot for trials on 6 April 1941, three months after the A24 had been ordered. The Meteor powered Crusader excelled in its trials, going so fast that the time-keepers failed to time it properly, and on its first run it failed to take a corner and crashed into some trees! It was later estimated that the tank had reached around 50mph.

The new Meteor engine was clearly a major step up from the Liberty, but soon after being given a contract to build 1,000 of them Leylands changed their minds and asked to be allowed to return to Liberty production. Fortunately the funds were quickly found to pay Rolls Royce to begin production of the Meteor. Leyland's decision did have one negative result. Robotham had worked with the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company to produce a design for a tank to use his new engine. This was adopted as the A27, but instead of focusing entirely on a Meteor powered version, the decision was made to allow Leyland to produce the A27L Centaur, powered by a Liberty engine, while the BRC&W developed the A27M Cromwell. At this stage both were called the Cromwell, with the Liberty powered version being the Cromwell II and the Meteor powered version the Cromwell III. The more familiar names were adopted in November 1942.

The first prototype of the Meteor-engined heavy cruiser tank was running at the BRC&W works on 20 January 1942, two months ahead of the A24. In the same month production of the A24 was scaled back, but there was still a belief that there would be a shortage of Meteor engines, while Leyland was still committed to producing the Liberty. It was decided to modify the A27 design so that it could take either engine. Leyland was to control production of the Liberty-powered A27L, while BRC&W took on the A27M. This arrangement didn’t last for long - the BRC&W proved unable to cope with the demanding task and Leyland took over control of both projects.

The A27M was similar in appearance to the A24 and the earlier Crusader. It has a low flat rectangular hull with a stepped front to all for a hull machine gun. All of the sides were vertical, with no sloped armour. The turret was also flat sided, and had a welded substructure with the armour bolted on from inside. The engine was at the rear and the fighting compartment at the front. The turret had power traverse. The 6pdr version had manual gun elevation but the 75mm armed versions had geared elevation (reducing the amount of effort required to move the gun up or down, but because of the poor quality of the gearing making it harder to hit accurately).

The Cromwell was very similar in appearance to the Centaur. The only obvious visual difference was just behind the turret. On the Centaur the rear deck was level all the way from the turret to the back of the tank. On the Cromwell there was a raised armoured louvre just behind the turret, looking like a raised rectangle somewhat narrower than the turret itself.

In August 1943 the Cromwell had its first serious test. This was Exercise Dracula, a 2,300 mile long trip around Britain that was intended to compare the Cromwell, Centaur, Sherman M4A2 and Sherman M4A4. The Sherman came out as the most reliable, both on the move and in gunnery exercises. The Centaur was a near total failure. The Cromwell did a little better, but still needed far more maintenance on the road than the Sherman. As a result of this trial the Centaur was relegated to a secondary role, but the Cromwell designers were given more time to improve their product. A second longer test in November showed that the Cromwell was increasingly reliable but the Centaur still failed.

On 2 February 1944, with the D-Day landings getting closer, Leyland issued a specification for the Battle Cromwell, setting out a set of features that any individual tank would have before it would be considered combat ready. Battle ready tanks would have to have the correct versions of the Meteor engine and Merritt Brown transmission, 6mm extra amour below the crew compartment and all major riveted joints in the front hull and on the outer turret skin plates seam welded, making them stronger and more water proof. The 6pdr armed Cromwell I and Cromwell III were removed from the front line. Only tanks that satisfied this Final Specification were to be issued to the units fighting in Normandy, and as a result they had a reliable tank.


The 7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats) was the main user of the Cromwell. It had one reconnaissance regiment and three regiments making up 22nd Armoured Brigade, all of which used the Cromwell. At the end of June the VIIIth King's Royal Irish Hussars were the reconnaissance regiment, while the 22nd Armoured Brigade was made up of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 5th Royal Tank Regiment and 4th County of London Yeomanry. In July this last regiment suffered heavy losses at Villers Bocage and was replaced by the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. At the end of June 1944 the division had 201 Cromwells with the 75mm gun, 25 with the 95mm gun and eight OP tanks.

11th Armoured Division and the Guards Armoured Division both used the Cromwell in their Armoured Recce Regiments. For the Guards this was 2nd Battalion the Welsh Guard, who had 59 with the 75mm gun and six with the 95mm gun at the end of June 1944. In 11th Armoured this was the 2nd Northampton Yeomanry in June 1944, ending the month with 62 75mm and six 96mm tanks. In August the Northamptons were replaced by the 15th/19th King's Royal Hussars.

