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Shar2

British Cruiser Tank A13 Mk.1 and Mk.II

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British Cruiser Tank A13 Mk.1 and Mk.II
Armor PhotoHistory

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The development of the A13 can be traced back to 1930, with the development of the Christie tank and revolutionary suspension in the USA. British officers, however, only really became interested in the concept after seeing a Red Army large-scale exercise and manoeuvres, featuring platoons of BTs. Their sheer speed and the operational opportunities available to them were more than obvious. Later, Morris sent a team in USA to purchase one of Walter Christie's tanks, with a licence. This experimental type, named A13E1 (fall 1936), was too cramped for operations and had to be rebuilt, leading to a second prototype A13E2. The latter had the new Cruiser Mk.I (A9) turret, a revised drive train, with only the rear drive sprocket, better tracks and revised armour design. In trials, speeds in excess of 40 mph (65 km/h) were possible, but in practice, 30 mph (48 km/h) was more commonly used in cruise speed. The third prototype, A13E3, set the pre-production standards for the new A13 series. The Cruiser Mk.I was the first to be built, although in small quantities (only 65), followed by an all-improved version, the A13 Mk.II.

The A13 Mk.I was built at Nuffield Mechanization & Aero Limited (a subsidiary of Morris Motors) in 1939. With the threat of war growing, some shortcomings were detected and, by the 30th delivered, the War Office decided to build a new, up-armoured model. The main frontal armour was to be raised to 1 in (30 mm) and the turret was to receive appliqué armour panels covering the sides and rear in a sloped formula, which was also adopted by the next generation of cruisers, the Covenanter and Crusader. This angled turret is the easiest way to distinguish between the A13 Mk.II and the Mk.I. The last Cruiser Mk.III was upgraded to this new standard before delivery.

With war approaching, production orders were raised to 225 units, to be delivered before the end of 1940. Nuffield facilities were not sufficient, so English Electric, Leyland and LMS Railway were later called to join the wartime production. The first change affected the Vickers water-cooled 0.303 in (7.7 in) machine-gun, which gave constant troubles. The more reliable and compact Besa, with an anti-vibration mount was chosen instead. This model was derived from a Czech design. All vehicles produced by 1940 were rearmed with this new coaxial machine-gun, later known as the Mk.IVA, the main and only variant of the A13 Mk.II. In all, 665 were built of this variant, until late 1940.

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This softcover book contains eighty eight pages of information, photographs, diagrams and colour profiles. Not only does this book cover the history of the design and development that went into these tanks, but it is filled with some fabulous period photographs of the vehicles. These photos cover the every theatre that these tanks were used in, including Europe, North Africa, Malta and also on exercises and training within the UK. The descriptive text that accompanies each set of photographs includes, where possible, the vehicles serial number, unit, information on the gun mounting and even the vehicles name. Some of the more interesting photographs are those of the tanks being transported, whether under their own steam, by rail or the more rarely seen American built White 920 tank transporter.

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The line side views, all in 1:35 scale show each variant from the prototype to the last production version and are very useful in distinguishing the differences not only of the profile, but also the equipment and gun mountings used throughout production. Then there is a section of line diagrams of some of the equipment used in the tanks, ranging from the engine, gearbox and clutch brake assemblies through to the instrument panels and equipment positions in the fighting compartment. Finally, there are seven pages of three and four view colour plates which show clearly the colour schemes used, the various regiments and unit markings and their positioning.

Conclusion
This is a superb book which is not only very interesting for a historians point of view, but for those modellers who, like me, are interested in these vehicles. It would make a great resource and companion piece to the modeller when building one of the Bronco or Italeri kits that are available. Very highly recommended.

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Review sample courtesy of
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