Amercom ACCS11 British Crusader Mk. VIA Medium Tank - 7th Armoured Division "The Desert Rats", North Africa, 1942 (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 armor, 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 Mk. VIA medium tank that was deployed to North Africa during 1942.
Release Date: November 2013
Historical Account: "The Desert Rats" - According to Field Marshal Lord Carver, himself a former Desert Rat, the 7th Armoured Division's name and emblem were inspired by a pet jerboa kept by a regimental signaller. Seeing the beast, the division's then commander, Major-General "Hobo" Hobart, is said to have remarked, "This little animal should become our emblem. We must learn to live as he does, the hard way, in the desert."
And, having trained its men to fight and win battles in the vast Western Desert, the division played a crucial, and decisive, role in the North African campaign. Three times - in 1940, '41 and '42 - German and Italian forces attempted to take control of the North African coast. Three times they were driven back, by the UK's Eighth Army, the heaviest fighting taking place near Tobruk in Libya.
The German commander, Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel - the charismatic and respected 'Desert Fox' - promised his men that, if they took Tobruk, he would build a monument to commemorate the victory. If they lost, though, the
Afrika Korps would bury its dead there. The German cemeteries still to be seen on the Libyan coastline bear mute testament to Rommel's failure and the Desert Rats' hard-won success.
But it was victory at El Alamein in October 1942 - which came after one of the biggest artillery barrages of the war - that sealed Rommel's fate in North Africa and brought the Desert Rats, the Eighth Army and its commander, General Bernard Montgomery, eternal fame.
Not surprisingly, the Desert Rats' war did not end there. They fought in some of the war's bloodiest battles; at Salerno, in Normandy. and crossing the Rhine into Germany. And they ended the war by marching in the victory parade at the very heart of the Third Reich, Berlin itself.