Empire Tank Numbers for Operation CRUSADER

Background

The origin of this information is WO216/15, which contains a number of minutes addressed to Churchill in relation to Operation CRUSADER. It is a treasure trove of information. The table maybe dated from mid- to late October, although the document in which it was contained was sent to Churchill on 16 November, and the numbers are reflective of what the Empire forces went into battle with on 18 November 1941. 

What the document does show however is the substantial reserve of tanks that was available to the Empire forces, both in the form of an immediate reserve, but also of tanks held in the Delta region of Egypt for a variety of purposes. It was this reserve that allowed the Empire forces to stay in the battle despite rapidly mounting heavy tank losses in the first days of the battle.

4100238

An A13 Cruiser Mk. IV tank named ‘Amy’ of 1 Royal Tank Regiment at Tobruk, 8 October 1941. By CRUSADER, these tanks were no longer the mainstay of the Empire tank forces and only represented small numbers in 7 Armoured Brigade and 32 Army Tank Brigade. AWM

Table 1: Cruiser and I-tank numbers in the Western Desert and Egypt, November 1941

Location/Type ‘I’ Tanks Cruisers UK Light Cruisers US Total Cruisers Total Tanks
Western Desert  

Operational with units

189

372

166

538

727

Immediate Reserve

38

29

32

61

99

Subtotal Western Desert

227

401

198

599

826

Under repair or inspection in workshops, in Delta, not unloaded

48

66

98

164

212

Total in Egypt/Western Desert

275

467

296

763

1,038

Table 2: Light tank and armoured car numbers in the Western Desert and Egypt, November 1941

Location or Type Light Tanks Light Recce Vehicles Armoured Cars Total Light Armoured Vehicles or Tanks
Western Desert  

Operational with units

94

701

75

870

Immediate Reserve

0

0

0

0

Subtotal Western Desert

94

701

75

870

Under repair or inspection in workshops, in Delta, not unloaded

14

132

22

168

Total in Egypt/Western Desert

108

833

97

1,038

Notes

  • ‘I’ tanks are Matilda II and Valentine tanks.
  • British cruisers are containing all marks of cruisers, with a large number of the latest model, the Crusader.
  • US light cruisers (this is the text in the document) are M3 ‘Honey’ tanks.
  • Light tanks are probably Vickers Mk. VI.
  • Light reconnaissance vehicles are primarily Marmon Herrington Mk. II and Mk. III armored cars. Armoured cars as in the table are probably Fordson armoured cars of the Armoured Car Companies of the Royal Air Force and maybe early arrivals of Humber Armoured Cars.

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