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Bottom 5 British Tanks – David Fletcher | The Tank Museum

one thing I would say if you don’t agree
with me then just keep it to yourself hi I’m David Fletcher and I’ve been
asked to give you a talk about my five worst tanks I’m not doing the best
because that’s been done before I’m gonna do the five most awful tanks we’ve
got because we’re doing it in the tank museum and because it’s mainly British
tanks in here that’s what you’ll see I can’t do foreign ones because we haven’t
got any really awful foreign tanks in the collection but for British ones
we’ve got some hideous things and I hope you’ll enjoy watching them if nothing
else now this is my number five in it’s the British charioteer it was actually a
post-war tank but just so that you know it’s this yellow one on my right not
this thing on my left which is the AMX 13 somebody’s put in it we’ve had to
come into a dark and dingy corner of the VCC to see it and you’ll see that the
tank itself has been shoved up against another tank here
you can’t move down the side of it you can’t get behind it and the turrets been
reversed apart from that it’s perfect but that’s just the way I want to talk
about it now the charioteer was built in a hurry and
it was an improvisation at the time Major General Duncan was direct to Royal
armoured Corps and he was very concerned that we would soon be at war with the
Russians he never said the Russians but since
we’re very rarely likely to be at war with anybody else we assumed it was the
Russians now he therefore decided that the Cromwell tank would have to
go into action again after the Second World War but the Cromwell had a 75
millimeter gun which wouldn’t even have scratched heavy Russian tanks so general
Duncan suggested that he wanted the 20 pounder the new gun for the Centurion
and he wanted that on a cromwell chassis now he went to various people like if
the rde who were the designers and told them what he wanted and left it to the
technicians to design the tank and charioteer was the result in fact
it’s a horrible thing the turret besides being enormous and it has to be enormous
because to give the gun any sort of elevation you need to have it all about
the level of the hull they didn’t large the turret ring I don’t know how they
did that without I’m setting the tank but they managed to enlarge the turret
ring but still not enough to get the gun to go up and down so the turret had to
be bigger so the gun could do that now the turret itself would have weighed so
much that it would have ruined the tank so the turret has armor 1.5 inches thick
at the front which isn’t really much at all but it’s even worse at the solids
the sides of this turret or one inch thick that’s about 25 millimetres it’s
nothing and it means the thing is virtually destroyable by anything that
cares to fire at it and sending it out even with a bigger gun wasn’t much of an
advantage because it was whatever happened it was gonna get hit and the
crew were gonna get killed they’d done away with the front hull machine gunner
although they sometimes set a man in there in supreme discomfort and
otherwise it was a did the ordinary cromwell chassis powered by the
rolls-royce meteor engine and christie suspension it had it was quite an
automotive li quite a good chassis but this turret and gan rue ended the gun is
what we called the 20 pound him in those days it’s about 84 millimeters caliber
and it was a very powerful anti-tank gun but in this thing and this mounting up
so useless now you could say that charioteer was a tank destroyer like the
american vehicles because they were often quite lightweight and designed to
destroy tanks and not worry too much about incoming fire the trouble is that
chariot has got a coaxial machine gun and with a cock that’s a machine gun
alongside the main gun and anything with a coaxial machine gun is automatic
a tank and they these things were issued to the British territorial army as their
only tank available to defeat the big Russian tanks and they wouldn’t stand a
chance but that’s how it was done and it was really the turret that makes it such
an awful tank and that’s why it’s on my list but I’ll tell you a bit of the
story about chariot here apart from being seeing a bit of service with the
territorial army they were mostly sold abroad countries like Austria and
Finland bought them and they were supplied to the Lebanon and Jordan as
tanks they weren’t all that effective but in those days we didn’t worry too
much as long as someone brought them and got him off our hands we were quite
happy got rid of the ruddy tanks and that was all that mattered this one was
actually kept as a sample and that’s why we’ve got in at Bovington we’ve since
painted it up in the markings of the Arab Legion so it’s shown as a Jordanian
tank but it never was it never left this country this particular one and it
really is one of the most dreadful tanks that’s ever been produced they one of
the problems they found with it was that the when they fired the gun it produced
such a huge dense cloud of smoke that the commander couldn’t see what he’d hit
or followed it so quite often if he could manage it the commander dismounted
walked to one side or the other to where he could see and had the fourth man the
chap who was sat down here hauled into the turret and made the gamma he fired
the gun he couldn’t see what he was firing at but the commander could but
you’re not supposed to do things like that with a tank it’s silly but that’s
the sort of thing they had to do to make charioteer effective and if the russians
had allowed us to do that fine but they wouldn’t of course they had powerful
tanks that he could knock out our tanks easily and this was the easiest one of
all to look so that’s really why I’ve elected to
include it in my list of the worst tanks now Black Prince is on my list of worst
tanks and you may wonder why you may think it looks pretty good it comes at
the end of the war it’s got a powerful gun and you may think yourself well this
is crazy but there was a reason and I’ll come to it in a minute
