Once a week I want to cover a few tanks from a variety of nations, both old and new. Looking at their built, specifications, use, how good they were to serve their purpose and more.
This week I’ll be covering three tanks.
We’ll be looking at the German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, the American M4 Sherman and the British Medium Mark II tank built between the first and second World War.
The Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E
It was in the May of 1941, after the renowned lack of success of German armament to infiltrate the armour of the French medium tank Char B and the British heavy armoured tank, the Matilda 2. Adolf Hitler instructed for the manufacture of a superior heavy tank, and that tank was the Tiger I. Even though it was a new design, it was still in-keep with the same boxy frame and physical arrangement as former German tanks, however the Tiger I was over twice the density of the Panzer IV.
The Tiger I was a substantial platform, armed with an 8.8cm KwK 36 gun, which held 92 rounds. Its engine was enhanced, from 650HP to 700HP yet due to its weight both the engine and transmission struggled as it weighed 63.8 tons (8.8 tons over the original plan for the tank).
Even though the intended purpose for the Tiger I was to break through enemy lines, it suffered from many teething problems due to it being rushed, thus it ended up more as a defensive machine. The teething problems were not the only thing to have an impact on this heavy tank and its use. The lack of skilled crewmen was one, and the other was the manufacturing cost. With all the above issues mentioned, the Tiger I still had an effect on the enemy forces, psychological effects due to its sheer size, armour and armament. A lot of noise was made in Germany. It was a machine used greatly in their propaganda during the second world war, which helped instil fear in the allied forces, only to push them further to develop better tanks.
The Tiger I’s weight required to be spread-out, thus its road wheels were copied from previous German half-track designs, creating an interleaved system. The outer road wheels for the Tiger I were discarded and had slender transport tracks put in place due to its size. Furthermore, to provide suspension for this heavy tank, it required 16 torsion bars with eight arms on each side, holding three wheels in total. Again, it did come with a slight problem… If just one of the inner wheels required a replacement, 9 had to be removed.
The M4 Sherman
This medium tank was designed in 1940. It was the heir to the M3 Lee tank, a brisk tank armed with an exceptional dual-purpose gun for its time. Its maintenance was painless, known for its ruggedness and dependability. This design was manufactured in 11 different plants across the US and 1 in Canada. The majority of these plants had no preceding tank manufacturing experience. The M4 Sherman was well suited to the needs of the second world war, and was constructed in a mass measure of sub-variants with the ability to be adapted for different roles. There were about 63,181 produced to arm themselves, the British, Russians, Commonwealth and other allied forces.
The Sherman was supplied with a cast hull and additional armour was welded over the hull sides to guard the ammunition stowage. Even though there were crew stories and reports showing that the ammunition caused more fires in the Sherman tanks than the engine itself did, therefore protecting the ammunition with additional armour was crucial, even more so when “wet” ammunition was there.
Any changes that were required to be applied to the M4 Sherman tank were simple to make, and as the war advanced modifications became a necessity. The Sherman had thicker armour enforced, wider tracks and a new 75mm gun. Nevertheless, the design was the same the inside could be different in each tank due to having four different main engine types used in the Sherman’s that were manufactured. The Continental R975 C1/C4 was the main engine used to power the tank, and it was the engine that the Sherman was designed around, however, it is said that The Ford GAA V8 was the best for this medium tank. The other engines were the GM 6046 ‘Twin’ diesel and the Chrysler A57 multibank engine.
The Vickers Medium Mark II Tank
The Mark II tank was produced in 1923, between the first and second world war. It acquired its velocity from its air-cooled Armstrong Siddeley engine, which was anchored in the front of the tank. With this engine the Mark II tank was able to reach speeds up to 30mph (48km/h). Overall, this tank had more than one variant. The first of the variants was the Mark I tank, which had a 3-pounder main gun in the turret with a Vickers machine-gun attached on each side of the hull, and Hotchkiss light machine-guns in the turrets.
Its predominant gun was competent against contemporary tanks, however, when it came to facing field reinforcements and anti-tank artillery, it was incompetent. To solve that issue, a close support adaptation of the Mark I was manufactured. This is were the Mark II came into play. Allocated with the Hotchkiss machine-guns, and alternatively was provided with a co-axial Vickers machine-gun. In addition to the gun tanks, control-post and bridge- laying adaptations were also manufactured.
The Vickers medium tanks established the foundation of the British military’s preliminary mechanised capability of 1928. It was its truly innovative engagement structure that executed out manoeuvres on Salisbury plain that demonstrated the capability of mechanized structures. It was for this reason that the mechanisation of the British military progressed through the 1930s. Only 100 of the Mark IIs were made, however, due to its potential this medium tank was exported. Fifteen tanks in total were sold to the Russian military, and one to Japan, which led to Japans own Type 89 tank model.
The Mark II tank was constructed with a riveted armour plate 6.25mm (0.25″). It was thick on the front which shielded it against bullets well, but was ineffective against stronger and bigger artillery.
In 1923 the Royal Tank Regiment was forged. This Regiment grew exceptionally adept at discharging the 3-pounder gun on the move, and with that ability it gave the medium tank and its crew an advantage as it became a more difficult target for adversary gunners to strike.
In the 1940s the Mark II was featured on British propaganda posters to display the magnitude at which the British military had developed since the first world war.