Military Review

Light tank Mk VIII Harry Hopkins (UK)

Light tank Mk VIII Harry Hopkins (UK)

In the late thirties, the British army would have adopted the light cruising tank Mk VII Tetrarch. From the existing samples, this machine was distinguished by its relatively low weight, high firepower and an acceptable level of protection. Nevertheless, the start of mass production of such equipment was seriously delayed, due to which it managed to lose its potential in a few years. Soon, an attempt was made to return the promising lung tanks acceptable characteristics, which resulted in the appearance of the Mk VIII Harry Hopkins armored car.

Recall, the light tank Tetrarch had armor up to 14 mm thick and carried an 40-mm gun. The relatively high engine power made it possible to reach speeds of up to 64 km / h. In addition, the car had high maneuverability in the entire range of speeds. For the late thirties, a tank with such characteristics was of great interest to the army, but the situation was changing rapidly. Full-fledged serial production of the Mk VII tanks was only possible to establish in the 1941 year, when it was already established that such lightweight equipment did not fully meet the requirements of the time. As a result, there was a proposal to upgrade the existing machine in order to improve the basic characteristics.

Light tank Mk VIII Harry Hopkins. UK War Office Photos

By the end of the summer, 1941, the Vickers-Armstrong company, which developed and manufactured the Mk VII tanks, formed a technical proposal for a deep modernization of such equipment. In September, the proposed project was approved by the military department, which made it possible to begin a full-fledged design, and also to expect to receive an order in the future. The new project received the working designation A25. In the future, being adopted for service, the tank got a new designation Mk VIII. In addition, the car was named Harry Hopkins - in honor of the American diplomat, who played a crucial role in improving relations between the two countries.

The new project of the Vikkers-Armstrong company implied serious reworking of the existing Tetrarch tank in order to improve the basic characteristics. First of all, it was planned to strengthen the booking of the hull and the tower, providing protection against new threats. In addition, it was supposed to rework some other elements of the structure, which made it possible to increase the combat potential of the machine, as well as to a certain extent simplify its production and operation. A very large list of improvements was proposed, which made it possible to view the new project as an independent development, and not as a further development of the existing tank.

To solve one of the main tasks in the form of increasing the level of protection, the designers of the developer had to create a completely new armored corps, which only remotely resembled Tetrarch units. Now it was proposed to use sheets of armor increased thickness. They had to be assembled into a single structure using rivets and welding. The layout of the hull remained the same, classical, but the external contours and the composition of the sheets underwent the most serious changes.

Tank Mk VII Tetrarch. Photo of the Imperial War Museum /

Protection of the A25 tank control compartment was carried out with several armor plates up to 38 mm in thickness. The hull received a narrow, low vertical sheet, above which a sloping trapezoidal part was placed with an inspection hatch. On its sides were two sloping cheekbones. Behind the frontal assembly of the hull was a podbashnaya box formed by the sides and roof. The hull sides had a thickness from 17 to 20 mm, their upper part was set with a slope inward. Two sheets 12 and 14 mm thick were placed in the stern. On top of the case was covered 14-mm roof.

The need to increase the level of protection led to the development of a new tower of a different form. On the pursuit of a hull with a diameter of 1,3, a round support platform was placed on which all armor plates were installed. The project proposed the use of a vertical hexagonal frontal sheet, in front of which there was a characteristic cast gun mask. The sides of the tower consisted of two lower and one upper corner. Behind the sloping roof there was a wedge-shaped feeding niche. The level of protection of the tower corresponded to the characteristics of the case. It is noteworthy that the lower part of the reservation of the tower had a relatively small size, because of which the supporting platform partially protruded beyond its limits.

In the aft compartment of the A25 tank there was a Meadows 12-cylinder petrol engine manufactured by Meadows with an 148 horsepower. Next to the engine was a manual transmission with a five-speed gearbox. Also in the engine compartment were radiators and main fuel tanks.

For the new tank was designed the original tower. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

The new project offered to keep the undercarriage of the tank Mk VII Tetrarch well-proven. On each side of the hull were placed four skating rinks of large diameter, equipped with an individual spring suspension. The front three rollers of each side had rubber bandages, the rear - toothed rim. The first three pairs of rollers served as support, while the stern pair was the driving wheels. The most important feature of the undercarriage was the articulated installation of the rollers, which allowed them to rotate around a vertical axis. Using a set of rollers connected to the steering wheel. The finely divided caterpillar with a rubber-metal joint had the possibility of bending in the horizontal plane. For the new tank, improved metal rollers were developed. Other details unchanged borrowed from the previous project.

The armament of the Tetrarch was considered powerful enough for vehicles of this class, which made it possible to use the existing gun and machine gun in the new project. In the frontal installation of a new tank turret, it was proposed to place an 40-mm Ordnance QF 2-pounder cannon. Such an instrument had a rifled barrel with a length of 52 caliber, which allowed it to accelerate projectiles of various types up to speeds of 800-900 m / s. The effective firing range was determined at the level of 1 km. Depending on the type of projectile used, the gun could pierce up to 40 mm of armor at a distance of 1000 yards. Inside the fighting compartment, we managed to place the unitary loading projectiles on 50.