Black Prince was designed by Vauxhall Motors which is why it looks very much
like a Churchill in fact it was originally portrayed as the large
Churchill before the people at Vauxhall decided to call it Black Prince and I
was going to say it may have been known as Black Prince to its friends but never
had any friends so I don’t see how they could do that but anyway that was what
they did it’s really a Churchill but what they’ve done is made it wider and
of course heavier because they wanted to get a 17 pounder gun in it’s got the 17
pounder mark six gun can actually mounted with the bees on the top they
own the turret and a slightly lower front end they thought that by lowering
it they’d improved the drivers view I don’t really know when they did or not
but that’s what they were trying to do at the time now the tank itself was
pretty heavy to start off with it weighed 50 tons which was as much as
really anyone wanted to tanked away at that time of the war at the end of the
war really and 40 was considered heavy enough and that applied to the later
Churchill’s but 50 was a little bit over the top but they decided they wanted an
infantry tank with the 17 pounder they’d already got the a 30 they were designing
the Centurion which had the same gun but in a slightly better turret so quite why
they did built this at all I have no idea but they built six of them as
prototypes and this is the only one that’s left this is number four in the
series as you can see it’s got a church or type suspension but running on wider
tracks because obviously it’s carrying more weight
but the armor is actually no thicker at its thickest and the armour on a number
a mark seven Churchill its 152 millimeters at the front which is six
inches which simbad but they could have made this a lot thick a lot heavier but
the real reason why I think this is such a dreadful tank is because in the back
it’s got the same bedford twin six engine as the Churchill and
when I said that it’s the same engine it’s the same horsepower 350 horsepower
as you’ve got in a Churchill yet a church always 40 tons and this thing
weighs 50 and what they discovered of course was that that engine in a 50 ton
tank would only drive the tank at 11 miles an hour which is pathetic really I
mean even a tiger could do more than twice that but this thing could only do
11 miles an hour on a good day with a following wind uphill it was even worse
so that was the one reason that I’ve elected this tank to be one of the most
awful tanks we produce why they didn’t put a bigger engine I don’t know
they reckon they could have put the rolls-royce meteor in the rolls-royce
meteor is 600 horsepower and probably would have driven this tank at about 22
miles an hour which is quite respectable but it would have meant installing the
engine slightly leaning over you’d have to do it an angle because I hadn’t left
enough room for it and in around the engine covers at the top there but that
isn’t impossible you could have done that and it would have worked perfectly
well like that but they didn’t do it for some reason and then the thing goes with
this old engine and nothing nothing else in the back we’ve tried to drive it and
you find this is exactly the same problem now even the gearbox is quite
novel it’s a 5-speed gearbox whereas the original Churchill he’ll do the
Churchill’s the 708 had a four-speed gearbox and with the gearbox they found
that they had five gears running pretty close together
and what they did was made sure that the driver changed gear quickly if you
change gears slowly with this weak engine pushing you along the tank would
stop in one and a half seconds that was all it took to bring this tank to a
grinding halt and you’d have to start from first and work your way through the
gears again so as you went up the gearbox it was crucial to change gear
quickly so that the tank still had some momentum when you got up to the next
gear and that’s one of the other failings with it but the real failing
and the thing that is hardest to explain is why they fitted it with this idiotic
old engine the meadows of the Bedford flat 12 was really considered a bit out
of date by then anyway so why install it in a new tank but they did and that’s
why it’s on my list of really dreadful tanks it doesn’t need to be that slow
but it is this is number three and I’ve chosen this because it’s an amphibious
tank in fact it’s the only truly amphibious tank we’ve got in the museum
it’s actually l1 III the vickers-armstrong amphibian that came
out just before the war and the reason that I’m selecting it for one of my most
awful tanks is because it suffers in the same way as all these light amphibious
tanks do from the conundrum if you like that in order to float it’s got to be as
light as possible which means very thin armor but in order to resist an D tank
fire it needs to have reasonably thick armor and it’s a conundrum that they
can’t really sort out this particular tank actually has a hull of very thin
armor inside and it’s surrounded by these floats which are sort of kapok
filled made of aluminium and they’re supposed to keep it buoyant in the water
but really the whole thing is is a joke of a tank it’s not bulletproof in any
the word apart from with the revolver maybe for a while from a distance but
that’s really what I want to show you is the whole fact that all the amphibious
tanks although they seem to be incredible because they can go on land
and water are in fact almost completely useless the other trouble with these
vehicles is they’re good enough at going on land they’re very fast on land in
fact in the water they’re pretty good and I’ll show you why in a minute but
it’s getting out the water they have a problem with if they they can choose
where they go in that they can’t always choose where they come out and if where
they come out is very muddy they’re likely to get stuck if there are loads
of reeds there they’re likely to get snarled up in them and not climb up the
bank so that’s always a drawback with all these amphibians they’re good enough
on land and good enough in the water but absolutely hopeless when it comes to
