Churchill tank.......unsung hero.

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Churchy, May 14, 2017.

  1. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    The poor old Churchill,hardly ever seems to get a look in.Most are caught up in the glamour of the tigers,panthers and t34's......even the sherman seems to have a huge following for some reason.
    The trouble is that most people don't look beyond it's early production run and the reliability issues it suffered,they also remember it for it's (deemed) failure at Dieppe.However,this tank became a great asset to the allies during WW2,contributing many times in situations that were thought too difficult for tank actions.
    Personally i find the Churchill quite facinating.....how could a tank that was designed with a similar war to WW1 in mind be so successful in WW2.....let's have a look.
    1.Reliability issues.No denying this one......up until they were sorted.Once the initial reliability issues were sorted,the churchill became a dependable vehicle that regularly travelled long distances without mechanical problems.As long as they were well maintained there were far fewer mechanical issues than the usual idea of them breaking down every few miles.
    As for the engine being underpowered,not so.There is a difference between being slow and being underpowered.Yes,the Churchill was slower than most,but the engine was torquey and geared accordingly.....an underpowered tank cannot climb 1 in 3 slopes on a mountainside in Tunisia.....the Churchill did and was nicknamed the mountain goat.
    2.Cross country ability.Just read the archives,there was no better tank in the war as far as cross country ability and climbing was concerned,probably down to the fact that it's design was geared up for similar conditions to WW1 with shell torn ground and trenches.I've read many comments about it's suspension being poor...why.The many small wheels contributed to a well distributed ground pressure making it less likely to get bogged down.The churchill could also loose a set of wheels which did'nt have a great effect on performance.
    There are accounts of German officers being shocked by the appearance of Churchills in areas they deemed impossible for tank actions and also advances by Churchills over ground that no other tank would have managed.
    Perhaps the above is why i read a comment from a Churchill veteran which described the Churchill as the tank "that kept going".
    3.Toughness.Another case of reading the archives.There are many sories of how Churchills survived incredible amounts of battle damage in action and saved the crews......even with their often criticised flat armour plate.Vertical armour plate v sloped armour is a bit more complicated than many think,but that is another topic.The fact remains that the Churchill could take a lot of punishment and give it's crews half a chance......side escape hatches helped too.....no other tank had them and this was another result of it's WW1 ancestory.Could the sheman take as much punishment as a Churchill,i know what i'd rarther be in.
    4.Armament.This is the main talking point regarding the Churchill tank with it's "puny" six pounder and subsequent poor guns.Yes,the main armament was'nt an 88 but Curchills had success with the weapons they had.Far from being puny,the 6 pdr was very effective in the tank v tank role,particularly with the later type of ammunition. Montgomery saw the importance of this gun and ordered that a percentage of his tanks be supplied with them.Maybe (if i'm not incorrect) it's performance is why the 6pdr served well into the sixties.
    The churchill also mounted a 75mm gun to give it a better all round ability against infantry positions as well as other armoured vehicles.This gun served it's purpose against most of the targets it was likely to encounter.When fitted with 75mm guns from sheman tanks,the gun was found to be more accurate and had greater range due to the fact the Churchill was a much better gun platform than the sherman.
    There is no doubt that the Churchill would have been even more effective with a better gun,but it used what it had to good effect and it was a "welcome sight on any battlefield".
    5.Adaptability.The chassis was a great platform for many adaptations,bridgelayers,recovery vehicles,demolition vehicles,flamethrowers,mine clearing etc,etc.It was better suited to certain adaptions than any other allied tank due to it's suspension layout and low center of gravity.
    Overall.
    For a tank that was supposed to be obsolete before it entered the war,it did'nt do a bad job did it.It's WW1 ancestory actually made it the tank that it became.....known for it's toughness,coss country and hill climbing ability and adaptability to a number of different roles.For these reasons i think it deserves a bit more praise than it seems to get......Churchill tank,unsung hero.
     
    von Poop likes this.
  2. rick wedlock

    rick wedlock Member

    a man after my own heart :)
    i am also a churchill fan and i'd like to add a few points. the churchill was slow on the road at 15 mph but not many people know that it was just as fast off road, (which is where tanks do their fighting).
    it was a very good gun platform due to it's mass and road wheel configuration. i can't remember the figures for the increased range of an NA75 compared to the sherman but it was almost double.
    in a study after the war it was found that only 50% of hits from an 88 would penetrate the tank.
    it was the first tank in the world to be able to do a neutral turn.

    very much an unsung hero
     
  3. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    Thanks for the extra info Rick,especially the 88 info.
    I totally forgot to mention the neutral turning ability,one of the Churchills important features,especially in battlefield situations.
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Have a look back at Gerry Chester & Tom Canning's posts on Churchills on the forum.
    They both served in them .
     
