Tank Cruiser A27L Centaur Dozer Mark 1 (E1985.32)
On 23 May 1941, the Tank Board agreed that the six pilot Cruiser VII vehicles should be assembled with three automotive combinations (two pilots each combination): Nuffield’s design (project A24) with a Liberty engine, Meadows transmission, and Wilson steering unit (see E1985.114); and two versions of the hull designed and developed by BRCWC, Leyland, and Rolls Royce: A27L with a Liberty engine and Merritt-Brown transmission/steering unit; and a A27M with Meteor engine and Merritt-Brown (see E1949.342).
The Tank Board eventually decided (24 October 1941) to re-designate the Nuffield vehicle as the Cruiser VII, the other vehicles as the Cruiser VIII, and all vehicles as Cromwells. By the summer of 1942, the Nuffield type with a Liberty engine was known as Cromwell I, Cromwell Liberty (L) I, or A24; the type with the Liberty engine as the Cromwell II, Cromwell L II, or A27L; and the type with the Meteor engine as the Cromwell III, Cromwell Meteor (or M), or A27M. On 4 August 1942, the Tank Board designated the Nuffield vehicle as the Cruiser VII (Cavalier), the A27L as the Cruiser VIII (Centaur), leaving the A27M as the Cruiser VIII (Cromwell).
The General Staff stated their preference for the Cromwell, but Centaurs were produced as a hedge against failure of the Cromwell.
Production ran out in January 1945 after 1,783 Centaurs.
Eighty Centaur Mark IVs (close-support versions with 95-mm howitzers) landed in France with the Royal Marines on 6 June 1944 and saw a few weeks action.
The variants included anti-aircraft tanks, a dozer, a recovery vehicle, an observation post, and a Kangaroo (personnel carrier).
THIS VEHICLE: was produced around January 1945 by Leyland as a Centaur IV (a Close Support tank with 95mm howitzer). It was subsequently converted into a dozer by MG Cars of Abingdon, by removing the turret and installing a winch in the fighting compartment, and plating over the aperture, and adding a dozer blade on a frame pivoted to the hull sides. Beside the driver, an armoured tower was fabricated for the commander. The design had been worked out by 79th Armoured Division in Belgium in autumn 1944. In the first months of 1945, the first conversions were issued to 87th Assault Dozer Squadron, 6th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers; a few saw action in Germany. Some were deployed during the Korean War (1950-1953) and the intervention around the Suez Canal in 1956. This vehicle remained in British service until August 1963. In 1968, it was sold to Pound’s scrapyard in Portsmouth, from where it was recovered and restored for the Tank Museum. It was finished with the markings of the 79th Armoured Division.
LABEL: In July 1940, a better armoured “heavy cruiser” was required. Leyland led one of the bids, ending in a version with Liberty engine and Merritt-Brown transmission - the Cruiser VIII (Centaur). The General Staff stated their preference for the Cruiser VIII (Cromwell), with the more powerful Meteor engine, but the Ministry of Supply accepted 1,783 Centaurs, of which only 80 Centaurs (all with 95mm howitzers) deployed overseas, all with the Royal Marines on 6 June 1944. This is a Centaur of this type, produced in January 1945, later converted to a dozer, which stayed in British service until 1963.
Bruce Newsome, Ph.D.