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Friday, 14 February 2020

The Tank, Infantry, Mk III, Valentine

It is an oft repeated story that the Valentine tank (or, to give it its official title, the Tank, Infantry, Mk III, Valentine) was so named because its design was presented to the War Office on St. Valentine's Day, 14th February 1938, 1939 or 1940. There is very little evidence to support this story, especially as the design was approved for production in April 1939, and the first orders were placed in June of that year.


The design was a private venture by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, and was based on the earlier A9 and A10 Cruiser Tanks and the A11 Infantry Tank.

The tank was manufactured by:
  • Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage and Wagon Company (Washwood Heath, Birmingham & Wednesbury, West Midlands)
  • Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company (Smethick, Birmingham)
  • Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Angus Shops (Montreal, Canada)
The UK factories produced 6,855 tanks, whilst the total Canadian production figures were 1,420 tanks. Of the latter, 1,388 were exported to Russia, alongside 2,394 from the UK. The total of 8,275 Valentine tanks manufactured from 1940 to 1944 makes it the most produced British tank design of the Second World War.

The Valentine tank saw active service with the British Army in North Africa (and some limited service in North-West Europe), the Soviet Army fighting against the Germans on the Eastern Front, and the New Zealand Army in the south-west Pacific. It was also used in small numbers by the Egyptian, Portuguese, and Turkish Armies.

The chassis of the Valentine tank was adapted to form the basis of two self-propelled guns, the Carrier, Valentine, 25-pounder gun Mk I, Bishop or Ordnance QF 25-pdr on Carrier Valentine 25-pdr Mk 1 ...


... and the SP 17-pounder, Valentine, Mk I, Archer

The former was manufactured by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, and had a large armoured casemate containing a 25-pounder gun/howitzer built atop the hull. It saw service in North Africa and the early stages of the Italian Campaign before being withdrawn and replaced by the 25-pounder SP, tracked, Sexton, which was based on the Canadian-built chassis of the M3 Lee and M4 Sherman tanks.

The SP 17-pounder, Valentine, Mk I, Archer used the chassis of the Valentine tank with 17-pounder anti-tank gun a mounted in a low, open-topped armoured box at the front of the vehicle, with the gun facing rearwards.


665 Archers were produced between March 1943 and May 1945, and they saw service with the British Army's Royal Artillery Anti-Tank Regiments in North-West Europe and Italy during the Second World War, and continued in service with the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) until the early 1950s. It was also supplied after the war to the Egyptian Army and the Arab Legion.

Over the years there have been rumours that post-war, several turretless Valentine tanks were converted into self-propelled guns by the Argentine Army. Although there is photographic evidence that the Argentines converted Crusader tank chassis into self-propelled guns, I cannot find any to support the alleged conversion of Valentine tanks.

8 comments:

  1. Complete speculation on my part, but could the name Valentine come from Vickers Armstrong Ltd en Tank INfantry e?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nundanket,

      I’ve never seen that suggestion before ... but I like it a lot!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  2. Nice write-up and a fun if possibly apocryphal origin of the name for such a widely used vehicle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. William Stewart,

      It wasn’t until I wrote this blog entry that I realised just how many Valentines and its variants had been built.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  3. In 'The Great Tank Scandal' David Fletcher proffers a few different theories as the the naming of the Infantry Tank Mark III and rates some as more likely than others. Two two top ones are indeed that it was offered up to the War Office two days before Valentine Day, or that it was just a factory codeword for the project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martin Rapier,

      I like Nundanket’s suggestion best of all. It fits as the sort of simple codeword that a private venture project might have.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      The SPAG or are you after a toy soldier for your medieval army? ;^)

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete