The Tank Museum | E1952.39

Tank Infantry A38, Valiant (E1952.39)

Tank Infantry A38, Valiant
vehicle info
Precise Name
Tank Infantry A38, Valiant
Main Utility Type
Country of Use
1943, Ruston and Hornsby Ltd., United Kingdom
World War 2
location in the museum
TYPE HISTORY: On 7 May 1942, the Tank Board had approved development of an assault tank (eventually the A33 or Heavy Cromwell), but its basis – the Cromwell (Cruiser VIII) - was still developmental.

On 26 June 1942, Vickers formally proposed an “assault tank,” to be developed from the Valentine tank (see E1949.344), with much thicker armour and a six-pounder gun, at 23 tons altogether, and without any gains in dimensions that would fall outside the railway loading gauge. In the proposal, Vickers emphasized the low risk of an unambitious development with existing components. Vickers anticipated a pilot vehicle in 12 months.
The attached drawings and wooden model represented something essentially the same as the Valentine IX (see E2000.577), except for a door in the left turret side for the gunner, a single split hatch in the turret roof for the commander, a large sloping glacis plate sloping backwards and left and right from the vertical centre line, and independently sprung, larger roadwheels with a wider track.

In August 1942, the Ministry of Supply contracted with Vickers for 3 pilot tanks in mild steel, shortly amended to six: four Valiant Is were to be fitted with either the US GMC engine or the British AEC engine; two Valiant IIs were to be fitted with either the prospective US Ford V8 tank engine or the prospective Rolls-Royce Meteorite.

On 25 September 1942, Vickers made its second formal proposal. This proposed that “the initial batch of production vehicles” (Valiant I, the same as specified in June) should be powered by the GMC engine developing 210 bhp, while a Valiant II would be developed with an engine developing 400 to 500 bhp (presumably the Meteorite) and an adjusted transmission.

On 22 October 1942, the Ministry of Supply placed an order with Vickers for 500 Valiants, although soon cancelled. In January 1943, the project was transferred from Vickers to Rolls Royce’s engine research facility at Belper, then under contract with the Ministry of Supply as a research and development facility. W.A. Robotham was head of research at Rolls Royce, but since November 1941 also Chief Engineer Tank Design at the Ministry of Supply, at which point Belper because a contracted research and development facility. Nobody there had ever designed a tank, but Robotham’s official ethos was strong after his leadership of the development of a tank engine (the Meteor) from the Rolls Royce Merlin aero-engine. Belper was already designing the Heavy Cromwell.

About two months later, the Ministry of Supply wrote to Vickers relating that Ruston & Hornsby would be parent designer, but effectively Rolls-Royce Belper remained lead designer, while Ruston & Hornsby would be the co-developer and producer. Both should be blamed for the impractical driving arrangements, tall profile, unnecessarily proud driver’s compartment, and unambitious armament.

Rolls-Royce planned delivery of three different pilots: Valiant I in 1943, Valiant II a few months later, and a larger and better armoured Heavy Valiant in 1944. The Heavy Valiant seems to have been known, by various confused authorities, as Valiant Mark III and Vanguard. Belper planned to adapt the Valiant for the US T1/M6 heavy tank’s running gear, which Belper had selected for the Heavy Cromwell. Belper ignored the Tank Board’s requirement for a version with 17-pounder gun, and specified a 57mm six-pounder gun, with allowance for a 75mm gun or a 95mm howitzer, each with coaxial machine-gun. For no good reason, Belper proposed an alternative armament of twin Oerlikon cannons with coaxial machine-gun, or multiple machine-guns, possibly combined with a 20 mm Oerlikon cannon.

THIS VEHICLE: is the only known Valiant. It was produced, late in 1943 or early 1944 by Ruston & Hornsby. This survives with a 75 mm gun, although possibly the 75 mm was a retrospective replacement for a 57 mm gun. No report of the first trial survives, probably because it could not proceed safely. Vision through the periscopes was limited to 10 yards ahead. When changing down from fifth gear, the gear change lever came back so violently, with so little space between it and the steering lever to the right of the driver’s knees that the driver might break his wrist in trying to operate it. The footbrake pedal was positioned such that the driver could depress it with only his heel, where it could become trapped between the pedal and the footplate. The driver was forced to sit in a crouched position that was uncomfortable and liable to injury by contact with the rear edge of the escape hatch. The rear of the hull offered a ground clearance of only 8.75 inches, and actually projected beyond the tracks, so the tank grounded on almost any rise.

In May 1945, Ruston & Hornsby returned Valiant for trials of the suspension only, for which no reports could be found. Probably somebody at Vickers or Ruston & Hornsby had persuaded somebody at the Ministry of Supply that the suspension had been neglected, but the brief trial of May 1945 rediscovered the dangers, and the trial was abandoned after 13 miles.

The School of Tank Technology retained the Valiant for demonstrating to students how not to design a tank, before transferring it to the Tank Museum.

LABEL: By 1942, the British and Americans shared a requirement for an assault tank, which Vickers proposed to fulfil with a better armoured version of the Valentine infantry tank. By September 1942, Vickers proposed to deliver Valiant Is with an uprated version of the Valentine’s engine, followed by Valiant IIs with prospective Rolls-Royce Meteorite engines. Rolls-Royce designed this vehicle from January 1943, supported by Ruston & Hornsby from March 1943, with driving controls that were too dangerous to use, driver hatches that fouled the gun, and a tail with so little ground clearance that it caught on almost any rise.

Bruce Newsome, Ph.D.
Full Tracked
Gun - 75 mm QF Gun white tubed jammed in gun breech
Armament - Main Weapon Type
Coaxial Machine Gun (7.62mm or 7.92mm) missing
Armament - Secondary Weapon Type
General Motors 6-71M
5 Forward, 1 Reverse
Independent coil spring
Vehicle Statistics
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