Tank Cruiser A34, Comet I (E1952.35)
No registration plates inside. Number painted on vehicle is incorrect.
Comet entered service in 1945. It proved to be reliable and effective, well protected for its size and with a modified version of the 17 pounder gun, quite capable of dealing with the heavier German tanks.
Comet remained in service for some years after the war but was rapidly eclipsed by Centurion.
Precise Name: Tank, Cruiser Comet I
Other Name: A34
The Comet was probably the best British tank developed during World War II and was roughly comparable to the German Panther, although the German tank entered service 18 months earlier than the British one.
Leyland Motors designed the A34 Comet in 1943 in response to a War Office requirement for a Cruiser tank armed with the 17pdr (76.2mm) high velocity anti-tank gun. An earlier attempt to satisfy the requirement, the A30 Challenger, was a relative failure and was produced in small numbers, (see E1987.9 Tank, Cruiser, Challenger). As an interim measure the Royal Armoured Corps found that the 17pdr could be ‘shoe-horned’ into the turret of the American M4 Sherman tank and a large number of conversions, known as the Firefly, were made in 1944/45. (See E1949.340 Medium Tank M4A4 Sherman Mark Vc, Firefly)
Leyland’s new tank was based on the A27M Cromwell (See E1949.342 Tank Cruiser Mark VIII Cromwell IV). Mechanically it was very similar to the Cromwell although it was heavier because the armour was increased in thickness. The increased weight made it necessary to strengthen the Christie suspension and return rollers were added to carry the top run of the track. In the end the modifications to the A27M were so extensive that only about 40% of the parts were unchanged.
One of the problems encountered during the design of the A30 Challenger was the need to widen the Cromwell’s hull to accommodate the considerable length of the 17pdr’s breach. However the need to widen the Comet’s hull was avoided because Vickers developed a modified version of the 17pdr that was slightly shorter, known as the 77mm. This gun had a similar performance to the 17pdr but used a shorter cartridge case and could be fitted into a turret ring 63 inches (1.625 metres) in diameter, just about the largest that could be accommodated in an unmodified hull. The 77mm gun was carried in a new turret.
The Comet prototype was running by February 1944 and following trials the tank was put into production. Deliveries began in September 1944 and the Comet entered service with the 11th Armoured Division in the spring of 1945. Although these tanks participated in the final actions of World War II they were too late to play a prominent part in the war. The tanks proved to be reliable and the 77mm gun effective. They were well liked by their crews and were considered to be comparable to the German Panther.
Leyland built a total of 1200 Comets before production ceased in May 1945. They went on to serve with the British Army at home, in Germany, the Middle East and the Far East. The Comet was finally withdrawn from British service, in Hong Kong, in 1960. Small numbers were exported and overseas users included the armies of Burma, Finland, Eire, and South Africa.
D. Fletcher 1993. The Universal Tank. British Armour in the Second World War, Part 2. ISBN 0 11 290543 X, HMSO, London 1993.
P. Chamberlain and C. Ellis 1969. British and American Tanks of World War 2. SBN 85368 033 7, Arms and Armour Press, London 1969.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0