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Reliability of Italian M13/40 Tank?

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Don Juan View Post
    I'm not so sure about the Centaur really, because it was rejected from service after failing a 3000 mile cross-country endurance test, which, when you think about it, very few tanks of any nation would have passed. It was certainly less reliable than a Cromwell or Sherman, but would it have been less reliable than, say, a late Panzer IV?

    It's one of the tanks I'm researching to see what the full story was.
    In Fletcher and Harley's Osprey title on Cromwell, they assert: "Crews soon discovered that the Centaur was no more reliable that the Convenanter. Its clutch was weak and the Liberty engine sprayed oil over the radiators, causing overheating. Cromwell's Meteor was less troubling, but both types suffered from gearbox and steering defects...[9th Armoured Division GOC Major-General D'Arcy] reported that his 129 Centaurs had received 95 defect reports, including 23 clutch failures, while only three of his 26 Cromwells had given trouble of any kind. Centaur required far more maintenance and, because it was underpowered, its Liberty engine had to work flat-out all the time."

    In The Universal Tank, Fletcher says, "The first Centaur was running at Leylands by July 1942, but subsequent trials revealed that its Liberty engine had a shorter life expectancy than a similar unit in a Crusader, which in itself is not saying much." Major Clifford, the OC of Exercise Dracula which pitted M4A2, M4A4, Cromwell, and Centaur against each other in cross-country drives, "stated that he would prefer not to take a squadron of Centaurs on active service, since they were underpowered, unreliable, and in need of more maintenance in relation to running time than was justified." Fletcher notes of the exercise, "Major breakdowns appear to have been the exception; rather it was the need for continual maintenance en route which held up the British tanks. Clutches gave out, brakes often needed adjusting and, in the Centaurs, so much oil leaked from the engine that the radiators had to be cleaned down at regular intervals."

    Beale in Death by Design said the Centaur's "pilot run and subsequent trials showed that the Liberty engine had an unsuitably short life expectancy for the requirements of the tank. The Centaur did however, go into production, but as a report of late 1943 told: 'The Centaur with its Liberty engine proved so unreliable when handled by units at home that as a gun tank it had been condemned.'" Beale also includes a chart showing that Centaur made up 17% of the British tanks manufactured in 1943...

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    • #32
      That's all true, but Centaur Dozers were in British service until at least Suez, and the Greeks and Portuguese used Centaur gun tanks until the early 60's. The Greeks certainly seemed to like them very much.

      "Centaur" was a bit of a naming convenience anyway, as it was basically a Cromwell with a Liberty engine. So as regards the post-war experience with the Centaur, I'm wondering if they managed to improve the Liberty, or whether they replaced the Liberty engine with the Meteor, but didn't bother re-naming them as "Cromwells".

      Rest assured, I shall find out.
      "Looting would not be tolerated within the Division, unless organised with the knowledge of C.O.'s on a unit basis."
      - 15/19 Hussars War Diary, 18th March 1945

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      • #33
        Looking forward to see what you uncover.

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        • #34
          Just got hold of the report for Exercise Dracula, and it's a big one at 97 pages. It's not as one-sided as the verbal verdicts that are quoted by Fletcher, as two Shermans did actually fail the trial - an M4A2 at 1870 miles with a faulty gearbox, and an M4A4 at 2285 miles with a fractured drive gear case. The raw numbers don't really seem to tally with the extremely polarised opinions given by the observers, who are all "singing from the same hymn sheet".

          The Ministry Of Supply appeared to smell a rat with Exercise Dracula, as they ordered another trial immediately afterwards with 10 Centaurs, 10 Cromwells and 10 Shermans. It would be interesting to see how that one turned out.....
          "Looting would not be tolerated within the Division, unless organised with the knowledge of C.O.'s on a unit basis."
          - 15/19 Hussars War Diary, 18th March 1945

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          • #35
            Indeed, Fletcher doesn't mention the Sherman defects at all. Is the report online, by chance? Thanks for the info.

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            • #36
              No I had to pay real money for it, alas.

              Anyway, the scores on the doors at the end of the Exercise are attached below.

              The aim of Dracula was to achieve 3000 miles without pause, though only three tanks achieved it during the period. Bear in mind that 3000 miles is Normandy to Smolensk and back again.

              The three Centaurs on 2000+ miles would have done the equivalent of going from Normandy to several hundred miles east of Moscow in 37 days, which gives you some idea of the level of reliability the British Army was attempting to achieve in this period. That said, there were 2 other Centaurs that left the trial early, though I'd need to get hold of an earlier report to find out why.

              So the point I'm making is yes, the Centaur was "unreliable" in comparison to the Sherman, and below the British Army's requirements for reliability, but I suspect those requirements were extremely high in comparison to most other armies.
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Don Juan; 09 Jun 14, 06:02.
              "Looting would not be tolerated within the Division, unless organised with the knowledge of C.O.'s on a unit basis."
              - 15/19 Hussars War Diary, 18th March 1945

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              • #37
                I don't have the reports for M13/40, but since it was based on chassis of M11/39, a comparison can be made with it.

                Mechanically speaking, M11/39 wasn't too bad, but the transmission components were considered to be too fragile. At Tobruk, out of 39 tanks driving to the front, only 5 were in full working order upon arrival, since the usual Italian practice of hauling the tanks on the back of their trucks couldn't be done on the occasion due to the lack of vehicles. The tracks and suspensions however were designed for rugged mountain terrain and were considered to be efficient and reliable.
                105 hp Fiat V-8 diesel engine was underpowered for M11/39. That put a strain on the engine, affecting reliability. Slightly more powerful 125 hp variant was installed on M13/40, however since it was a heavier vehicle, situation was even worsened. This issue was partially rectified on later Fiat M14/41, while on M15/42 a petrol 192hp engine was installed.
                It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.

                Косово је Србија!
                Never go to war with a country whose national holiday celebrates a defeat in 1389.

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                  Weirdly the Italian armour plate on their battleships was considered about the best quality going.

                  One wonders what might have happened if some of this thousands of tons of high quality armour had ended up on their tanks.
                  There is also art as well in science in doing armor

                  Sometimes the rolling mills would do better on 5+ inches thick plate than thinner 1.5" plate

                  http://www.navweaps.com/index_nathan...rpsept2009.htm

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Marathag View Post
                    There is also art as well in science in doing armor

                    Sometimes the rolling mills would do better on 5+ inches thick plate than thinner 1.5" plate

                    http://www.navweaps.com/index_nathan...rpsept2009.htm
                    Exactly. 3" armor and up is a lot more forgiving of manufacturing mistakes and imperfections than thinner plate is.

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