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Wednesday, 31 December 2008 17:53

The Crusader Tank (A.15)

Crusader Cruiser Tank (Mk III)

A Crusader Mk III with a 6pdr

The original specifications for the Crusader tank called for a tank that had a 40mm frontal armour standard and 30mm elsewhere and a weight or no more than 18 tons, armament was again the 2 Pounder Gun with a Besa 7.92 machine gun, there was also an extra Besa left of the driver. To keep production as simple as possible it was decided the Crusader and Covenanter should share as many components as possible.

The first Crusader tank prototype was delivered around April 1940 and was found to have serious defects, may of which should have been eliminated at the design stage. One of the more serious issues was the drivers head projective above his cabin while opened up "there is a danger of his head being cut off by the rear of the turret or hit by the gun if the turret rotated". Other issues included injury to the driver when going over rough terrain, reliability and cooling. By September 1940 the drivers position had improved but it still remained impossible for service use.

Due to the grave situation at the time every vehicle possible was required and so the Crusader tank was pushed into production, and the first Mk I version of the tank was completed in November of 1940. In December 1940 the production model underwent firing and stowage trials at Lulworth, these trials found the vehicle to be most unsatisfactory. The trials found...

  • No attempt had been made to incorporate any additional equipment which had been found essential by units who served in France.
  • The auxiliary turret was too small for an ordinary man to fit in it and there was no room to operate the gun.
  • With the auxiliary turret open the main turret could not be transverse.
  • There was no look-out in the auxiliary turret.
  • The driver had only a limited vision.
  • The gassing trial showed that the auxiliary gunner would only last ten minutes while the rest of the crew would be asphyxiated in approximately half an hour.

The Mk II Crusader tank was an uparmoured version of the Mk I, frontal armour was increased by up to 10mm and the roof was increased by 3mm. The auxiliary turret was used on both vehicles but some Mk I versions and most Mk II versions did not have this turret due to the major problems listed above. By late 1941 the need to increase the power of the Crusaders gun, for this the 6pdr gun was available, most 6pdr guns produced in 1941 were the tank version but these could also be mounted on the anti-tank carriage. Nuffield's version of the turret with a 6pdr was tested in October 1941 and although it was not an idea solution it was approved. Production was authorised in December and the first Crusader tank Mk III was produced in May 1942.

CS (close support) versions of the Crusader replaced the 2pdr with a 3" howitzer capable of firing both HE and Smoke shells, as the 3" howitzer has been specifically designed to fit in the same mounting as the 2pdr fitting it inside the Crusader was no problem, the main issue was ammunition stowage, the size of the 3" howitzer rounds reduced the capacity from 130 rounds with the 2pdr to 63 with the 3" howitzer.

The Crusaders tank armour arrangement was complex with composite, spaced, cast and single plate armour. Generally the armour was composite consisting a machineable quality plate with carbon manganese steel backing plate, this combination offered slightly less ballistic resistance compared with a single plate but on non penetrating rounds the backing plate stopped fragments from entering the vehicle. In 1942 14mm machineable quality plates were added to the front of the Crusader to improve protection, it had been hoped to add another 6mm to this 14mm but the suspension was not able to handle this additional weight.

The Crusader tank performed well against the Italian tanks but was largely inferior the German vehicles of the time which were better armed and had slightly thicker armour. Reliability was a major throughout and this was not largely solved until 1942. The 6pdr gun improvement was greatly welcomed by crews who at last could deal with any German tank of the period at range, by the end of 1942 the Crusader tank had been declared obsolete and were replaced by Shermans.

The Crusader remained in production well into 1943 and as the vehicles were obsolete it was decided to put the Crusader tanks high power to weight ratio to use as much as possible. The Crusader tank was used for Observation Posts (OP), anti aircraft versions - Bofors and Oerlikon and a Crusader Tower used to pull 17pdr anti-tank guns.