The Cromwell was used by the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, and by three regiments in the 1st (Czechoslovak) Independent Armoured Brigade, although their tanks arrived after June 1944.

In June 1944 Cromwell regiments at full strength had 70% 75mm tanks, 10% 95mm tanks and 20% Sherman Fireflys (some used the British Challenger).

The Cromwell suffered during the fighting in Normandy, where the boccage meant its high speed couldn't be used. After the Falaise Gap closed in mid-August the Allies broke out of Normandy, and the Cromwell came into its own (August was the second most costly month for Cromwell regiments, with 143 lost). It's high speed and surprisingly good reliability meant that it was able to keep up with the faster moving parts of the army, and inspired Montgomery to claim that the great advance was only possible because of the British cruiser tanks and wouldn't have been possible with Panthers and Tigers. The Allies reached Antwerp on 4 September and the fast moving Cromwells were with them.

Another period of largely static warfare followed. October saw the worst casualty figures, with 174 Cromwells lost, although replacements were still arriving in large numbers – by 30 December there were 1,063 Cromwell Mk IVs in Europe.

In combat the Cromwell was praised by its users for its reliability, but it was vulnerable to mines (because of its limited belly armour), and the 75mm gun wasn't good enough for use against the heavily armoured Panthers and Tigers. The tank was also rather under-armoured for the period, but this at least was deliberate – protection was meant to come from the tank's speed, fine during the 'great swan' but not during the close-quarters fighting in Normandy. Despite its flaws the Cromwell was a vast improvement on previous British cruiser tanks, and was only beaten by the Comet, which entered service in small numbers after the crossing of the Rhine and by the Centurion, which arrived just after the end of the fighting.


Cromwell I

6pdr gun, two Besa MGs, riveted hull, bolted turret, 14in track

Cromwell II

The Cromwell II would have been armed with the 6pdr gun and used 15.5in tracks. The Cromwell II never entered production. It was to have been produced by Vauxhall after production of the Churchill ended but that tank performed better than expected and remained in production.

Cromwell III

The Cromwell III was the designation given to the Centaur I (6pdr gun) when equipped with a Meteor engine.

Cromwell IV

The Cromwell IV was the designation given to Centaur IIIs (armed with the 75mm gun) that were either re-engined or built from scratch (by companies in the Centaur pool) using the Meteor engine.

Cromwell V

The Cromwell V was armed with a 75mm gun, and was the most numerous version of the tank. It was also produced with a welded hull as the Mk Vw.

Cromwell VI

The Cromwell VI was a close-support version of the tank, armed with a 95mm howitzer. This designation was given both to newly built Cromwells and to Centaurs completed with the Meteor engine.

Cromwell VII/ Cromwell 7

The Cromwell VII was a post-war modification of the tank. It was armed with the 75mm gun, had a low-speed final drive, 15.5in wide tracks and heavy duty front axles. It was produced by modifying Mk IV and V tanks, and was also produced as the Mk 7w which was based on the Mk Vw.

Cromwell VIII/ Cromwell 8

The Cromwell VIII was similar to the Mk VII, but was based on the 95mm armed Cromwell VI.

Production: 2,494-2,607 (Roughly 1800 75mm gun, 340 CS, 350 6pdr)
Hull Length: 20ft 10in
Hull Width: 9ft 6.5in
Height: 8ft 2in
Crew: 5
Weight: 27-28 tons
Engine: 600hp Meteor
Max Speed: 32-40mph
Armament: Varied – see above
Armour: 8-76mm

Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger

The Tank, Cruiser, Challenger (A30) was a British tank of World War II. It mounted the QF 17-pounder anti-tank gun on a chassis derived from the Cromwell tank to add anti-tank firepower to the cruiser tank units. The design compromises made in fitting the large gun onto the Cromwell chassis resulted in a tank with a powerful weapon and reduced armour. The extemporised 17-pounder Sherman Firefly conversion of the US-supplied Sherman was easier to produce and, with delays in production, only 200 Challengers were built. The Challenger was able to keep up with the fast Cromwell tank and was used with them.


