Tank Medium, Vickers Armstrongs Mark E, Type B (E1952.28)
Alongside their work for the British armed forces Vickers-Armstrongs produced military equipment for foreign buyers. Their earliest commercial tank designs failed to sell but in 1928 they produced a masterpiece. Known as the 'six-tonner' it was a remarkable design, with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine driving to a gearbox and track sprockets at the front of the tank. There were two main variants; some tanks were supplied with two machine-gun turrets (Type A) while others carried a larger single turret (Type B) like our exhibit.
Following trials the British Army turned it down but the tank was a major export success. It sold all around the world, from South America to Japan and was even studied by the United States Army. It was built under licence in Russia (see our T-26 exhibit) and influenced tank design in many other countries. Our exhibit is displayed in the fancy camouflage style adopted by Vickers for their commercial offerings; it is seen at a mythical army equipment exhibition some time in the thirties.
Shortly before World War II Vickers built a new version, powered by a Rolls-Royce engine (the Mark F) but this failed to sell. Subsequent to this the government of Siam (Thailand) placed a repeat order but specified the original Armstrong-Siddeley engine. These were completed closer to the Mark F design but few, if any, reached their destination. With the outbreak of war the British Government impounded all commercial tanks still in the factories and the remaining stock of six-tonners, of which this is one, were used by British forces for training.
In 1930 these were very modern tanks - rubber covered road wheels and return rollers. Suspension compensated for side turns. Although not adopted by the British Army, several were used in 1940 for training. Four were actually acquired from Vickers-Armstrongs on 6 April 1940 and give the War Department numbers T10674 to T10677.