Armoured Fighting Vehicles
The list of vehicles in which the Regiment has been equipped since mechanisation reads like a roll call of those Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) which have seen service in the British Army.
Very few AFVs of any importance were not, at some point, used by 3rd King’s Own Hussars, 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, Queen’s Own Hussars or Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars and today The Queen’s Royal Hussars are equipped with the very latest main battle tank, Challenger 2.
The vehicles listed are those used by the F-Echelon (fighting troops) only.
Vickers Armstrongs Mk VIB
The Mk VIB was the culmination of a series of light tank designs stemming from the Carden-Loyd Mk VII, introduced in 1928.
It saw service in France in 1940 and in the early battles of the North African campaign, but was no match for most types of German, or even Italian tanks of the period.
It was withdrawn from service by 1942.
Vickers Armstrongs A9
Designed as a potential replacement for the old Medium Tanks which had been the mainstay of the Royal Tanks Corps battalions for most of the 1920s and 1930s, the A9 was the first of the cruiser tanks.
The A9 was more than capable of facing the early German Panzer I’s and II’s, its Italian contemporaries and, at least on paper, the early models of the Panzer III, thanks mainly to the 2-pounder gun.
Its failures stemmed from the significant compromises in its design which were required to get it into production at all.
The difficult maintenance, poor protection, and lack of experience of its crews in the vehicle itself, or in performing their intended role, were the main issues. This unfortunate fate it shared with its sisters, the A10 and A13 Cruisers.
In December of 1940 however, they were employed successfully against the even more ill-equipped Italians in Operation COMPASS along with the rest of the British armoured units.
Their reliability in the desert suffered greatly as a result of insufficient engine cooling and their troublesome tracks struggling in deep sand. Some were diverted to Greece and, during the evacuation there, all were lost.
In the desert, they were used pretty much until exhaustion in the summer of 1941.
The design of the A10 was closely based on that of the A9.
Intended as an infantry-accompanying tank it therefore had more armour than its ‘Cruiser’ counterparts.
The Mark II didn’t turn out to be a successful British tank design.
Its shortcomings were rooted in a series of cost-savings and peacetime compromises. To distinguish the Mark II from the Mark I, the latter was classed as a “heavy cruiser”, to underline its better protection, but much slower speed.
Much of the production was sent in North Africa, to defend Egypt against a belligerent Italy.
Their first commitment came when repelling the Italian invasion of December 1940, and fought their way into Libya and Abyssinia during Operation COMPASS, where they performed well, due to a dry and flat terrain, against Italian tanks which were not well-armed nor better protected.
Reliability often proved an issue, as well as crew safety, due the narrowness of the escape hatches.
The first of the cruiser tanks to use the Christie suspension, the A13 incorporated a powerful Nuffield Liberty engine which gave it good performance.
The A13 saw service in France with 1st Armoured Division and more extensively in North Africa where its speed was a great asset.
They formed part of the 7th armoured Brigade and participated in the early desert campaign in Libya and Operation CRUSADER (1940-1941), counting for half of its force.
It seems that a few were also transferred in Greece and lost there.
It was removed from service by late 1941.
The Crusader developed by Nuffield Mechanisation & Aero as a ‘Heavy Cruiser’ was the last of the pre-war designs to go into production, in common with most British tanks, the Crusader had a number of faults, the worst of which was undoubtedly engine cooling – so critical in the desert.
Almost all of the vehicles were deployed to North Africa, including 6th Armoured Division which landed in Tunisia.
M3 & M5 Stuart
The Stuart light tank (or ‘Honey’ as it was known to British Forces) was developed from the M2A4 and entered production in 1941.
This was the first US tank to see service, with the first shipment of tanks, now known as the Stuart, reaching British forces in the Western Desert in July 1941 in time for Operation CRUSADER.
Their combat performance was mixed, with crews praising their mechanical reliability and speed, but criticizing poor armour protection and inadequate main armament.
Throughout 1941 and 1942 the M3 went through a series of upgrades, culminating in the M5 light tank, introduced in autumn 1942.
Carro Armato M13/40
The M13/40 came into service in the mid 1940 with the Italian Army and was first used in action in December of that year in North Africa.
Because of the high production numbers, nearly all Italian armoured divisions received large amounts of these tanks, which replaced older models.
First engagements came with the Albanian and Greek campaigns in late 1940, and of course the North African campaign, where most soldiered until 1943.
Their first engagement in the desert campaign was with the Babini Brigade in December 1940, during operation COMPASS.
Captured in vast numbers following the battle of Beda Fomm in 1941, they were passed into service with some British Regiments until replaced by new deliveries from Britain.
The M3 was not the initial choice of the British commission. The wooden mock-up was built when the first plans were ready and presented in 1940.
Several flaws immediately appeared, among them, a high profile, sponson gun, riveted hull, insufficient armor and a hull mounted radio.
The armor increase was not initially planned but introduced as soon as new reports of German anti-tank capabilities were available.
The initial crew included a driver, commander, gunner and loader, upper gunner, a machine-gun servant and a radio operator. The British model didn’t include the radio operator.
