The Char B1 was a French heavy tank manufactured before the Second World War. It was a specialised heavy break-through vehicle, originally conceived as a self-propelled gun with a 75 mm howitzer in the hull; later a 47 mm gun in a turret was added, to allow it to function also as a Char de Bataille, a “battle tank” fighting enemy armour, equipping the armoured divisions of the Infantry Arm.
This Char B1 was on display at Bovington.
Among the most powerfully armed and armoured tanks of its day, the type was very effective in direct confrontations with German armour in 1940 during the Battle of France, but a slow speed and high fuel consumption made it ill-adapted to the war of movement then fought. After the defeat of France captured Char B1 (bis) would be used by Germany, some rebuilt as flamethrowers or mechanised artillery.
It is a big tank, but only for 1940, by the end of the war heavy tanks were huge in comparison.
It is one of my favourite tanks, probably down to the Matchbox kit I got when I was younger.
Though I did eventually convert mine into a German SPG using the armour from a Matchbox Wespe kit. What I didn’t realise at the time was that there was in fact a similarl real version of this, the 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f).
Alas I don’t have a photo of my model.
I do though have a 28mm Char B1 for Bolt Action which recently made its way onto the workbench to be made up as a FFI version used in 1944 and 1945.
Alongside their work for the British armed forces Vickers-Armstrongs produced military equipment for foreign buyers. Their earliest commercial tank designs failed to sell but in 1928 they produced a masterpiece. Known as the ‘six-tonner’ it was a remarkable design, with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine driving to a gearbox and track sprockets at the front of the tank. There were two main variants; some tanks were supplied with two machine-gun turrets (Type A) while others carried a larger single turret (Type B).
Following trials the British Army turned it down but the tank was a major export success. It sold all around the world, from South America to Japan and was even studied by the United States Army. It was licensed by the Soviets as the T-26. It was also the direct predecessor of the Polish 7TP tank and influenced tank design in many other countries.
The Bovington Tank Museum exhibit, a (Type B), is displayed in the fancy camouflage style adopted by Vickers for their commercial offerings; it is seen at a mythical army equipment exhibition some time in the thirties.
You can imagine in A Very British Civil War scenario, the Vickers factory making these tanks available to one of the armies for fighting the civil war.
This is the Vickers Medium Mark II* at the Bovington Tank Museum.
It was the main British tank from 1923 until 1935.
Introduced in 1923 the Vickers Mediums were the first British tanks to see service fitted with a sprung suspension and a rotating turret. Designed to fight on the move, their high speed of 30 mph restored mobility to the battlefield. The hull was riveted. The engine, an air cooled Armstrong Siddeley, was mounted in the front of the tank, alongside the driver. Originally described as a light tank, the advent of even smaller tanks weighing about five tons, resulted in the Vickers’ design being reclassified as a medium tank.
The Medium Mark II was completely obsolete by the beginning of World War II. The survivors were used for training during the first few years of the War. Some were issued to combat forces to make up their strength after the loss of most British first line tanks during the retreat from France in 1940. Others were sent to Egypt as training vehicles and were pressed into service with the Western Desert Force. They were buried as fixed defences at Mersa Matruh and Tobruk.
Vickers sold 15 Medium Tanks to the Soviet Union in 1930, they were used for training. Rather surprisingly, the Finns captured half a dozen of these relics from the Russians in the autumn of 1941. At least one other went to Australia, while a single example of a developed version, the Mark C, was sold to Japan. This vehicle formed the basis of the Japanese Type 89 tank design. A single example of the final version, the Medium Mark D, was sold to Eire where it remained in service until 1940.
These would be the mainstay tanks of any A Very British Civil War scenarios. Difficult to get hold of relevant models though, but you can find 3D printed versions online.
In 1915 the British Army started to use armoured cars in India, particularly on the North West Frontier, to relieve troops needed elsewhere. They proved so successful that this soon became standard policy. Shortly after the war the Indian Government purchased 16 Rolls-Royce cars to a new design but these proved so expensive that subsequent orders were placed with Crossley Motors in Manchester who made a tough but cheap 50hp IAG1 chassis. Substantial numbers of these cars were supplied between 1923 and 1925.
The body design, which was very similar to the Rolls-Royce version and built by Vickers at Crayford, had a number of interesting features. These included a dome-shaped turret, with four machine-gun mounts, which was designed to deflect rifle shots from snipers in ambush positions in the high passes. A clamshell cupola surmounted the turret for the commander, while side doors opened opposite ways on either side so that a crew member could dismount safely under fire. The crew area was lined with asbestos to keep the temperature down and the entire body could be electrified to keep large crowds at bay.
By 1939, when the Royal Tank Corps in India had handed most of its equipment over to the Indian Army, the Crossleys were worn out. The bodies were then transferred to imported Canadian Chevrolet chassis, with pneumatic tyres, and in this form served with Indian forces in the Middle East in the early years of the war.
You can imagine in an early Very British Civil War scenario in the early 1920s, the Vickers factory making these armoured cars available to one of the armies for fighting the civil war. You would have to think about some rules for allowing the entire body could be electrified and the impact that this would have in games.
The Vickers Crossley Armoured Car was also exported to Japan who made use of them in China.
