Cromwell tanks of the 6th Armoured Divisions

Cromwell tanks of the 6th Armoured Divisions

Churchill tanks of the 6th Armoured Divisions

Men of the 6th Armoured Divison inspecting their Churchill tanks before an attack south of Sbiba (North Africa) on 2 February 1943.

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Tank Profile – The British Cromwell Tank – Speedy, Reliable, And Powerful

Perhaps the most balanced British tank that came out of the Second World War, the Cromwell, named after the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell, offered a reasonable armor protection combined with enough firepower to take on its German counterparts. But the main trait of this tank was its excellent V12 Meteor petrol engine produced by Rolls Royce which ran at 600 horsepower.

It was capable of achieving the maximum speed of 40 mph (64 km/h) and thus belonged to the cruiser tank category. Cromwell, official markings being Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M), was the direct successor of the Crusader tank, produced early during the war. The tank saw its first action as a support tank for the British marines that landed in Normandy in 1944.

A Cromwell Mk. 1 displayed at the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum, Puckapunyal, Australia (2007). The white writing on the turret is to inform cargo handlers that it is not to be transported by sea as deck cargo Photo Source

The first talks of development date back to 1940 with the prototype designs codenamed A23 and A24. The main problem for British tanks at the time was the cooling system. It caught the armored forces like an epidemic, as Crusader tanks tended to overheat and become useless.

Thus, the tank board decided to split the Cromwell prototypes into three different projects, in order to avoid investing too many resources in a potentially flawed design.

The A24 Cromwell I late became known as the Cavalier. This tank was closest to its predecessor, the Crusader. The second, A27L Cromwell II, became known as the Centaur, and the third, A27M Cromwell III, being the original Cromwell tank. Besides the Meteor engine which was made compatible with the Liberty engine used by the Centaur, the tank was installed with the Merrit-Brown gearbox.

Centaur IV of Royal Marine Armoured Support Group, Normandy 13 June 1944

It utilized an Ordnance QF 75 mm, derived from previous versions which were mounted with a QF 6-pounder (57 mm). Depending on the variant, Cromwell’s armored was between 3 and 4 inches thick (76mm – 100 mm).

The first tryouts in August–September 1943 were codenamed Exercise Dracula and held in Britain. Even though the Cromwell proved to be more reliable and generally superior to its older brother, the Centaur, the tank’s performances were still lagging behind the American Sherman tank. Both the Cromwell and the Centaur experienced malfunctions and were sent for re-evaluation.

Wounded German soldiers being ferried to an aid post on the hull of a Cromwell tank

When D-Day arrived, the British had to rely on the yet untested tank which was to be part of the 6th Airborne Division, 7th Armoured Division, 11th Armoured Division, Guards Armoured Division, and 1st (Polish) Armoured Division. The tank was also used by the 1st (Czechoslovakian) Independent Armoured Brigade Group as part of the First Canadian Army in Dunkirk.

Cromwell saw extensive combat in France and Germany, where it was able to tackle many of German standard armored vehicles. Still, its 75 mm gun lacked the ability of armor penetration against the German Tiger ― a trait which made its 6-pounder predecessor famous. Improvements were made by the end of the war by installing the improved 77 mm, but it barely saw any action.

Czechoslovak soldiers on a Cromwell tank near Dunkerque in 1945. Photo Source

The Centaur was left almost entirely for training purposes, as it failed to overcome its design flaws. Cromwell, on the other hand, was praised for its speed, reliability, and extremely low profile, which made it harder to spot.

After the war, Cromwell was provided to countries such as Australia, Austria, Burma, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Eire, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Portugal, South Africa, USSR, and West Germany.

In was retired in the British Army in 1955 and replaced with Tank, Cruiser, Comet I (A34).


Guards Armoured Division tanks

A few minutes searching online produced this- there is also an Osprey Vanguard I think.

May 14, 2017 #5 2017-05-14T09:35

I believe the Guards Armoured initially had M4A4 Sherman V, including Sherman VC Firefly, in each of the three tank battalion that made up the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade. I have seen photographic evidence to suggest that replacement Sherman 1C Hybrid and possibly Sherman II may have been issued by Sepember 44. The division also had an Armoured Recce unit (2nd Batalion Welsh Guards) with Cromwell and later some 17-pdr Challengers.

Churchill were issued to the independant 6th Guards Tank Brigade, but not to the division. I don't believe they were issued Comet either.

With every model I learn a little more. and then the next one takes longer!

May 14, 2017 #6 2017-05-14T12:06

Thanks for all the info, it's really helped

Jun 05, 2017 #7 2017-06-05T22:43

Dan Taylor Modelworks has:
- a sheet of transfers for the 2 Bn Irish Guards, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade. Markings are provided for specific vehicles comprising 6 Sherman Mks V, a Vc, Humber Scout Car, a Stuart Mk VI and a M9A1 Halftrack
- a sheet of transfers for 2 Bn Welsh Guards, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade. Markings are provided for 4 specific Cromwell Mks IV and two generic Cromwells and
- a sheet of transfers for Churchills including a Mk IV and Mk VII from the 6th Guards Tank Brigade.

