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  • Churchill tanks in the RKKA

    In reponse to a request, here is the data I have on RKKA units equipped with Churchill tanks.

    A Total sent to USSR under Lend Lease prorocols:
    .....45 Churchill IV Mk IIs with 2 lbr (40mm) gun, 26 arrived in 1942
    .....151 Churchill IV Mk IIIs with 6 lbr (57mm) gun, 127 arrived in 1942
    .....105 Churchill IV Mk IVs with 6 lbr (57mm) gun, all arrived 1942 – 43
    .....Total 258 Churchills arrived in Russia in 1942 – 1943, out of 301 shipped.
    A Shtat 010/267 for separate Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiments established in October 1942 called for either 21 KV-1s or 21 Churchill heavy tanks

    Units known to be equipped with Churchills:

    10th Guards Tank Regiment
    .....Formed with KVs in September-October 1942, went into SYAVKA reserves in March – May 43, by 21 Jul 43 equipped with 21 Churchill Mk IVs in 1st Tank Army
    .....Became 396th Guards SU Regiment on 21 May 1944.

    15th Guards Tank Regiment
    ......Formed in Nov 42 in Moscow MD, by Feb 43 (with 21st Army at Stalingrad) equipped with Churchill IIIs. At end of June assigned to 2nd Tank Corps with 20 Churchills
    Received KV-85s in Oct-Nov 43

    26th Guards Tank Regiment
    ......Was equipped primarily with KVs, but on 10 Jun 44 reported 6 Mk IV Churchills on hand in addition to a full complement of KVs, next month was re-equipped with 24 IS-2s.

    34th Guards Tank Regiment
    ......Formed from the 85th Tank Battalion at Gorkiy in Mar 43 with 21 Churchills
    Probably re-equipped with IS-Iis at Moscow in Feb – Jul 44, certainly had IS-2m tanks by 23 Feb 45

    36th Guards Tank Regiment
    .....Formed in Moscow MD in March – May 43, assigned to 18th Tank Corps by June with 21 Churchills. By August reported a mix of Churchills and KVs. The first definite report of IS-2s in the regiment is not until October 1944, but it may have been rfe-equipped in Moscow MD in May – Jul 44.

    47th Guards Tank Regiment
    ......Formed from rthe 156th Tank Brigade in Jan 43 with 21 Churchills, by 5 Jul 43 was in 2nd Tank Army with 21 Mk IV Churchills
    .....Became 383rd Guards SU Regiment on 6 Sep 44.

    48th Guards Tank Regiment
    .....Formed from 188th and 252nd Tank Brigades in Moscow MD in Nov 42 with 21 Churchills
    Fought in the liberation of Stalingrad with 21st Army
    By 5 Jul 43 in 5th Guards Tank Corps with 21 Mk IV Churchills
    July 44 is the first report of the regiment receiving IS-2s as replacements

    49th Guards Tank Regiment
    .....Formed Oct 42 with cadre from the 168th Tank Brigade
    By Apr 43 equipped with 21 Churchills
    In Jan 44 in the Krasnosel’-Ropshinsk Operation added 20 BT-5s to the Churchills to provide flank support

    50th Guards Tank Regiment
    ......Formed from the 134th and 194th Tank Brigade in Moscow MD from Dec 42 to Mar 43, on 19 Mar 43 reported having 21 Mk-IV Churchills on hand.

    59th Guards Tank Regiment
    .....Formed Aug – Sep 43, got 21 Churchills by 25 Jul 43
    Was assigned to the 9th Mechanized Corps in Sep 43
    .....On 6 Sep 44 was reformed as the 384th Guards SU Regiment

    ...Given that enough Churchills arrived to completely equip 12 Heavy Breakthrough Regiments, there may be two or more regiments formed in late 1942 - early 1943 that were equipped all or in part with Churchills. Any information on them would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Thanks

    Edit: About 5 Crocodiles were sent as well iirc, ie Mk VII's. I'll try to dig up the info.
    Last edited by Nick the Noodle; 22 Dec 12, 03:27.
    How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
    Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sharposhnikov View Post
      47th Guards Tank Regiment
      ......by 5 Jul 43 was in 2nd Tank Army with 21 Mk IV Churchills
      in 2nd Guards Tank Corps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Churchills in the RKKA

        Here is some information on Churchill tanks in Red Army service.

        From Танки Ленд-Лиза в бою (Михаил Барятинский; Яуза/Эксмо 2009), сс 114 – 127.
        Mk.IV CHURCHILL

        The history of the Churchill heavy infantry tank began in September 1939 when in the Joint Staff of the British Army developed the A20 project. They were supposed to replace the Mk.II Matilda, which was already in series production and serving in the Army. The requirement for a new, even more powerful fighting vehicle arose, apparently, for a rather simple reason. The Second World War had begun, the British Army had gone onto the Continent, and before them again have arisen bristled up barrels of the guns of the fortified “Siegfried Line” and the fear before item war with Germany was already endemic to the English military establishment.

