Tank Chats #115 | A34 Comet | The Tank Museum

Tank Chats #115 | A34 Comet | The Tank Museum

Join The Tank Museum’s Historian David Fletcher has he discusses the A34 Comet, widely regarded as the best tank Britain produced during the Second World War.
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  1. British tank design and manufacture in WW2 was a disgrace, a shambles, a disaster. Probably the worst aspect of the British war effort. Thousands of tanks were manufactured, using valuable time, effort and materials, that were not even good enough to send abroad and which had to be used merely as training vehicles. Those that were good enough to go abroad were mostly inadequate vehicles and in some cases almost useless. How such a crucial area of the war effort never got sorted out I will never know.

  2. The sad thing about British tanks is that their "really good tank" was "really good" by 1942 standards but it came out in 1945. Basically, the Brits had some of the greatest tanks from 1916 to 1940 and then from 1946 to the present day, it was only between 1941 to 45 that they fell behind, but what a time to have below average armor!

  3. The shorter 76.2 mm 17 pdr round had better hitting power than the longer case 76/ 17pdr? That's wild, seems like the longer would have more velocity, more hitting power

  4. My old man was Scots Greys – 1945 till 1956. A Sgt he ended up permanent DS at the Glasgow Yeomanry. The repairs were mostly carried out in house, but the electrical work was carried out on the other side of Glasgow. So my Dad and crew set about on Saturday morning to drive the problematic Comet across to the electricians workshop. As they drove through Glasgow city centre they realised it was match day 9rangers v Celtic) and the city was busy with traffic and football supporters. Stopping the Comet for the Policeman on traffic point duty , they sat waiting to pull away. The huge Glaswegian Cop had the entire junction stopped, and left his point to walk across to the waiting tank. My old man stood out of the commanders hatch, sees the Cop walking across to them and tells the crew to standby. Cop walks up to the Comet and shouts to my Dad – "Are you going to the match?"

  5. Fantastic! I love all these chats. And the swag. Are there any chats where you guys talk about the books? I don’t like wasting time on bad books. So a few chats about what the books are about and minor criticisms would be appreciated.

  6. A very minor point, the cartridge case for the 77 mm could not have come from a howitzer as these have very short cases with low propellant power, unless I'm mistaken, the case came or was modified from the case of the obsolescent 3" anti-aircraft gun (3" 20 cwt). In turn this case came from the 3.3" field gun of WWI necked down to 3" and lobbing a 16 lb shell, this was the first purpose designed British AA gun. By WW2 it was being replaced by the 3.7" gun and found use as an emergency anti-tank gun in anti-invasion defences, as an anti-tank gun on a monstrous box-like casemate on a Churchill chassis (100 made, never used) and by the RN on Steam Gun Boats and other small craft. Shell cases are made by stamping and extrusion, this requires a lot of expensive dies made from high-grade tool steel, so it always makes sense to try to use an existing design or modify slightly such a design rather than re-design a new case and make new dies. The 40 mm anti-tank Vickers S gun fitted to Hurricane Can Openers also used an existing shell case from another Vickers 2 lb gun designed for a completely different purpose. The same goes for calibers, if you are making a 3.7" anti-aircraft gun it makes perfect sense to use the same caliber for something else, not that you are necessarily going to use bits of one to make the other (like on the small numbers of 95 mm tank howitzers), but because all your drilling and boring tools are already extant, as well as the gauges etc. Also projectiles are made on automatic lathes, these will already have been set up and calibrated for that size. This is why you get a proliferation of 75 mm and 88 mm in German service and 3", 3.7" etc. in British service. It's all about economy of scale.

  7. I have always liked the Comet. It deserves more love. For a long time it was not easy to find a model of the A34, particularly a prebuilt in 1/72. I found one several years ago, and let me just say they weren't giving it away. But I was pleased to find it. A fast, mobile, good looking tank with decent armor and a potent gun. I love Zaloga's "Pershing vs Tiger" book, I wish he, or someone, would do a "Comet vs Tiger" in similar fashion.

  8. "It got criticised for the squared off front" I read that when that veteran tank crews returning from North Africa saw it, they said, "After three years combat experience in the desert is this the best they can do?" Although David Fletcher says while it was the breast British tank of the war he implies there wasn't much competition.

  9. Had to be designed to "fit" the rail network ?
    The design work on the Centurion began in '43 and prototypes were being produced in late '44. We built new flatbed transporters for this tank, so I guess Comet was on the cusp of this change in emphasis

  10. My father who served with distinction in B squadron, 23rd Hussars, 11th Armoured Division spoke very highly of the Comet and said it proved much more popular and was considerably more capable than the tank it mostly replaced in his regiment – the American Sherman with it's 75mm gun. When he spoke about the war (which like many veterans was not often) he would often say the 'buggers' (meaning Germans) always new we were coming well in advance, because they could see us for miles!. He was relating to the height of the Sherman, which was far from ideal, and then there was the main gun………..

  11. Lovely looking and sounding tank. Well armed, well armoured, reliable and powerful. Would surely have forced a change in German tactics re their Tiger, Panzer IV etc use had it appeared earlier. The slightly later Centurion would have totally turned those tables had the war continued for a short time longer.
    Comet and the Centurion remain my favourite British tanks.