Vickers Light Tanks Model 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937

In addition to developing and building light tanks for the British Army, Vickers Armstrong built similar vehicles for export during the 1930s. Series of tanks of exports resembling much to the Light Tank Mark IV, except the shape of the turret and the suspension. Details varied slightly and they were often referred to by the year of manufacture, i.e., Model 1933, but this does not appear to have been an official V-A designation system. They were typically two-man vehicles with a small turret mounting a single rifle-caliber machine gun. Weight usually varied from 3.3 to 3.8 tons and maximum armor thickness from 7mm to 11 mm. Radios were optional, but appear to have been fitted only infrequently. Amphibious versions, with wide hulls to ensure flotation in still water, were also developed and sold. Their thin armor, 2-man crew and lack of a radio rendered them obsolete by 1939, although they continued to soldier on in a few countries where replacements were unavailable, such as China, Thailand and Argentina.

 

One of the frst we only know from a single photograph; we have no other details, but it may be the very frst one for all we know. It is unusual since it runs on a type of suspension seen on the Vickers-Armstrongs Light Amphibious Tank, with leaf springs but no separate idler wheel at the back. Otherwise the shape of the hull and driver’s position, the small, rounded turret armed with a single Vickers machine gun, all of these are identical to the range of light tanks produced subsequently.

First M1933 without separate idler wheel at the back.

Te type identifed as M1933 was virtually the same but with an idler; one example was sold to Finland where it is still retained, while others went to Lithuania and one to Switzerland.

M1933 was another commercial design, with an independent rear idler.

Te Swiss order is interesting since it included a second tank, virtually identical to the first but with coil, instead of leafspring suspension. Tis type became known as M1934, a few more of which went to Switzerland and a much larger order to Argentina. However the biggest order, amounting to 42 tanks in all, went to Belgium. Te Belgians wanted a special turret to take the 13.5mm Hotchkiss machine-gun. Te turret, which was a somewhat taller, slightly conical affair, was duly supplied, the tanks entering Belgian Army service as their model T15.

M1934 fitted with coil spring suspension.

M1934 with Conical Turret (Belgian Army T15)

From 1935 another light tank was introduced with the same hull and running gear, but now carrying an angular, rather than a rounded, turret. Substantial orders were received for these from China, Lithuania and Latvia along with a smaller one from Holland. Six of those ordered by Latvia were delivered with an enlarged turret and 40mm gun, not the British 2-pdr but a Vickers-Armstrongs semi-automatic weapon of slightly inferior performance. Te Dutch followed their order with one for the Army in the Dutch East Indies, although 48 of these were confscated by the British Government because they were still being built when war broke out in September 1939. These entered British service as the Mark IIIB, although they are generally known as Dutchmen. Some were even delivered to Greece in 1941 and duly lost to the Germans.

M1935 with leaf springs suspension and angular turrets.

M1936 with coil spring suspension and angular turrets.

M1937 with an enlarged turret and 40mm gun.

 

M1937 Vickers Command Tank. It mounted a 40mm gun in what looks like a six-tonner turret. Additional shock absorbers have been added to the suspension, while the road wheels are disc rather than spoked pattern.

 

Series of tanks of exports resembling much to the Light Tank Mark IV, except the shape of the turret and the suspension. The model 1933 armed with a machine-gun .303 (7.7 mm) Vickers was bought by Finland, Lithuania and Latvia. The model 1934 was bought by Argentina, Belgium and Switzerland. Belgium will receive a group of 42 tanks equipped with a special conical turret, called T15. T15 was armed with a Hotchkiss machine-gun of 13.2 mm. The model 1936 was bought by the Netherlands, the Netherland Indies and China. However the models intended for the Netherlands were retained by the British army at the dawn of the 2nd world war. The British used them as training tank under the nickname of Dutchmen. The model 1937 was equipped with a new turret armed with a gun of 2-pdr (40 mm) or 20 mm Oerlikon.

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