First engagement came with the disastrous battle of Gazala, which did not diminish the role played by these tanks (at that time, the main British design, the Crusader, only had a 40 mm gun and minimal armour).
Grants and Lees were well-used in each major engagement of the African campaign, from El Alamein to the end of the Tunisian campaign, in mid-1943.
By then, up-gunned Panzer IIIs and IVs proved deadly and the M3 had been gradually replaced by more capable Shermans and British designs armed with the QF 6 pounder.
The M4 Sherman was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied wartime tank except the Russian T34 (the first 2 Shermans made bore British service serial numbers T25189 and T25190) and it was still in service many years after the war with many countries.
Originally called the T6 the Sherman was unveiled in 1941 and the first production models rolled off the assembly lines in 1942.
The tank mounted a 75mm gun in the turret with a .30 Browning mounted in the hull.
M4 Sherman Firefly
From the hedgerow of Normandy, France, to the hills of Italy and the plains of Netherlands, the Firefly was one of the few Allied tanks the Germans learned to fear…
Among the most potent Allied conversion of the war, and certainly one of the deadliest version of the Sherman, it was a clever -although risky and improvised- move to try to keep up with the latest German tank developments.
The British and Commonwealth units had to face over 70% of all German armor deployed during the Battle of Normandy, including the much-feared SS Panzer units, in particular around Caen.
In turn, the Germans learnt to recognise and respect the Firefly, which often became their main priority target in most engagements.
Such was the damage they inflicted. In response, the crews usually painted the protruding half of the barrel with an effective counter-shading pattern to try to disguise it as a regular Sherman.
A common tactic was to place the Fireflies in good hull-down positions in support of other Shermans, covering them in the advance each time an enemy tank would reveal itself, at least in theory.
The A30, Challenger was developed quickly in WW2 entirely from the availability of an ordnance piece: The mighty British 17-pdr gun.
At the time the A30 was conceptualised, this was the best allied anti-tank gun by far. It was already deployed in 1942, in North Africa, and had excellent results.
While it was not performing as well as the German 88mm, the 17-pounder had the best armour penetration of any anti-tank artillery piece deployed on the front, and it was tempting to convert it into a self-propelled version, and a combat tank as soon as possible.
In reality this process would take two full years, nearly three as the Comet, the first truly dedicated British battle tank equipped with it was deployed in late 1944 and 1945.
Due to the absence of deep wading system adapted to the Challenger, it had to wait until the Mullberrie’s were installed to play its part in combat, after July 1944.
This was four months after the production started and these crews already had some experience. Both the Challenger and Firefly became part of the tank squadrons, brought up each time there were reports of German armour in an area.
Challengers were affected with reconnaissance units using Cromwell’s for compatibility.
Cromwell units of the 7th Armoured Division also received many Challengers.
The crew at first did not liked it. Many were easy kills due to their weakly protected tall turret, making them conspicuous targets.
Also the greater track length meant they were often being thrown. It was caused by the smaller idler wheels than on the Cromwell, later replaced with standard idlers.
However the height problem was only relative to the Cromwell, as the Sherman Firefly was even taller.
Cromwells were used only in the armoured brigades of the 7th Armoured Division, as well as the armoured reconnaissance regiments of the elite Guards Armoured Division and the 11th Armoured Division, which all served in North-western Europe.
In June 1944, the Cromwell saw action for the first time, during Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy.
The Normandy campaign, however, especially at the beginning and until the Falaise pocket battles, showed the Cromwell struggling with the narrow lanes and hedgerows of the Normandy countryside.
Hedgerow-cutters were hastily welded to the beak of some tanks, but losses were generally high.
At Villers Bocage, on June 13, 1944, an entire column was ambushed and wiped out by a few Tigers commanded by Michael Wittmann of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion.
Most of the 27 tanks, lost in less than 15 minutes, were Cromwells. However, after August, the terrain once more favoured mobility and speed, and the Cromwell showed all its qualities, despite a much less resolute opposition.
Their career did not end in May 1945.
Some saw service in the Korean War with the 7th RTR and the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars.
M4 Sherman DD
Another variant of the M4 Sherman, the Duplex Drive or DD variant had 2 propellers at the rear and a large skirt that could be raised before the vehicle swam and the lowered as it hit the beach to enable the crew to fight the vehicle.
They were used in the amphibious role again in the operation to cross the Rhine and also in Italy by the 7th Hussars.
Few Allied weapons struck fear into the hearts of the German infantrymen more than the fearsome Churchill Crocodile.
Built on the chassis of the ever-reliable Churchill Infantry Tank, the Crocodile flamethrower was one of the most deadly weapons in the British Army’s arsenal as they fought through Europe during the latter stages of the Second World War.
During the early stages of World War 2, the British saw the flamethrower tank as a crucial weapon to defeat the predicted fortifications of a Europe that would once more be locked in a stalemated war.
Prior to the work on the adoption of the Churchill, various other vehicles had been tested with flame equipment.
The Crocodile saw widespread service during the Allied push through Italy and North-West Europe.
The M24 Chaffee, the replacement for the M3/M5 Stuarts, was a leap forward in light tank design, improving the concept in all directions.