There are also markings for specific and generic Guards AFVs in sheets of transfers from Starmers Armour, Aleran, Decalcomaniacs and Skytrex.
Cheers
David

Jun 07, 2017 #8 2017-06-07T10:35

Jul 05, 2017 #9 2017-07-05T08:38

Guards mostly had M4A4s, certainly these were the bulk of the division at Market Garden. The Welsh Guards had Cromwells, and after August 1944 Challengers (the earliest Challenger pics I've seen were taken at Flers after 'Bluecoat'. Attached Royal Artillery units had M10s and Achilles TDs.

The 'Battlefield Europe' series books on Bluecoat and Nijmegen have some good pictures. There is also the original Osprey Vanguard book on the Guards, I have this if there is something specific that interests you, but it's a bit of a disappointing source of images.

Churchills of 6Th Guards Tank Brigade worked with the division at the outset of Bluecoat, betting beaten up by some Jagdpanthers but getting their men onto the objective. The tank brigades were separate entities for infantry support, so Churchills were not part of armoured divisions as such. I am not aware of them operating with the division after late July 1944.

Comets only went to 11th and 7th, again delayed until early 1945 as Shermans were re-issued because of the German Ardennes Offensive.


In Flames of War

The Cromwell tank can be described as a British equivalent of the M4 Sherman tank since both vehicles offer similar protection (Front Armour 6, Side and Rear Armour 4, Top Armour 1) and firepower (75mm main gun with Anti-Tank 10 and Firepower 3+, supplemented by two machineguns). The A27M surpasses its American counterpart in speed (12"/30 cm Tactical Speed compared to 10"/25 cm in the Sherman and 32"/80 cm Road Dash compared to 20"/50 cm respectively) combined with Protected Ammo Special Rule.

Two British Formations in the current Fourth Edition rely on Cromwell tanks: Armoured Recce Squadron and Desert Rats Armoured Squadron.

Model Kits:

  • BBX31 Cromwell Armoured Platoon (five plastic models with tank commanders' busts and a decal sheet)
  • BBX57 Cromwell Armoured Troop (four plastic Cromwell tank models, one Sherman Firefly model, tank commander sprue, Unit Cards, and a decal sheet)

ANZAC’s in the Pacific and South-eastern Asia

The 2/6th Armoured Regiment from the 1st Armoured Division was deployed in Port Moresby and Milne bay in New Guinea, against the Japanese, in September 1942. By December, two squadrons were dispatched to Buna (north coast of Papua), to try to bring to a conclusion the difficult Buna-Gona campaign. In January 1943, the remainder of the 1st Armoured division was dispatched to the Western Australian defense sector, between Perth and Geraldton. It was disbanded in September, after the threat seemed no longer relevant. The 1st Light Horse Regiment or Royal New South Wales Lancers was renamed 1st Tank Battalion equipped with Matilda tanks, taking part in the battles of Sattelberg and Lakona, New Guinea, August 1943. It was withdrawn eventually in mid-1944. It was later renamed and involved in the Balikpapan and Borneo campaigns in 1944-45.

The 2nd Armoured Division was created in February 1942 from the 2nd Motor Division (former 2nd Cavalry). It comprised of three armoured regiments and one brigade, equipped with M3 Grant and M3 Stuart tanks. It only served in Australia. The 3rd Armoured Division was created in November 1943 from the 1st Motor Division (1st Cavalry.). Both were short-lived and eventually disbanded in Queensland, due to shortages in manpower. The 4th Armoured Brigade was formed in January 1943 to provide a “pool” of armored units, that could have been shipped on demand in the whole South West Pacific Area. Units from the brigade served at the Huon Peninsula campaign and the Aitape-Wewak campaign.

Although the bulk of the armored units were equipped with Allied tanks and armored vehicles, there was both the will and some industrial capabilities to produce a tank domestically, and even more easily armored cars. This need was exacerbated, at the beginning of the Pacific campaign, by the need to compensate for the UK’s incapacity to provide adequate supplies of tanks, which could have been crucial in repelling any invasion of the Australian mainland by Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) forces. The program soon included the Sentinel tank, its support version, the Thunderbolt, as well as attempts of up-gunning the tank when large supplies of US tanks were available. However, from late 1943 to mid-1944, emphasis was put on jungle warfare conversion, which concerned first and foremost the old Matilda. The scope of modifications included wire mesh screens or metal protecting both the engine and air louvres against magnetic mines, turret ring protection, an infantry telephone for better coordination, waterproofing equipment both for deep wading and to cope with the extreme wetness of the climate. Other conversions included the fitting of a tank dozer blade, the Matilda Hedgehog (mortar conversion) and the Matlida Frog (flamethrowing tank). Some of these modifications were also passed on the M3 Grant.


