Mechanical Issues of British/US Tanks during CRUSADER

Background

Stefan very kindly pointed me to this old post by Rich on Feldgrau. I think it is quite interesting data regarding the mechanical issues that British repair workshops had to deal with in the desert.  Note that this only covers the workshops of 7th Armoured Division, not those of 1st or 32nd Army Tank Brigade, even though it appears to me that at least some of their vehicles found their way into the workshop.

Observations

The number of jobs and tanks does not match, since some tanks had more than one repair required to become serviceable again.  What is very interesting to me is the low number of battle casualty Stuarts undergoing repair, even though they clearly had suffered quite a few losses. There is also quite a lopsided workshop repair vs. evacuated ratio between the Crusader tank and the Stuart – maybe the fitters did not have the skills or tools to deal with the Stuarts? This would then raise questions about training and equipment and the ability to maintain a sizable forward force of Stuart tanks.

The comparatively high share of evacuations of older cruisers (Mk.I to Mk. IV) may indicate that they were not considered worth spending valuable division repair capacity on, and/or a lack of spares forward with the workshop.

Numberical Analysis and Context 

By 26 November, the workshop had received a total of 252 tanks, of which 119 had been repaired, and 129 had been evacuated, indicating that 4 tanks were still in the workshop. The return of 119 tanks to frontline service was a critical element in enabling the frontline tank strength of the Empire to keep up, and allowed a continued pursuit.

Putting this into context, on 24 December, the total number of tanks in the forward area was 101 in 22 Armoured Brigade (35 Stuarts in 2 Royal Goucester Hussars and 66 Cruisers (34/32 each in 3 and 4 County of London Yeomanry), and 24 Stuart tanks in 3 RTR, who had just been hammered by the Afrikakorps losing ten tanks, and had 11 tanks stripped off them because of a lack of petrol.

In other words, without the activity of 7 Armoured Division’s workshop, the Empire forces would have been left with 17 tanks. 

Crusaderrepaired

A Crusader tank being put on a transporter ready to be taken back to the forward areas after receiving repair work at a tank repair depot, 10 December 1941. IWM E7014

The full description at the back of the picture is of interest. The picture is part of a series, which also features a Stuart and a Valentine tank being repaired.

THE BATTLE IN THE WESTERN DESERT

TANK HOSPITAL IN THE WESTERN DESERT

During battle many tanks are put out of action, and these are collected by Recovery units and repaired behind the Battle front, often enough they are back in the Battle within a few days.

A Cruiser tank all ready for battle once again being put on a transporter to be taken to the forward areas.

Taken by Lt. Cash 10.12.41 W.O.Ass. No. 350.

Summary of Work, 7 Armd Div Workshops R.A.O.C., Covering Period 18 November-26 December 1941 (WO 169/3861: Appendix C to CRME/1915/AFV, February 1942)

I. Received – Repaired – Evacuated

Crusader 134 – 95 – 39

Cruiser Mk. IV 30 – 5 – 25

General Stuart 61 – 11 – 50

Cruiser Mk. I & II 17 – 2 – 15

Valentine 10 – 6 – 4

II. […]

III. Summary of Common Repairs

(a) Crusader (Mechanical Faults 114)

  • Engine Oil Filter Leak 7
  • Engine Oil Leak main gallery pipe 16
  • Water leak, pump 15
  • Water leak, hoses and gaskets 5
  • Main fan driving sprocket 29
  • Fan idler sprockets 2
  • Fan idler sprocket spindles 7
  • Compressors 12
  • 2-pdrs, faulty 6
  • 2-pdrs, changed 7
  • Gearbox and steering levers changed 5
  • Front suspension lever 3

Total 120 (Battle Casualties 39)

(b) Cruiser Mk. IV (Mechanical Faults)

  • Gearbox adjusted 1
  • Engine overhaul 2

Total 3 (Battle Casualties 2)

(c) General Stuart [no mechanical faults noted]

Battle Casualties 9

(d) Valentine (Mechanical Faults)

  • Engine clutch 2
  • Suspension overhaul 1
  • Injection overhaul 2

Total 5 (Battle Casualties 3)

IV. Common Reasons for Evacuation [mechanical only, battle damage not transcribed]

(a) Crusader

Engine seized, gaskets burned out 4

(b) Cruiser Mk. IV

  • Brake drum 2
  • Engine clutch 8

7 thoughts on “Mechanical Issues of British/US Tanks during CRUSADER

  1. Pingback: Some more on the mechanical reliability of Crusader Tanks « The Crusader Project

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  6. It is interesting that the Crusader, which had a reputation for being unreliable mechanically, was something that the workshops could repair.

    The older Mk. I, II and IV also had lower repair rates. These would probably be the original issue vehicles from pre-war which were, by this time, pretty worn out and due for replacement.

    The Stuarts had radial engines which were radically different from the ‘normal’ engines in the other tanks. I would agree that unfamiliarity would result in more evacuees — probably with the notation US – GOKW (UnServicable – God Only Knows Why).

    OT joke: During a NATO exercise, an American major stopped beside an RHA M109 sitting on the verge of a road. When he asked if there was a problem, the driver responded with “Bloody thing is US”. It apparently took twenty minutes to calm the major down enough to explain that US meant UnServiceable.

    Like

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