War Master WMTK007 British Crusader Medium Tank - 7th Armored Division "Desert Rats", Operation Battleaxe, Libya, North Africa, June 1941 (1:72 Scale)
"After [El] Alamein, we never had a defeat."
- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
The Tank, Cruiser, Mk VI Crusader was one of the primary British cruiser tanks of the Second World War and perhaps the most important British tank of the North African Campaign. However, due to its reputation for unreliability and relatively thin armour, it was replaced by American tanks for the invasion of Italy. Over 5,300 were built.
In 1938, Nuffield Mechanisation and Aero produced their A16 design for a heavy cruiser tank based on Christie suspension. Looking for a lighter and cheaper tank to build, the General Staff requested alternatives. To this end the A13 Mk III cruiser tank design which would enter service as the "Tank, Cruiser Mk V" and known in service as "Covenanter" was designed. Nuffield were, in 1939, offered the opportunity to take part in the production of Covenanter. Nuffield, however, preferred to work on its own version of the A13though they still provided design work for the Covenanter's turret. This new tank was adopted as Tank, Cruiser, Mk VI Crusader, under General Staff specification A15. Although Crusader is often referred to as an improved version of the Covenanter, in fact it was a parallel design.
Both the A13 Mk III and the A15 designs used the same main turret. The turret was polygonal with sides that sloped out then in again to give maximum turret space on the limited turret diameter. Early production vehicles had a "semi-internal" cast gun mantlet, which was quickly replaced in production by a better protected big cast mantlet with three vertical slits for the main gun, for a coaxial Besa MG and for a sighting telescope.
There was no cupola for the commander who had instead a flat hatch with the periscope mounted through it. The main armament was balanced so the gunner could control its elevation by hand rather than using gearing. This fitted well with the British doctrine of firing on the move.
When it was understood that there would be delays in the introduction of successor heavy cruiser tanks - what would become the Cavalier, Centaur and Cromwell the Crusader was adapted to use the 6 pounder gun.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale diecast replica of a British Crusader Medium Tank that was attached to the 7th Armored Division "Desert Rats", then participating in Operation Battleaxe, which was fought in Libya, North Africa, during June 1941.
Release Date: November 2011
Historical Account: "Command Decision" - Operation Battleaxe was a British Army operation during the Second World War in June 1941 with the goal of clearing eastern Cyrenaica of German and Italian forces; one of the main benefits of this would be the lifting of the Siege of Tobruk. It was the first time during the war that a significant German force fought on the defensive.
The operation did not succeed though, as British forces launched their initial assaults against strong defensive positions created by German General Erwin Rommel. The British lost over half of their tanks on the first day and only achieved victory at one of their three thrusts. They achieved mixed results on the second day, being pushed back on their western flank, but repelled a significant German counter-attack in their center. On the third day the British narrowly avoided outright disaster by withdrawing just ahead of a German encircling movement which would have cut them off from retreat.
The failure of this operation led to the replacement of British General Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East, by Claude Auchinleck.