Design

The hull frame consisted of riveted beams, but later production versions resorted to welding. The armor plates were bolted to the frame, particularly on the turret, which left large characteristic bosses on the outside. The chassis stood on five large roadwheels, with front idlers for tension and rear drive sprockets. The suspension was of the Christie type, with long helical springs angled back to keep the hull down and low. Four out of the five road wheels (rubber-clad) had shock absorbers. There were no track return rollers. The hull sides were two spaced plates with the suspension units between them, the outer plate being cut out to allow movement of the roadwheel axles. Side skirts were provided to protect the upper sides, but they were generally omitted and only the fore and aft mudguards were left in practice.
The front armor comprised a three part beak with 50 mm (1.97 in) plates and a flat front armor plate, 76 mm (3 in) thick. From it emerged the driver’s visor, a thick glass block protected by an opening “gate” (right-hand side), and a ball mount for the hull Besa machine-gun on the left-hand side. The driver had a one-piece hatch opening to the right and two built-in day periscopes. He was separated from the hull gunner by a bulkhead. The latter had access to ammunition racks and had his own No.35 telescope and a one-piece hatch. The ball mount gave 45° of traverse and 25° of elevation, connected through a linkage to a handle for firing. A bulkhead with access doors separated the front compartment from the central fighting compartment. On later models, protection was increased, with 3.1 in (79 mm) welded plates (Mark IVw/Vw), then to 4 in (102 mm) on the Mark VII.

Turret & main armament

The boxy turret sat directly above the central fighting compartment, isolated both from the front and engine compartments. The turret was of hexagonal shape, with a 76 mm (3 in) thick front and 50 mm (1.97 in) flat sides and an internal mantlet. The main gun and coaxial Besa protruded from the front plate opening, mated on the same axis. This opening was around 60 cm (2 ft) large and 40 cm (1 ft 3 in) high, with rounded corners. All six plates were made of cast hardened steel. There was a porthole for spent rounds on the rear faces, that could also be used as a pistol port. The gunner operated both the main gun and the 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Besa machine gun and had his own periscope and main visor. The main gun was, at first, the 6-pounder QF (57 mm/2.24 in), modified to fit inside the turret and fitted with a muzzle brake. This gun was only present on the Mark I and all other Marks had better guns.
Starting with the Mark II, the Cromwell swapped the QF 6-pdr for the ROQF 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, which was an adaptation of the 6-pounder design to fire the ammunition of the US M3 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, including a better HE round for use in infantry support. This adaptation also meant that the 75 mm (2.95 in) used the same mounting as the 6 pounder and the crew and internal management of the turret remained essentially unchanged. There was already a large supply of ammo of this caliber, both of American and French origin, in North Africa. In fact, with the introduction of Shermans in British service in North Africa at the end of 1942, a consensus was reached about the use of guns firing powerful HE shells against infantry. This was something that previous models armed with the 2-pounder couldn’t do, not even the so-called “CS” versions armed with a 95 mm (3.74 in) gun, mostly reserved for smoke rounds. Therefore, it was decided to standardize this caliber and, at the same time, the reliable and cheaper Sherman became the first tank in service by numbers and would remain so until the end of the war. This ROQF 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, though able to fire a useful HE shell, was not as effective against armor as the 6-pounder or the Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun. In addition, a 2 inch (51 mm) “bomb thrower” angled to fire forward was fitted into the turret top, with thirty smoke grenades carried.

Propulsion

A second bulkhead separated the fighting compartment from the engine and transmission compartment. The cooling system drew air in through the top of each side and the roof. Hot gasses were exhausted to the rear louvers. Fording preparation (up to 4 ft/1.2 m deep) imposed the move of a flap to cover the lowermost air outlet. Another air flow to the engine sucked air from the fighting compartment or the exterior, through oil bath cleaners.
The Meteor engine, in its first version, developed 540 hp at 2,250 maximum rpm, limited by a governor built into the magnetos to avoid reaching speeds that the suspensions could no longer manage without damage. It was shown indeed that the pilot tanks could easily reach 75 km/h (47 mph), something unheard of for a British tank, but the Christie suspension (later reinforced by adding more tension) simply could not cope with these speeds. It was therefore decided to govern the engine maximum RPM and, thus, the top speed. But the torque was there, available both for mobility and traction. The gearbox had five forward and one reverse gears. Fuel consumption (on “pool” 67 octane petrol) per gallon ranged from 0.5 (off-road) to 1.5 miles (road) for a total 110 gallons of internal capacity. Off-road speed was 65 km/h (40 mph) with 3.7:1 final reduction drive and around 25 mph (40 km/h) off-road. Later on, armor was added and the engine was re-rated to 600 hp to cope with the additional weight. To face muddy terrain or snow encountered in Northern Europe, later versions were given 14 in wide (36 cm) or even 15.5 in wide (40 cm) tracks. In all cases, ground clearance was 16 inches (40.6 cm).


