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Valentine tank file photo [8494]

Infantry Mk III Valentine

CountryUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerVickers-Armstrongs, Limited
Primary RoleInfantry Tank

Contributor:

ww2dbaseDisappointed by the War Office's lack of interest in their proposed A.10 Infantry Support version of their A.9 cruiser tank (although subsequently it did enjoy limited production as a heavy cruiser tank) Vickers-Armstrongs, still convinced that they could build a better tank than the A.11 Matilda- the War Office's preferred tank for the role, decided to build an improved version with thicker armour as a private venture, and utilising as many of the components of their A.9 and A.10 (Cruiser Tank I & II) as possible. The War Office's main objection to the A.10 had been concern over the thickness of armour plate (30 mm) which was considered, in 1937, to be inadequate for the Infantry support role. Consequently Vickers devised a new 17-ton tank, the design of which was submitted to the War Office just before St. Valentine's Day, 1938-which according to legend is how the Valentine tank obtained its name. This new tank would have a 65mm armour basis (slightly greater than the A.11 Infantry Tank Mark I) but took many other features from the earlier A.9 and A.10 designs including a similar AEC six-cylinder petrol engine and transmission, and the same form of suspension. Both hull and turret however were more compact which limited the crew to three men only.

ww2dbaseThe War Office deliberated for over a year and then, in June 1939, with War imminent, placed a contract with Vickers for 275 tanks to be delivered from a stipulated delivery date of May 1940. In addition a further 125 were ordered from the Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd. and 200 from the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd. The Valentine Tanks duly arrived on schedule, but just too late to participate in the campaign in France.

ww2dbaseWhen the first production vehicle was tested by the War Office (no pilot vehicle had been built-the order being "off the drawing board") it was found to be generally satisfactory, although the engine cooling needed some improvements and the tracks were unreliable. There were initial doubts about the Valentine's two-man turret, which would limit the possibility of increasing armament at a later date, but due to the need to obtain as many new tanks as possible as a matter of extreme urgency for Home Defence, necessity overcame these concerns. It was also discovered that although many of the components appeared to be the same as those on A.9 and A.10, they were not in fact interchangeable. Nevertheless the Valentine was generally uncomplicated and robust, with an electrically driven turret traverse and no power assistance for either brakes or steering. Armament consisted of the standard 2-Pdr gun and a single co-axial 7.92mm Besa machine gun. The Valentine was difficult to drive, but ultimately proved to be a reliable and robust machine, well liked by its crews. The turret was somewhat cramped and deficient in vision arrangements, but this was not unusual in tanks of that period, and its one weak point lay in the absence of any skirting armour to protect the vulnerable suspension.

ww2dbaseThroughout 1940 Vicker's engineers worked hard to correct the faults in the track pins (48th RAC at Castle Martin once reported 100 broken track pins in a week) and engine cooling problems, and despite the rather "cottage industry" style of production at the Elswick plant at Newcastle-upon-Tyne (the work was carried out in a corner of the shop... No such thing as a production line existed. In the beginning plates were put together and secured by a few bolts in order to make a skeleton. Then the whole thing was riveted before moving down the shop for "suspension and wheeling". That done, the hull went back again to take aboard its engine, transmission, fuel tanks and the rest) Valentines with much ingenuity and improvisation were soon rolling out of the factory through the summer months of 1940 at the rate of forty machines per month. The Valentine II (Tank, Infantry, Mark III*) which followed was generally similar to the initial version with the exception of the substitution of a 131 bhp AEC six-cylinder diesel as the powerplant of the tank. The engineers then turned their attention to the two man turret (The gunner had to be his own loader, a circumstance that put too much of a burden upon an individual), and with the subsequent Valentine III a new turret was introduced which allowed space for a fourth crewman, and brought the number of Valentine tanks ordered by the War Office to some 1,325 machines.