Next to the gun in the tower was mounted 7,92-mm BESA machine gun, working with the same aiming drives. Ammunition machine gun, as in the case of the previous tank, was to consist of 2025 cartridges.

The armor of the new tower did not completely block the gleam of the shoulder strap. Photo

The composition of the crew of the new tank remained the same. Inside the hull and the tower should have been located three people. At the workplace in the front compartment of the housing control was placed a driver. In connection with the processing of the frontal part of the hull, the driver had to transfer the hatch on the left zygomatic sheet. Initially, the manhole cover had a rounded shape, but later it was replaced with a polygonal sheet placed on the hinges. For driving in battle and on the march, it was proposed to use a small inspection hatch in the front plate. In addition, in the front of the roof were several periscope instruments.

In the fighting compartment was planned to place the commander-gunner and loader. For access to the fighting compartment was proposed to use a large hatch, which was one of the sheets of the roof. In the roof of the tower there were several periscope viewing instruments for observing the terrain. In addition, the commander’s place had devices to control weapons and telescopic sights for guidance.

The finished tank A25 had a length (on the hull) 4,34 m, width 2,65 m and height 2,11 m. Combat weight - 8,64 t. Thus, the new light tank was slightly larger than the existing Tetrarch, but due to thicker booking, turned out to be heavier by about 1,1 tons. The power density at the level of 17,5 HP per ton made it possible to get the maximum speed up to 48 km / h and a power reserve of 320 km. From the point of view of mobility, the new tank with improved protection should have been inferior to its predecessor. At the same time, high maneuverability remained. Using the transmission and steering wheel, the driver could both brake the tracks and turn the track rollers. In the latter case, the track was bending, which made it possible to turn “in an automobile way” without losing speed.

Chassis borrowed from the previous armored vehicles. Photo

The design of the light tank A25 lasted until the spring of the year 1942. After completion of the design work, the company-developer has built the first prototype and brought it to the testing ground. The inspections immediately confirmed concerns about the deterioration of mobility. According to these characteristics, the new machine really had to differ from the serial equipment. At the same time, a new type of tank had noticeable advantages in terms of armor protection.

Soon after the start of the design work, the British military department formed its plans for the mass production of promising light tanks. Technique with characteristics at the level of the Mk VII Tetrarch and enhanced booking was of great interest to the army, because of which it was decided in the future to build 1000 new A25 tanks. Already in November 1941, the volume of the future order increased to 2140 tanks. The first production vehicles were planned to be assembled in June of the following year, after which the industry had to produce hundreds of armored vehicles per month. Metro-Cammell was appointed the first manufacturer of serial A25.

However, the first tests showed that plans for serial production of equipment would have to be revised, at least partially. In the course of the checks, numerous design flaws were revealed that required correction and improvement. Improving the design and refinement of a promising tank took too much time. The A25 tank was ready for mass production only in July of the 1943 year - one year after the planned deadline. Such problems have led to a significant reduction in plans for future construction. Now the military again wanted no more than a thousand tanks.

Scheme of the tank. Figure

According to the test results, a promising light tank was adopted under the designation Mk VIII Harry Hopkins. It was under this name that the former A25 soon entered the series. Due to the workload of other orders, the UK defense industry for a long time could not establish a full-fledged production of "Harry Hopkins". Because of this, in particular, by the end of the summer 1943, only six armored vehicles could be built. Until the end of the year, the 21 tank was also transferred to the customer. In November, the military again decided to change plans for the production of equipment. Due to the impossibility of a full-scale assembly of tanks, the order was reduced to 750 units. In 1944, the only plant that received the relevant instructions was able to build only 58 tanks Mk VIII. In this regard, the military department ordered to complete the hundredth tank and stop the work. The last batch of armored vehicles was transferred to the army at the start of the 1945 of the year.

The Mk VIII light tank combat service began in the autumn of 1943. Almost immediately, the military faced very serious problems: having some advantages over the equipment used by the troops, the newest tanks did not fit into the existing methods of combat use. Due to weak weapons and relatively thin armor, they could not fight with the medium tanks of Germany. The airborne units, in turn, could not use such equipment, since it did not meet the requirements of the Hamilcar serial landing gliders. The only field of application of such technology was reconnaissance in the interests of armored units.

But even here the difficulties did not end. At the end of 1943, the United Kingdom received the first batch of American-made M5 Stewart light tanks. This technique differed from the "Harry Hopkins" less powerful tool, but it exceeded it in all other parameters. As a result, the British military decided to give the role of a reconnaissance vehicle to a new imported tank. Rapidly losing prospects, domestic tanks decided to transfer to the Royal Air Force, who needed equipment for the protection of airfields.