Cromwell var resultatet av en vidareutveckling av de brittiska kryssarstridsvagnarna och konstruerades för att ersätta Crusader-stridsvagnarna som höll på att föråldras. 1941 gav den brittiska generalstaben sina specifikationer för en ny stridsvagn. [ 1 ]

På grund av den typiskt framhetsade produktionen och brister på komponenter kom den första prototypstridsvagnen, benämnd Cruiser tank Mk VII "Cavalier", att lida av många barnsjukdomar och kom aldrig i tjänst. Ett av de största problemen låg hos dess Liberty L-12-motor som helt enkelt inte kunde uppfylla kraven. [ 2 ]

En ny motor, som baserade sig på den kraftfulla Rolls-Royce Merlin-flygmotorn (som bland annat användes i Supermarine Spitfire) utvecklades och kallades för Meteor. Den viktigaste skillnaden var att Meteor-motorn saknade kompressor, vilket sänkte motoreffekten. I övrigt handlade skillnaderna endast om smärre detaljer [ 3 ] . Samtidigt planerades en ny stridsvagn för att möta samma specifikation som Cavalier misslyckats med att uppfylla, nu under beteckningen A27 Mk VIII. A27 projekterades i två versioner, en med den gamla Liberty-motorn och beteckningen A27L Centaur och en med den nya Meteor-motorn under beteckningen A27M Cromwell [ 1 ] . Den senare skulle då fullt kunna utnyttja den extra kraft som nu fanns tillgänglig, 570 hk (425 kW) [ 1 ] jämfört med 395 hk (295 kW) för Liberty-motorn [ 2 ] .

A27L Centaur I sattes i produktion i juni 1942 [ 2 ] , och i januari 1943 inleddes till slut även tillverkningen av A27M Cromwell I [ 1 ] .

De första versionerna var utrustade med ROQF 6-pdr, men redan 1943 togs beslut att utrusta stridsvagnen med en tyngre pjäs. I oktober samma år inleddes så produktionen av Cromwell IV utrustad med den nya ROQF 75 mm-kanonen. Pjäsen var baserad på den mindre 6-pundskanonen, och kunde använda amerikansk 75 mm ammunition. [ 1 ] Även Centaur-stridsvagnen kom att utrustas med den tyngre pjäsen på varianten Centaur III, men den kom att tillverkas endast i begränsat antal. [ 2 ]

Av bägge stridsvagnarna togs också varsin variant för närunderstöd fram, utrustad med en kortpipig 94 mm-pjäs. Dessa bar beteckningarna Cromwell VIII [ 1 ] respektive Centaur IV [ 2 ] .

FV 4101 Charioteer [ redigera | redigera wikitext ]

Tidigt på 1950-talet ville man ge extra eldkraft åt de brittiska pansarstyrkorna. Vissa Cromwell-vagnar erhöll därför en 20-pundskanon (kaliber 84 mm, samma som utnyttjades av Centurionstridsvagnen) i ett nytt torn. Resultatet kallades för FV� Charioteer tank destroyer, och klassificerades alltså som pansarvärnskanonvagn då dess pansarskydd var för svagt för att kunna mäta sig med moderna stridsvagnar. Omkring 200 enheter byggdes om till denna standard av Robinson and Kershaw Ltd i Cheshire. I praktiken kom Charioteer-stridsvagnen endast att utnyttjas av brittiska territorialstyrkor, och i slutet av 50-talet såldes de flesta till Finland, Jordanien och Österrike. Vissa av de jordanska Charioteer-vagnarna gavs senare till Libanon. Flera av dem användes av PLO mot israeliska styrkor i södra Libanon under Operation Litani (1978). Österrike köpte 80 stridsvagnar.

Cruiser Tank Mk. VIII, Cromwell Mk. I

Equipped with the Royal Ordnance QF 6 Pounder Mk III (57mm) cannon with 64 rounds of ammunition. Only used for training. 1059 were built.

Centaur II

Experimental Centaur 1 with wider tracks and no hull MG.

Centaur III

Centaur armed with the Royal Ordnance QF 75mm Mk V cannon.

Centaur IV

Armed with a Royal Ordnance QF 95mm Howitzer with 51 rounds of ammunition. This is the only Centaur model known to see combat. The vehicles were equipped with wading gear to assist in shore landings with the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group. Trunking waterproofed and engine inlets and covers were fitted to the guns. 114 produced.

