Tank Cruiser Mark I A9 (E1949.352)
The Directorate of Mechanization specified the A9 as a lighter version of the Medium Mark III’s hull, with a 3-man turret (with a commander, a gunner, and a loader/radio operator), a three-pounder gun (or a 3.7inch mortar in the case of close support tanks), and a coaxial 7.7mm machine gun. An auxiliary machine-gun turret would traverse an arc of 190 degrees.
Percy Hobart, the Inspector of the Royal Tank Corps, wanted the turret to accommodate five men and more armaments. The Superintendent of Design, which designed all turrets and fighting compartments at the time, mocked up turrets for 3 men, 4 men, or 5 men, and persuaded Chief of the Imperial General Staff (George Milne) to choose the 3-man turret, although Hobart’s desire for more armaments was accommodated with two auxiliary turrets mounted on the hull, one each side of the driver. In the first week of January 1935 the Mechanization Board specified the prospective two-pounder, in place of the three-pounder. The resulting specifications were for a total crew of six, a weight of 12 tons, a top speed of 20 mph, and a 14mm standard of armour.
Vickers started assembling both A9E1 and A10E1 in 1935. On 5 November 1935, Vickers showed A9E1’s hull at Chertsey, but later fell behind schedule, and finished A9E1 in May 1936 without the turrets, but with representative loads. When driven, the vehicle pitched violently, and was difficult to cool. In July, during acceptance trials, A9E1 failed its speed and engine cooling specifications, and needed modifications to the suspension. In October 1936, Vickers requested the whole vehicle for installation of a lower-compression engine by AEC in place of the engine by Rolls-Royce. In July 1937, Vickers returned the vehicle. The new engine failed the same cooling specifications, although the running gear proved satisfactory. The Mechanization Experimental Establishment installed a more efficient fan, new radiator (by Gallay Limited, in place of a radiator by Still), and replaced the air louvres by aluminium baffles.
In 1937, the Mechanization Board reclassified the A9 as a cruiser tank – “a fast type of tank carrying a gun for the support of light tanks.”
Meanwhile, A9E1 still had not undergone gunnery trials, due to the excessive pitching. When these trials completed in November 1937, the Gunnery School described the vehicle as “hopeless.” Nevertheless, on 5 August 1937, the War Office contracted with Vickers for 50 A9s as Tanks, Cruiser, Mark I (Cruiser Is). In May 1938, the War Office authorized another 100 A9s as stopgaps, due to continuing disappointments in the development of Nuffield’s A13 or Cruiser III (see E1949.347), which was faster, although with fewer machine-guns.
In March 1939, Vickers delivered the first production Cruiser I for performance trials, resulting in a few minor modifications. The Army issued a few A9s into service sometime late in 1939.
Production averaged around 8 per month up to the Second World War, with unremarkable increase thereafter until a peak of 14 in March 1940. Production ran out in June 1940, after 125 vehicles. Up to 24 A9s were lost in France that month. As of 1 June 1941, 27 Cruiser Is were in service at home, 70 in North Africa, where they were replaced later that year by Cruiser VIs, Crusaders (see E1949/346).
THIS VEHICLE: was delivered by Harland & Wolff in February 1940, so was one of the last 40 or 50 to be produced. It was delivered with a 40mm two-pounder gun, while a minority were delivered as close support tanks with 94mm howitzers. This vehicle was held by the School of Tank Technology until its transfer to the Tank Museum in 1949. It is painted with the markings of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, which was part of 1st Armoured Division that landed in France in June 1940, only to withdraw days later.
LABEL: In June 1934, the War Office contracted with Vickers for a new medium tank (A9) for the Tank Brigade. It was ordered as Cruiser Mark I, a stop-gap pending Nuffield’s A13 or Cruiser III. 125 vehicles were produced from March 1939 until June 1940. This vehicle was delivered in February 1940, so was one of the last 40 or 50 to be produced. It is painted with the markings of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, which was part of 1st Armoured Division that landed in France in June 1940, only to withdraw days later.
Bruce Newsome, Ph.D.