Cromwell tanks of the 6th Armoured Divisions - History

Battle of Central Germany . . . (continued)

IT seemed as though the whole Allied juggernaut was surging forward in a great wave. At main highway intersections one interminable convoy would cross another. The three regiments of the division were coordinating, each unit moving up on a zone eighteen kilometers over the Hesse plain to Lenderscheid . (This was only an overnight stop, but it was the opening of a brief association with XXth Corps , the third corps with which the regiment had operated.)
From Lenderscheid , the regiment moved the next morning by shuttle in organic transportation to Malsfeld , and thence on foot to Melsungen , a city situated on the Fulda River . A few kilometers up the river was Kassel , for which the 6th Armored Division was even then fighting. Here, for the battalions, began a long foot march taking them first to Hessisch-Lichtenau , sixteen kilometers from Melsungen and on to the village of Walberg . Throughout this area, the troops flushed woods and countryside, turning up scattered enemy snipers and small groups hewn out of the larger bodies by the armor where it had, gone through. Towns occupied included Velmeden, Hausen, Frankenhain, Wolfterode, Frankershausen, Hitzerode and Orferode . Beginning at Melsungen , Anti-Tank Company had the mission of protecting the regimental rear and flanks.
Because light resistance eliminated the necessity for artillery preparation, Cannon Company added to its general workaday routine the task of providing security detachments for all towns in the regimental area and of screening Personnel in such towns. In a single day the regiment did a gigantic mopping-up job as far as the banks of the Wehre River . Reaching the Altwehre and Wehre rivers, it was found that two bridges remained intact, and bridgeheads were immediately established here.
For several days, the 304th had been working in close conjunction with the 6th Armored Division , following up and consolidating the gains made by their armor. Now orders were received to move ahead to the vicinity of M|hlhausen and Langensalza --the current tip of 6th Armored's spearhead .
Leaving the densely wooded country which had been reasonably normal and quiet throughout the push from the Rhine , the regimental column moved out into the broad plain of the province of Thuringia in a sixty-five kilometer jump, taking the regimental CP to Schvnstedt , between the cities of M|hlhausen and Langensalza . At M|hlhausen , the regimental commander contacted 6th Armored . The next day, April 7th, the 3rd battalion and one platoon of AT Company were attached to the armored division. Thus began the coordinating operations which teamed the 76th Division with the 6th Armored Division in the final long drive to the east preceding the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht.