It had modern torsion bar suspensions, completely revised welded steel armor, improved protection and, more importantly, a much more potent lightweight 75 mm (2.95 in) main gun.
These tanks needed to go ahead of the main armoured thrust to scout out the location of enemy units, report their location, call down an artillery barrage or air attack and leave without engaging heavily armed enemy tanks if at all possible.
They were not meant to take part in tank on tank combat. They had to rely on their speed and manoeuvrability to get them out of trouble.
The Chaffee replaced the Stuart in the reece troops of some armoured regiments, including the 8th Hussars.
This unusual vehicle was the first fully indigenous British tank-hunter of the war.
It was developed around the excellent AT 17-pdr (76.2 mm/3 in), on a Valentine chassis, by Vickers-Armstrong. Due to the nature of the chassis and the gun, the SP 17 pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was given a rearward-firing configuration.
It was seen more like a mobile AT position, and not an active tank-hunter, contrary to the British/US Sherman Firefly.
By the time it began being deployed, other designs were ready and waiting.
Shortly after its introduction, this unique formula seemed far less seductive. It was used in Italy and North West Europe in the fall of 1944.
Since this was a self-propelled gun, the Royal Artillery operated these units, in close coordination with Royal Armoured Corps units, along with Achilles.
M4 Sherman Kangaroo
The M4 Sherman Kangaroo, like many wartime implements, was born from necessity. The Kangaroos were obviously not going to engage enemy armour.
They had one job: to get the troops to the front. For the M4 Sherman Kangaroo, the conversion process was relatively simple.
Canadian mechanic crews took the turret off a Sherman and welded a plate behind the driver compartment.
Then the ammunition storage was removed. This left the hull of the tank empty save the engine and transmission.
This also reduced the chance of the M4 catching fire, which made it safer than the regular tank.
The space could fit ten to twelve men, depending on the load-out of the troops.
However, there is plenty of visual evidence that there were more than ten in and/or on the Kangaroos, as per military tradition to put as many bodies as possible on a vehicle.
The Kangaroo was also armed with a .30 or .50 calibre machine gun, either in the hull or mounted on top near the turret ring. This was usually used to suppress the enemy and cover the infantry exiting the vehicle during battle.
The Kangaroo was used to good effect by the 4th Hussars in the Italian campaign.
The M10 was a conversion of the Sherman in line with the American concept of fielding dedicated tank destroyers.
Several hundred M10s were pressed into British service under Lend-Lease, called (Gun) 3 inch Self Propelled (3 in SP). These were assimilated as SPGs, operated by Royal Artillery units, and saw service in 1944 in Italy and France (especially with the Canadians and Poles).
The tactical organization was four-battery regiments, with some alternating two towed 17-pdr batteries and two 3in SP batteries, later rearmed with the famed 17 pounder (76.2 mm/3 in) gun.
These conversions, into the new 17pdr SP ‘Achilles’ tank hunter, counted about 1100 machines, done by the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
It was, in mid-1944, the second most common British/Commonwealth tank hunter after the Sherman Firefly.
It saw service with both the 3rd and 7th Hussars.
The British Comet was essentially an upgraded Cromwell tank.
In 1943, it was realized that a new British tank was needed that had a high-velocity gun that could take on and knock out the new Panther and Tiger tanks, but was also fast and had a low profile.
The Churchill tank had good armor but was slow and had a weak gun.
The Sherman tank was tall.
The Cromwell tank was fast and low but its turret could not take a larger gun.
The Centurion came into service in 1945 but arrived too late with front line troops to see any action.
The vehicle first saw action in the Korean War (1950-53).
Despite the extreme winter conditions the tank performed well and the Centurions of the 8th Hussars won lasting fame when their tanks covered the withdrawal of the 29th Brigade in heroic fashion in the face of the overwhelming spring offensive.
The Conqueror was designed as a heavy gun tank in response to the appearance of the Soviet JS3 Stalin.
Conqueror came into service in 1954; it mounted a 120 mm gun and had an impressive amount of armour and an advanced commander’s fire control station in the form of an independently rotating cupola.
Only ever fielded in small numbers and with inadequate mobility it was withdrawn form services in the early 1960s.
Design work on the Chieftain began in 1956 and the first tanks entered production in May 1963.
Chieftain was the mainstay of Britain’s armoured forces from the late 1960s (when it replaced the Centurion) to the early 1990s.
During its service it received many modifications including laser range finders to replace the ranging gun, thermal image sights and additional armour in the Stillbrew variant.
The Challenger 1 came into service in 1984.
The tank saw service in the Gulf War with QRIH where it was up-armoured by addition of bolt on panels and the vehicle’s range was extended by the addition of externally mounted fuel tanks.
Challenger 1 was replaced by Challenger 2 from 1996 and finally withdrawn from service with the British Army in 2001.
The current main battle tank of the British Army, the Challenger 2, although similar to its predecessor in looks, incorporates new turret systems giving a high probability of a first round hit even while firing on the move and the ability for the commander to acquire fresh targets even as the gunner is engaging.
The hull is very similar to that of Challenger 1 and uses the same CV12 engine with some improvements, including the addition of a crew temperature control system and smoke generators.