Centaur CS MkIV

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#1
Centaur CS MkIV
please be aware, this is research work copied from the Tank Encyclopedia website and posted here for interest only.

The Centaur and the Cromwell are closely related. In fact, both were derived from the Cavalier, the A24 Cruiser Mark VII. The A27L was at first named “Cromwell II” but was afterward renamed to Centaur. Its origin can be traced back to the common specifications for a replacement of the Crusader, issued in late 1940. Designs were submitted in 1941 and production of the Cavalier was scheduled for 1942.
British Centaur Mark IV 95mm Tank at the Cobbaton Combat Collection Museum in Devon, England. The markings on the turret are for Azimuth/Bearing. It’s set up so an observer stood behind the tank on an assaulting landing craft can read immediately what direction the turret is pointing so he can lay them on to shore targets quicker. It was only used on the morning of D-Day, after that point they reverted to normal FS practices.

However, the troublesome Nuffield Liberty engine had proven its limited power, limiting the upgrades in armor and armament needed by the new generation of cruisers. Eventually, the choice of a suitable engine was the reason that split the new Cruiser program in three, according to their powerplant manufacturers. This development took time, and while the Cavalier was the first ready, based on the existing Nuffield Liberty engine, the Centaur was the second delivered.

Leyland and Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon (BRC&W) were chosen for the A27 program, according to the General Staff’s second specification. However, development took time, mostly to design a turret suitable for a 6-pdr gun, and the Crusaders were upgraded in the meantime. In January 1942, Rolls-Royce and Leyland/BRC&W each produced a prototype equipped with the 600 hp Meteor engine based on the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

Mobility was excellent but, unfortunately, cooling and manufacturing problems soon erupted. As a result, Leyland proposed an intermediary solution with its A27 design re-equipped with a redesigned Nuffield Liberty engine, that could be delivered sooner, in November 1942. This became the A27L (“L” for “Liberty”) Centaur.
centaur-engine.jpg

Centaur Tank engine
Design
Although the three cruisers are difficult to tell apart visually at first glance, many details allow the Cavalier to be distinguished from the other two. In common, all three are based on the Crusader, sharing many parts. The hull is low and with many flat surfaces, with riveted and welded cold steel RHA plates, including the front hull and sides. The large rear deck had to accommodate the engine.
The suspension consisted of six unevenly spaced large rubber-clad roadwheels per side, rear drive sprockets and front idlers. Large storage boxes added some form of layered protection on each side of the fighting compartment. The turret was hexagonal, with a flat front face protecting the internal mantlet, and two small 2-piece roof hatches side by side, for the loader and commander. Protection ranged from 63 mm (2.48 in) on the hull and turret front, 57 mm (2.24 in) nose, 25/29+14 mm (0.98/1.14+0.55 in) hull sides, 51+13/44+13 mm (2+0.51/1.73+0.51 in) turret sides & rear, to 20 mm (0.79 in) for the turret top and rear, engine deck and belly.

For the Mark III, this protection was increased to 76 mm (3 in), in one piece, for the turret front and hull front. The turret sides were also 63 mm (2.48 in) in one piece, with 57 mm (2.24 in) for the rear.
Both the main 57 mm (2.24 in) main gun and the coaxial Besa machine-gun were attached to the mantlet. There was another machine-gun in the hull, fired through a wire by the driver. The main gun was the Royal Ordnance Quick Firing 6-pounder Mark I (57 mm/2.24 in), with 64 rounds in store. Although very potent in 1942, especially compared to the puny 2-pdr (40 mm/1.57 in), by 1944 it was obsolete against the up-armored Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger and most recent tank-hunters.
kKzp7Md.jpg


The Nuffield Liberty V-12 delivered 395 hp at 1500 rpm, for a power/weight ratio of 14.1 hp/ton, and was served by a Merrit-Brown 5 forward, 1 reverse gearbox. Fuel capacity was 527 + 136 (rear auxiliary tank) liters of gasoline. This allowed for a 266 mile (363 km) range on flat ground, a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph) on road and 26 km/h (16 mph) off road. Field test performances showed it could climb a 25° gradient and 0.91 m vertical obstacle, cross a 2.36 m trench and ford 1.20 m deep river without preparation.
The differences, compared to the Cavalier, were the rear engine compartment extension for the extra exhaust, tailored for the Meteor engine, cast bulges on the turret base, the ventilation cap on the engine deck, behind the turret, and the usual absence of the two front storage boxes. The Cromwell was almost identical.

Production and variants
Due to numerous conversions and variants, exact production figures are tricky to establish. According to most sources, 950 Centaurs were produced in all, of all versions. Others state production values of 1059 for the Mark I alone. The explanation is some of the vehicles were built with Meteor engines and Centaur hulls, and sources place them either as Centaurs or Cromwells.

