3 Man Light Tank (L3E1 & L3E2)

Vickers 3 Man Light Tank, L3E1, L3E2

One issue that had already arisen and been tackled at various levels was the growing awareness that a two-man tank was inadequate, certainly when it came to the role of the tank commander, who was also the gunner and wireless operator, as well as having a host of other, less tangible duties. Two Royal Tank Corps officers tackled the matter in a magazine article with the eye-catching title of ‘The two-and-a-half-man light tank’, although more realistically it soon became evident that anything less than a three-man tank would not be effective. As a result, the next two prototypes (L3E1 and L3E2) mounted larger turrets that could accommodate an extra man, and advantage was taken of the additional space to ft a second machine gun. This was a .50-cal Vickers gun, which at that time qualifed as an anti-tank weapon. The first prototype was fitted with a full-width turret, squared off at the back and flat on top, with what was known as a bishop’s mitre cupola situated offset to the right on top. There is no evidence of a second hatch, and if the commander monopolised the cupola the gunner still had enough to do managing the guns. By 1939 the turret had been removed and the tank became the carrier/launcher vehicle for the prototype scissors bridge designed by a Royal Engineer offcer and staff from the Experimental
Bridging Establishment at Christchurch. The second prototype, L3E2, had a different turret design, sloped at the back and with a drum-shaped cupola for the commander on the right. Alongside it on the left was a simple hatch for the third man so he could at least poke his head out and see what was going on. The turret, being larger and heavier than on the two-man tanks, was ftted with a crowded ball race to make it easier to traverse, and was secured by six brackets to prevent it from jumping off. The turret also included a rotating portion of the floor, which carried wireless batteries, ammunition containers and a seat for the gunner, attached to a stay, while the commander was provided with a rotating cupola so that he could survey the battlefeld. Geared traverse was also available, as it had been for all the earlier light tanks, although one revolution of the handwheel shifted the turret by only three degrees. In this form it was clearly similar to the production tank, 22 of which were built, suffcient for one mixed tank battalion.

Two prototypes of three-seater tanks were constructed (mild steel) by Vickers in 1933, on the basis of Mark IV. The two-seater turret was equipped with a cupola of commander. This tank of 4.4 tons was propelled by a six-cylinder motor Meadows EAST of 90 hp. The armament consisted of a machine-gun .50 (12.7 mm) Vickers and a machine-gun .303 (7.7 mm) Vickers assembled on swivelling turret.

Light Tank L3E1

L3E1 Bridgelayer

 

Light Tank L3E1

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