        It was suggested that the new fighting vehicle would have frontal armour not less than 60 mm that would provide protection against the 37mm German anti-tank guns, and would reach speeds of about 15 km/h. It was planned to place the guns — two 2-pdr and coaxial BESA machine guns — in sponsons on the tank sides. Finally, to best overcome vertical obstacles the track should go around the tank hull.

        The result was a tank from the First World War, executed with better technology (20 years had passed)! For the sake of justice it is necessary to note that there were other variations of the armament differing in both caliber and placement of the guns. However, the alternative to putting guns in the sponsons left the project developers only the installation of one gun in a turret and another in the front of the hull (similar to the French heavy tank Char B.1bis).

        The contract to complete the project and construct four prototypes was concluded in December, 1939 with the Royal Arsenal and the firm Harland аnd Wоlff Ltd. From Belfast. A prototype was made in the autumn, and testing proceeded till the end of 1940. The first 14 series tanks received the designation Mk. IV and left the shops of Vauxhall Motors only in June of 1941. The new fighting vehicle received the name "Churchill".

        Even during the design of the tank the industrial group building the Churchill included 10 English firms. By December 1945, 5640 fighting vehicles of this type were made.

        Structurally the first series of the Infantry Tank Mk. IV Churchill I represented a rather original tank. The tank hull was executed in the form of a rectangular welded box. The English designers managed to make its equal to the width of the tank and include coverage of the hull with the tracks. It provided a flexible enough configuration of components of the tank and comfortable working conditions for the crew. The maximum thickness of the hull armour was 101 mm and the turret armour was 89 mm.

        At first glance, the tank’s gun was powerful enough. The British had no tank gun in 1941 other than the 2-pdr, which was placed in the turret with a coaxial BЕSА machine gun. For a tank weighing 38 tons, apparently it seemed small, so in front plate of the hull, to the left of the driver, a 3-inch howitzer was installed. The firing possibilities of that gun, however, was severely limited by the extension of the side sponsons.

        The engine was a liquid cooled, twelve-cylinder horizontally-opposed Bеdfоrd "Twin-Six" carburetor engine of 350 hp, which allowed the tank to accelerate to 27 km/h. More speed from an infantry support tank was not required. The transmission included an one-disk main dry-friction clutch and a mechanical four-speed Merrit-Brown Н4 transmission united in one unit with the differential, turning mechanism and final drives.

        The running gear on each side consisted of eleven dual roadwheels of small diameter without tires, a drive sprocket at the rear and an idler wheel at front. Supporting return rollers were absent. Their function, as with First World War tanks, was carried out by running the track along the top of the hull sponsons. The suspension consisted of individual swing-arms on cylindrical springs. There were numerous changes in the design over the course of production, including changes to the running gear, the engine and transmission. Basically, production models were differentiated by their armament, so the updated “Churchill II” had a second BESA machine gun installed in the front plate instead of the howitzer.

        From February 1942, the updating “Churchill III” was armed with a 6-pdr gun in a larger welded turret. The “Churchill IV” differed from the previous model in the method of manufacturing the turret — it was cast. The majority of these tanks had the 6-pdr gun Mk V with longer barrel installed.

        The USSR was sent Churchill III and Churchill IV tanks under the Lend-Lease program. In total, 344 vehicles were dispatched, of which 253 tanks reached their destination. The first 10 tanks arrived in the USSR in July 1942. Churchills, with heavy tanks of Soviet manufacture, served in Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiments. The statutory strength of these regiments (per shtat № 010/267) was 21 tanks and 214 personnel. The title "Guards" was appropriated right after the order to form the regiments. Independent tank regiments were attached to armies or fronts when created. Their structure quite often included both foreign and Soviet tanks. It is necessary to note that in Soviet documents of the time these tanks usually were designated “Mk. IV”. (Matildas were listed as “Mk.II” and Valentines as “Mk.III”.)

        The Churchill's fighting debut on the Soviet-German front took place during the Battle for Stalingrad. 47th and 48th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment took part in the defeat of the surrounded German forces. Subsequently 48th Regiment was returned to the rear, replenished with equipment and transferred back for operations subordinate to 38th Army, where it participated in the liberation of Kiev on November 6, 1943.

