Letter "C" and British armor?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Khyros, Dec 23, 2008.

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  1. So... why and how did the practice of naming all your main battle tanks something with the letter "C" come about? Seems like at some point in the 40's the MOD's department for deciding nomenclature found themselves a partial dictionary with only one chapter as it were. Churchill, Conquerer, Chieftain, Comet, Centurian, etc... While there is prior use of a name being recycled (Challenger is the only that comes to mind) one has to wonder how long you have till all the "cool" words are used up and tanks with names like Cowpens, Carbuncle, and Caliph start rolling out of the Vicker's plant.

    I know my country isn't much more creative with all our alpha numerics as well as fifty years of calling one generation of tanks after another "Patton" and the Germans are still on their armor ailurophile kick (seems like they have run out of big cats though... will the Leo II's replacement be the Siamese or Russian Blue?) so anyway... I'm just curious how the trend got started.
  2. Which is why I said "some point in the 40's." Matilda and Valantine were both pre war designs and every bit of heavy metal since then out of the UK has had a name beginning with C
  3. Excellent place to start, thank you... my forum search came up blank. I suspected it had something to do with the so called cruiser tanks becoming the leading design and it looks like some others have the same thought. :D
  4. AIUI:

    Matilda was a nickname derived from the appearance of the A11 (the Infantry Tank MkI, armed with a single machine gun and with a crew of two) resembling a cartoon duck of the period. The nickname stuck for the successor, the A12 (AKA the Matilda MkII) Both were infantry tanks with minimal speed but heavy armour.

    The Valentine has a few stories about how it came to be so named, but key is that it was a private development by Vickers rather than built to fulfill a General Staff requirement.

    The next infantry tank was the A22, which was named Churchill to honour the Prime Minister rather than any pre-existing naming convention. This was the last infantry tank design that made it into service and all further infantry tank development work was based on the Churchill, although without anything other than prototypes being produced.

    The pre-Second World War tanks had their General Staff specification numbers and such inspired names as Medium MkI (the A2), Medium MkII and Medium MkIII. The A9 was originally known as the Medium MkIV, but a change of classifications in November 1934 led to it being renamed the Cruiser MkI. By 1939 the A13 was produced, going through a number of design iterations of the Cruiser MkIII, Crusier MkIV the Cruiser MkV (or confusingly the A13 MkIII), which was the first Cruiser type tank to be named, as the infamous Covenanter. Described as a "Mechanical Horror", it had the radiator on the glacis and the engine at the back. It was succeeded by a new GS Spec (The A15) which gave rise to the Crusader, which was also deisgnated Cruiser MkVI.
    The next series of cruiser type tanks were based on similar chassis to one another and were the A24 (Cruiser MkVII, Cavalier - 6pdr gun), the A27L (Cruiser MkVIII, Centaur - 75mm gun or 95mm howitzer with a Liberty engine) and A27M (Cruiser MkVIII, Cromwell - 75mm gun or 95mm howitzer with a Meteor engine [Merlin without the supercharger])
    Following that, there was the A30, named the Challenger - a stretched and somewhat unsuccessful modification of the Cromwell designed to carry a 17pdr gun. This seems to be where the Cruiser tank Mark system was done away with.
    Then there was the A34 - the Comet, a heavily modified and much better Cromwell with more armour (as much as a Tiger), excellent mobility and a 77mm gun (a modified 17pdr) and finally the A41 - the Centurion.

    So the start seems to have been with London Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway Company and the Covenanter.

    Details courtesy of Peter Beale's "Death by Design" and Chaimberlain and Ellis' "British and American tanks of World War Two"
  5. Centurion was properly a 'C' as it started development as a 'heavy cruiser'. Its introduction happily coincided with Montgomery's desire for a 'universal' - later 'main battle' - tank.
    (He was less concerned about the physical differences in the infantry and cruiser tanks than solving the problem of matching the 'right' type of unit/formation to a task. The use of 'tank' units for infantry support and 'armoured' for independent mobile ops was always harder in practice than in theory. 'Tank' units were actually renamed 'armoured' in early 1945 as a step in the that direction; a bit odd because it was the 'armoured' role - independent manouevre/exploitation/pursuit - that had never quite delivered.)

    Charioteer was another one - a Cromwell with a big turret for a big 20pr gun, I think for the Yeomanry to play with.

    CVR(T) carried the S names over from the vehicles it replaced: Saladin & Saracen. Same with Fox and Ferret, though there was a Rarden-less liaison version of Fox proposed that would have been called Vixen.

    There was also the ecclesiastical naming of self-propelled artillery that followed on from the US M7: 'Priest' after its MG 'pulpit'. That all finished with Abbot; probably a goood thing as it might offend current foes.

    Self-propelled AT guns stuck with A for a while - Archer - Avenger - Achillles.

    The referenced post mentioned US tank names. It was actually us, not the US, that first named them: Stuart - Grant - Lee - Sherman. The US carried on with more obscure ones like Chaffee, Pershing and Patton, then lapsed with M48 & M60 until Abrams.
  6. Actually the US General officers nomenclature still has a fair bit of mileage in it...

    The "Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard"or the "Alexander Sandor Asboth"?

    perhaps the "Romeyn Beck Ayres", maybe the "De Trobriand", the "Hartfrant" or the "Hartsuff"?

    My particular favourite would be the "Krzyzanowski" (Trying saying that whilst boasting about yer tank when pished) or the "Zollicoffer".

    I think you'd be able to please all ethnic extractions on civil war generals alone!

    For the Germans, the "Von Steinwehr" or the "Schoepf". For the truly psychotic types, the "Slaughter" and for those who keep needing to be dug out, the "Boggs" would seem to be the one...

    Just too much material in the civil war alone :)
  7. You guys need to get out a bit more!
  8. Meh, it's more interesting than football.
  9. That started with the Bishop, a 25-pounder on a Valentine hull, in the Western Desert.

    And what about the Whirlwind/Hurricane/Tempest/Tornado/Typhoon (twice) series, to pull the thread even further off track?
  10. Always remember an Old Air Commodore on Newsnight, at the height of the EFA naming row who said "We should just call it Spitfire II and have done with it" Happy with that Sir.

    Wasn't there some controversy over naming it Typhoon, as it brought back unpleasant genetic memories in Heer Armoured? :D