The Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell was a cruiser tank fielded by Britain and the Commonwealth in the Second World War
About this creation
The Cromwell tank, named after the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell, was the first tank in the British arsenal to combine a dual-purpose gun, high speed and reasonable armour, all in one balanced package. Its design formed the basis of the future Comet tank.
The Cromwell first saw action in the Battle of Normandy and D-Day in June 1944. The tank equipped the armoured reconnaissance regiments, of the Royal Armoured Corps, within the 7th, 11th, and Guards Armoured Divisions. While the armoured regiments of the latter two divisions were equipped with M4 Shermans, the armoured regiments of the 7th Armoured Division were fully equipped with Cromwell tanks.
The Cromwell and the related Centaur were the product of further development of British cruiser tanks, and they were designed as the replacement for the Crusader tank, which although not yet in service would become obsolete in time. In late 1940, the General Staff set out the specifications for the new tank, and designs were submitted in early 1941. The tank would be fitted with the QF 6 pounder gun with the expectation that it would enter service in 1942
The Cromwell still had revisions to make before service, most notably changing from the QF 6-pounder (57 mm) to the ROQF 75 mm gun, which was an adaptation of the 6 pounder design to fire the ammunition of the US M3 75 mm gun, which gave it a better HE round to use in infantry support. This meant the 75 would use the same mounting as the 6 pounder however it was not until June 1944 that Cromwell first saw action during Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy.
The Cromwell received mixed reviews by crews. It was faster and had a lower profile than the Sherman tank and thicker frontal armour; 76 mm versus the 51 mm of the Sherman. On later Cromwells this was increased incrementally, first 83 mm, then finally to 100 mm. The 75 mm gun, though able to fire a useful HE shell, was not as effective against armour as the 6 pdr or the Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun though it was more powerful than the original 75 mm gun mounted on the Sherman.
The Sherman remained the most common tank in British and Commonwealth armoured units. Cromwells were used to fully equip only one division, the 7th Armoured Division. The Cromwell was also used as the main tank in the armoured reconnaissance regiments of British armoured divisions (Guards Armoured Division and 11th Armoured Division), in North West Europe, because of its great speed. The Cromwell in turn was succeeded by small numbers of the Comet tank
In general the Cromwell was found to be very reliable with remarkable speed and manoevrability though it required more maintenance than the Sherman. The Cromwell was given a modification to the exhaust to direct the fumes so that they were not drawn into the fighting compartment - a problem found when tanks were drawn up together preparing for the advance.
The Cromwell was the fastest British tank to serve in the Second World War, with a top speed of 64 km/h. However this speed proved too much for even the Christie suspension and the engine was governed to give a top speed of 51 km/h, which was still fast for its time. Thanks to its Christie parentage the Cromwell was very agile on the battlefield
The dual purpose 75 mm main gun fired the same ammunition as the US 75 mm gun and therefore it had around the same HE and armour-piercing capabilities as the 75 mm equipped Sherman tank. The armour on the Cromwell ranged from 8 mm up to 76 mm thick overall. This armour compared well with that of the Sherman although the Cromwell did not share the Sherman’s sloped glacis plate.
After the war, the Cromwell remained in British service. It saw service in the Korean War with 7 RTR and the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars
Weight - 27.6 long tons, or 28 metric tons
Length - 20 ft 10 in, or 6.35 m
Width - 9 ft 6 1⁄2 in, or 2.908 m
Height - 8 ft 2 in, or 2.49 m
Crew - 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, front gunner)
Armor - 3 in, or 76mm
Main armament - 1x Ordnance QF 75 mm w/64 rounds
Secondary armament - 2x Besa 7.92mm machine guns w/4950 rounds
Engine - Rolls-Royce Meteor V12 petrol w/600 horsepower
Fuel capacity - 110 gallons + optional 30 gallon auxiliary tank
Range - 170 miles or 270 km on-road, 80 miles cross country
Speed - 40 mph or 64 km/h