Crusader I or II
with one Crusader tank with Crusader I & II 2pdr options & CS options.
In April 1939, the General Staff were asked to review all the potential tank designs in consideration for the role of standard heavy cruiser. Potential designs included the A18, A14, A16 and the A15; but the A15 emerged as the favourite for numerous reasons.
First, it shared a majority of components with the A13 series and therefore could be put into production faster. Next, it offered better trench crossing abilities than the A13 Mk III and finally the armour protection was superior to any of the other designs in consideration.
The green light was given to begin manufacture of the A15 in July 1939 with an initial order of 200 tanks. While some of the preliminary teething problems were remedied, the Crusader I (Cruiser Mk VI Crusader in Hellfire and Back) as it became known by late 1940 would always suffer from reliability issues due to the haste in which it was rushed into production and the lack of thorough field trails especially in a desert environment which was destined to become its main theatre of operations.
The Crusader I became the principal British tank from the spring of 1941 and first saw action near Capuzzo in June 1941. Throughout its service, the Crusader I underwent a number of modifications including the removal of the machine-gun turret mounted on the front of the vehicle which offered little combat value and was very poorly ventilated; these turrets were completely phased out with the introduction of the Crusader II and many Crusader I had their turrets removed in the field with the extra spaced created used for ammunition stowage.
The Crusader I was armed with the OQF (Ordnance Quick Fire) 2pdr gun or the OQF 3” howitzer to fill the CS (Close Support) role and protected by up 40mm of armour. In essence, the Crusader II was simply an up armoured version of the Crusader I; with the crew now enjoying up 49mm of armour protection. Like the Crusader I, the Crusader II was also armed with either the OQF 2pdr or 3” howitzer.
The Crusader was designed too late to incorporate any of the lessons learnt from the campaign in France during 1940 and were outclassed by many German tanks of the period. The last of the Crusaders were withdrawn from frontline service during the middle of 1943 as they were slowly replaced by the American made M3 Grant and M4 Sherman tanks. The remaining vehicles were used for training purposes until the end of the war or converted to fill other roles such as self-propelled anti-aircraft tanks or ARVs (Armoured Recover Vehicles).