Was the Comet tank the best Medium tank of WW2?

#42
Last year I was taking nipper round Bovy again. We were joined by an official tour. Bloke realised I knew what I was talking about and he decided he needed to up the ante. Told us he'd been rooting around in Bovy's records on a quiet day and had found an original blueprint for Cent that demonstrated Cent had been in the pipeline two years longer than all the evidence, records, rumours, popular misconceptions believed.
Even Wikipedia says that the Centurion started its design life in 1942. The Principle armament of the Centurion at the time was the 17Lbr, which didn't start its design life until about that time as well. So claiming a Cent start date of 1940 is certainly a bold claim, and I hope he has some good documents to back it up!
I'd be game to see what the source docs were, and how many jumps of logic were needed to to reach that conclusion.

I know a bloke at Bovy who works in the archives, I'll ask him.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#43
Even Wikipedia says that the Centurion started its design life in 1942. The Principle armament of the Centurion at the time was the 17Lbr, which didn't start its design life until about that time as well. So claiming a Cent start date of 1940 is certainly a bold claim, and I hope he has some good documents to back it up!
I'd be game to see what the source docs were, and how many jumps of logic were needed to to reach that conclusion.

I know a bloke at Bovy who works in the archives, I'll ask him.
Of course, a year later Bovy might have updated Wikipedia...
 
#44
I suppose your probably right.

The reason I asked is, I'm on the World Of Tanks historical section forum and they're ranting and raving about the T-34 and the Sherman as usual.

I've no doubt that the Sherman was a behemoth of industrial engineering but there're no way was any of it's variants or the T-34-85 in the same league as the A34 Comet.

Do you play Blitz as well?
 
#45
I read a book ‘Warriors for the Working Day’ recently

Warriors For the Working Day - Wikipedia

It’s a novelisation if the author’s experiences.


The Comet is referred to approvingly, but also disparaged.

I’ve not got the book to hand, it says something like “the new tank was trumpeted as the equal of the Panther. So we are 5 years in to the war and our best tank is as good as the Germans’ third best”.


It’s a very good book.
 
#46
Even Wikipedia says that the Centurion started its design life in 1942. The Principle armament of the Centurion at the time was the 17Lbr, which didn't start its design life until about that time as well. .
IIRC the 17 lber is obliquely referred to (it was still top secret at that stage) in a House of Commons debate about the Battle of Tobruk. The debate is centred on AT weapon production; availability and production of 2 lber and 6 lber are discussed, but reference is made to an un-named forthcoming new weapon (17 lber). IIRC the Hansard mention is around December 1941, so the 17 lber must have already been in trials by then.
 
#47
I think the Boxheads got it wrong going for too much quality over lack of numbers, they should have weighted it a bit better with good tanks but more numbers because their tactics were better than everyone else. Plus they needed more numbers to counter the sheer difference in size of armies they were facing, especially against Ivan.
Key point here is could they have up the numbers significantly if they'd simplified. I suspect not, due to limitations on material and people and 10% more Panthers wouldn't have had the impact of the Tiger II and other long 88 variants.
We had aircraft to match anything they had, 262 apart at the end At sea we were as good as any,
On land we had trucks, artillery, light recce stuff, just about everything that was if not as good or better as the opposition then not far behind.
But not in tanks and I don't really know why. A combination of lack of foresight, planning, awareness and industry which shouldn't have happened.
After Dunkirk I suspect the army was the Cinderella service for a couple of years, we need the RN and the Air Force a lot more. Then the Yanks came along and just taking American kit was a very useful option. Not only were our tanks not very good but if we'd only used British tanks there wouldn't have been many of them. Making decent lighter stuff is not as difficult as much of it is close to civilian manufacturing but building a good heavy tank in numbers would have been a massive effort we almost certainly couldn't make without losing some other more important capability. We were also stuck in the cruiser/infantry tank bind and imposed restrictions on width to suit the rail network, which had [and still has] the narrowest loading gauge in the US/Europe.
It's important to recognise how 'flat out and not coping' British industry was during the war. As an example I'm pretty sure that radar only became practicable in aircraft in large numbers when we gave the secrets of the cavity magnetron to the Yanks so they could sell them back to us, because we couldn't make enough at home.
 
