In an older post (at this link), I had provided some information that Rich had found on mechanical issues affecting Commonwealth tanks during CRUSADER.
The experience of one regiment
Working my way through the Queen’s Bays war diary for January 42, I have now come across a statistic of tank breakdowns for mechanical reasons during the Axis counter-offensive of January 1942. The Queen’s Bays were one of the three armoured regiments of 2 Armoured Brigade, 1 Armoured Division, and were equipped with a mix of 31 Cruiser Mk. VI (Crusader), 1 Cruiser Mk. IV, and 19 M3 Stuart tanks.
Over the course of operations, 22 Cruiser tanks (21 Mk. VI, and 1 Mk. IV) broke down, three developing two separate faults. One tank broke down due to a collision. Ignoring the latter, the failure rate was 77% including the three twin-failures.
Two M3 Stuart’s broke down, or 11%, one of them due to having towed broken down Cruisers, and being worn out in consequence, and the other due to faulty electrical wiring. Five M3 Stuarts were lost due to lack of petrol (the high petrol consumption of the aerial engine used in the tank was responsible for this), and one was unaccounted for.
Crusader tanks of an unknown regiment, 26 November 1941. IWM
The reason for the breakdown of Cruiser tanks was very varied, but can be grouped as follows:
5 tanks – Fan-related problems, including overheating
4 tanks – Undefined engine issues (which could be caused by fan or ignition failures)
3 tanks – Ignition failures
2 tanks – air compressor failure
2 tanks – piston rings worn, oil issues
1 tank each – various issues, see below:
|Failure Item||Number of tanks|
|Front idler broken in collision||1|
|Fan broken, engine seized||1|
|Starter bendix drive shaft seized||1|
|Fan sprocket broke, engine seized||1|
|Fan chain broken, engine seized||1|
|Engine trouble, failure to start||2|
|Engine piston rings badly worn||1|
|Engine oiling up. Due possibly to worn piston rings.||1|
|Engine clutch gone||1|
|Air compressor failure||2|
|Water pump leaking. Carburation trouble.||1|
|Oil leaks and faulty oil pump||1|
|Ignition fault due to cracked distributor cap||1|
|Fan jockey wheel spindle bearings||1|
On the whole, I would see the mechanical performance of these tanks as appalling. I am wondering if the regiment had been given insufficient time to acclimatise, or indeed what other reason could have been responsible for this. In any case, it is clear that the British tankers of the Bays were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.