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Churchill Tank
Churchill Tank
Copyright An Cosantoir
Churchill Tank
Copyright An Cosantoir
Churchill Tank
Copyright An Cosantoir
Background
The Churchill Tank (also known as the A22 programme was a direct follow on from the A20 programme which was the responsibilty of Harland and Wolff, Belfast) was designed, by Vauxhall Motors, to a 1939 requirement that envisaged a return to trench warfare and therefore was slow and heavy. However, by the time the final prototype was built, due to lessons learnt from observing the German Army in Poland and France, Vauxhall had completed a re-design, sheding a lot of weight and achieving far greater performance. Initial models though suffered from reliability problems, as the design had been rushed into production (Britiain had very few tanks left after Dunkirk). Early combat experience with the Churchill, especially the Dieppe raid in 1942, was disappointing, however, it performed far better in North African theatre. A point to note, the Churchill was designated an "Infantry Tank", which was one of three designations used by the British Army in the '30s. The three were, "Light", a lightly armed and armoured tank, to be used as a scout, "Cruiser", a fast tank armed with a high velocity 2 pounder gun, to be used for long distance strikes and finally the "Infantry", a slow, heavily armoured tank, capable of going wherever the infantry went and able to absorb a lot of punishment.

The version in use with the Irish Army was the Mark VI, which was produced from December 1943, it was heavily armoured, maximum armour of 102mm, and mounted a 75mm OF Mk 5 gun. According to "Irish Army Vehicles", the gun had an maximum range of 2,000 yards with an AP round and 10,000 yards with a HE round. However, by all accounts, the gun was almost totally ineffective, even in 1944, against opposing tanks.

Four Churchills entered Irish service, all were ex British Army models with very low mileage and were reportedly in excellent condition upon their arrival. Two were delivered on December 20th, 1948, with a further one on December 24th and the last one on January 28th, 1949. Again, according to "Irish Army Vehicles", these were delivered under a five year, secret, lease deal with the British MoD, they were purchased in 1954.

The Churchills appeared to fit the Defence Forces requirements perfectly, as the DF considered Ireland unsuitable for tank warfare, and always considered tanks in the Infantry support role.

At this stage it is not known if any of the Churchills have been preserved in the army museum, in the Curragh, however, it appears that one (ZD 5055, photo above), which was buried in the Glen of Imall, in the '70s, was "exhumed" in 2002/3, presumably cleaned, and presented to the "North Irish Horse", a wartime regiment of the British Army from the North of Ireland (Capt. Terrance O'Neill, a Premier of the Stormont administration, in the late '60s/early '70s, served with this regiment in WWII).
Vehicle Specification
Crew 5 .
Armament 75 mm medium velocity gun 1 x 7.92 mm MG coaxially and 1 x 7.92 mm in Hull
Combat Weight 40 Tons .
Length 25 ft 2 ins. .
Width 10 ft 8 ins. .
Height 11 ft 4 ins. .
Max. Speed 15.5 mph/12.5 mph Open road/ough Terrain
Cruise Speed . .
Range 90 miles/145 Kms Open road
Max. Vertical Step mm .
Max. Trench 10 ft .
Ballistic Protection mm All Round
Ballistic Protection . Up Armored
Ballistic Protection . .
Engine Bedford twin six 350 bhp/.Kw
Transmission . .
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