Centaur, AA Mk I

A Crusader III, AA Mk II turret fitted with twin 20mm Polsten cannons. Originally developed in Normandy, but withdrawn as unnecessary due to Allied air superiority. 95 were produced.

Centaur, AA Mk II

A Crusader III, AA Mk III turret fitted with twin 20mm Polsten cannons.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell

A w after the Roman numeral depicts a welded instead of riveted hull.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell I

Same as Centaur I, but using a Meteor engine.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell II

Increased track width and removal of the hull MG to increase stowage. None produced.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell III

Centaur I upgraded with Meteor engine.

200 produced. Unknown differences between Cromwell I and III.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell IV

Centaur I or III upgraded with Meteor engine, or built from scratch. >1935 produced.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell IVw

Welded hull version of Cromwell IV.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell Vw

Cromwell built from the start with the Royal Ordnance QF 75mm Mk V gun and a welded hull instead of riveted hull.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell VI

Cromwell armed with a Royal Ordnance QF 95mm Howitzer.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell VII

Cromwell IV and Cromwell V upgraded with additional armour (101mm to front), wider 15.5in tracks, and an additional gearbox. Produced late in the war and did not see much combat.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell VIIw

Cromwell Vw reworked to Cromwell VII standard, or built as new to that standard.

Cruiser Mk VIII, Cromwell VIII

Cromwell VI reworked with the same upgrades as the VII.

Designs Based on Chassis

Cruiser, Challenger

A lengthened Cromwell chassis and widened structure to mount a new turret featuring a Royal Ordnance 17 Pounder.

SP 17pdr, Avenger

This vehicle was the same as the Challenger above, but with a lighter, open-topped turret.

Heavy Assault, Excelsior

A heavy assault tank developed because there was concerns about the Churchill being too slow and unreliable. This design follows the concept of the Churchill, but on the Cromwell chassis. Equipped with a Royal Ordnance QF 75mm.

FV4101 Charioteer

Equipped with a Royal Ordnance QF 20 Pounder (84mm), this Medium Tank / Tank Destroyer was a Cromwell chassis with a new turret to accommodate the large main gun. Designed in 1950s.

Centaur Dozer

A Centaur with the turret removed and given a simple dozer blade. The winch passed over the top of the hull so it was not possible to retain the turret. 250 produced.

Centaur Observation Post (OP)

A Centaur with a dummy main gun, and extra radio communications.

Centaur Kangaroo

A Centaur with the turret removed to make space for passengers.

Centaur Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV)

A Centaur with turret removed and replaced with a winch, and an optional A-frame.

Cromwell Command

The main gun was removed and it carried one No.19 (Low Power) and one No.19 (High Power) wireless sets. These were used by brigade and divisional HQ.

Cromwell Observation Post (OP)

Cromwell IV, VI or VIII fitted with extra radio equipment (2x No.19, 2x No.38). The main gun was still functional.

Cromwell Control

Two No.19 (Lower Power) radios. Main gun functional, used by Regimental HQ.


The Cromwell had a few variants of the main tank. Most variants were just converted from A27L Cruiser Tank Mk. VIII Centuar to the Cromwell. Α]

  • Cromwell I: A Centaur I with an early V12 Meteor engine. Produced with the Ordnance QF 6-pounder gun (57 mm).
  • Cromwell II: This was only a concept, they had a wider track width (from 14in to 15.5 in), and removing the hull mounted 7.92 mm BESA Machine Gun to increase storage.
  • Cromwell III: Converted Centaur I's with the early V12 Meteor Engine.
  • Cromwell IV: This variant of Cromwell was the most widely produced of all the variants. This model of Cromwell had a new V12 Meteor engine and a re-chambered 6-pounder gun as a 75 mm gun.
  • Cromwell IVw: This variant of Cromwell had the modifications as the Cromwell IV but the hull was welded instead of riveted (Thus the 'w' in the name).
  • Cromwell Vw: A model of Cromwell which was produced with a welded hull and a 75 mm gun from the start.
  • Cromwell VI: New main armament, 95 mm Howitzer. Used as a close support tank that carries smoke and HE rounds.
  • Cromwell VII: Late variant, had additional armour (101 mm on the front flat plate), wider tracks (15.5 in), an additional gearbox, and a larger turret ring. Many Cromwell IV's and V's had been converted to this model of Cromwell.
  • Cromwell VIIw: Reworked from Cromwell Vw to fit Cromwell VII modifications and a welded hull
  • Cromwell VIII: Reworked Cromwell VIs with Cromwell VIIs upgrades.

