From 1941 through early 1943 epic tank battles raged across North Africa.
Join me for a brief look at a British tank from late in that campaign.
Early in World War II British tanks conformed to one of two major categories; either Infantry or Cruiser tanks. Infantry Tanks were heavily armored but slow, while Cruiser tanks were lighter and faster.
The Crusader tank was a Cruiser. It entered service in 1941 and served as a tank for two years (the chassis being later reused for auxiliary functions like prime mover or anti-aircraft). That means it was in use during the North Africa campaign and would be the most important British fast tank. The parallel Infantry tank during this time was the Matilda.
Early versions of the Crusader used a 2 pdr (40 mm)* main gun. This was found to be inadequate against later models of the Panzer III and Panzer IV, the main German tanks in North Africa. So the Crusader III was upgraded to a 6 pdr (57 mm) main gun. This was a much better weapon and was effective until late in the campaign when German Tigers first appeared.
Crusader armor was also inadequate. This was increased some from the Mk I to Mk II, but it would always be light.
And the Crusader’s mechanical reliability was poor. This was particularly bad in early versions, partly due to poor packing for shipping. But reliability was never good, and this was particularly clear compared to American armor.
This particular Mk III is from the Tamiya kit and represents a tank that served from El Alemain (10/1942) to the end of the campaign. At this time the British had several tanks in use. The Matilda and Crusader were the major British made types, but American Lee/Grant tanks were found more effective. They were bigger, better armored, more reliable and had a 75 mm hull mounted gun that was effective against any German armor until the Tigers appeared. American Shermans, basically an improved Lee/Grant with the 75 mm gun moved from a hull mount to the main turret had also entered use in limited numbers.
The Crusader was eventually moved to light armored units until it was supplanted by American supplied Stuart tanks.
* British guns are listed by the weight of their shell.