S-P 17pdr, Archer (E1969.43)
Vickers used the Valentine Tank Mark V as the automotive vehicle, although with a new superstructure around the driving and fighting compartments. The gun was mounted with limited traverse facing backwards, which meant that the Archer had to reverse into a firing position.
The Archer was piloted in summer 1943, before a second pilot, which was accepted as the design for production, although production was delayed by production of Valentine tanks as aid to the Soviet Union. Full production started in May 1944. When Japan surrendered in August, the order for 800 vehicles was terminated, allowing for the 665th vehicle to be delivered in September.
Archers were used by Royal Artillery anti-tank battalions within prioritized infantry divisions in Italy and north-west Europe from October 1944. Archers replaced US M10 Tank Destroyers in the assault infantry divisions of north-west Europe towards the end of 1944, and replaced towed guns in the other frontline infantry divisions early in 1945.
Users liked its cross-country performance and reliability, particularly in mud and uphill climbs, where the M10 was remarkably inferior. The rear-heaviness of the vehicle actually improved its cross-country mobility compared to the Valentine tank. However, the Archer was not as fast or reliable as the M10 on road. Crews liked the low silhouette and the well-arranged fighting compartment, although they disliked the thin armour, the incomplete overhead protection, and the exhaust smoke that gave them away when changing positions.
Archers remained in British and Egyptian service until the mid-1950s.
THIS VEHICLE: is a full-production vehicle. Its vehicle number (S280017) seems to be genuine, since it appears on various photographs between re-paintings at the Tank Museum. The engine has a plaque, but this is blank. The vehicle number would place it as the 421st of the 665 full-production vehicles, with a delivery date in early to middle 1945, if the vehicle numbers were assigned consecutively. We do not know its service history, if any. It was exposed to the elements for a while, both before arrival and at the Tank Museum, but was still in good enough condition that its engine was used to restore the Valentine Mark IX tank in the 1990s (see E2000.577). It is painted to represent an Archer in the service of a Canadian unit in Italy in 1944.
LABEL: Archers replaced Valentine tanks, from which they were developed, on the production lines at Vickers from May 1944. The Valentine tank turret was never produced with anything larger than a 75mm gun, while the Archer mounted the much longer 76mm seventeen-pounder in a limited traverse mounting overhanging the engine compartment. 665 vehicles and two pilots were produced before production was terminated after Japan’s surrender in August 1945. Archers were issued to anti-tank battalions in Italy and north-west Europe from October 1944, and to the Egyptian Army after World War 2, and remained in British service until the mid-1950s.
Bruce Newsome, Ph.D.