The hull of the Cromwell was changed over the time it was produced:

  • Hull Type A: Driver and Hull Machine Gunner had lift up "suicide" hatches similar to the Cavalier. These could be blocked by the turret, preventing emergency egress.
  • Hull Type B: Hull Machine Gunner's hatch changed to a side opening safety hatch. The number of track-guard bins is reduced from 4 to 3 to make way for the hatch.
  • Hull Type C: Air inlet redesigned to trapezoid shape. Introduction of Valentine type (rack and pawl) eccentric axle.
  • Hull Type D: Engine deck reworked to provide easy access to radiators.
  • Hull Type E: Final drive reduction gear ratio lowered, top speed reduced from 40 to 32 mph.
  • Hull Type F: Driver and Hull Machine Gunner have a side opening safety hatches. The number of track-guard bins is reduced to 2 to make way for the hatches. Turret side bins are added to replace the lost stowage.

Hull types D to F apply to Cromwell IV and onwards exclusively.

Additional variations were also introduced by some factories. A subset of vehicles had different hatches and/or track tensioners. Vehicles with the alternative track tensioner were predominantly built as Centaur, leading to some confusion on whether this is a Centaur-only feature. Crews in-theatre also experimented with exhaust cowls until a new curved rear cowl was added to the tank specification to prevent exhaust gasses being sucked back into the turret.

The chassis of the Cromwell had a wide use in many tanks in the British Army:

  • Cromwell Command: Main gun had been removed. 2 Wireless (No. 19) radio sets were carried (One was high power, the other low power). It was used by Brigade and Divisional HQ (Head Quarters)
  • Cromwell Observation Post: Cromwell IV, VI and VIII, with 2 No.19 Radio Sets and 2 (Portable) No.38 radio Sets.
  • Cromwell Control: Used by Regimental HQ. Had 2 Low Power No.19 Radio Sets
    (modified hull and turret)
    (modified chassis)
    (modified chassis)
  • FV4101 Charioteer: Postwar design (1950), fitted with a new turret that houses a new ROQF (Royal Ordnance Quick Fire) 20-pounder gun .

Varianter [ redigera | redigera wikitext ]

Föregångare till Centaur/Cromwell. Stannade på prototypstadiet, men vissa lösningar kom att användas på de efterföljande konstruktionerna. [ 2 ]

Centaur I
Första varianten. Bestyckad med 6-pundskanonen (med 64 skott). Användes endast för träning. [ 2 ]

Centaur II
Mark I med bredare band och avsaknad av chassikulspruta. Endast för tester.

Centaur III
Centaur bestyckad med 75 mm ROQF Mk V-kanonen. Tillverkades endast i begränsat antal. [ 2 ] År 1943 byggdes de flesta Centaur I om till version III, men vissa förblev version I.

Centaur IV (80)
Centaur bestyckad med en 94 mm haubits (51 skott) för närunderstöd. Deltog i strid med Royal Marines Armoured Support Group, den brittiska marinkårens bepansrade understödsgrupp. [ 2 ] Fordonen utrustades för djupvadning för att kunna verka i samband med landstigningsoperationer. Motorerna utrustades med höga luftrör och gjordes vattentäta, och vapen täcktes med skydd.

Centaur III/IV, AA Mk I
Centaur-chassi med Mk II lv-tornet från Crusader AA, men bestyckat med två 20 mm Polsten lv-kanoner istället för Oerlikon-kanoner som på Crusadern. [ 2 ] Användes ursprungligen i Normandie, men drogs tillbaka som obehövliga då de allierade hade totalt luftherravälde.

Centaur III/IV, AA Mk II
Använde en Crusader III som chassi, Mk III lv-tornet var bestyckat med två 20 mm Polsten lv-kanoner. [ 2 ]

Cromwell I (600)
Motsvarande Centaur I, men hade en Meteormotor. Endast ett fåtal byggdes, innan man bytte från en 6-pundskanon (57 mm, 64 skott) till en 75 mm-kanon. [ 1 ]

Cromwell II
Ökad bandbredd och borttagen chassikulspruta för att utöka lagringsutrymmet. [ 1 ] Ingen produktion.