ww2dbaseIn June 1940 the Canada government was approached with a request to participate in Valentine production. This led to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at Montreal establishing a production line with a preliminary order from the British authorities to build 300 Valentines. Initially it was intended to build only the hulls there and ship them to Britain for fitting with engines and guns, but eventually complete tanks were built, using guns and 138 bhp (later 165 bhp) GMC engines also made in Canada . Altogether 1,420 Valentines were built in Canada , of which 1,390 were shipped to Russia (along with some 1,300 British built Valentines)-The Soviet Army made one of its very few acknowledgements of outside assistance when it reported that. "...the Canadian-built Valentine tank (is) the best tank we have received from any of our allies...".

ww2dbaseValentines in action

ww2dbaseIn November 1941 the Valentine would go into battle for the first time during Operation Crusader when the 1st Army Tank Brigade, supported 4th Indian and New Zealand Divisions of 13th Corps, with the task of enveloping and overwhelming the Axis defences on the Libyan frontier to allow the strike force of 30 Corps to break through to besieged Tobruk. Meanwhile the establishment in Great Britain of five new British Armoured Divisions (the 1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 11th Armoured Divisions) had reached an advanced state, but noticeably still without sufficient numbers of a satisfactory cruiser tank capable of taking on the German Panzer IIIs and IVs being encountered in the Western Desert . Consequently the 6th, 8th and 11th Divisions were issued with Valentines as a makeshift measure.

ww2dbaseThe 8th Armoured Division was shipped to the Middle East in May 1942, arriving at Suez on the 6th of July, but found itself being broken-up piecemeal (It never did operate as a complete Division) into combined-armed Brigade Groups. The 23rd Armoured Brigade (40 RTR, 46 RTR and 50 RTR with 7th Rifle Brigade (a battalion size unit) and the guns of 5/RHA under command) had a particularly bad start to its combat career. On the 21st of July 1942 a Brigade of the 5th Indian Division attacked due west along the Ruweisat ridge (faced by 21 Panzer) while the 6th New Zealand Brigade came in across the minefields somewhat further to the south, making for the El Mreir depression where 15 Panzer lurked. In the 8th Army plan, the intention was for 23rd Armoured to exploit these attacks on the following day by driving between the Infantry Brigades to penetrate the Axis lines. During that night however , with the situation still unclear, General "Straffer" Gott modified the plan, which should have taken the tanks down the 278 grid line north of El Mreir, to the 276 grid line which would carry it just south of the depression and into an area more favourable for exploitation. Unfortunately communications failed and at 8 a.m. witnesses watched helplessly as the tanks of the 40th & 46th RTR (50 RTR having been detached to support the Australians around El Alamein) made an unsupported "Balaclava style' charge along the original axis and directly into the uncleared German minefields. The result was an unmitigated disaster-Held up by the minefields the tanks became an easy target for the German anti-tank guns. Barely a handful escaped undamaged. 50/RTR faired little better losing twenty three tanks with the Australians on the same day.

ww2dbaseRecompense came at the end of August. When Rommel, on the night of August 30th, repeating the tactics he had used at Gazala, launched his offensive around the southern flank of the British line (held by the 2nd New Zealand Division) It was a somewhat desperate gamble, for few Axis vessels had managed to avoid air attack to land their cargo of valuable fuel and ammunition in North Africa. Montgomery , recently arrived as the 8th Army commander, quickly realised that the German advance threatened to envelope the entire British line if left unchecked. The 23rd Armoured Brigade Group, rebuilt by cannibalizing men and tanks from the newly-arrived 24th Armoured Brigade and holding positions behind the 5th Indian Division to the north of the Alam el Halfa heights, was ordered south to take up position on the heights, which offered ideal defensive positions and a clear view right to the lip of the Qattara Depression off to the south. Conveniently the Anti-tank guns of the 1st Rifles had managed to delay the German advance until daylight which gave the armour sufficient time to take up position, and on the following day the 23rd Armoured had a clear view of the German 90th Light Division advancing on an open and featureless plain to their front. Unable to penetrate the heights and with fuel reduced to just enough for one day's fighting, Rommel's army found itself dangerously exposed. Battered by artillery and carpet-bombed endlessly by the Allied Air Force, by the 2ndt of September they had had enough. Rommel ordered a retreat and the last German attempt to conquer Egypt collapsed.

