In late 1940, dissatisfaction with the Covenanter and the Crusader led to demands for a new heavy cruiser, designated A24, with improved levels of armoured protection, more power, and a larger diameter turret ring that would permit the use of a bigger turret, and perhaps also allow subsequent upgunning. Unsurprisingly, mechanical reliability was also considered to be a priority. Unfortunately the weight penalty resulting from increasing the armour to a maximum of 76mm on forward-facing surfaces of the turret, and 63mm on the front of the hull, combined with the use of the existing, and increasingly archaic, Nuffield Liberty V12 engine, and four-speed Nuffield transmission, meant that the automotive performance was actually inferior to that of the Crusader, as well as being even more unreliable. Top speed was down to 24mph (39km/h), although the improved Christie suspension allowed a maximum cross-country speed of 14mph (23km/h). The main gun was the 6-pounder (57mm) that had been used in Crusader III, albeit mounted in a new, rectangular turret; some examples were fitted with the later Mk V version of this gun, which can be identified by the use of a counterweight on the muzzle. Additional armaments included a pair of 7.92mm Besa machine guns, one co-axial with the main gun, the other in a ball mount in the hull front, with an 0.303in Bren gun provided for anti-aircraft use. Initially dubbed Cromwell I, the A24 was subsequently renamed Cavalier, with a total of 500 tanks ordered, ‘off the drawing board’, in June 1941. The pilot model was delivered in January 1942, but the tank was immediately assigned to training duties, with none used in combat. About half were subsequently converted to the observation post role (OP), whereby a few found themselves with the Royal Artillery in northwest Europe following the Normandy landings; others were converted to armoured recovery vehicles (ARV). As much as anything, it was the lack of success with the Cavalier that brought to an end the process of ordering new tanks ‘sight unseen’, with future tank design being put onto a more sound footing.
Cruiser tank Cavalier with 6 pdr. Mk III gun.
Cruiser tank Cavalier fitted with the later version 6 pdr. Mk V gun.
The Cavalier armoured recovery vehicles.
The ARV had its turret removed, and an A-frame jib and associated equipment fitted in.