Centaur I uppgraderad med en Meteor V12-motor. Få tillverkades på grund av litet antal Centaur I.

Cromwell IV (1 935+)
Huvudsaklig version bestyckad med 75 mm ROQF Mk V-kanonen. Den mest tillverkade varianten. [ 1 ]

Cromwell IVw
Meteormotor och ett helsvetsat chassi, det helsvetsade chassit innebar att vikt sparades och dea vagnar utrustades med tilläggspansar på tornfronten och frontpansaret.

Cromwell Vw
Cromwell som utrustats med 75 mm kanon från början. Fogarna i chassit var svetsade i stället för fastsatta med nitar.

Cromwell VI
Cromwell bestyckad med en 94 mm haubits för infanteriunderstöd. [ 1 ]

Cromwell IV och V uppgraderade med bredare band, 15,5" mot de ursprungliga 14".

Cromwell VIIw
Cromwell Vw ombyggd till Cromwell VII-standard.



The Cromwell Mk I to III had a 6 pounder cannon (57 mm). The Cromwell Mk IV was introduced in October 1943 and had a 75mm cannon that was ammunition compatible with that of the American M4 Sherman . The Mk V and Mk VII versions also had this cannon. The versions also differed in whether the tubs were welded or riveted. In addition, details such as the chain width and the attachment of the hatches and stowage boxes varied. Other variants have included Cromwell ARV ( English Armored Recovery Vehicle , armored recovery vehicle), Cromwell OP (mobile command vehicle and artillery observation post). The Cromwell proved itself due to its outstanding mobility, but was inferior to most German tanks in terms of armament and armor. An exception was the Mk VII version, whose front armor was reinforced to 102 mm. As with all British tanks of the Second World War, the commander had a Vickers 360 ° angle mirror MK.IV to observe the battlefield under armor protection.


  • Centaur Mk I QF-6 pounder
  • Centaur Mk II revised chains
  • Centaur Mk III with Ordnance QF-75-mm
  • Centaur Mk IV with Ordnance QF 95mm howitzer
  • Centaur AA flak tank with twin 20 mm flak

Cruiser Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Mk.IV

One of a series of fast and relatively well armed cruiser tanks developed by the British during the Second World War, the Cromwell can trace its history back to late 1940 and the decision to find a replacement for the widely used Crusader tank. Due to a relatively protracted development, however, there can be some confusion with these tanks, as similar looking machines were named Centaur and Cromwell, with both being derived from the A24 Cruiser Mark VII Cavalier, the name given to the original intended Crusader replacement programme.

The main reason for the different names refers to the three different engine types which were used to power the individual vehicles. The A27M Cromwell Mk.IV was the most heavily produced version of the new Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII and matched the Centaur hull with the highly effective Rolls Royce Meteor engine (A27Meteor), which allowed the tank to travel at impressively high speeds. The tank also featured a quick firing 75mm gun, which was a re-bored version of the British 6 pounder gun and allowed the commander to have the option of using American produced armour piercing or high explosive rounds.

Although originally introduced in November 1943, persistent problems with the new guns operation meant that the Mk.IV would not make its combat introduction until the Normandy landings in June 1944, where its speed and mobility would complement the Sherman tanks, which were available in greater numbers. During the savage fighting in the narrow hedgerow lined lanes of the Normandy battlefield, the excellent mobility of the Cromwell was somewhat nullified and even worse than that, as tanks were forced to climb these steep banks, they exposed their vulnerable undersides to potential armour piercing Panzerfaust attack.

The simple solution was to attach a steel blade hedge cutter to the front of the tank, which allowed the commander to scythe through the obstacle, keeping his tank level and still able to bring his guns to bear. This addition even provided some welcome natural foliage camouflage for the tank, as long as the bushes it didn't obstruct his gun aiming sights.







The introduction of the Cromwell tank centred around the search for an engine that could replace the Nuffield built Liberty engine. This eventually turned out to be a de-tuned Rolls-Royce Merlin aero-engine without the supercharger and with the light-weight alloy castings replaced with cast-iron. The engine was re-named the Meteor for tank use.

Leyland produced the heavier cast-iron crank case castings for the engines. Rolls-Royce would have had problems in producing enough engines for tanks in addition to those for aircraft use so they agreed with Rover for them to produce the Meteor tank engine engine and Rolls-Royce took over the development Rover were doing on jet engines. Rover as far as I can see did not produce the Churchill tank itself. Where the suggestion came from to use the engine developed from the Merlin seems to be unclear both Leyland and Rolls-Royce are mentioned and its quite possible it came from both sources.