Name Crusader I Crusader II Crusader III
Type Cruiser Cruiser Cruiser
Production Date November 1940 July 1941 (At latest) May 1942
Crew 4 4 3
(In turret) 3 3 2
Length 20'-8.5” 20'-8.5” 20'-8.5”
Width 9'-1” 9'-1” 9'-1”
Height 7'-4” 7'-4” 7'-4”
Weight 18.8 19 19.7
Ground pressure 14.46 14.65 15.15
Ground clearance 1'4” 1'4” 1'4”
Track type Webbed & Studded Webbed & Studded Webbed & Studded
No per track 118 118 118
Weight of one Track 1705 1705 1705
Track width 10.7  10.7 10.7
Engine Nuffield 45 V Angle Nuffield 45 V Angle Nuffield 45 V Angle
B.H.P/Ton 18.05 17.9 17.2
Max road speed 27.5 27.5 27.5
Average road speed 20 20 20
Gear box type Constant mesh Constant mesh Constant mesh
Gears 4 forward 1 reverse 4 forward 1 reverse 4 forward 1 reverse
Fuel consumption (road) – MPG 1.5 1.5 1.5
Fuel consumption (cross country) 1.1 1.1 1.1
Petrol capacity 110 110 110
Auxiliary capacity 30 30 30
Radius of action (road) 200 200 200
Radius of action (cross country) 145 145 145
Trench Crossing 7'-6” 7'-6” 7'-6”
Vertical obstacle 2'-6” 2'-6” 2'-6”
Fording height 3'3” 3'3” 3'3”
Main Armament 2 Pounder 2 Pounder 6 Pounder
Ammunition 130 130 73
Secondary Armament Besa 7.92 Besa 7.92 Besa 7.92
Ammunition 4950 4950 4950
Transverse type Hand & Hydraulic Hand & Hydraulic Hand & Hydraulic
Max elevation 20 20 20
Max depression 15 15 12.5
Turret Ring Size 55.5” 55.5” 55.5”
Optics No.30 No.30 No.39
Lower Hull Nose 14(I.T. 70) + 12.7(I.T.110) 20(I.T.80) + 12.7(I.T.110) 20(I.T.100) + 12.7(I.T.110)
Upper Hull Nose 14(I.T. 70) 20(I.T.80) 20(I.T.100)
Hull Front 14(I.T. 70)+9.53(I.T.110)+4.75(MS) 20(I.T. 80)+9.53(I.T.110)+4.75(MS) 20(I.T. 80)+9.53(I.T.110)+4.75(MS)
Hull Sides 14(I.T. 70)+14.27(IT.110) 14(I.T. 100)+14.27(IT.110) 14(I.T. 100)+14.27(IT.110)
Exhaust Louvres 14(I.T. 70) 14(I.T. 110) 14(I.T. 110)
Hull Rear 14(I.T. 70)+14.27(IT.110) 14(I.T. 100)+14.27(IT.110) 14(I.T. 100)+14.27(IT.110)
Hull Roof (Front) 9(I.T. 70) 9(I.T. 100) 9(I.T. 100)
Engine Deck 7(I.T. 70) 7(I.T. 100) 7(I.T. 100)
Hull Floor (Front half) 4(I.T.70) + 6.35(I.T.110) 4(I.T.100) + 6.35(I.T.110) 4(I.T.100) + 6.35(I.T.110)
Hull Floor (Rear half) 6.35(I.T.110) 6.35(I.T.110) 6.35(I.T.110)
Drivers Box front 18(I.T.70)+22.22(I.T.110) 18(I.T.80)+22.22(I.T.110) 18(I.T.80)+22.22(I.T.110)
Drivers Box Visor 50(I.T.90) 50(I.T.90) 50(I.T.90)
Drivers Box Sides 14(I.T.70)+14.27(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+14.27(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+14.27(I.T.110)
Drivers Box Roof 9(I.T. 70) 12(I.T. 100) 12(I.T. 100)
Turret Front 20(I.T.70)+19.05(I.T.110) 30(I.T.80)+19.05(I.T.110) 31.75(I.T.80)+19.05(I.T.110)
Turret Roof 9(I.T.70) 12(I.T.100) 12(I.T.100)
Turret Sides Upper 10(I.T.70)+9.53(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+9.53(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+9.53(I.T.110)
Turret Sides Lower 10(I.T.70)+9.53(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+9.53(I.T.110) 14(I.T.100)+9.53(I.T.110)
Turret Rear Upper 12(I.T.70)+12.7(I.T.110) 19(I.T.80)+12.7(I.T.110) 17(I.T.80)+12.7(I.T.110)
Turret Floor 9(I.T. 70) 9(I.T. 100) 9(I.T. 100)

 Production of the Crusader Tank by year (UK Only)



Sep-Dec 1939






1945(End of May)

Crusader Mk I









Crusader Mk II - - - 407 1,405 - - -
Crusader Mk III - - - - 946 771 - -
Oerlikon Crusader - - - - 91 345 299 -
Bofors Crusader - - - - - 238 - -
Crusader OP - - - - - 112 - -

Crusader Tower

- - -






Sources - AVIA 46 188, AVIA 22 456-514, WO 194

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2012 13:47

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