getting out the water now I’d like to be able to show you the amphibious nature
of it it’s not that easy but you’ve got the drive sprockets at the front on each
side and the drive sprocket drives a shaft from each drive sprocket the shaft
goes back to the propellers the propellers are in one owners quart
nozzles the propeller is surrounded by a rudder it’s like a tin shroud if you
like and the two propellers go left and right as you’d expect and the brother
goes with them so for steering it’s actually very
effective in the water but that doesn’t really solve the issue the fact that out
on the water they’re completely and utterly useless
as tanks it’s armed with a single Vickers machine gun which is probably
better than spitting at people but only just and that’s on the side in this case
because we’ve turned the turret around and it has a crew of two a driver in the
front here and a commander in the turret but although it may look the part
it really is utterly useless and you wonder why they bother to produce them
this vehicle came out before the war as I say it was tested they weren’t very
happy with it they put it away while they had a war they thought they’d sort
of test it afterwards in 1945 it was dragged out again and started up and
they gave it another test but they never got any further with it they only built
the one they never built more than one thank goodness and this is it just one
really horrible and pointless tank built for for no good reason by the fact that
they could build it I think and that’s it really it’s not a lot it’s powered by
a Meadows engine so it’s actually quite powerful but absolutely hopeless as a
fighting tank which is what they’re really meant for so it seems silly right
we’re going to look now at the Covenanter this is number two in my list
and it’s done for a reason because it is really an awful tank by general
consensus as much as anything else to start off with the tank was built
originally by the London Midland and Scottish railway company who weren’t
actually probably the ideal people to design the tank but they had help from
the department of tank design and oddly enough I mean it’s such a good-looking
tank then it’s difficult to see how it could be so awful but it is originally
when it was designed they decided to make it the first all welded tank it was
gonna be constructed of armour plate but welded together so it didn’t require any
internal frame now the trouble was the LMS company the railway company this
building it didn’t have welders they had riveters and they persuaded the
Department of tank design to have the tank riveted with riveting you need a
frame to rivet the armor to and that immediately puts up the weight the next
problem was the wheels the original idea was to make these wheels of aluminium
alloy because that was lighter and they’ve discovered to their horror
that the Royal Air Force had put an absolute ban on anyone else using alloys
except themselves because they needed it for aircraft construction for that
reason the wheels are made of armoured steel they’re good and strong but they
put the weight up again and in fact but the time they’d finish doing all this
the extra framing and the extra weight of the wheels they’d already reached the
limit of what this tank could support as far as weight is concerned and they did
nothing towards putting that right they just hoped for the best
it’s powered by a horizontally opposed 12 cylinder Meadows engine which is in
the back of course behind the turret and it’s got the radiators here at the front
and we’ll come to them in a minute but first of all the weight is the big
problem the fact that they designed it as a welded tank gone over to riveting
and that had really brewing the tank to start off with the rest of it mediocre
at the best it was really too small the thing was that the design was terrific
and this amazing selection of horizontal Armour was tremendously good because she
the one thing you don’t need is any vertical face of armor that will absorb
fire you want it as horizontal as you could get it and with the hull they had
done that they made it almost flat all the way back it’s hardly a vertical face
on it with the turret it’s slightly different you’ve got a vertical face at
the front but notice how the turret comes out at the sides it sort of
appears to bulge out now the reason for that was because they’ve lowered the
hell there’s sort of Headroom in it they wanted as much room as possible for the
crew to use their elbows there’s three men in that turret and they needed room
so that if they moved an elbow to pick up around or something they’d have room
to put it without banging the sides that’s why the turrets this weird
language shape at the top but the real mistake with this tank was placing the
radiators in the front and the engine in the back
there are two radiators under this armored louver here and they’re both
there to cool the engine now the engine as I say is a horizontally-opposed 12
cylinder by meadows quite an effective engine in its own way but you don’t if
you’re designing a tank at home don’t Kevin say put the radiator in a
different place to the engine it’s just not meant to go there the result is that
you’ve got the radiator at the front and every single one of these tanks when
they left the factory had developed a serious cooling problem usually with the
radiator boiling or something like that and it was all to do with where it was
they did try and remedy it they kept trying to change it they kept changing
the layout of the cooling fans on top and everything else to try and make it
work a bit more reasonable but it didn’t it just continued to be a fault and it
meant that of over 1200 of these tanks built none now at all were ever accepted
for combat they were only ever used for training and that at a time when in this
country we were desperate for tanks the Covenant had got pushed aside and became
a training tank I’ve had it suggested to me that had we put a bigger gun in later
on it would have made a good and quite reliable reconnaissance tank but really
