A34 Comet Tank

Within the Tank Museum at Bovington is the A34 Comet Tank.

A34 Comet Tank

The Comet was was a British cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of the second world war. It was designed as an improvement on the earlier Cromwell tank, mounting the new 77 mm HV gun in a new lower profile and part-cast turret. This gun was effective against late-war German tanks, including the Panther at medium range, and the Tiger.

The Comet saw action in the closing stages of World War II and remained in British service until 1958, but was rapidly eclipsed by Centurion. In some cases, Comets sold to other countries continued to operate into the 1980s.

I do have some of the Flames of War plastic models, but they are still currently still in their boxes. I have been thinking of using them not only for Late War Flames of War games, but also 1950s Cold War games. The Comet remained in British service until 1958. Reading the Hot War books from Harry Turtledove has inspired me to think about gaming some scenarios from the books. British Comets and Centurions versus Russians T34-85 and T54 Soviet tanks with American M26 Pershing and M48 Patton tanks. In the book there are also Sherman manned by (West) German forces.

Why such a liking for this tank, well, as with other models, I suspect that it was because I bought and made the Matchbox Comet many, many years ago.

Peerless Armoured Car

A rather dark photograph of mine of the Peerless Armoured Car at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Peerless Armoured Car

During the First World War, sixteen American Peerless trucks were modified by the British to serve as armoured cars. These were relatively primitive designs with open backs, armed with a Pom-pom gun and a machine gun, and were delivered to the British army in 1915.

After the war, a new design was needed to replace armoured cars that had been worn out. As a result, the Peerless Armoured Car design was developed in 1919. It was based on the chassis of the Peerless three ton lorry, with an armoured body built by the Austin Motor Company.

Here is a better lit photograph of the Peerless Armoured Car at Bovington from Wikimedia.

Peerless Armoured Car
Simon Q from United Kingdom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Poor off-road performance hampered the vehicle but it still saw considerable service, notably in Ireland. A few were still in service with the British at the start of the Second World War. Seven were in service with the Irish National Army during the Irish Civil War and used by the Irish Defence Forces up until 1932.

This photo appeared in the Sunday Independent on 13 August 1922, with the caption: “A Dangerous Corner – This photograph was taken in one of the towns captured during the past week by the National Army. It shows an amoured car “manoeuvring for position” at the end of a street facing the post office. Irregulars occupy the further end of the street, and are being quickly dislodged by infantry supported by the armoured car.”

Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922
Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922 – National Library of Ireland on The Commons [No restrictions]
These armoured cars would have been used in the world of A Very British Civil War. They would also make ideal vehicles for the concept of the 1919 British Revolution I talked about in this blog post.

Vickers A1E1 Independent Tank

This is the Vickers A1E1 Independent a the Tank Museum which alas wasn’t very well lit, but I have added a further official photograph below.

Vickers A1E1 Independent Tank

The Independent A1E1 is a multi-turreted tank that was designed by the British armaments manufacturer Vickers between the First and Second World Wars. Although it only ever reached the prototype stage and only a single example was built, it influenced many other tank designs.

The A1E1 design can be seen as a possible influence on the Soviet T-100 and T-28 tanks, the German Neubaufahrzeug tanks, and the British Medium Mk III and Cruiser Mk I (triple turret) tank designs. The Soviet T-35 tank was heavily influenced by its design.

Vickers A1E1 Independent
Photograph KID 109 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 6000-02)

Though never developed beyond the prototype stage, you can imagine that it might have entered production if the Second World War had started earlier, or we had the potential scenario of A Very British Civil War.

The tank was the subject of industrial and political espionage, the plans ending up in the Soviet Union, where they may have influenced the design of the T-28 and T-35 tanks.

There are lots of skirmish games or role playing scenarios that could be inspired by this. Soviet agents, aided by communist sympathisers, attempt to break into the Vickers factory to steal the plans (or even the prototype) and British police, the Security Services and even troops attempt to stop them.

Mark VIII “The International” Tank

This Mark VIII “The International” Tank was on display at Bovington Tank Museum. It is the last remaining survivor of the six Mark VIII tanks which were completed for Britain.

Mark VIII "The International" Tank

When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 the US Army started to look at tanks. They favoured the American Renault as their light tank but used British Mark V and Mark V* tanks for their heavy battalion. However they had their own ideas on tank design and, in co-operation with the British Tank Corps came up with a new heavy tank design for 1919.

The Mark VIII tank also known as the Liberty or The International was an Anglo-American tank design of the First World War intended to overcome the limitations of the earlier British designs and be a collaborative effort to equip France, the UK and the US with a single heavy tank design.