Restoration of the only surviving "Harry Hopkins" in the Bovington Museum. Photo

It should be noted that in the summer of 1943, an attempt was made to make the tank Mk VIII landed. Designer L.E. Baines proposed a glider project called Carrier Wing or Baynes Bat, which implied the construction of a flying wing aircraft with a 100 foot span (30,5 m). The device was supposed to take on board a light tank and allowed him to reach the target by air. The glider was controlled by its own pilot. One experienced reduced-size glider was built, but the project did not progress further than the tests. The glider, in general, showed itself well and could be of interest to the military. However, the potential customer refused the original equipment. Harry Hopkins tanks because of this were left without a single compatible means of landing.

Already in 1942, the chassis of a promising light tank began to be considered as the basis for promising technology for other purposes. Soon the project was launched with the symbol Alecto, the purpose of which was to create a self-propelled artillery installation with a relatively powerful weapon capable of fighting tanks and enemy fortifications. In connection with the problems of the basic project, the development of ACS was seriously delayed. As a result, the original machine simply did not have time to go to war, and the project was closed as unnecessary.

In the 1943-44, all built Mk VIII light tanks Harry Hopkins were placed at the disposal of the RAF and distributed among the aerodrome guard units. By this time, the situation in Europe had changed, because of which the armored vehicles actually remained without work. The risk of attack by Nazi Germany was reduced to a minimum, and the fight against enemy aircraft was not part of the task of light tanks. This not too complicated work of tankers continued until the very end of the war. During this time, the tanks Mk VIII never managed to face the enemy.

Armored car after repair. Photo

Serial production of Mk VIII tanks Harry Hopkins lasted long enough, but for all the time the industry has released only a hundred of such armored vehicles. They did not manage to find a place on the battlefield, which later led to a fairly quick rejection of the equipment. Soon after the end of the Second World War, light tanks began to be written off and sent for disassembly. Only one car of this type managed to survive. Now she is an exhibit of the armored museum in the British Bovington.

The project of the light tank A25 / Mk VIII Harry Hopkins can hardly be considered successful. His goal was to create a new machine, which favorably differs from the serial Mk VII Tetrarch. The task of increasing the level of protection was successfully solved, but at the same time the tank received a lot of small but unpleasant flaws. It took too much time to get rid of the identified shortcomings, because of which the start of mass production of tanks shifted by about a year. As a result, the tank ceased to meet the existing requirements and was no longer of interest to the troops. The armored vehicles were transferred to auxiliary "positions", and then removed from service and written off. The previous light tank "Tetrarch" was also not a large and successful machine, but "Harry Hopkins" could not repeat even his successes.

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  1. cth; fyn
    cth; fyn 13 February 2017 17: 13
    Britain and tanks .... Incompatible things. Although now they do not seem to have a bad tank in service, the truth has not shown itself anywhere, unlike the t-72 and Abrams, but it seems to be good on paper.
  2. sergei1975
    sergei1975 13 February 2017 17: 51
    I found a photo of an Australian tank. Tell me, what is this crap on the front sheet? The feeling that this is a male tank laughing
    1. Fotoceva62
      Fotoceva62 13 February 2017 18: 09
      This is a reservation for the Vickers machine gun water cooling casing.
      1. sergei1975
        sergei1975 13 February 2017 18: 12
        THANK YOU!
        1. hohol95
          hohol95 14 February 2017 11: 32
          In the USSR, such molded casings protected the barrels of flamethrowers installed in OT-34 tanks!
    2. hohol95
      hohol95 13 February 2017 22: 01
      good The British and their dominions loved the Vickers water-cooled machine gun to put equipment on the armor!
    3. hohol95
      hohol95 13 February 2017 22: 03
      But I had to close it with armored cast casings from damage to the water casing of the machine gun! But the Australian English guys outdid! good

  3. Comrade Stalin
    Comrade Stalin 14 February 2017 01: 02
    God, what misery the British riveted during the war. More or less normal cars are Valentine and with some stretch of Churchill.
    1. Somad
      Somad 14 February 2017 08: 56
      ... More Matilda. My great-grandfather fought on it in the Second World War. Although at the end of the war he moved to T-34-85, all the same, until the end of his life he warmly recalled “Matilda” ...
      1. Somad
        Somad 14 February 2017 08: 59
        ... And also, “Cromwell” a successful tank at the Britons turned out (in my opinion) ...
      2. Comrade Stalin
        Comrade Stalin 14 February 2017 15: 17
        I read at Svirin that the tankers were tormented with her bulwarks on the sides, covering the tracks. For the English Cretaceous soil and the Sahara desert, the soil transported by the caterpillar freely poured through the windows in bulwarks, but in the conditions of Russian mud, and even more so in the transitional seasons and in winter, when plus or minus, mud mixed with water accumulated under bulwarks and with snow, and when freezing, she tightly grabbed the tracks.