THIRD Battalion was to remain in M|hlhausen only a few hours. Ten kilometers to the rear, a major German counter-attack with infantry and tanks had developed to cut the supply lines of CT 304 and 6th Armored . In their dare-devil plunges of massed American forces, the armored divisions of the Third and First Armies had extended two long slender fingers for miles into Nazi-held terrain. Quick to take advantage of this vulnerability, harried Nazis now hoped to snip off great masses of American armor.
Again we have from the pen of Captain Ryan a quick word picture of the kaleidoscope through which the men were passing.
"In Dingelstddt there was Combat Command B of the 6th Armored there. We took over a big gasthaus with many tables. This was the tavern with the meatmarket room attached and the meat house in the back. We had beaucoup meat, cutlets, steaks and chops there. Only one meal or two from the old gent that ran it. Nice family. A lot of young girls there and a Frenchman who had been living with them for several years and liked them. Had many Frenchmen coming thru we helped them get some K-rations for food. One of them, a former officer in the French Army, wanted to join our tank forces. He supplied information about large concentration of German men and tanks in nearby town, having just walked thru the German lines. Took him to Col. Barber and he had the colonel of the 6th Armored in charge of the tanks, Task Force Dugas, CC B there meet him. He questioned the Frenchman himself being of French extraction. We were in Dingelstddt April 7th to April 9th. It was a nice town, in peace time had 5,000 population, now crowded with refugees. The armored supply lines were getting long now and needed some shielding. Company went up to take a high hill protecting supply route and near the town of Kreuzebra . They came to a ridge and drew heavy fire. Had 5 - 6 tanks with them-- they threw stuff in and drew more back. After some harassing S/Sgt. Roger St. Louis of K Co. (S/Sgt. Roger J. St. Louis, 16149346) went over the ridge and started down the hill . . . to go forward . . . This was the town the Frenchman had said had a heavy concentration of troops, tanks, etc. Several thousand men he said. St. Louis (our good friend of Orenhofen who with Bark had gotten the plasma back to us), didn't get far before he was hit. Almost immediately Suntan, (Pfc. Thomas Santandrea, 32566932) went over the hill and down to him. With his red cross and a clear day, he was clearly seen yet they opened up on him with everything they had and killed both Suntan and St. Louis who tried to pull himself away . . . . Two darn good boys gone . . . "
The battalion moved by motor with the armored task-force to an assembly area at Eigenrieden , two miles from Struth , the focal point of the attack. Supported by tanks, they moved up with elements of the 65th Division into the still burning ruins of Struth . With overwhelming force now on their side, armor and infantry moved in and broke up the counterattack. Enemy armor was destroyed and the supply line was once more intact. But in Struth , the wreckage of American vehicles and tanks, as well as American dead and wounded, was all that was left of the small defending force which had coped with the attack before aid arrived. It was a grim commentary on the hazards which the 304th would face as a spearheading force with armor. Always present, amid the thrill of fast punches and racing advances, was the threat of having thin lines snipped off and small defending forces mangled. That the 304th was never caught in such a situation is a tribute to the alertness and painstaking security precautions of its officers and men.
Of this sector and the action Capt. Ryan in his diary writes:
"While looking for Col. Barber and Hickman, got into a house which had observation on the town being counterattacked. The name of the town was Struth . When we arrived 4 P-47s were diving and strafing the town. They gave a beautiful exhibition, disappearing behind the town church steeple. Tanks, German and American, could be seen moving on the outskirts. Our tanks moving in and a column of Jerry tanks moving out and being harassed by the P-47s. What had happened was that the 65th had taken 2 towns in the area-- Struth and another, . . . and in the night the Germans rode up on 175 or so bicycles, set up flak gun positions on the edge of town, moved tanks into the town . . . They surprised the 65th the citizens are said to have pointed out the CPs and German troops threw explosives in those houses, . . . In an adjoining town another counterattack had temporarily dislodged another 65th company with heavy casualties. 65th reinforcements were sent in and I and K Companies were added to them. They encircled while the 65th mopped up the towns. They hadn't seen their aid station in two days, i. e., the aid men of the 65th. We treated many of their casualties there. Had lad, with severe jaw and neck wound, there who on shifting position almost died--almost had to do a tracheotomy. (As he lay down the passageway was mechanically blocked off. Had him upright on sofa getting plasma). . . . The other town counterattacked was Dvrna --there a Section Sgt. had been captured and wounded and then when the town was retaken he was freed. In M|hlhausen the town was full of antiaircraft guns, tanks and TDs and all opened up on the ME 109s, knocking one down. The sirens had blown and scared everyone through their doors and no one could get in for protection.
"When things were under control we took off for our next spot supposed to be the town after Struth . As we wound our way through Struth every building in the town was aflame, in retaliation for the civilians pointing out CPs, etc. The streets were narrow, we drove between flames all the way--there was an odor of burned flesh--dead horses and men . . . Germans were lying dead all over the place, Americans too . . . There were many prisoners taken too. Saw 200 to 300 behind one building. . . . Buildings ready to tumble. As we rode on in the night, you could see three towns on fire in the dark. Struth , Dvrna , and another. We expected to stop at K|llstedt but went on thru to the town of Dingelstddt . When we were there for several days, we were the closest American troops to Berlin , about 120 miles away. We were also out on a thumb and had front, left and right flanks open."
While 3rd battalion was fighting in Struth , the regiment had gone on to Langensalza , a significant milestone in its advance through Germany . Here, the 304th took over its first key city, had its first notable encounter with the Luftwaffe.
Langensalza , an important prize of war, was a thoroughly Nazi community which had thrived as a military center. On the outskirts of the city was a large air field and air officer's training school which had also served as a base of operations for Luftwaffe fighters. One side of the city was given over to an aircraft plant, which overflowed into vacant lots with partially assembled fighter planes lined row on row in an open-air assembly line. Most important, Langensalza was a great supply depot. Warehouses within and on the outskirts of the city were jammed with food, in quantity and quality belying reports of a starving Germany . Army clothing and equipment were found in huge stockpiles. The entire countryside was a Nazi storehouse, with the four-billion-dollar gold hoard later uncovered by Third Army in Merkers , only a few Kilometers away.

IN such a town diehard resisters were "a natural." Thus, although another unit had carried on clearing operations, there were snipers and saboteurs at work days after the regiment entered Langensalza . With hostile forces on three sides of the city, a counter-attack in progress to the rear and no armored spearhead out in front, the regiment's position in Langensalza called for a "guard-up" alertness. 1st and 2nd battalions were in position on a front facing generally northeast of the city, with one platoon of Anti-Tank Company holding a line southwest of Langensalza . The 302nd Field Artillery moved to Ndgelstedt , a village east of the city, to assume positions in support of front-line units. A special mission went to C Company. Reinforced by three sections of tanks of the 749th Tank Battalion and a platoon of the 76th Division Recon Troop, the company went back to clear a large wooded area near Kammerforst , west of Langensalza . The 2nd battalion, with its CP in Thamsbr|ck , was now the leading infantry unit of Third Army .
Then there was the Luftwaffe. For a week, since the crossing of the Rhine , this had amounted to a big, latent, unanswered question mark in the minds of the rank and file. For some strange reason--intuition perhaps, or a sixth sense--this business of enemy air power had never before bothered the men to any appreciable degree. It may be that attention was too closely centered on the enemy directly ahead--and on the ground--to waste too much time bothering about a possible foe aloft--overhead. But inexplicably, from the banks of the Rhine on, there was a new alertness, a watchfulness. Men would catch themselves listening, trying to determine whether the roar of the convoy's trucks in which they were riding or the bellow of tanks beside them or ahead was just that--or perhaps, the zoom of a plane's motors overhead. There was not much talk about it. Probably each man avoided the subject for dread of appearing an alarmist. But it is nonetheless true that of all sights along these roads none were so gratifying at any time as that of enemy airplane wreckage and bombed out air fields.