  5. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    Cheers Owen....
    definitely will.
     
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    You probably won't find all that much resistance here on a more balanced view of the Churchill, Churchy.
    Had it's ups and downs, a rocky procurement/design/development process, and a few false starts, but eventually found its place, and, importantly; gained the trust and respect of its crews

    I second Owen's suggestion re Tom & Gerry on this score. Don't know if you recall Gerry's North Irish Horse site, but for a long time (before it sadly disappeared) it was one of the best Churchill resources on the web.
     
  7. Seroster

    Seroster Desert-mad!

    Was the Churchill another victim of tanks being rushed through development?

    Big fan here. I highly recommend David Fletcher's Mr Churchill's Tank and Bryan Perrett's The Churchill (the Armour In Action book from 1974, not the Osprey volume).

    There's a good article on the Track48 website describing the NA75 development. Track48 - REVIEWS/ARTICLES/GALLERIES - Articles Research - NA 75 by David Morrell

    VP, is Gerry's site viewable in the "wayback archive"?
     
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Bits of it. Existed under two different URLs if memory serves. Would have to check.
    (The .net stuff - go back to 2007-ish: Wayback Machine
    Sparse bits from its Geocities variant: Wayback Machine
    Sure there was another inbetween...)

    Would be a great candidate for Otto's 'Safe Harbour' web-hosting offer.
    http://ww2f.com/threads/reviving-lost-websites.42837/
    If anyone's still in touch with Gerry, the boss is in full approval of trying to save it.
     
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Save first, ask questions later!

    I remember saving a few of his Tunisian pages around the time of Catch that Tiger... Think he also had a good account of the NA75.
     
  11. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Sure was.

    Actually... was it a variant of that fine page Seroster linked to from Trak48?
    Seems familiar.
     
  12. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    Thanks again for all the replies, the info is much appreciated.I just love this tank because of it's interesting history and love to hear what people say about it good or bad.
    My model (Churchill mk3) project is progressing nicely.....it's in the modelling section.......and all the additional info and views keeps my interest up.Many thanks again to all for their input.
     
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Can I take it you have Fletcher's 'Mr Churchill's Tank', Churchy? (Assuming anyone making a 'model' like yours might have).
    Required reading... though, again, I seem to recall Gerry having a few corrections to it.

    Hmmm. Maybe time to reboot the Churchill pictures thread...
    Pictures of Churchill Tanks.
     
  14. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    No i have'nt.......but i think i need to order it as it is mentioned regularly.The internet is my main source of info.....there are a number of technical drawings available.
    I like to see the field mods that crews made to their tanks and hope to incorporate some into my project......just to make it a bit different.
    Cheers for the pics by the way.
     
  15. Seroster

    Seroster Desert-mad!

    It's not a cheap book, but... there's so much in there. I can write something up about if you want more info.
     
  16. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Mr Churchill's Tank is a must, also pretty reasonable given most copies are about £30.

    Fletcher is also bringing out his next volume of Battle Tanks this year which will cover Churchill, while it also is at the fore of several of my on-going projects.

    The bigger practical problem with rebuilding/modelling Churchills is what some restorers have called 'post-war' modifications, and torn off these parts off project vehicles, that are in fact the additional modifications of the Rework Scheme and additional ones carried out in house to improve reliability to levels even Sherman would have doffed its cap at!

    This has led to some having reliability problems and does alter the look of the vehicle in places, but one really has to dig as to which mods were accepted on a Brigade basis and go from there... which also means if one has a Churchill you can (in theory) pin-point it down to the unit it served in, as well as the relevant theatre fairly easily.
     
  17. rick wedlock

    rick wedlock Member

    17670415_429739224040752_801001980_o.jpg been working on my own model just lately :)
    not a restoration but nailed together before transport to it's new owner, i've owned the tank for 7 years and never seen it with the turret on before last month ! unfortunately now i've sold it i realise just how much i like the tank. the plus side is i am now actively going to find a replacement
     
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  18. Churchy

    Churchy Member

    Crikey,i can hardly find time to build my model let alone restore a real one.Good luck with finding a replacement......i'd love to see it hint hint.:D
     
  19. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Another aspect of the Churchill that has not been fully written up is the demoralising effect it had on enemy troops. The Germans in Tunisia started to dread the Churchill because it was a seemingly impossible tank to escape from. No matter how safe and secure your position seemed to be, a Churchill could reach it. I think also its slowness had a psychological impact - there was an inexorability to its approach.
     
  20. rick wedlock

    rick wedlock Member

    you are welcome to have a look around the yard in manchester anytime you want
     

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