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Date: Thursday, 1 January 1942
Place: North Africa
Crusader Mark IIs of the British 8th Army on the move. While the Crusader was plagued with mechanical unreliability and lack of firepower and protection, it could move fast, and travel over ground that would bog down other tanks. Crews lived in their tanks; the lead vehicle has helmets, storage boxes, and packs slung around its hull. Tank crews would add railings to the outside of tanks, form a tent, and live in the desert during campaigns. Because of the mechanical issues, tanks had to be transported on trucks from the storage depots to the battlefield to prevent wear. Cruiser Mk VI Crusader (A15) tanks were designed by Nuffield Mechanisation somewhat based on the Mk III Covenanter (A13) design. Some of the major differences between Covenanter and Crusader tanks include Crusader tanks' use of five road wheels on each side for better weight distribution, different engines and engine cooling systems, different steering systems, and hand-traversed machine gun turrets on the left-front side of the Crusader hulls (although these auxiliary turrets were often removed in the field). Against their German counterparts, they were relatively lightly armed and thinly armored, and they lacked high explosive rounds, but their higher speed somewhat made up for the difference. The Crusader tanks first saw combat during Operation Battleaxe in North Africa, where they effectively served as the main cruiser tanks. In 1942, an attempt was made to upgrade Crusader tanks' armament to 6-pounder guns, but the eventual availability of M4 Sherman and Cruiser Mk VIII Centaur/Cromwell tanks relegated the now inadequately-armed Crusader tanks to secondary roles, such as anti-aircraft (with twin Oerlikon 20-mm guns) or artillery towing. Between Nov 1940 and 1945, 5,464 Crusader tanks were built.