EARLY in the morning of the regiment's first day in Langensalza , troops of the 304th had their initial experience with this fading wing of the Wehrmacht. A group of fighter-bombers came over the airport to be met with a hail of tracer bullets and flak from guns of 778th AAA men, who had been a part of CT 304 since the jump-- off from Luxembourg without being favored with a target. Now they had one. For the next three days, the regiment had its own "Bed-check Charlie," a lone enemy fighter who put in a daily appearance in the early evening hours, sometimes bent on reconnaissance, sometimes strafing opportunity targets. Every evening the AA gunners were ready for "Charlie", sending him off with an escort of red-hot lead as troops cheered them on.

These men had dealt blows against a stronger Luftwaffe at Bastogne as the famed 101st Airborne Division was fighting in the town to break the great winter counter-offensive. Now, as the regiment moved east, the 778th, were to be in on the kill.
In two days at Langensalza , the city was brought under firm control, fifteen surrounding villages were occupied by the battalions, the broken supply line was restored and preparations were made for another move. On April 9th, the 3rd battalion returned from its mission at Struth . The next, day CT 304 attacked.

next page: Battle of Central Germany . . . (continued)

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CMD Cromwell IV

One of the cruiser tanks developed and employed by Great Britain, named after Oliver Cromwell, the A27M Cruiser entered service in 1944. The result of a long and complicated development history starting in 1940, the Cromwell was intended to be a replacement for the then-new Crusader as the A24 Cromwell. By 1942, different design ideas by the major British tank designers culminated in three different variants: The Nuffield A24 Cromwell I (eventually renamed Cavalier), Leyland A27L Cromwell II (Centaur), and the BRC&W A27M Cromwell III.

The Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon eventually became the Cromwell tank as it came to be known. Changing production circumstances and tactical requirements burther modified the design, leading to the inclusion of dual-purpose 75mm tank guns based on the performance of Lend-Lease M4 Shermans. Further improvements and modifications of the Cromwell until the first production variant, Cromwell IV, entered service. The distinguishing feature was the 600 HP Rolls-Royse Meteor aircraft engine, which gave the Cromwell an excellent power-to-weight ratio and made it the fastest tank in British service.

The IV was a Centaur hull with the Royal Ordnance Quick Firing 75mm tank gun (a 6-pounder gun bored out to accommodate rounds for the M4 Sherman) with a coaxial 7.92mm BESA machine gun and another in the hull. A bomb projector was mounted on the roof of the turret for deploying smoke. Armor was up to 76mm on the front and 8mm in the rear. Command tanks were outfitted with more powerful radios to coordinate tank platoons.

CMD Cromwell IV represent in the Guards Armoured command tanks of the Battalion, Welsh Guards which served as the Armored Reconnaissance Regiment.

A squadron of 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment ofنth Airborne which landed in Normandy with Tetrarch had replaced them with Cromwell Tanks after the linkup with the Seaborne elements of the division. CMD Cromwell IV represent the command elements of the Tank Squadron.

CMD Cromwell IV represent the command elements of the 22nd Armored Brigade of theهth Armoured which had all of the Armored Regiments equipped with Cromwell Tanks.


The British Army’s Largest Tank Battle in 25 Stunning Images

Operation Goodwood in Normandy, France was a British offensive against the German forces at the end of July 1944. It is called by some historians as ‘the largest tank battle in British Army’s history.’ British forces deployed two infantry divisions and three armored divisions with 1,100 tanks.

The Germans engaged four infantry divisions, three armored divisions, and two heavy tank battalions with 377 tanks. The British forces wanted to take control of Caen in Northwestern France to break through the German lines and liberate the rest of the occupied country.

The British forces advanced seven miles to the eastern part of the city, but the Germans prevented a total breakthrough. The British had 3,474 casualties and lost 314 tanks. The Germans had an unknown number of casualties but over 2,500 German soldiers were captured, and they lost 75 to 100 tanks in the battle.

Avro Lancaster B Mark IIs of No. 514 Squadron RAF taxi onto the main runway at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, for a daylight attack on fortified villages east of Caen, in support of the Second Army’s armoured offensive in the Normandy battle area (Operation GOODWOOD). Vertical aerial photograph showing Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, LW127 ‘HL-F’, of No. 429 Squadron RCAF, in flight over Mondeville, France, after losing its entire starboard tailplane to bombs dropped by another Halifax above it. LW127 was one of 942 aircraft of Bomber Command dispatched to bomb German-held positions, in support of the Second Army attack in the Normandy battle area (Operation GOODWOOD), on the morning of July 18th, 1944. The crew managed to abandon the aircraft before it crashed in the target area. Vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial photograph of the steelworks at Colombelles, east of Caen, France following a daylight attack on fortified German positions by aircraft of Bomber Command on the morning of July 18th, 1944, in support of Operation GOODWOOD. The whole target area is studded with a dense concentration of craters and almost every building in the steelworks has been destroyed.