#48
Per the title.

After a few years of basically getting it wrong on tank designs.

Building on the mobility and reliability strengths of the Cromwell tank but giving the Comet the brilliant anti-armour capability with the 77mm gun and upto 4" of armour.

Was the Comet the best tank in it's class of WW2?
The T34 surely.
 
#49
I read a book ‘Warriors for the Working Day’ recently

Warriors For the Working Day - Wikipedia

It’s a novelisation if the author’s experiences.


The Comet is referred to approvingly, but also disparaged.

I’ve not got the book to hand, it says something like “the new tank was trumpeted as the equal of the Panther. So we are 5 years in to the war and our best tank is as good as the Germans’ third best”.


It’s a very good book.
Define second or third best. The Tiger was mechanically unsound, the King Tiger the same. The Panther was the best balanced of the German tanks, and its 75mm was better in some circumstances than the 88mm. I’d say it was their best tank.

@California_Tanker has posted somewhere on here a link to a talk he gives in which he traces the Sherman’s development, in which he notes that when the Panther came up against the later Shermans they came off very badly.

The Sherman was far more survivable once penetrated, for instance... you know, the ‘Ronson’ or ‘Tommy Cooker’. The Germans were still storing rounds in the sponsons at the end of the war.

Sometimes, we’re guilty of writing and believing the Nazis’ propaganda for them.
 
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#50
See another previous thread started by @meerkatz - the T-34 was very mechanically unsound, many travelling to battle with a spare transmission strapped to the back. There was also hugely variable build quality, with front plates only millimetres thick and, in some cases, gaps which let rain in.

Many Soviet Guards units were wholly equipped with the M4. However, Joe Stalin’s couldn’t be seen to be giving credit to the design prowess of the imperialist lackeys. So, history was re-written and the T-34 mythologised.
 
#51
Key point here is could they have up the numbers significantly if they'd simplified. I suspect not, due to limitations on material and people and 10% more Panthers wouldn't have had the impact of the Tiger II and other long 88 variants.
One question I always ask when ever I see some one advocating the Germans produce more lighter tanks, is "Who is going to crew them?" The Germans had a it of a manning crisis for much of the war, often having insufficient trained crewmen for the tanks they had, let alone any increased numbers. So there is an argument for increasing the numbers of the big heavy tanks such as the King Tigers, and going form there.

Not only were our tanks not very good but if we'd only used British tanks there wouldn't have been many of them. Making decent lighter stuff is not as difficult as much of it is close to civilian manufacturing but building a good heavy tank in numbers would have been a massive effort we almost certainly couldn't make without losing some other more important capability.
I would (and I think we have argued this point before) claim that British tanks were at least the equal to their German or American counterparts.
You also mention difficulties producing a heavy tank. We chucked out about 6,000 Churchill's during the war, against under 2000 Tigers (both types).

As I said, mockingly, in the other thread we had recently:

T-34, Bestest tank Ever!



T-34's were really dire pieces of excrement.
 
#52
Wasn't the T-34 a success because they just happened to have 40'000 of them and unlimited tank crews to chuck at Jerry over the course of the war?
 
#53
Wasn't the T-34 a success because they just happened to have 40'000 of them and unlimited tank crews to chuck at Jerry over the course of the war?
Given the build quality, they needed that.

I would (and I think we have argued this point before) claim that British tanks were at least the equal to their German or American counterparts.
You also mention difficulties producing a heavy tank. We chucked out about 6,000 Churchill's during the war, against under 2000 Tigers (both types).
The Churchill had thicker front armour than the Tiger. I’d argue that Black Prince was arguably ‘our Tiger’, potentially: slab armour, good gun, relatively slow over ground.

It was binned in favour of the Comet. Some people here might consider why that was.
 
#54
It was binned in favour of the Comet. Some people here might consider why that was.
The Black Prince is a curiosity, and I've seen many theories for why it existed and got binned. The only doc I've seen mentioned it got dropped due to the A.45. That said this is a single line in a single document so I'm hesitant to says that's the complete and utter truth.
On the flip side I've not actually gone looking for A.43 stuff, so its hardly like I'm an expert.
 
