Infantry Tank Mk.IV (A22) Churchill

A-20E1

A rare drawing of A20E1 as it was hoped to finish it, complete with hull gun, with a limited arc of fire, at the front, and side-mounted machine guns.

  

The turretless hull of A20E1 running on new tracks and with a large ballast box in lieu of a turret.

Churchill I (303 produced)

An early Churchill hull on test, it is fitted with the early pattern air intakes and is fitted with a temporary ballast box instead of a turret.

 

Figures suggest that 303 Churchill Mark I tanks were built before they reached the limit of 3in howitzer availability. This was due to a shortfall in production of the 3in howitzer, the close-support weapon mounted in the front of the hull. The original plan had been to fit this weapon to all Churchill tanks although this was opposed by a Royal Armoured Corps advisor General Vyvyan Pope who felt that having two different calibres of ammunition in the same tank was a recipe for disaster. The weapon itself was rifled but in a parallel barrel 75in long. It fired smoke or high explosive rounds only, and no armourpiercing projectile of any sort was available. Firing shot weighing nearly 14lb it had a muzzle velocity of 700ft/sec and a maximum range of 2,500 yards.

Churchill Mk I fitted with the early pattern air intakes, with the original style of heavy, built-up tracks and spoked wheels.

 

Later, in North Africa, some Mark I tanks were modified by exchanging their guns: the 2-pdr being installed in the hull while the 3in howitzer replaced it in the turret. A few tanks were also adapted to mount 3in howitzers in the hull and in the turret.

Modified Churchill Mk I  with a 3in close support howitzer in the turret and a 2-pdr anti-tank gun in the hull position.

Some Mark I Churchills having been reworked. From a visual point of view only two features serve to identify a reworked tank; these are extended mild steel trackguards covering the entire top run of the tracks and new-style air intakes at the sides.

Equipped with a 40mm 2 pounder gun in the turret with 150 rounds, and a coaxial Besa machine gun. There was a 3 inch howitzer in the hull, with 58 rounds, for use against infantry. It was a tank that was noted for poor mechanical reliability. It was the main tank issued to the Canadian forces at Dieppe. It was used in Tunisia and some were still in use late in the war in Italy on the Gothic Line.

A reworked Churchill Mark I tanks of the Calgary Regiment knocked out at Dieppe.

 

Churchill Mk II (1,127 produced)

Late in 1940 it was discovered that the supply of howitzers was running short, and so most early Churchills were completed as the Mk II, which carried a second Besa machine gun in the hull front instead.

 

 

Churchill Mk III with a 57mm gun. (675 produced)

The III was equipping the tank with a more powerful 6 pounder gun with 84 rounds. It had a new “cleaner” squarish turret, which, unlike earlier versions, was welded.

 

This one has the mark V gun fitted with a counterweight at the muzzle end of the barrel, which suggests that the weapon is on a free elevation mounting.

 

Churchill Mark III tanks of the Calgary Regiment knocked out at Dieppe.

 

 

Italian Bersaglieri and captured Churchill, Tunisia 1943

Knocked out Churchills Mk III Tunisia 1943

With the advent of a 75mm barrel that would replace the 57mm 6-pdr it proved possible to up-gun Churchill Marks III and IV. The Mark III with a 75mm gun was designated Mark III*; however in the case of the Mark IV two distinct types are officially recorded. Some are referred to as the Churchill Mark IV (conversion to 75mm) while others were completed as the Churchill Mark VI and it is extremely difficult to tell them apart.

The figure of 242 is given as the number of Churchill Mark III tanks converted to accept the 75mm gun, whereupon it became known as the Mark III*.

Some Churchill Mk III tanks ware up-armoured with applique plates to improve protection in Normandy. A portion of these Churchill tanks retained their 6 pounder guns for anti-tank work (The 75mm was inferior in AT performance to the later 6 Pounder but superior in HE performance). The applique armour added to the tank is listed as being plates around 32mm thick placed on the turret face either side of the gun aswell as 20mm plates on the side of the hull and turret. The 6 pounder with APDS was capable of penetrating 131mm of 30° sloped plate at 500 metres. There is no real name for this tank as the official name for a Mk III with applique armour (Mark III*) included the swapping of the 6 Pounder for a QF 75mm; that means that this tank is not a true Mk III*.