A Sherman tank and a Crusader AA Mk III tank of the Staffordshire Yeomanry in France during Operation Goodwood, July 1944 Sherman tanks carrying infantry wait to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, Normandy, 18 July 1944. Infantry and Sherman tanks wait to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th of July 1944. A Sherman Firefly is in the foreground. Soldiers of 1st Welsh Guards in action near Cagny during Operation Goodwood Sherman tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, 27th Armoured Brigade, carrying infantry from 3rd Division, move up at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18 July 1944. Cromwell tanks moving across ‘York’ bridge, a Bailey bridge over the Caen canal and the Orne River, during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. A Sherman Firefly crosses ‘Euston Bridge’ over the Orne as it moves up to the start line for Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Infantry and tanks wait to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’. A King Tiger of the 503rd heavy tank battalion, after it has been rammed by a British Sherman commanded by Lieutenant John Gorman of the 2nd Armoured Irish Guards, Guards Armoured Division during Operation Goodwood. Gorman and his crew then captured most of the Tiger’s crew. The event took place on 18th July 1944 to the west of Cagny, Normandy, France. Loyd carriers and 6-pounder anti-tank guns of 3rd Irish Guards advance during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Sherman Crab flail tanks advance south of Escoville during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. German PzKpfw VI Tiger tank overturned during the heavy Allied bombing at the beginning of Operation ‘Goodwood’, July 1944. Cromwell tanks assembled for Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Sherman tanks and Crab flail tanks advance with infantry south of Escoville during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Cromwell tanks of 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry advance near Escoville during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Sherman tanks of 23rd Hussars, 11th Armoured Division, make their way across open ground in front of the factory chimneys at Colombelles steelworks during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Sherman tanks and a Sherman Firefly move through Escoville during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Sherman flail tank moves up to cross the Orne river during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. Smiling German Prisoner of War during Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944. A tank commander talks to infantry on his Sherman Crab flail tank at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18th July 1944.

"British Tank Troops and the Cromwell in WW2" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

I'm trying to find out how British armoured units equipped with Cromwells during WW2 differed in organisation from those equipped with Shermans.

As far as I'm aware, a troop of British Shermans included 3 'standard' Shermans, plus a Sherman Firefly.

How was the equivalent unit organised when equipped with Cromwells? Was it 4 standard Cromwells, or did they still include the Firefly?

It varied, being either troops of 3 (with an extra troop) or troops of 4 including a Firefly. The few units that received Challengers use them in lieu of the Firefly, which simply couldn't keep up with the Cromwells.

Cromwell Regiments tend to cause confusion. You have to recognise a slight difference between the Armd Recce Regts of each of the three British and one Polish Armd Divs, and the Armd Bde of 7th Armd Div, which all used the Cromwell.

The Armd Recce Regts began the campaign without any Sherman Fireflies in their ranks. They used five Troops of three Cromwells apiece as a result. By late summer 1944, the Armd Recce Regts were operating more or less as a normal Armd Regt and began to adopt a similar ratio of Fireflies. As was mentioned, they were supposed to use the Challenger but only a handful were ever issued (from memory only a couple of dozen in service by 1945).

The three Armd Regts of 7th Armd Div used the Cromwell and Firefly in the same ratio as other units used the 75-mm Sherman and Firefly, that is one per Troop. Late war an increase was allowed of two per Troop, but it's debateable as to whether there were enough Fireflies to go around, I don't think Guards Armd Div ever had more than seventy on hand between late 1944 and May 1945 for example.

Don't ask about the Czech Armd Bde, I nearly gave myself a seizure trying to work their allocations out!

4th, 8th, 27th & 33rd armoured used Sherman & firefly
6th guards tank brigade,31 & 34 tank brigade, churchills

Guards armoured division, sherman, firelfy and with welsh guards cromwell and challenger

7th armoured div had firefly cromwell and challenger

11th armoured div, shermans, fireflys, cromwells and challengers. In March 45 their shermans were replaced by Comet and form august 44 the 15th/19th hussars used cromwell and challenger.

70th armoured used all the funnies on varients of sherman and churchill. hope that helps.

It's a popular question this, so here's an answer I gave to a similar recent question (it's lurking here somewhere):

7th Armoured Division was pretty much wall-to-wall Cromwells and was unique in that. However, their individual tank troops were equipped with Firefly (not Challenger – I'll come to that later). There were three squadrons to a regiment and they looked like this:

Squadron HQ:
1x Command Cromwell IV (75mm)
2x Cromwell V (95mm CS)

4x Troops, each with:
1x Command Cromwell IV
2x Cromwell IV
1x Firefly

Although Sherman regiments increased the numbers of Fireflies as the war went on, I haven't come across references to the same thing happening in 7th Armoured Division. A reason for this is probably because the Cromwell went through an upgrade programme (unlike the Sherman), which increased its front armour to 100mm and improved the 'escapability' for the crew (the newer versions rapidly entered service – being the Mk VII (75mm) and the Mk VIII (95mm CS). It also seemed to be a lot less likely to burn than a Sherman Firefly.

The 1st Czech Independent Armoured Brigade also had two Cromwell regiments organised much like this, though the regiments had hardly any Fireflies (just enough for one or two per SQUADRON). They remedied this by adding Challengers in 1945.

