Amercom ACCS34 British Chieftain Mk.5 Main Battle Tank - British Army "Berlin Brigade," 1975 (1:72 Scale)
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow."
- Excerpted from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" speech delivered at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, March 5th, 1946
The Chieftain FV4201 was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It was one of the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and most effective armour of any tank in the world. The Chieftain also introduced a supine (reclining backwards) driver position, enabling a heavily sloped hull with reduced height.
The Chieftain was an evolutionary development of the successful cruiser line of tanks that had emerged at the end of the Second World War. British engineers had learned during the war that their tanks often lacked sufficient protection and firepower compared to those fielded by the enemy, and that this had led to high casualty levels when faced with the superior German tanks in World War II. Centurion addressed this to a great degree, combining higher levels of armour and an improved gun, which made it at least equal to any of the contemporary main battle tanks. However, the introduction of the Soviet IS-3 heavy tank forced the introduction of their own Conqueror heavy tank, armed with a 120 mm (4.7 in) gun. A single design combining the firepower of the Conqueror's 120 mm gun with the mobility and general usefulness of the Centurion would be ideal.
Leyland, who had been involved in Centurion, had built their own prototypes of a new tank design in 1956, and these led to a War Office specification for a new tank. The General Staff specification drew on experience of Centurion in the Korean War and Conqueror. The tank was expected to be able to engage the enemy at long range and from defensive positions, be proof against medium artillery. To this end the gun was to have a greater angle of depression than the 8 degrees of Conqueror and better frontal armour. The tank was expected to achieve 10 rounds per minute in the first minute and six per minute for the following four.
The first few prototypes were provided for troop trials from 1959, this identified a number of changes. Changes to address engine vibration and cooling resulted in redesign of the rear hull. This increased to the design weight to nearly 50 tons and as such the suspension (which had been designed for 45 tons) was strengthened. Track pads had to be fitted to protect roads from damage and the ground clearance increased. The design was accepted in the early 1960s.
Britain and Israel had collaborated on the development in its latter stages with a view to Israel purchasing the vehicle. Two prototypes were delivered as part of a four year trial. It was eventually decided not to sell the marque to the Israelis however which prompted Israel to follow its own development programme.
In 1957 NATO had specified that its forces should use multi-fuel engines. The early BL Engine delivered around 450 bhp (340 kW) to the sprocket which meant a top road speed of around 25 mph (40 km/h) and cross country performance was limited. This was further hampered by the Horstmann coil spring suspension, which made it a challenge to drive cross country and provide the crew with a comfortable ride. Due to the cylinder linings being pressure fitted, coolant leaks within the cylinder block were common, resulting in white smoke billowing from the exhaust.
In the late 1970s engine design changed with the introduction of Belzona which was used to improve the lining seals. Engine output also increased with later engines delivering some 850 bhp (630 kW) to the sprocket. This meant better performance and an increased speed. Cross-country performance remained limited, however.
Several aspects of Chieftain design were trialled by the production of the FV4202 "40-ton Centurion" with a reclined driver position and mantleless gun mounting.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a British Chieftain Mk.5 main battle tank that was attached to the British Army's "Berlin Brigade" in 1975.
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Release Date: October 2014
Historical Account: "Compo Valley" - In 1948, the 8th returned to Leicestershire, transferring to Tidworth as part of the Strategic Reserve in 1950 but when the Korean War broke out they were sent out as part of the 29th Independent Brigade under the command of Lt Col William Lowther OBE (Bart). Having trained flat-out to become familiar with Centurion MkIII tanks they sailed from Southampton to Korea on the HMT Empire Fowey on October 11th, 1950, docking in Pusan on November 14th. Having reached the front, north of Pyongyang, all squadrons found themselves in full retreat, regrouping on the Han River. Early in 1951, Recce Troop saw action on the Han River in an area known as "Compo Valley" and had twenty three soldiers killed or missing. During this action a Cromwell tank was captured by the Chinese and had to be knocked out several days later by fire from the Hussars own Centurions. Captain Donald Lewis Astley-Cooper who was in command of Recce Troop then put together a scratch force known as "Cooper Force" of Cromwell tanks borrowed from 7 RTR which assisted the hard pressed Royal Ulster Rifles who had been under attack by superior forces since January 2nd. Astley-Cooper was killed during these engagements. In February, the United Nations Forces took the offensive, helping the Glosters capture Hill 327.
By April 1951, patrols were probing north of the Imjin River seemingly uncontested until a massive enemy assault started the Battle of the Imjin River on April 22nd, 1951. During the lull it had been decided to rotate the 8th back to the United Kingdom,. A & B Squadrons along with RHQ had already reached Kure in Japan when the Chinese Spring Offensive had broken out and were immediately ordered back to Korea. C Squadron, commanded initially by Captain Ormrod and then by Major Henry Huth (flown in from Japan) was left to defend the positions held by the Hussars alone. The troops of tanks commanded by Capt Peter Ormrod, Capt Murray, Lt Boyall and Lt Radford engaged the attacking Chinese over several days to try to prevent the loss of the important high features defended by the Glosters, the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Royal Ulster Rifles. The 8th were forced to make several sorties into over-run positions to rescue infantrymen cut-off by the advancing Chinese infantry.