Churchill Mark IV with a 57 mm gun. (1,622 produced).

The IV was the most numerous Churchill produced, and was virtually identical to the III, the largest change being a return to the less costly cast turret. The cast turret of the Churchill Mark IV had a more rounded look, was a complex, asymmetrical shape with different thickness of armour on different surfacesbut it still fitted the 54.25in turret ring. Two versions of the 6-pdr gun were fitted, as they were on the Mark III version. These were the 43-calibre Mark 3 and the 50-calibre Mark 5. And although both guns fired the same ammunition the longer gun had a slightly higher muzzle velocity: 2,965ft/sec against 2,800ft/sec in the Mark 3 with a correspondingly better armourpiercing performance of 87mm at 500 yards. In June 1944 an Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot round was introduced for the Mark 5 gun which gave it a better armour-piercing performance than the newer 75mm gun. In earlier models, turrets using the 6 pounder Mark V were fitted with a counterweight.

Churchill Mark IV equipped with the original, shorter Mark III version of the 6-pounder.

Churchill Mark IV fitted with the longer Mark V gun.

This one has the mark V gun fitted with a counterweight at the muzzle end of the barrel, which suggests that the weapon is on a free elevation mounting.

Some were refitted with American 75mm guns from Sherman tanks while others were up-gunned with British 75mm guns, creating the Mark IV (75). The QF 75mm and the 6 pounder can be differentiated by the presence of a muzzle brake – the 6 pounder did not use a muzzle brake, while the QF 75mm did.

Churchill Mark V with a close support 95mm howitzer. (241 produced)

A Churchill equipped with a close support 95mm howitzer with 47 rounds in place of the main gun in a cast turret. The turret was similar, but not identical, to the Marks IV/VI turrets, with a slightly different opening for the gun in the turret front face. A new close support weapon, ultimately entering service as the 95mm Mark I tank howitzer, was first considered in January 1942, the old 3in weapon now being declared obsolete. The new gun was designed by mating a short section of the barrel of the 3.7in anti-aircraft gun with the breech and firing mechanism from the 25-pdr field gun and chambered to fire ammunition from the 3.7 in mountain howitzer. The original plan was to produce two versions – one on a towed, wheeled carriage and a tank-mounted version that would be carried in a 6-pdr turret.
In the towed version of the gun (and the Mark 3 version later mounted in the Alecto self-propelled gun) ammunition came in two units – a projectile and a separate loaded charge, albeit in a brass cartridge case. For the tank-mounted weapon a one-piece round was developed, while a High Explosive Squash Head and a smoke round was also available. Despite its limitations the same weapon was also fitted to the Churchill Mark VIII.

Mark V with 95 mm howitzer, raised driver’s periscope mount and additional aerial at the turret for the WS38 Set.

  

 

 

  

Churchill Mk VI with а 75mm Mark V gun. (200 produced)

The Mark VI was a rebuilt Mark IV, but it was armed with the 75mm gun with geared elevation. According to the official stowage diagram it also carried an infantry telephone in a box on the back, a crowbar on the offside trackguard, and one 4-gallon water tank instead of a pair of 2-gallon ones. These were all features found on the next model, the Mark VII, but not on the Mark IV.

 

A Churchill Mark IV with 75 mm gun or Mark VI. Normally one would expectthe latter to carry an All Round Vision Cupola. The marking on the turret side, a black cannon on a yellow and red diamond, represents the Gunnery Shool at Lulworth Camp, Dorset.

   

 

Churchill Mark VII with a 75mm gun. (A22F) (1,600 produced, together with Mark VIII)

The second major redesign from previous models, the VII used the 75mm gun, was wider, and carried much more armour, 50% thicker at the front than a Tiger I, giving it the ability to withstand massive amounts of punishment. It is sometimes called the Heavy Churchill and was re-designated as the “A42” in 1945. This version of the Churchill first saw service in the Battle of Normandy, and in total served with three Royal Armoured Corps regiments in western Europe, one in Italy and with 7th Royal Tank Regiment in Korea. The Mark VII was designed to be able to be converted into the Crocodile flame-throwing variant without major modification.

An early Mark VII, note the absence of bulges on the turret front, the early cupola and blade vane sight. The tank has a small triangle bolted to the turret front, which may indicate that it was an unarmoured prototype.

