Sunday, May 14, 2006

The British tank situation in the summer and fall of 1941

The British had to face that reality that infantry tanks such as the Inf.Mk.II Matilda were unsuitable for tank-to-tank combat, and so they were finally withdrawn from the armoured divisions. Instead, they would be used to equip the "Army Tank Brigades", for use in the infantry support role for which they were intended. The Matilda had actually shown itself quite capable in the Battleaxe operation, but they had radio problems and limited range, so that alone necessitated that they could not be used in mobile operations. Their superior armour had shown itself to be useful against the Germans, however.

Since the British were not able to supply enough cruiser tanks (increasingly, Crusaders), they had to use the American Stuarts in their place during the summer and fall of 1941. The Stuarts were extremely mobile, but they suffered from lack of desert equipment and had an odd, rather small gun in the 37mm. They were thus burdened with a gun that was non-standard and required special ammunition that was only in limited supply. Still, they played an important part in the Crusader battle in late 1941. They were replaced, though, in the cruiser role, as soon as adequate numbers of Crusaders and the American Grants were available. This is based, in part, on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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