Company B make a 1/56th scale metal and resin version which is available.
The Lanchester armoured car was a British armoured car built on the chassis of the Lanchester “Sporting Forty”, it saw wide service with the Royal Naval Air Service and British Army during the First World War. The Lanchester was the second most numerous World War I armoured car in British service after the Rolls-Royce armoured car.
Six-wheeled armoured cars were seen as having a better cross-country performance than four-wheelers. In pursuit of quality the War Office ignored offers from various commercial vehicle firms and, since Rolls-Royce was not interested, turned its attention to Lanchester, a famous rival. The Lanchester Company had supplied four-wheeled armoured cars to the Admiralty in 1915 but this six-wheeled chassis was a major departure for them. It was equipped with the standard Lanchester six-cylinder engine and used the War Department patent rear axle system.
Taking advantage of the long chassis, the armoured hull and turret were enormous and contained three machine-guns. Yet the Lanchesters were much too big for reconnaissance duties, being almost impossible to turn around in narrow roads. For this reason a rear steering position was provided and the cars had detachable tracks which fitted over the rear wheels to assist them over rough country. They were also extremely expensive and the War Office was soon looking for something cheaper.
Thirty-nine armoured Lanchesters were built, starting in 1928, and they were issued to the newly mechanised cavalry regiments. They spent most of their time in Britain although in 1935 the 12th Lancers took some cars out to the Saarland and a few were tested in the Middle East. The cars were used for training in the early years of the war and one was converted into a secure VIP transport for use in London. A few were still operating in Malaya in 1941 with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; these ultimately fell into Japanese hands.
This got me thinking about possible uses for the Lanchester armoured car in A Very British Civil War scenarios, but also in an Operation Sealion scenario where German paratroopers attempt to kidnap Winston Churchill who is being moved in a convoy including the Lanchester armoured car which was converted into a secure VIP transport for use in London.
Though originally envisioned with a rotating turret, the production model had an armoured housing for three to four 303 Hotchkiss machine guns, which could be relocated between four gun ports. Approved in June 1917, roughly 200 vehicles were produced starting in October 1917.
While the heavy tanks were designed for direct attacks against enemy trenches the Tank Corps also wanted a lighter, faster tank to work with the cavalry over open country. Designed by Sir William Tritton and built by Fosters of Lincoln the Medium A, or Whippet, was the only such tank to see service with the Tank Corps, starting in 1918.
The Whippet was a difficult tank to drive; it had two engines, two clutches and two gearboxes but it was fast, by 1918 standards and very manoeuvrable in skilled hands. Even so experience soon showed that it was incapable of working with the cavalry and, in truth, should have been seen as an alternative. The Whippet was powered by a pair of Tylor four-cylinder engines, the same type that would be found in London buses of that period.
Only type of medium tank to see action in World War I.
Battlefront make a 15mm version.
I do think that this model would make for a great base for vehicles for an alternative Great War. It could be converted into a turreted tank, or a self propelled gun.
The Renault FT or Automitrailleuse à chenilles Renault FT modèle 1917, inexactly known as the FT-17 or FT17, was a French light tank; it is among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history.
The FT was the first operational tank with an armament in a fully rotating turret, and its configuration with the turret on top, engine in the back and the driver in front became the conventional one, repeated in most tanks until today; at the time it was a revolutionary innovation.
France still had several thousand First World War Renault FT tanks in 1940. Over 500 of them were still in service in independent bataillons de chars de combat (BCC) tank battalions in the front lines. Although adequate for infantry support, they were totally outclassed by German tanks in a mobile battle.
It is one of my favourite tanks, I have always had a fondness for this little tank, probably as a result of making that Matchbox plastic kit of the Renault and the Char B1 when I was young.
There was a nice looking Renault FT-17 at the Bovington Tank Museum.
The tank appears to have been part of the Imperial War Museum collection after the First World War and arrived at the Tank Museum as part of an exchange of exhibits in 1965. The tail skid turned up about 20 years later, having been discovered in a store at IWM Duxford.
No, not the train or the steam engine, but the tank…
Built as a Male Tank, No. 785. Took part in the battle of Arras, April 1917. Various features, in particular the hinged hatch on the cab roof and internal modifications show that this tank subsequently served in the supply role. Returned to the UK after the war. Exhibited as a Gate Guardian at Chertsey for some years. Around this time it was modified to resemble a Mark I, complete with tail wheel assembly and fitted with sample Male and Female sponsons In this guise it subsequently came to the Tank Museum, bearing the name HMLS Dragonfly. With the arrival of the Mark I Hatfield Tank, it reverted to a Mark II and was later renamed Flying Scotsman when the lettering was detected beneath later layers of paint. Strangely there is no trace of the name Flying Scotsman in 6th Battalion records.
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong.
Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by Allied forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built in the United Kingdom and abroad, it was the most numerous armoured fighting vehicle in history.
This carrier was on display at the Bovington Tank Museum.
This carrier was part of the Imperial War Museum Duxford Land Warfare Exhibit.
Little Willie was a prototype in the development of the British Mark I tank. Constructed in the autumn of 1915 at the behest of the Landship Committee, it was the first completed tank prototype in history.
Little Willie is the oldest surviving individual tank, and is preserved as one of the most famous pieces in the collection of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.