 

 

Churchill Mk VIII with a close support 95mm howitzer. (1,600 produced, together with Mark VII)

A Churchill VII which replaced the main gun with a 95mm howitzer with 47 rounds in a slightly different turret. The mark VIII was very similar to the Mark V, which also mounted the 95 mm howitzer, but can be recognized by the circular escape hatches and the Mark VII turret. Few Mark VIIIs were built starting in October 1944. The Churchill AVRE, mounting a 290mm spigot mortar, was much more successful as an infantry support vehicle. While the Mark VIII was quickly phased out of service, the 95mm howitzer remained in the British arsenal until the 1950s.

 

 

  

Churchill MK VIII with 95mm howitzer without counterweight.

Refitted previous versions:

A number of documents published at the end of the war refer to three more Marks of Churchill, Marks XI, X and XI, which mounted respectively the 6-pdr gun, the 75mm dual purpose weapon and the 95mm howitzer. Each type was further subdivided into those fitted with the new-style A22F turret and those that carried the original turret fitted with an All Round Vision cupola and identified by the letters LT (for Light Turret) after the Mark number. So, for example a Churchill Mark IX would be fitted with an A22F turret mounting a 6-pdr, while a Mark XILT would have the original turret, suitably modified, mounting a 95mm howitzer.
All Marks of modified tank were supposed to have the front hull plate of an A22F, with round driver’s visor and machine-gun mounting, stronger suspension and H41 gearbox, but no photograph of one has ever been seen. A document published in 1945 (DRAC News Letter) says that while some Mark X and XLT tanks had been built (32 according to a contract card) it was unlikely that any Mark IX or Mark XI tanks would be so converted. The absence of corroborative photographs hardly constitutes evidence that this was never carried out, but the fitting of the heavier A22F turret would require some strengthening of the hull roof to support it and fitting the new, thicker front plate would also be difficult. Yet four 75mm gun tanks described as Mark XLT were supplied to the Irish Army, but since they appear to have the original style of front hull plate they have more in common with a Mark VI, with the addition of an All Round Vision cupola.

Churchill Mk IX
Churchill III / IV upgraded with turret of the VII. Extra armour added along with gearbox and suspension modifications. If the original turret was retained without added armour it was designated LT (“Light Turret”).

Churchill Mk X
The same improvements as for the IX applied to a Mk VI.

Churchill Mk XI
Churchill V with extra armour and Mk VIII turret.

“Sunshield” – Churchill tank disguised as a lorry.

During Operation Bertram in the months leading up to the second Battle of El Alamein in North Africa in September – October 1942 tanks were disguised as trucks, using light “Sunshield” canopies. The idea for the Sunshield came from Commander-in-Chief Middle East, General Wavell. The first heavy wooden prototype was made in 1941 by Jasper Maskelyne, who gave it the name Sunshield. 12 men were needed to lift it. The Mark 2 Sunshield was made of canvas stretched over a light steel tube frame.

Churchill Mk IV NA75 with a 75mm M3 gun. (210 produced)

Captain P.H. Morrell was a REME officer serving at what was then called Bone, Algeria, in 1943. One of Morrell’s jobs involved breaking up wrecked tanks, and he noticed that among the Shermans that were brought in many were equipped with 75mm guns that had hardly been fired and appeared to be as good as new. Morrell also noted, and confirmed by measuring, that the cast turret of the Churchill Mark IV would accept the Sherman gun with a bit of modification.
The Churchill turret had to be modified to accept the new gun mounting, including enlarging the opening in the front, then the mantlet slot had to be cut away to give sufficient elevation. The entire M34 mount from the Sherman was lowered into place in the modified Churchill turret and then bolted down. The Sherman 75 mm gun was designed for a left hand loader and the Churchill, in common with British practice, had a right hand loader. The gun was therefore turned upside down and the firing controls adapted.
Ammunition stowage had to be modified, and even the hull machinegun mounting had to be altered to accept a Browning to bring it into line with the new co-axial weapon.
Classified as the Churchill NA75 (NA for North Africa) they began to arrive in Italy in April 1944 and appear to have given a good account of themselves.

Churchill IVs with 6 pounder guns replaced (under Operation Whitehot) by 75 mm guns and mantlets from destroyed or scrapped Sherman tanks, fitted to Churchill IV cast turrets.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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