1 RTR (of 7th Armoured Division) upgraded to Comets in April 1945 (they did see action).

Each armoured division also had an Armoured Recce Regiment. In the Canadian divisions, these were wall-to-wall Shermans (no Cromwells in the Canadian Army), but the British and Poles used the Cromwell for all four regiments. The Armoured Recce Regiments had taken over from divisional armoured car regiments late in 1943 and early in 1944, with the armoured cars going to Corps HQs. However, this arrangement was found wholly wanting (particularly during Op Bluecoat) and the armoured cars were soon brought back to the divisions, with the Armoured Recce Regiments becoming just another armoured regiment (with different equipment and title). Ironically, the Armoured Recce Regiments did their best recce work after this change – during the 'Great Swan' across France.

Armoured Recce Regiments normally had three squadrons, though the 8th Hussars (of 7th Armoured Division) started out with four. Each squadron looked like this in Normandy:

Squadron HQ:
2x Cromwell IV (75mm)
2x Cromwell V (95mm CS)

5x Troops, each with:
3x Cromwell IV (75mm)

Note the lack of a 17pdr tank. This was because the Challenger (a 'stretched' Cromwell with a different turret mounting a 17pdr) had been temporarily withdrawn from service as it was having severe problems with its idler wheels, which, having been designed for the Cromwell, weren't strong enough to support the weight of the lengthened tracks of the Challenger. The Challenger was reintroduced right at the end of the Normandy Campaign, or just after. When they did arrive, Challengers were allocated one per troop and the number of troops was usually reduced to four by this time. There is some debate as to how many Challengers were re-issued, though I've not seen any evidence of Fireflies being issued as alternatives. Indeed, I know one veteran of the 15/19th Hussars and he distinctly remembers receiving a full issue of them.

Some other units to use the Cromwell:

The 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment acquired some Cromwell IVs in late July 1944 (various accounts say 8, 10 or 12). They replaced Tetrarchs in two or three troops from 'A' Squadron and with the obsolesence of the Tetrarch in September 1944, they formed a Heavy Troop of 4x Cromwells in A & B Squadrons (in addition to keeping 8x Locusts in stock for genuine airborne ops).

3/4th County of London Yeomanry was formed in 4th Armoured Brigade in July 1944 from the remnants of the 7th Armoured Division's Cromwell-equipped 4 CLY (of Villers-Bocage infamy) and the 4th Armoured Brigade's Sherman-equipped 3 CLY. For a time it operated as a mixed Sherman/Cromwell unit (probably two squadrons of Shermans and one of Cromwell/Firefly), though these were quickly replaced by Shermans and it is debatable as to whether they saw combat (all I've seen is one photo of a Cromwell loaded with infantry wearing the black jerboa badge).

Merits of the Cromwell: It was very, very fast and very reliable. Many regiments did hundreds of miles in a few days on the same set of tracks during the breakout. It was also less likely to burn than a Sherman for some reason, and after initial dislike in 1943, the crews grew to prefer them over the Sherman. The upgrade in armour and improvement of drivers' hatches with the Mk VII and VIII was another morale-improver. It's low profile also made it a much less obvious target than the Sherman (or even Stuart). It had a very quick turret traverse. Disadvantage: An astonishingly slow reverse speed, which meant it couldn't easily get out of trouble (as discovered by 4 CLY at Villers-Bocage and 2nd Northants Yeomanry at Vire).

Oh, if you want something a bit different – 15/19th Hussars (whom were the replacement recce regiment in 11th Armoured Division after 2nd Northants Yeo were shagged over by SS Tigers at Vire) were allocated to 101st Airborne Division during Market-Garden and for a while afterwards (seen Band of Brothers?).

Jean Boucherys ve day to d-day definatey lists 7th armoured div has having challneger. It's usually pretty good…

Oh i own original period sepia type photos of comets with 1RTR at that time to back you up Mr Davies.

Thanks to everyone for their comprehensive answers.

The actual internal organisation of squadrons varied with the whims of the regimental and/or squadron commander. In some units the fireflies were all concentrated into firefly troops, in others they were scattered across the 75mm troops. As other people have said, the ratio of 17pdr to 75mm tanks varied quite a bit as well.

No, it's a long way from being an 'exact science'! It's possible to find official figures authorising 12, 15, 24 or 30 Fireflies for a 61 tank Regiment between Jun44 and May45, but the total number of Fireflies shown as in service with units remained reasonably steady regardless of the guidance issued. And all was of course subject to tactical conditions and the preferred handling of the tanks as Martin points out.

I wonder if the US Army had similar problems with the introduction of the 76-mm armed Sherman in late 1944?

7th AD didn't have Challengers until 1945 don't know exactly when they got them but they were present for the victory parade.

Thanks Gadge – are you willing to part with scans of those photos? Not to publish, you understand – just to look at! Yes, 7th Armoured Division had Challengers (eventually – as Bully points out), but only in the divisional Armoured Recce Regiment (8th Hussars). The three Armoured Regts had Fireflies as their 17pdr tank.


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