Production at a site in France was expected to take advantage of US industrial capacity to produce the automotive elements, with the UK producing the armoured hulls and armament. The planned production levels would have equipped the Allied armies with a very large tank force that would have broken through the German defensive positions in the planned offensive for 1919. In practice manufacture was slow and only a few vehicles were produced before the end of the war in November 1918.

Many people have thought that the tank used in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade film was a Mark VIII. However that tank was specially created for the film, inspired though somewhat by the Mark VIII.

Tank from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I had meant to buy what I thought was a Copplestone Castings’ Mark IX Beast, a similar model of the Indiana Jones tank, but it appeared that it was no longer manufactured or sold by North Star Figures.

So it appeared that it wasn’t even a Copplestones Castings, but was by the Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBSCo).

Sometimes you should buy things when you see them and not wait…

So it was originally designed and manufactured by the Honourable Lead Boiler Suit Company (HLBSCo) they were small and relatively new. I even remember discussing licensing the models for a commercial version of Tally Ho!

So I did some searching on the Google and found that the tank is available today with the other HLBSCo models from Empress Miniatures.

Mark IX Beast

Mark V** Female Tank

When the Germans realised what a threat tanks could be they made their trenches wider to trap them; one answer to this was to build longer tanks and the Mark V was stretched by six feet to create the Mark V*. As an interim solution this was adequate but a further improved version, the Mark V** was designed for 1919.

This Mark V** Female Tank was on display at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Mark V** Female Tank

With the Armistice in November 1918 production of all new tanks was curtailed and the Mark V** never saw action.

In 1918 the Royal Engineers established a depot at Christchurch, just east of Bournemouth, to experiment with tanks. The result was that, by 1919 this particular tank ‘Ol Faithful’ had been adapted with hydraulic lifting gear so that it could carry and lay a bridge and undertake mine clearing or demolition tasks. Thus it became the first true Engineer tank, a type now common in most armies. This tank was still being used as a ballast weight to test the new Bailey Bridge in 1941.

In a previous blog post I showed a photograph of the Mark V Male at Bovington.

Mark V Tank

The British Mark V tank was an upgraded version of the Mark IV tank. It was first deployed in 1918, used in action during the closing months of World War I, and in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War on the White Russian side, and by the Red Army, after they were captured.

Although similar in appearance to earlier models the Mark V was a much better tank, more powerful and easier to drive. It was equipped with the new Ricardo six-cylinder engine and Wilson’s epicyclic steering system which meant that one man could handle all the controls, compared with four in the Mark IV.

Among the new features was a rear cab for the commander, complete with signalling apparatus and a rear machine-gun position. Our exhibit also carries an unditching beam, which was first introduced in the Mark IV. This would be used if the tank got stuck in mud – chained to the tracks it was drawn under the tank and gave it something solid to grip.

This Mark V Tank was in display at the Tank Museum in Bovington.

Mark V Tank

The Mark V is shown in the Markings of 8th (H) Battalion (No. H41), Tank Corps at the time of the Battle of Amiens (8 August 1918). Commanded by a young officer named Whittenbury this actual tank took part in the battle and its young commander was awarded the Military Cross.

The last confirmed use of the Mk V in battle was by units of the Red Army during the defence of Tallinn against German forces in August 1941

In 1945, Allied troops came across two badly damaged Mk V tanks in Berlin. Photographic evidence indicates that these were survivors of the Russian Civil War and had previously been displayed as a monument in Smolensk, Russia, before being brought to Berlin after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945
Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945

Accounts of their active involvement in the Battle of Berlin have not been verified.

Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945
Mark V Tank in Berlin 1945 

Source for Berlin Photographs.

Mark IV Tank with Fascine

At the Bovington Tank Museum you can get close up and personal with the first tanks that were built and used in combat, such as the Mark IV Tank.

First World War tanks, namely the British Mark IV, started the practice of carrying fascines on the roof, to be deployed to fill trenches that would otherwise be an obstacle to the tank.

Mark IV Tank with Fascine

The Mark IV was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefited from significant developments of the Mark I tank (the intervening designs being small batches used for training). The main improvements were in armour, the re-siting of the fuel tank and ease of transport. A total of 1,220 Mk IV were built: 420 “Males”, 595 “Females” and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies), which made it the most numerous British tank of the war.

The “Male” tanks were armed with three machine guns and two 6-pdrs. Whilst the “Female” tanks had Five .303 Lewis machine guns.

The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the Battle of Messines Ridge. It remained in British service until the end of the war, and a small number served briefly with other combatants afterwards.

I have been working on a metal 15mm Mark IV Tank for use with the Home Guard.

Though I do really like the Flames of War Great War models, which have a lot more detail.

Mark IV Male

I also have a gallery of Mark IV tanks from a wonderful 28mm demonstration game at GamesDay 2007.

Mark IV Tank