When the first tank prototypes with the new engine had shown the idea was a good one the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company was approached to do the design development and manufacture of the tank itself. Although its almost certain the Cromwell tanks were made at more than one location the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company appears to be the main manufacturer with Rover making the Meteor engines.

A good amount of first-hand and detailed information is available here look for 'Cromwell tank' about halfway down. Link to "www.rrec.co.uk"

I can only suggest applying 'Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon' as a maker's name for the Cromwell.


This film plays during the British retreat in North Africa, some time between mid 1940 and mid 1942. It would be too early for these tanks, but they were deployed to North Africa at a later time. So that's not too bad for a film.

The specifications for this tank design were drawn up in late 1940, designs by Nuffield and Leyland submitted in 1941. As from the outside they looked (almost) identical we have three different versions:
1: Nuffield A24 Cruiser Tank Mark VII Cavalier (with the Liberty engine)
2: Leyland A27L Cruiser Tank Mark VIII Centaur (again with the Nuffield Liberty engine, as the Rolls-Royce engine was not yet available)
3: Leyland A27M Cruiser Tank Mark VIII Cromwell (with the Rolls-Royce Meteor engine)

The later Cromwells had a welded hull, so this one is an earlier type.

In the beginning a 6 pdr. gun (57 mm) was used which was later exchanged with a 75 mm gun, which we see here (but not originally used in Africa). This upgrade was not performed on the Cavalier tanks . so one is out!

The upgraded Centaur would then be the Centaur Mk.III, the upgraded Cromwell the Cromwell Mk.IV.

Additionally the Centaur was upgraded with the Meteor engine and then renamed Cromwell Mk.X, later renamed again to Cromwell Mk.III, and with the gun upgrade to Cromwell Mk.IV.

The Cavalier was produced from 1941-43.
The Centaur was produced from June 1942 to 1945.
The Cromwell from January 1943 to 1945.

As the tank in this image has the 75 mm gun and if we assume it has the Meteor engine it would be the:
Leyland A27M Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII Cromwell Mk.IV

It is true what Sunbar says that the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company took over the production but all my references still name Leyland as the producer.

Combat service

The Centaur was chiefly used for training only those in specialist roles saw action. The Close Support version of the Centaur with a 95 mm howitzer replacing the 75mm saw service in small numbers as part of the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group on D-Day, and a number were used as the basis for combat engineering vehicles such as an armoured bulldozer.

The Sherman remained the most common tank in British and Commonwealth armoured units. Cromwells were used to fully equip only one division, the 7th Armoured Division. The Cromwell was also used as the main tank in the armoured reconnaissance regiments of British armoured divisions (Guards Armoured Division and 11th Armoured Division)[6] in North West Europe, because of its great speed and relatively low profile. The Cromwell in turn was succeeded by small numbers of the Comet tank. The Comet was similar to the Cromwell, and shared some components, but had a superior gun in the 77 mm gun (a version of the 17 pounder).

In general the Cromwell was found to be very reliable with remarkable speed and manoeuvrability though it required more maintenance than the Sherman. The Cromwell was given a modification to the exhaust to direct the fumes so that they were not drawn into the fighting compartment - a problem found when tanks were drawn up together preparing for the advance. In northern Europe, the Cromwell was used by Allied units of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (10th Mounted Rifle Regiment) and Czech Armoured Brigade. After the war, the Cromwell remained in British service. It saw service in the Korean War with 7 RTR and the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars.

The Cromwell/Centaur had the distinction of being the first tank to go into service with the Greek Army during the reformation following the Second World War. Fifty-two Centaur I tanks were donated early in 1946, during the opening stages of the Greek Civil War, but they were kept in storage due to the lack of trained personnel. In 1947 the first Greek officers returned from training courses in the United Kingdom and training of tank crews began. The Centaur saw limited service in the civil war, as during the last year of the war (1949) battles were fought on mountains. Centaurs formed the core of the Greek Armour Corps during the 1950s, and were retired in 1962 having been replaced by US built M47s.

Watch the video: A34 Comet Tank - The Further development of Cromwell tanks, but was too late to see effective combat (January 2022).