FV4017 Tank Medium, Centurion Mark 3 (E1970.151)
Vickers Armstrongs Ltd., United Kingdom
Production began at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Barnbow, near Leeds and the Vickers-Armstrong plant at Newcastle-upon-Type and some 2,800 Mark 3 tanks were completed by 1956. It was the largest production run of any Mark of Centurion tank although many were later rebuilt into other Marks.
In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, one regiment of Centurion tanks was sent out to South Korea. At first there was concern lest one should fall into enemy hands but in due course the tanks proved very successful in the hands of 1st and 5th Royal Tank Regiments, 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and VIIIth King's Royal Irish Hussars. Our exhibit, while painted as a Korean War tank, was in fact the prototype Centurion Crocodile flame throwing tank; a type that never entered production. It may originally have been a Mark 2.
Precise Name: FV4007, Tank, Medium Centurion Mark 3
The Tank Museum has two Centurions Mark 3. This one is displayed in the markings of a tank that fought in Korea in 1953; the other (See E1984.235) is displayed cut down the middle and provides a unique opportunity to study the anatomy of a tank.
The early history of the Centurion is described in E1951.34 Tank, Medium Mark I.
At the peak of Britain’s post war rearmament programme (1951/52 to 1954/55) The Royal Ordnance Factories and Vickers Ltd. were building Centurions at the rate of 10 per week. A total of 2,833 Centurions Mark 3 was manufactured.
The Mark 3 was derived from the similar Centurion Mark 2. The most important change was the fitting of the new and very powerful 20pdr (calibre 83.4mm) tank gun and an improved electric stabilisation system to the gun that allowed targets to be accurately engaged while the tank was moving. The 20pdr gun fired a variety of types of ammunition including Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) rounds at 1,477 metres/second, Armour Piercing Ballistic Capped (APCBC) rounds at 1,006 metres/second and High Explosive (HE) rounds.
The gun was aimed by a periscopic sight and was electrically stabilised in elevation and traverse. All the main gun ammunition was stored below the level of the turret ring, reducing the risk of ammunition fires in the event of a hit on the turret. The turret traverse was electrically powered, eliminating hydraulic oil from the turret and removing another major fire risk. (In contrast the American M48 tank suffered frequent hydraulic fluid fires when the turret was penetrated).
The Centurion Mark 3 first saw action in Korea with the 8th Battalion of the King’s Royal Irish Hussars in 1950. It quickly established an excellent reputation for hill climbing, reaching the places that other tanks couldn’t in Korea’s mountainous terrain. The 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards relieved the 8th Hussars in December 1951. The 1st Royal Tank Regiment, in turn, relieved the Dragoons in December 1952.
This particular Centurion Mark 3 is displayed in the markings of a tank of 3 Troop, C Squadron, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, part of the Commonwealth Division, during the Korean War. Commanded by Sergeant A Wallace, Military Medal, it participated in a fiercely contested action defending a location called ‘The Hook’ against Chinese forces in Korea in May 1953. Sergeant Wallace was awarded his Military Medal for his bravery during this action.
The main draw back of the Centurion 3 was a very short range due to its’ small internal fuel tanks. Attempts were made to remedy the problem, by fitting pairs of standard 40 gallon petrol drums and then, later, purpose made 180 gallon tanks, on the rear of the hull. As these tanks were not armoured they were vulnerable to damage from small arms fire and shell fragments and posed a fire risk.
If anyone asks why a tank with a C Squadron sign on the turret and a name (Arromanches) that starts with A, which is quite unusual, there is an explanation in this case. In 1st Royal Tank Regiment the naming policy, after the Second World War, was as follows.
A Squadron adopted the names of A Battalion tanks from the first world war; B Squadron took their tank names from locations where the regiment had seen acvtion in North Africa while C Squadron used names of locations in Italy and NW Europe; thus Arromanches was a C Squadron name, being the first place that the regiment landed in NW Europe.
Period of Service : 1945 -