Before the start of the Second World War, British armoured doctrine was in a terrible muddle. Opinion had been divided between the proponents of the tank who saw it as the weapon of break-in, using it as an infantry support weapon, and those who saw it as the weapon of break-out, using it to restore mobility and to destroy the enemy's forces behind the frontline.
In many ways it was a division between those who saw the tank solely through the prism of the experience of the First World War, and those who saw it a decisive weapon for the future. Britain was also conscious of the continuing requirements for imperial policing, in which small tanks and armoured cars had already proved their worth.
As a consequence, it was decided that Britain needed three different classes of tanks: Light tanks for the policing role that could also be used for reconnaissance duties in a general war; fast and lightly armoured Cruiser tanks for break-out and exploitation, and heavily armoured but slow Infantry tanks for the break-in.
This book describes the British Infantry tanks used in World War II.
The Matilda was the principal British infantry tank in the early years of World War II. It served with the BEF in France and later in North Africa, where it earned the title 'Queen of the Desert'. Outclassed by increasingly powerful German anti-tank weapons, it still remained a power in the South-East Pacific, and was kept in service until the end of the war by Australian forces.
In this title, David Fletcher deals with Marks I to V. Development and operational history are discussed, along with service in other countries, including Germany and Russia. Numerous variants are also covered, including the prototype 'Hedgehog' bunker-busting weapon.
The Valentine was the most produced and most widely used British tank of the Second World War. The Valentine first saw combat during Operation Compass in November 1941 and remained one of the main medium tanks in British service into 1943. As the Churchill became more prevalent the Valentine was relegated to specialist and tank-destroyer variants, which would remain in service in the Far East to the end of the war.
This book describes the evolution of the Valentine design and weighs up its impact on the battlefield. Although widely regarded today as one of the weaker tanks to be fielded during the war, it was exceptionally numerous, with more Valentines produced than any other British tank.
Contents: Introduction - Development - Production - Operational History - Bibliography - Index.