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flyingdoctor

Comet with 95mm Howitzer

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Does anyone know anything about this? The picture appears on the website http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/gb/a34-cruiser-tank-comet-mark-i/ and the Comet appears in the desert alongside two Centurions and is captioned "1948". The picture is fairly low res and the markings are fairly indistinct. It looks like a Comet with a Comet turret but a 95mm gun, never seen any mention of this combination before!middle-east-comet-tanks.jpg

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Well, that is interesting.  A Centurion MkIV with the 95mm was postulated but apparently not built and there is believed to have been a single Comet Crocodile, so an experimental conversion is not beyond the realms of possibility.  I'm not entirely convinced about the date or the location.  There's definitely no "T" in front of the serial, which has 6 characters and so could be the NN AA NN style introduced in 1949: could that be ZR in the middle (existing vehicles were renumbered from ZZ, new build from AA)?  There were ZH comets and the Bovington one is ZR.  But the first character seems to be a "3", and there were Comet T serials beginning with 3, so the T could just be missing. The duplication of the serial on the glacis is odd, though. So is it British? The Centurions are at least Mk3's, only 30 of which had been built by April 48 with another 139 by April 49.  So a Mk3 overseas in 48 might be a stretch - but could be trials.  Unless I'm much mistaken, I believe I can see fume extractor sleeves on the Centurion gun barrels, although the cans don't seem to be fitted, making them Type B 20pdr barrels.  These didn't appear until the 1950's, after Korea.

 

The only official crossover users of both Comet and Centurion are UK and South Africa.  Could this be South African?  The Comet in their museum has a 6-digit serial beginning "U".  S Africa did have some Cromwells, I believe,  Could be a howitzer stripped from a Cromwell VI CS.

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This is rather interesting as the New Vanguard book has a Comet command vehicle with a dummy 95mm gun. (NVG 104 page 40, I've tried to scan but without luck), it's Fearnaught of HQ 6RTR and the caption says Italy just after the war. Hopefully someone will be along with more information soon.

EDIT: The original is HERE and I believe the registration is 33 ZR 70 The caption says the Centurions were the first in the Middle East and they look to be 20 pdr barrels. Next step my Centurion references.

ANOTHER EDIT: Found a shed load of stuff on the marvellous ARRSE website HERE. Looks like there may be more than one. Next question is it a real 95mm or just a good dummy....

Edited by SleeperService
More information

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Thank you for your replies, the link to the ARRSE website provides a good answer. There is another picture of a similar or the same tank with an earlier T registration. The rear turret container looks larger and a different shape to the standard type. Probably for all those extra radios?toms-tank2-jpg.10229

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I'm beginning to wonder if the serial is a ZR after all, but it has to be as a T3... would have been replaced by the time Cents reached the Middle East.

 

I doubt that there would be radios in a turret box because the Cromwell didn't need to. it would be quite a job to fabricate and cut the tank turret to take them. The profile in the picture may be a scanning artefact like the line of the front roof.  

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Serial looks like 33ZR70 to me.

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1 hour ago, wamwig said:

Serial looks like 33ZR70 to me.

 

Thanks for that I was beginning to second-second guess myself. I'll send off to Bovington to see if they have a record card for him.

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Thank you for all your replies. Did anyone find the record cards or verify the T number on the tank in the above picture?

 

I can add a few bits from reading A34 Comet Tank: A Technical History by P. M. Knight. On Page 55 he says a Close Support (CS) version with a 95mm was considered as Cromwell production would be turned over to Comet production. It was not proceeded with though.

 

There is mention of the dummy gun for command tanks on Pages 217 and 223, but it is not entirely clear why a dummy version of the 77mm was not produced, so that all tanks would have a similar appearance.

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29 minutes ago, flyingdoctor said:

Thank you for all your replies. Did anyone find the record cards or verify the T number on the tank in the above picture?

 

I can add a few bits from reading A34 Comet Tank: A Technical History by P. M. Knight. On Page 55 he says a Close Support (CS) version with a 95mm was considered as Cromwell production would be turned over to Comet production. It was not proceeded with though.