#55
The Black Prince is a curiosity, and I've seen many theories for why it existed and got binned. The only doc I've seen mentioned it got dropped due to the A.45. That said this is a single line in a single document so I'm hesitant to says that's the complete and utter truth.
On the flip side I've not actually gone looking for A.43 stuff, so its hardly like I'm an expert.
Based on nothing beyond my own thoughts...

Churchill was an infantry tank. Speed across rough ground was single miles an hour. A (kinda, because it was a bastardised version in the Comet) 17pdr in something that was more nippy, weighed less but had a reasonable armour solution makes more sense in terms of utility.
 
#56
Define second or third best. The Tiger was mechanically unsound, the King Tiger the same. The Panther was the best balanced of the German tanks, and its 75mm was better in some circumstances than the 88mm. I’d say it was their best tank.

@California_Tanker has posted somewhere on here a link to a talk he gives in which he traces the Sherman’s development, in which he notes that when the Panther came up against the later Shermans they came off very badly.

The Sherman was far more survivable once penetrated, for instance... you know, the ‘Ronson’ or ‘Tommy Cooker’. The Germans were still storing rounds in the sponsons at the end of the war.

Sometimes, we’re guilty of writing and believing the Nazis’ propaganda for them.

I’m just quoting the chap who wrote the book I mentioned; I suspect he had a different perspective than us.

He was crewed up with Buck Kite MM (3 bars) so my hunch is he had a reasonably thorough understanding of the relative merits of armour at the time.

Not so much of the post-War information though.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#57
Given the build quality, they needed that.



The Churchill had thicker front armour than the Tiger. I’d argue that Black Prince was arguably ‘our Tiger’, potentially: slab armour, good gun, relatively slow over ground.

It was binned in favour of the Comet. Some people here might consider why that was.
As I've said before (probably the last Best Tank thread), I think it was Patrick Delaforce quoted Monty after The Bulge, " If Hitler had had Cromwells, he might have reached Antwerp. If we'd had Tigers, we wouldn't. "
 
#58
Wasn't the T-34 a success because they just happened to have 40'000 of them and unlimited tank crews to chuck at Jerry over the course of the war?
As mentioned above, the elite mechanized corps - exploitation, for the use of - often got M4s, because they had a lot more runners working after a couple of hundred miles compared to T-34 formations. A T-34 might be more survivable creating the breakthrough against German AT guns, but once you wee through and breaking free for Prague or wherever, then no competition.

In similar vein, the Soviets insisted we kept the Valentine in production until 1944. Yes, it was slow. Yes, it was poorly armed by mid-late war standards. However, it was small, well-armoured, and much more reliable than anything built in the Urals, with very good (if slow) mobility over poor terrain. So they kept it as a recce tank. There is even a photo which strongly suggests that it was Valentine that was first to reach the Reichstag in '45. Not that the Sovs were ever going to publicise that!
 
#59
I’m just quoting the chap who wrote the book I mentioned; I suspect he had a different perspective than us.

He was crewed up with Buck Kite MM (3 bars) so my hunch is he had a reasonably thorough understanding of the relative merits of armour at the time.

Not so much of the post-War information though.
I’m not digging at a man who’s been and done, nor you for quoting him. Your last sentence covers it off, though - we have the benefit of distance and a fuller perspective. Those staring down the wrong end of an 88 could well be forgiven for thinking, ‘What the hell?’

Equally, I’m sure a contemporary German gripe might be ‘If only th f*cking engine worked!’ or ‘As long as we don’t take a round in the flanks...’
 
#60
See another previous thread started by @meerkatz - the T-34 was very mechanically unsound, many travelling to battle with a spare transmission strapped to the back. There was also hugely variable build quality, with front plates only millimetres thick and, in some cases, gaps which let rain in.

Many Soviet Guards units were wholly equipped with the M4. However, Joe Stalin’s couldn’t be seen to be giving credit to the design prowess of the imperialist lackeys. So, history was re-written and the T-34 mythologised.

Comet?

Excellent hard hitting gun with superb accuracy… 3 rounds on a 12" plate at 500m was the norm

Reliable as the day was long, fast on the good going with excellent off road mobility

Well enough armoured and armed to wade into a fight with a Panther or Tiger at normal battle ranges with a good expectation of winning.
 

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