Cromwell book

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by JeremyC, May 4, 2022.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I know Shermans aren't the theme here, but I have the Hunnicutt, and have recently begun to really question the daft prices it goes for.
    It's good, don't get me wrong, fine detail, reliable variant stats etc... but it's also rather dated. The coverage of other Mediums in there is far more useful than the actual M4 content these days.
    I think things like Armoured Thunderbolt probably better on technical stuff and at a much lower price as they don't carry the cultish status.
    Plenty of excellent online Sherman stuff too, once you've tuned out the Cooperites. Though I can't deny a lot of the images used are straight from Hunnicutt.
    JeremyC likes this.
  2. Nick the Noodle

    Nick the Noodle Active Member

    The A24 Cavalier was originally called the Cromwell, and to further confuse matters, there were 4 body types shared by the Cromwell, Centaur and Cavalier tanks, imaginatively labeled type A to D, plus 2 more for the actual later Cromwells, labeled E and F.
  3. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    My controversial opinion on the Cromwell range is that they should never have been put into production. Once the Churchill was found to be good, the whole of British tank production should have been switched to it, as they never had enough Churchills. The Churchill could also do things the Sherman couldn't, whereas the Cromwell more or less just replicated the function of the Sherman. It would have simplified everything and saved so much hassle.
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Not heard that said before but it makes reasonable sense to me.
    Reworks with refined NA75... why not.

    Main theoretical loss might be an evolutionary production/deployment experience step towards Centurion, perhaps? Though also entirely feasible only some Engine learning lost, as A45 to Cent quite a separate project.... (Here's the 'What If?' problem: Immediately into the detail weeds.)
    Don Juan likes this.
  5. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I think it would have made Centurion development easier, as the whole design effort could have been put into the next generation tank, without any of the constant controversy that the Cromwell generated. The development of the Cromwell was every bit as fraught as that of the Churchill, to the point where I just think that the War Office and Ministry of Supply were gluttons for punishment.

    OTOH, you need Claude Gibb to make the Centurion, and you need James Grigg to get cheesed off with Robert Micklem's fannying around with the Cromwell to get Claude Gibb, so the next generation tank might have been quite different if Micklem and Oliver Lucas had stayed in the role. Probably something more akin to the A37 or A40.
  6. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I should also point out that the US War Department wanted the Cromwell cancelled, so they at least had the right idea.

    The problem really was the snobbery around Infantry tanks, which weren't considered to be real tanks because they weren't allocated to the armoured divisions. The War Office and MoS thought that this lowered British prestige, but outside of a small coterie within the military this was nonsense. The general public have no idea about this distinction - all they care about is the cool things tanks can do.
  7. JeremyC

    JeremyC Member

    "controversial", huh?

    I disagree. If you don't produce the Cromwell range, then that takes out the whole Cavalier and Centaur production (which, I agree was as big a waste of time, money, materials, and production effort as the Covenanter debacle) - not to mention the A30 Challenger programme. More importantly, it takes away the Comet and all the practical experience that was gained from producing and using them (I know there were only a few hundred of them produced by the War's end, but the experience gained in casting turrets and welding hulls other than Churchill A22F must have been useful, not to mention the morale benefits of British tank crews finally getting a British-built tank that did the job, reliably.
    I doubt Lord Nuffield would have allowed production of a Bedford-engined Vauxhall design in his factories, so where does that leave Nuffield Mechanizations? Producing Crusaders? Liberty-engined Churchills?
    Most important of all, it would have removed all need for the Meteor and restricted the development of the Merritt-Brown transmission - and then where would that have left Centurion, Conqueror and so on, post 1945?

    In my opinion, the best thing the Ministry of Supply could have done, some time in 1941, was to phase out - ASAP - all Matilda, Valentine, Churchill, and Cavalier/Centaur/Cromwell/Challenger production and/or development work and put all their tank-producing factories on to manufacturing the M4 Medium design (or as close as British industry could come to it, using the maximum number of common component parts, such as suspension, tracks, guns, engines, transmissions, etc. The Canadians got RAMs into production (with the assistance of the British Tank purchasing Mission!!) and the Australians got Sentinels pretty well on the way, so it wasn't beyond the wit of the Brits to do something along those lines?
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
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  8. JeremyC

    JeremyC Member

    EVERYTHING these days goes for daft prices once it's out of print (witness the prices asked for P.M. Knight, Dick Taylor and Peter Brown titles these days, let alone "The Gods were Neutral" and "A View from the Turret" etc.) so it's a bit unfair to damn a book on that score.
    Yes Hunnicutt is dated - so is most of David Fletcher's stuff - but that doesn't make it any the worse for that. For me, Hunnicutt's writing is excellent and the selection and quality of the illustrations and photographs superb, and he is one of the few authors on matters AFV who gets the technical details right. So many tank "writers" are just plain sloppy when describing suspension systems or transmission, or even engines, in some cases. Hunnicutt is also even-handed and professional in his description of the "politics" behind some of the decisions made and he does not appear to have a particular axe to grind.

    I now realise I'm not going to find a Hunnicutt on the Cromwell (and I probably couldn't afford it if one did appear!), but it's still very much the gold standard AFV history as far as I am concerned.
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  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I think Vickers-Armstrongs were approached about producing a British M4 at Elswick. There would have been more opposition from British tank makers to producing Shermans than there would have been from Nuffields about producing Churchills, but in both cases their hands could have been forced if the political will was there.

