Cruiser Mk IV

The Cruiser Tank Mk IV (A13 Mk II) was a British cruiser tank of the Second World War. It followed directly on from the Tank, Cruiser, Mk III (A13 Mk I). The first Mk IVs were Mk IIIs with extra armour fitted to the turret. Later Mk IVAs were built with the complete extra armour. The tank was used in France in 1940 and in the early part of the war in North Africa, before being withdrawn from service. A fast vehicle compared to other British tanks of the early part of the war, it was probably the best tank Britain had in 1940.[3] In total, 955 of these tanks were built.

Tank, Cruiser, Mk IV (A13 Mk II)
Cruiser Mk IV.jpg
TypeCruiser tank
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1940–1941[1]
Mass14.75 Long tons[2]
Length19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)[2]
Width8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)[2]
Height8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)[2]
Crew4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armour6–30 mm
QF 2-pdr gun
87 rounds
0.303 in Vickers machine gun
3,750 rounds
EngineNuffield Liberty V12 petrol
340 hp (250 kW)
90 mi (140 km)
Maximum speed 30 mph (48 km/h)
off road: 14 mph (23 km/h)

Design and developmentEdit

Britain became interested in fast tanks after observing the Soviet BT tanks during the 1936 Red Army manoeuvres. The BT was based on the revolutionary designs of American J. Walter Christie and a team from Morris Motors was sent to the United States to purchase a Christie tank and the rights to build more. The tank became known as the A13E1 and was delivered in late 1936, but the hull was too small and this led to a second British-built prototype.

The A13E2 was built to mount the turret of the Vickers designed Cruiser Tank MkI (A9). This carried a 40 mm Ordnance QF 2-pounder gun and a co-axial .303 water-cooled Vickers machine gun. The drive train was also revised, with the road wheels no longer powered so the tank could not be driven on its wheels alone. Better tracks were used, with rear-mounted drive sprockets and in trials, over 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) was attained on them but later the speed was governed to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). The armour of the A13E2 was 15 millimetres (0.59 in), in line with other pre-war fast tank designs.

The A13E3 was the final trials model, which led to the production tank, A13 MkI, Cruiser Tank Mk III, which entered production in 1939 at Nuffield Mechanization & Aero Limited, a munitions subsidiary of Morris Motors. An order for 65 tanks was placed and at least 30 tanks completed when the War Office decided to build a new model with thicker armour. The A13 MkII, Cruiser Tank Mk IV, had a maximum armour thickness of 30 millimetres (1.2 in) and faceted armour was mounted on the original turret sides and rear. This gave the tank a far more modern appearance; some Mk III tanks were re-built to Mk IV standard while at the factory.

The .303 Vickers machine gun gave constant trouble and was replaced by the 7.92 mm BESA. All British tanks were to have their designs modified to mount the new weapon from early 1940. This led to the main production version, the A13 MkIIA, Cruiser Tank MkIVA. A few examples were sent with the BEF to France, along with most of the earlier A13s. It is not known how many A13 MkIVA tanks were built - the numbers depending on the source. Between the Cruiser Mark III and Cruiser Mark IV, 665 had been built when production ended in 1941.[2] English Electric, Leyland and LMS Railway were also involved in A13 production.

During the Battle of France, the A13 did not perform well, due to poor crew training as a result of its being rushed into service. Many tanks shipped to France were in poor condition and some were so new that they had vital parts missing. The A13 performed much better in the deserts of North Africa and coped with the conditions better than some other designs. It was fast, adequately armed and armoured against Italian and German tanks. It remained an effective weapon until late 1941, when newer models of the Panzer III and Panzer IV appeared with thicker armour and larger guns. In North Africa, it was the anti-tank gun that claimed the vast majority of British tanks lost in battle; German tanks accounted for few British losses, contrary to popular belief.[4]

The Cruiser MkIV was replaced by two tank designs, the Cruiser MkV Covenanter tank and the A15 Crusader. The A13 Covenanter was a radical departure from the original A13 design and constituted an entirely new tank though reliability issues meant to was used just for training. The A15 Crusader tank retained the original Cruiser IV Liberty engine but in all other respects was a new design.

Production historyEdit

A Cruiser Mk IV tank destroyed in the North African Campaign.
  • 65 MkIII, built 1939 by Nuffield (some converted to MkIV)
  • 225–665 MkIV and MkIVA, built 1939–41 by Nuffield, Leyland, English Electric and LMS.
  • MkIV CS, not built
  • MkV, re-design by LMS Railway as A13, Cruiser Tank MkV Covenanter


Mk IVA / AC Mk IIAEdit

.303 Vickers machine gun replaced with 7.92-millimetre (0.312 in) Besa machine gun. The MkIVA featured a new gun mantlet and was built at several factories, including LMS Railway. It was the main type used in the desert from 1940 to 1942.

Combat historyEdit

Approximately 40 Cruiser Mk IV and MkIVA, saw service in France in 1940 with the 1st Armoured Division of the British Expeditionary Force.[citation needed] Most were abandoned at Calais, and the few tanks that did see action were destroyed by the numerically superior German armored forces.

From October 1940, the Cruiser Tank MkIVA was sent to North Africa, where it was used with the older A9, Cruiser Tank MkI and A10 Cruiser Tank MkII. The A13 was never available in sufficient numbers and a typical armoured brigade would have a mixture of slow (10–20 miles per hour (16–32 km/h)) A9 and A10 with faster (30–40 miles per hour (48–64 km/h)) A13 and Light Tank Mk VI (acting as cruiser tanks). This caused tactical and supply difficulties, but the A13 was popular with its crews[citation needed] and its only[citation needed] deficiency was the lack of a high-explosive shell for the 2-pounder. In common with all cruisers, it was vulnerable to standard Axis anti-tank guns, (unlike the Matilda II infantry tank), which it could only counter with short-range machine gun fire. The A13 was generally reliable[citation needed] and the 2-pounder gun was adequate[citation needed] against all Axis tanks up to late 1941, when the A13 was retired. It was replaced by the A15 Crusader tank, which was an enlarged A13 with thicker armour.

Nine MkIV tanks captured by the Germans after the Battle of France were reused as command vehicles for Panzer Abteilung (Flamm) .100 during Operation Barbarossa.[5]


  1. ^ Forty, George; Jack Livesy (2006). The World Encyclopedia of Tanks & Armoured Fighting Vehicles. Lorenz Books. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7548-1741-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e White, BT British Tanks 1915–1945 Ian Allan p. 46
  3. ^ The Tank Museum (13 February 2015). "David Fletcher's Tank Chats #1: The A13 Cruiser | The Tank Museum". YouTube. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  4. ^ Harris J. P. and Toase F. N., Armoured Warfare (London, 1990), p78
  5. ^

External linksEdit