ww2dbaseVariants

ww2dbaseDue to the basically sound design of the hull and running gear the Valentine was used as the basis of a number of specialist vehicles, notably the self-propelled 17-pdr Archer and the self-propelled 25-pdr Bishop. The first DD swimming tanks were built around the Valentine, and various mine-clearing, flame-throwing and bridge-carrying versions were built, though the perfected designs were then applied to other tanks such as the Sherman or Churchill.

ww2dbaseThe Valentine may have had many shortcomings but by the time that production ceased in 1944 over 8,000 had been built and it was the only British tank of the day that could be trusted not to break down in moments of crisis. A total of eleven different Marks eventually appeared, differing principally in type of engine or armament. Even when the 2-pdr gun became outdated, the turret was just able to accommodate a 6-pdr at the cost of dropping one crew member and in the final model with an American 75mm gun (although none of these saw action). When the final report on the AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) in the Mediterranean theatre was published in 1945 Valentines 139 hp GMC diesel engine was the only one to be rated "very good". Bedford and Liberty engines were both reckoned "poor".

ww2dbaseWith some justification Vickers could boast that the Valentine was the most reliable tank of its day.

ww2dbaseSources:
Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Philip Trewbitt, Dempsey-Parr, 1999)
Rude Mechanicals (A.J.Smithers, Grafton Books, 1989)
Tanks and other AFVs of the Blitzkrieg era 1939-41(B.T. White, Blandford Press, 1972)
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Vehicles (Ian V Hogg & John Weeks, Hamlyn, 1980)
The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps (Ronald Lewin, Corgi, 1979)
Together we stand (James Holland, Harper/Collins, 2006)
Wikipedia

Last Major Revision: Sep 2009

SPECIFICATIONS

Valentine I Mk III
MachineryOne AEC A189 gasoline engine rated at 135hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x40mm QF 2pdr gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine II Mk III
MachineryOne AEC A190 diesel engine rated at 131hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x57mm QF 2pdr gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine IV
MachineryOne GMC 6004 diesel engine rated at 138hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x40mm QF 2pdr gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine VI
MachineryOne GMC 6004 diesel engine rated at 138hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x40mm QF 2pdr gun, 1x0.30cal coaxial Browning machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine VIII
MachineryOne AEC A190 diesel engine rated at 131hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x57mm QF 6pdr gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine IX
MachineryOne GMC 6004 diesel engine rated at 138hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x40mm QF 2pdr gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine X
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x57mm QF 6pdr gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine XI
MachineryOne GMC 6004 diesel engine rated at 210hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x75mm OQF gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine DD
MachineryOne GMC 6004 diesel engine rated at 210hp with Straussler Duplex Drive for amphibious operations
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament1x75mm OQF gun, 1x7.92mm coaxial Besa machine gun
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine OP
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
ArmamentDummy weapons only to make room for extra radio equipment
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine CDL
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
ArmamentSearchlight only
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Valentine Bridgelayer
MachineryOne AEC A190 diesel engine rated at 131hp
SuspensionCoil sprung three-wheel bogies
Armament34'x9.5' class 30 scissors bridge only
Armor8-65mm
Crew3
Length5.40 m
Width2.60 m
Height2.20 m
Weight16.0 t
Speed24 km/h
Range145 km

Photographs

Valentine II infantry tank at rest, date unknownValentine III infantry tank at rest, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of Infantry Mk III Valentine Infantry Tank



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Infantry Mk III Valentine Infantry Tank Photo Gallery
Valentine II infantry tank at rest, date unknownValentine III infantry tank at rest, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of Infantry Mk III Valentine Infantry Tank


Famous WW2 Quote
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