Some of them were converted as Centaur IIIs, IVs or for other specialized uses. The 75 mm (2.95 in) armed late Centaur IIIs were later renamed Cromwell IVs, despite keeping their original engine.

A27_Centaur-I.png

Centaur I
The base version armed with the ROQF (Royal Ordinance Quick Firing) 6 pounder (57 mm/2.24 in) and 64 rounds of ammunition, used only for training.

Centaur II
This experimental version tried a hull without machine gun and wider tracks. Not produced.

A27L_Centaur-III.png

Centaur III
A production version armed with the 75 mm (2.95 in) ROQF Mk V gun. In 1943, some 223 Mark Is were converted to this standard.

A27_Centaur-IV-CS.png

Centaur IV
CS (Close Support) version armed with a 95 mm (3.74 in) howitzer (51 HE rounds in store). It was in service with the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group and converted as “Hobbart’s funnies” with wading gear to get them ashore. Engine inlets and gun covers prevented any flooding. 114 were produced and soldiered on from D-Day to V-Day.

The armor thickness on the front of the turret was 2.5 inches (63.5 mm). On the side and rear of the turret it was 2 inches (50.8 mm) thick. The vertical armor on the upper hull was 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) thick.

A27_Centaur-AA-MkI.png

Centaur AA
Two versions of this anti-aircraft variant were built. The first was equipped with a Crusader III, Anti-Aircraft Mk II turret with two 20 mm (0.79 in) Polsten guns for anti-aircraft support on D-Day. 95 were built, later called Mark I. The Mark II AA used the Crusader III, AA Mk III turret.

Centaur AA 1 turret on top of an Instructional Mounting. used for tank crew training. It is now kept at the Tank Museum Bovington
Centaur AA 1 turret on top of an Instructional Mounting. used for tank crew training. It is now kept at the Tank Museum Bovington (Photo – Wanda Armstrong-Bridges)

A27_Centaur-ARV_Dozer.png

Centaur Dozer
Also part of the “Hobart’s Funnies”, they were turretless versions fitted with a simple dozer blade operated by a winch. The winch passed over the top of the hull and was operated through hydraulic power. 250 of these were built. It was 7.18 m (25’7″) long, 3.41 m (11’2″) wide and 2.54 m (8’4″) high.

Centaur ARV
This is one of the Royal Engineer’s armored recovery vehicle, fitted with a dozer blade, turretless, with an optional A-frame.

centaur-dozer-bovington.jpg

Centaur ARV Mk.1 Dozer at the Tank Museum Bovington

Centaur OP
The observation post variant, fitted with a dummy main gun and extra radio communication equipment.

Centaur Kangaroo
A turretless APC conversion. Obtained either from regular, specialized or more likely recovered Centaurs (turret damaged or destrusoyed). A few were so converted for at least two operations in Normandy.

The Centaur in action
The Centaur was used for training, and only the specialized versions saw active service on the front line. 95 mm (3.74 in) howitzer CS versions, if few in numbers, were part of the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group on D-Day. Many other specialist vehicles rendered services to the Royal Engineers, like the combat engineering vehicles and the dozers. Also in active service was the OP (observation posts) version.

They participated in the whole North European campaign, from the Normandy beaches to Northwestern Germany in April-May 1945. Contrary to the Sherman, they had a low silhouette and were faster. But they also shared the relatively cramped interior and small hatches of the Cromwell.

Surviving vehicles can be seen today at Bovington (dozer), two in Normandy, one at Benouville near Pegasus Bridge and one at La Brèche d’Hermanville. One of the 52 Centaurs sold to Greece (1946) has also survived and can be seen at the Tank Museum, Greek Army Armored Training Center at Avlona near Athens.

Surviving tanks
Centaur_IV_front.jpg

Seawolf the A27L Cruiser MK VIII Centaur IV CS (Close Support) tank at Hermanville-sur-Mer in Normandy.

centaur-tank.jpg

The Centaur IV close support tank was used by the Royal Marines to attack Sword Beach on D-Day 6th June 1944

Centaur-IV_CS_side.jpg

Centaur IV Tank at the Pegasus Bridge Memorial, Normandy, France

centaur-dozer-tank-crew.jpg

Restored Centaur Dozer tank and crew

centaur-dozer-blade-up.jpg

Restored Centaur with dozer blade in the up position
 
#2
Weren't they CS versions originally meant to give fire support from near the shoreline still on board landing craft and had the engine removed, ammunition being stored in the space left. A change of plan meant they instead went ashore with the engine installed (obviously) and we're used quite successfully inland.
 