 

There is mention of the dummy gun for command tanks on Pages 217 and 223, but it is not entirely clear why a dummy version of the 77mm was not produced, so that all tanks would have a similar appearance.

Damn and Blast! Forgot this when I ordered some other stuff. I'll do it now before I forget again.

Thanks for the nudge.

 

EDIT: Email just sent to the Tank Museum. Will advise when I hear back.

Edited by SleeperService
Proving I'm a man of my word...eventually.

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OK I'm back

 

Here is part of the correspondence I've had with the Tank Museum:

 

The 12th Lancers vehicle we have a photo of is listed as a Mk IB Control. It also has an OP designation, but that’s been crossed out!

 

The interesting thing about all the images I have seen of these vehicles is that the stowage bin on the turret is a slightly different shape at base of the gun tanks turret. The gun tanks all have a squared off base, the Control (or Command, depending on who filled in the Card!) have the slightly angled bottom corner.

 

We hold a few very photocopied images of the interior of the turret of what is described by the Army as either a Rear Link or Control & O.P. tank. There doesn’t appear to be a gun in the turret, just lots of radios! We don’t appear to have any other documents that mention these vehicles, so how official the original modifications were I don’t know.

 

So the turret boxes would have been needed as there were more radios inside compared to the Cromwell OP/Command. Hence the modification. Main gun and co-ax machine gun removed turret fixed facing forward.

 

In another message:

I don’t think the registration can be 33ZR70, according to our Key Cards that registration belonged to a Churchill Mark IV. It might be a T number without the T as Comet numbers ran from T334901 to T337900. I’m just not certain what the middle numbers are.

So it looks like it is the 'T' number without the T after all. T335958 was certainly a 'radio' tank as there is a photo of it at the Tank Museum. It is captioned as 9th Lancers.

 

So a partial answer but more to find.

 

 

 

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Thank you for your further research SleeperService. Interesting comments about the stowage bin shape as I had wondered about.

 

Quite by chance I have just come accross the same picture of the Comet Command tank Fearnaught of 6th Royal Tank Regiment, photographed in Italy at the end of the war. As mentioned in the New Vanguard book about the Cromwell tank. It is in an article by David Fletcher in "Classic Military Vehicles April 2016". Furthermore the article goes on to say that –

 

"More surprising still was the number of converted Comets that were listed, although we think these were all post-war conversions; 40 Command tanks, 131 Control tanks and 25 OP tanks. There was also one such tank converted for the HQ of 6th RTR in Italy. When its 77mm gun was damaged the tank was rebuilt with a dummy 95mm howitzer and fitted out to suit the regimental commanding officer, although this was also, strictly speaking, a post-war conversion."

 

That seems a lot! Were all of these conversions undertaken at unit level as described on the ARSSE website? Was there a pattern for whittling a 95mm gun or were there some variations?

 

I seem to be having problems attaching the picture mentioned above, to this reply.

 

 

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I wondered if the dummy 95 might have been easier to mount than a dummy 77, with no inboard length.  Presumably the dummy barrel was attached to an internal plate welded across the gun aperture.  But the 95 was counterweighted to match the longer-barreled 75, and looking at the one on the Bovington display the barrel is surprisingly thick and hefty towards the breech end.  Of course a fully dummy barrel could be very lightweight, and a dummy short 95 would be lighter than a dummy 77.  There is also the point mentioned above that the turret was fixed at 0 deg, so the barrel could not be traversed or elevated to avoid terrain (e.g. nose down in a dip) and a dummy long barrel would be easily damaged.  The 95 didn't overhang.

 

As I recollect, command and OP Cromwells/Centaurs just had a simple tube "gun barrel", nothing elaborate.  Why not the same here?  Why bother with the counterweight, and why add the flat bottom?  Does that indicate a cut-down "real" barrel being used, probably 1/4 ton or more?  That's a lot of hacked-up 95's by David Fletcher's numbers, but then they had no purpose as the Comet and Centurion CS were cancelled.

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