    Just making M4's makes sense, but as I stated upthread, the Churchill could do things that Sherman couldn't, so it was a tank whose production was worth maximising. They certainly wanted a lot more of them for Normandy than they were given, so on the basis of need maximising Churchill production makes the most sense to me.
    JeremyC and Nick the Noodle like this.
  10. JeremyC

    JeremyC Member

    P.S. Quite agree on "Armored Thunderbolt" - but it was Zaloga's constant references to Hunnicutt in that that convinced me that I should find a copy (that I could afford)!) of my own :D
  11. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I suspect there will be a P.M. Knight book on the Cromwell eventually.
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  12. JeremyC

    JeremyC Member

    Hope so! Having bitten the bullet and bought all of them over the last couple of years, I'll be up there with you lot ordering the next one, as soon as it appears.
  13. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I don't think there should be any "out of print" P M Knight books. They're print on demand from Lulu so just go there and buy a new copy. There is probably speculation on eBay/Amazon going on whether by humans or bots.

    But the other ones, yes, absolutely. It's a crying shame that all these books can't be kept in print.
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  14. Nick the Noodle

    Nick the Noodle Active Member

    I'm with Don Juan with this topic.

    The British should have produced the Churchill almost exclusively 1943 onwards. It wasn't perfect, but in terms of protection and cross country mobility, it was peerless. It never carried a long range AT gun, nor was it fast, so it wasn't a tank destroyer. However, it did have plenty of firepower options. The turret could mount a 2pdr, a 6pdr, one of two 75mm guns, a 3" or 95mm howitzer, or a Petard'mortar'. The hull could carry an mg, a 2 pdr, or 3" howitzer or a flamethrower. You could even mix and match weapon combo's, a Churchill 1CS served in Tunisia and Italy armed with two 3" howitzers, while the Austalian's used a Crocodile with a 95mm howitzer.

    Probably, the main reason for concentrating on this tank was the huge morale benefits invoked upon its crew, because it kept them alive. It's well known that the Guards 6th Tank Brigade used their influence with the PM to keep their Churchills when 'upgraded' to an armoured brigade. If the most important element of a tank is its crew, then a high morale veteran crew is a huge bonus.
  15. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Yep. There was no strategic rationale whatsover for making the Cromwell - it was just some cringing attempt to atone for the problems of the Crusader.

    That's not to say that the Cromwell was a bad tank, it was actually reasonably good. It was however totally unnecessary.
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  16. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Weeeell I think there are some potential issues which at least might affect a plan to convert everyone over to producing the Churchill. Let me pose these as questions.

    1. At the time the A27 project started (? went into production?) were the unreliability problems of early Churchills apparent? Or had they been solved? Is it fair to think that the planners could have assumed that the problems could and would be solved?

    2. Is it fair to judge on strategic level that the UK would have accepted complete abandonment of its own production of cruiser tanks in favour of using the M4, and thus rely on its ally the USA to supply said tanks? There must have been some concerns to ensure local supply of cruiser tanks.
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  17. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    To answer these questions:

    1. Cromwell, Centaur and Cavalier production only really started at the beginning of 1943, just as the Churchill was starting to definitively prove itself so there was some overlap, but battleworthy Cromwells didn't start to appear until the beginning of 1944. I think any realistic change over from the Cromwell to the Churchill would have to have started in the third quarter of 1943, maybe with switching one supplier at a time. However, once the British decided during the last quarter of 1942 to standardise on the Sherman, they could have decided at that juncture to concentrate on Infantry tanks and cancel the Cromwell family before production started. This would have required political and industrial will, but it wasn't impossible.

    2. One of the justifications for the Cromwell was indeed that it didn't leave the UK reliant on US supply, and this does have some merit as of course during late 1944 the Americans started to reduce Sherman supply to the British to make up for their own losses. However, during 1943 the British reduced their own Sherman requirement by 10,000, so it wasn't as though they couldn't have provided themselves with a larger M4 pool in the first place.

    It is a tricky one though, as it would have required at least some foresight that the Churchill would come good - but Kingforce would have shown that that was likely by October 1942. I don't think every Cromwell factory could have been converted to the Churchill - although there was plenty of other stuff that needed to be made. But basically the Sherman made the Cromwell unnecessary, and this was actually something of an opportunity that could have been approached with more creativity than it was.
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  18. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    I know both Dick Taylor and Peter Brown and have had a few conversations over the years (especially with Peter) about "to reprint or not to reprint". It's all about the size of initial print run, and then any follow ups, while needing to ensure all copies are sold in what is a relative 'niche market'. While that means a few people will be disappointed, it most importantly means the publisher (often underwritten by the Author) has no 'dead stock' - dead stock doesn't pay the bills.
    A recent example - 'Theirs the Strife' written by another chap I know, John Russell, and what an excellent read it is - sold out its first (hardback) edition in a matter of days. The publisher (Helion) then quickly brought out a second print run but in softback form (presumably to minimise any 'dead stock risk'.....
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  19. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Who was... that masked man?!

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  20. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I saw the thread title and that VP had posted. Most disappointed that there is no reference to the Lord Protector. No baubles here. Nothing.

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