British tank production in '43-'44 - Metro-Cammell and Birmingham Carriage Co

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Chris C, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Well if that's not too long a thread title I don't know what is!

    I know that in February 1943 there was a review of the Valentine tank programme and the General Staff wanted to release Metro-Cammell and Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co (BRC&W) from producing Valentines and make more Centaurs/Cromwells instead. Both companies were already involved in producing those tanks but not at those facilities, as I understand it.

    But there were concerns about existing engine production in the UK would not meet the additional demands if these companies were switched over to produce Centaurs or Cromwells. (Unless Ford V8s could be used, which as we know never happened.)

    Does anyone know what these companies ended up manufacturing in lieu of Valentines EDIT: or did they change that production over at all?

    Into the Vally (Dick Taylor) lists the last production contracts for them as follows:

    TM11532, 460 tanks reduced to 260, "c43-44", M-C, including 175 Mk XIDD
    TM6117 7, 435 tanks reduced to 305, "c42-44", BR&C, including 82 bridgelayers
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  2. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Metro-Cammell built 150 Comets but I'm not sure of how the timing fitted in with their other products.
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  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    A complicating factor must be that they had multiple factories. I would have to check the Comet technical history book but I would guess the Comets were made in a factory converted over from Cromwells.
  4. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Makes sense. Leyland, who built Comets, also built Cromwells, Crusaders, Churchills, Covenanters and eventually Centurions. Depends on what expertise is crucial: that's probably more to do with, for example, being able to weld the right type of weld rather than make actual tanks when you bear in mind that WW2 tanks were still quite basic in design (armoured metal box on tracks) and with the 'clever bits' such as the guns and, most importantly, the engines being brought in from elsewhere.
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  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  6. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I don't know that much about Cromwell production but when I was looking at these early 1943 documents about changing over production of these companies, I transcribed a couple of bits that might be interesting. I don't know whether hulls, suspension units, and tracks were being produced at separate facilities?

    “As regards the Cromwell-Centaur type, it is agreed that it might be feasible to plan a change-over at Metropolitan-Cammell and Birmingham Railway Carriage to this type as both these Companies will be in production on the Cromwell in addition to the Valentine in 1943. It would mean producing a 30-ton tank in the place of a 17-ton tank. Hull, suspension units and track capacity, therefore, having to be stepped up in proportion.”​

    (slight separation in date)

    “The Board, however, took note of statements produced by the AFV Division on the engine position for tanks of the Cromwell-Centaur types which disclosed that, unless Ford V8 engines or other suitable engines of similar size were available ex USA during 1944 then the total engine capacity at present available for British made engines of the size required would be inadequate to meet the Tank Programme if Metro-Cammell and Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co were to change over to the Cromwell-Centaur type.”​

    I think the above shows how MC and BRC were viewed as easier to change over to Centaur/Cromwell - by contrast Vickers Armstrong would be more difficult since they were not already involved in producing those tanks at all and as a result the plan was for them to change from Valentines to Archers when their Valentine production order was done.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Kevin Tucker sent me his spreadsheet of tank production contracts which if complete indicates
    - for Birmingham, the only contract with later serials than their Valentines is for A30s (Challengers)
    - for Metro, the only contract with later serials is M.10532 (Comets)
  8. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    My understanding is that the Valentines at BRC&W and Metro-Cammell were not replaced by any other tank production. By late 1943 the tank programme was beginning its wind-down, and companies were already itching to start peacetime production. From what I can tell, there was a general sense that there was a commercial advantage in resuming peacetime production ahead of your competitors. Tank output significantly shrank in 1944 in comparison to 1943, and obviously fell further in 1945.

    What would be interesting to find out is what the Valentine production was replaced with. It would most likely have been locomotives or heavy engineering equipment, or it could have been locomotive reconditioning, seeing as how knackered the railway stock was becoming towards the end of the war.
    Chris C likes this.
  9. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    That's super helpful, Don Juan! Thank you!
  10. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

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  11. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

  12. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I should also point out that Metro-Cammell were also making Harry Hopkins at trickle-numbers until March 1945, with production switching to Vickers for the Alecto in April 1945.
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