this is a tank designed in 1938 and it’s got all the faults over 1938 tank it
just isn’t fit for a battlefield of 1944 so that idea went out the window
straight away the tank had a 2 pounder gun in the turret and that was all it
was capable of carrying couldn’t carry anything more if they wanted to so that
was that but this is the real problem with his tank is putting the radiator at
the front it meant that all the coolant all the pipes carrying coolant passed
around the side of the fighting compartment so that whatever the man
lives out and touched he was liable to scold him because it was pretty hot and
it meant that the turret itself got very warm
which is okay in a cold climate but not so hot in the desert you don’t want a
warm tablet when you’re already been roasted by the Sun otherwise it’s quite
a reasonable tank and it’s got a Christie suspension it’s quite fast but
its trouble is not always gonna go very well and when it breaks down which this
thing did regularly it’s nothing but trouble they were originally gonna put a
full Wilson transmission in here but that’s something else they decided not
to do so the tanks got an ordinary crash gearbox and Meadows gearbox and then two
and botan units of epicyclic drive by Wilson on the side and that’s all it’s
got it hasn’t got a proper sort of modern transmission at all and there
they had better ones available at the time so that’s the Covenanter it doesn’t
look bad but it is it really was a dreadful tank not the worst not quite
but nearly so and certainly as far as the army was concerned in the Second
World War one of the worst tanks of all because it was only fit for training
they were never used operationally and that’s a bad a quite an indictment by
itself right now what we going to look at next is a 38 valiant and this is the
top of my list for the tanks that are really awful there is nothing in the
whole tank museum more dreadful than this thing and I mean that quite
sincerely but we’ll talk about it anyway for a start it was designed as a heavy
assault tank it was designed to have 114 millimeters of frontal armor which it’s
actually got but it’s such a large ugly car slump as you can see because it was
built rather like the old Matilda – we’ve bolted together castings but this
thing here this sort of molded section was an absolute trap for the driver
it meant that once the driver got in he was in severe danger for a start if he
moved the gear leaver over to first gear he got trapped behind the battery box
and actually needed a crowbar to get it out again which doesn’t sound very ideal
for changing gear they also had an arrangement whereby to use the brake he
had to use his heel rather than his toe and there was always a danger that his
foot would slip between the two pedals and one of the results of that was that
if the foot slipped he got trapped literally the man couldn’t get out they
said the only way really to get him out was chop his leg off which doesn’t sound
all that healthy either the third thing was that he has a seat which raises and
lowers here now the trouble with it is that in the raised position it ends up
with him sticking his head out of this hatch here and the back of the armor
clouding him on the back of the head all the time and they said that the only
time they ever tested this vehicle which was a suspension test across country
Drive the driver got out after a while and said if he stayed in any longer he
be crippled and that was one of the worse things about it but the whole
design is awful I mean this huge turret which designed to take a six pounder or
a 75 millimeter gun also although you can’t see it so well from here at the
back that’s we’ll get a close-up in later on the back of it is only nine
inches off the ground and that really is too low it means that the tank going
over a bump is going to bottom on whatever it hits and each of the
suspension arms it’s based on the Valentine really built by are designed
by Vickers when are built by them the suspension arms are on wishbones and
each one is fed by its own type of oil and liquid to keep it going and those
bits and pieces underneath the tank are likely to get wiped out when it’s going
over any sort of rough ground at all so it means if this tank is traveling over
say Goss or anything like that the chances are a half the suspension is
going to be ripped off inside and that’s not all that convenient either so all in
all it really is a dreadful tank it’s powered by a GMC Diesel same as a
Valentine but it’s so much heavier that’s also chronically slow so it
hardly got a thing going for it really this thing it really is a dreadful
design and as I say that officer in charge of the trials called the trials
off because the tank was so awful and made so many mistakes that he hauled the
crew out of it and took him home and decided not to go on with the test
at all the tank is really unpleasant and uncomfortable to travel around him and
that was used after the war as an example the what was then called the
armoured school used to get a load of young officers and line them up and then
as a special treat a 38 valiant used to drive past them and
they’d watch it go by and then it would stop and their job was to go over it and
find out how many awful things they had going for it they there’s no record as
where anybody found them all but it’s quite enough things in this tank to make
it absolutely horrible and really when you think that it was produced at the
end of the war it was actually built by Rustin and Hornsby limited in Lincoln
but it was a Vickers design because it’s based on the Valentine and when you
think that this is at the end of the war we’ve made enough mistakes up till then
so why we came up with this dreadful thing I have no idea
so here we are it’s the worst tank in the world as far as I’m concerned and
that is why I’ve elected it to be my number one tank it’s got all the faults
that you can hope for in one vehicle and really is an excellent example the most
awful kind of tank you’ll find anywhere right thanks very much for watching
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