#3
If people are interested a few months ago, the Britain at War magazine produced an article on the Royal Marines Support Group on DDay.
Originally the Centaurs were to be mounted on landing craft, with their engines removed because their Liberty engines were so underpowered and unreliable.
But a change of plans meant they were to go ashore, and provide fire support. So the engines were refitted and drivers supplied from the RAC/RTR replacement pool.
Edit. The Armoured Support Group only lasted until DDay +14 and were disbanded. I'm trying to find out who took their tanks over.
 
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#5
The A27 is a bit of a mess in terms of nomenclature, it got revised so many times it's near useless. The only difference between a Centaur and a Cromwell was the engine. All the other little details, either factory quirks, armament or mark specs, can be seen on either tank up until the introduction of the F type hull.

You can pretty much forget 75% of the Wikipedia entry on the Cromwell. I'd rewrite it but wiki gatekeepers get a sad on about original research if you go, "Here's Technical Documents 8400 and 8401 and the Armour Development Board's minutes folio from mid '43 to '46."

Rivet Counter Trivia (and an example of how confusing A27 knowledge gets): The Cromwell on display in Antwerp is an F type hull, but some smart arse has tried to make it 'more accurate' by bodging an extra sponson toolbox over the driver's side hatch so it resembles an earlier C Type hull, and looks more like a D-Day period tank.

Here's the thing, most of the Cromwells in the Liberation of Antwerp WERE F types.

Anyway my point is; we cant be certain the RMASG were actually in Centaurs. They may've begun life as Centaurs, but there was nothing to stop them being re-engined. In fact, I'm personally of the opinion the whole 'take the engines out' story is probably a myth born of the Centaurs being refitted with Meteors prior to D-Day.... and thus becoming Cromwells.
 
#6
What's the deal with so many of the examples above having protractors painted around the turret faces?
 
#9
If people are interested a few months ago, the Britain at War magazine produced an article on the Royal Marines Support Group on DDay.
Originally the Centaurs were to be mounted on landing craft, with their engines removed because their Liberty engines were so underpowered and unreliable.
But a change of plans meant they were to go ashore, and provide fire support. So the engines were refitted and drivers supplied from the RAC/RTR replacement pool.
Edit. The Armoured Support Group only lasted until DDay +14 and were disbanded. I'm trying to find out who took their tanks over.
:-D

Do they list the author in that?
Cause it was me!

IIRC the Centaurs went to the French.
 

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#11
As @jagman2 says: observers outside the vehicle could tell those within exactly how much to traverse to bring down accurate fire.
Correct. The observers would be ship-based, directing fire as required. The Centaurs were supposed to sit on the beach giving directed fire support, but in true Royal Marines fashion, ignored their orders and took off into town looking for any ad-hoc panzer to give a good hiding to. By the end of June, all Centaurs had been removed and sent home.
 
#12
Correct. The observers would be ship-based, directing fire as required. The Centaurs were supposed to sit on the beach giving directed fire support, but in true Royal Marines fashion, ignored their orders and took off into town looking for any ad-hoc panzer to give a good hiding to. By the end of June, all Centaurs had been removed and sent home.
I can see the point. But why have 180 degrees as the angle directly above the main armament? Doesn't seem natural when calling out a bearing.
 

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#13
I can see the point. But why have 180 degrees as the angle directly above the main armament? Doesn't seem natural when calling out a bearing.
Must be an Andrew thing. Marines were of the nautical persuasion weren't they?
 
#14
I can see the point. But why have 180 degrees as the angle directly above the main armament? Doesn't seem natural when calling out a bearing.
It does if all you see is the back of the turret.....

The RM Armoured Support Group also used Shermans as control tanks.
 
#18
What's the deal with so many of the examples above having protractors painted around the turret faces?

IIRC the idea as mentioned was they were due to go in on landing craft to provide fire for the landings
The fire controller would be outside using the markings to help him observe where to fire etc
Again IIRC Monty and the king where visiting a D Day build up area and saw them being pushed by tractors onto the landing craft
Monty asked why broken down tanks were being sent and it was explained they had no driver or engine and were to be dumped once the landings had finished.
Monty ordered that they be taken away and fitted with the engines and drivers trained before the landing hence how they ended up running round in France.
 
#19
Is that not a monitor?

If so it would indicate the practice is for shore based bombardment.
It has been a tradition in the Andrew for an extremely long time, that the Booties operated on a Capital ships, one of the rear most turrets.
Normally in Cruisers and above which have four main turrets. There were two Capital ships which I'm not sure about HMS Nelson and Rodney, they mounted three triple turrets all to the front of the hull. If the RM were given one in these two vessels I don't know.
 

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