The Tank Museum | E1949.346

Tank Cruiser Mark VI A15, Crusader III (E1949.346)

Tank Cruiser Mark VI A15, Crusader III
vehicle info
Precise Name
Tank Cruiser Mark VI A15, Crusader III
Main Utility Type
Medium/Cruiser
Country of Use
U.K.
production
Manufactured
1940, Nuffield Mechanisation & Aero Ltd., United Kingdom
Era
World War 2
Nationality
British
location in the museum
Tunisia
TYPE HISTORY: On 20 February 1939, the Director of Mechanization (Alexander Davidson) instructed the Mechanization Board to investigate a version of the A13 Mark II (Cruiser IV – see 1949.1014), with a more robust running gear. This became the A13 Mark III – later the Cruiser Mark V or Covenanter (see E1985.1062).

Nuffield refused to manufacture the Mechanization Board’s design, and suggested that it could develop a better tank from the Cruiser IV that it would find easier to manufacture. Nuffield and the Mechanization Board agreed some obviously superior design choices, such as five instead of four road wheels each side, a hull four inches higher and six inches longer, and a promise to improve the Liberty engine. This project was designated as the A13 Mark IV, later A15. The products were known as Cruiser Vs or Crusaders.

In May 1939, Davidson specified an auxiliary turret, which had been a feature of the Cruiser IV, but was eliminated from Cruiser V to save weight. In June, he specified the Wilson epicyclic steering system from the Matilda II (A12) infantry tank (see E1949.349). With armour of 40mm at the front, and 30mm at the sides, a weight limit of 18 tons was agreed.

Nuffield finished the pilot vehicle on 5 May 1940. Testers ruled that the air louvres were inadequate, and that the gears were difficult to change because of expansion of fluid in the hydraulic control system. These resolved in June. The driver’s compartment, which was uncomfortable and dangerous, was the focus in July, necessitating a redesign, which Nuffield delivered in September, although still not satisfactorily. Nuffield delivered the first Mark I vehicle for automotive trials in November 1940, although the driving controls and position were still dissatisfactory, and Nuffield was ordered to improve the cooling further.

The War Office initially considered the Crusader too unreliable for overseas service, but, with the earlier cruisers being even less reliable or out of production, 40 were enshipped for Egypt in May. They saw action during Operation Battleaxe on 15 June, although larger-scale use waited until Operation Crusader in November. The engine and the cooling systems remained fragile, despite remedial missions to Egypt by Nuffield.

The Crusader III was the first version to be armed with a six-pounder gun. It was also the last proper tank. Production ran out in May 1943, in favour of observation posts (with dummy guns), anti-aircraft versions, tractors, and bulldozers, whose production did not run out until November 1944. In total, 4,676 vehicles were assembled on the Crusader vehicle, of which 1,077 were converted into different variants.

THIS VEHICLE: is a Crusader Mark III, the first version to be armed with a 57mm six-pounder gun, in place of the 40mm two-pounder gun in Crusader Marks I and II. The first Crusader III was delivered in May 1942. Crusader IIIs were landed first in Algeria on 13 November 1942, but deleted from service upon conclusion of the campaign in Tunisia in May 1943, although some vehicles remained in use as tractors or carriers. This vehicle probably never left England, as it was held by the School of Tank Technology, before transfer to the Tank Museum in 1949. This vehicle is painted to represent a tank serving in Tunisia.

LABEL: This tank started as a project in February 1939 to make a version of the Cruiser IV with more robust running gear. Nuffield and the Mechanization Board agreed five instead of four road wheels each side, a hull four inches higher and six inches longer, and a promise to improve the Liberty engine. This vehicle is a Crusader Mark III, the first version to be armed with a 57mm six-pounder gun, in place of the 40mm two-pounder gun in Crusader Marks I and II.

Bruce Newsome, Ph.D.
VEHICLES Features
Full Tracked
Tracks/Wheels
Gun - 6 Pounder (57 mm) Gun QF Mark III
Armament - Main Weapon Type
7.92mm Besa Machine Gun
Armament - Secondary Weapon Type
Nuffield Liberty Mark III, V12, watr cooled
Engine
Nuffield constant mesh 4 Forward, 1 Reverse
Transmission
Christie
Suspension
Vehicle Statistics
5.98m
Length (Overall)
2.64m
Width (Overall)
3
Number (Crew)
19.812kg
Weight (Overall)
43kph
Maximum (Speed - Road)
6pdr
Calibre (Main Gun)
340bhp
Power (Engine Output)
500ltr
Volume (Fuel)
Petrol
Type (Fuel)
177km
Radius (Range)
40mm
Maximum (Armour Thickness)
2.24m
Height (Overall)
65rounds
Number (Projectile)