THE CONSCRIPT TANK

WEAPONS OF WAR

The Vickers Light Tank acquired a bad reputation due to its misuse in France, but is this fair? John Ash examines the scout drafted into battles it couldn’t win, but occasionally did

The story of British armour in France during summer 1940 is largely woeful, but it is often forgotten that effective designs were in service.

The A12 Matilda II had armour unrivalled and a 2-pounder gun that was an excellent tank-killer for the time. This gun was shared with the mobile, if lightly armoured, cruisers that were reasonably effective despite reliability issues – especially the A13 Mk.I/Mk.II.

These three were perhaps best tanks in British service and rivalled, if not bettered, contemporary panzers. However, crippling shortages plagued the newly established Royal Armoured Corps, which had just 143 infantry and cruiser tanks on strength in September 1939 – only two being Matilda IIs. New tanks were rushed from factory to theatre lacking spares and equipment, and few crews had been properly trained to use them.

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