        Churchill tanks also participated in the Kursk battle. For example, in the battles around Prokhorovka, the 5th Guards Tank Army included the 15th (10 Mk.IV) and 36th (21 Mk.IV) Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiments. Subsequently the 15th Regiment received KV-1S tanks, but the 36th re-equipped again with the Churchill and was sent on to the Leningrad Front. In mid-July the 10th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment arrived in the 1st Guards Tank Army, and on July 21, acting with the 39th Tank Brigade, 174th and 57th Rifle Divisions, it attacked enemy positions along the direction of Andreevka - Petropole - Kopanki. In the course of the action the tanks were cut off from the infantry and practically all were knocked out — in the first day 16 Churchill tanks were destroyed. After that the regiment was withdrawn to the rear and equipped with other equipment. The 34th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment arrived at the Bryansk Front on July 13, 1943. On August 5 its Churchill tanks were the first to rush into Orel.

        On the Leningrad front in April 1943, there was the 49th Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiment, equipped with 21 Churchill tanks and three Universal Carriers. This regiment, together with 38th Independent Guards Tank Breakthrough Regiment which arrived on the Leningrad front, fought in engagements before the final lifting of the Leningrad blockade. The 50th Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiment fought as part of the Volkhov Front, subordinated to the 8th Army from March 17, 1943. In a rare occurrence, this unit, acting with other divisions was actually to operate in accordance with the tactical mission of breaking through a well-entrenched strip of enemy defenses. In using Churchills in forested marshlands, our tankisty noted the Churchill’s inadequate cross-country ability and unsuitability for Russian winter. In particular, after a few days of operations our crewmen all desired that the catalytic heaters be replaced with more functional domestic heaters.

        On the Leningrad Front, at the beginning of the Vyborg operation on June 10, 1944, as part of 31st Army there was the 21st Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment, partially equipped with Churchill tanks. The regiment took part in the battle for Vyborg from June 18 until June 20th. By the time the city was cleared, there were 6 Churchill tanks and 32 KVs remaining in the regiment.

        As already mentioned, Churchill tanks equipped (sometimes partially) frontline tank regiments. For example, 39th Independent Kiev Tank Regiment as of March 2, 1944 was distinguished by a rather motley collection of fighting vehicles: three KV, two Matilda tanks, three Churchills, two Т-70s, two T-60s and 38 Т-34s. As part of the 8th Army on the Leningrad Front, there was the 82nd Independent Tank Regiment (11 KV-1S and 10 Churchill tanks). In September 1944 this regiment participated in clearing the fascist aggressors from Tallinn and islands off the Gulf of Riga. Those were the Churchill's last battles on the Soviet-German front.

        As we see, despite the limited number of Churchill tanks that arrived on the Soviet-German front, Churchill tanks were used intensively. However, to make a more or less objective comparison of the Churchill with its contemporaries very difficult. As a rule, all was reduced to its mobility, i.e. the tracks fitted, as already mentioned. It is still more difficult to make an estimation of a fighting vehicle after some decades because of the lack of actual material. The technical characteristics of the tank are not enough, and the incomplete descriptions of combat operations and the sketchy reports of veteran tank crew do not allow it.

        Therefore, when a document from those years in which the overall estimation of the vehicle is given, it is fortunate. Time has preserved this document - the Report on short-term testing of the British heavy tank MK.IV "Churchill" on the GABTU NIIBT proving range, dated on September 16, 1942. Under the heading "Conclusions", after first noting that a Churchill III was tested:

        1. Evaluation of the fighting properties of the MK.IV tank:

        The Mk.IV tank has less powerful armament than the KV-1 and the KV-1S but has the advantage in armored protection.

        The ammunition load for the machine-gun in the MK.IV tank is three times the load of the KV-1. The armour-piercing round of the 57 mm gun installed on the MK.IV tank will penetrate both sides of the armour of the German medium tank Pz.Kpfw.III, a total thickness of 60 mm from a distance of 950 m. The MK.IV tank has considerably smaller specific horsepower and as consequence, lower maximum speed. Despite that, the MK.IV tank does not have less average speed of movement than KV-1 and KV-1S tanks. On a stock course the MK.IV and KV tanks are equivalent.

        2. Evaluation of the reliability of the Mk.IV tank and its operational data:

        The English heavy tank MK.IV possesses insufficient reliability in the operation of separate components and aspects of both construction and production are unrefined.

        The MK.IV tank is poor at overcoming slopes or moving with a list because it sheds its tracks. The limiting list 20° is inadequate. In addition, movement with a list of less than 20° does not exclude the possibility of shedding a track. Fuel consumption is quite normal in all road conditions.

        3. Evaluation of the construction of the tank:

        The armored hull is unusually extended and, accordingly, is reduced in width and height. The bow of the hull is situated low in relation to the high sides with tracks which are enclosed in large mud skirts. This creates poor visibility for the driver and the gunner. The periscopic viewing devices installed for the driver and gunner increase visibility somewhat. The layout of the gun is along the axis of the tank and the channel of the barrel lies between the mud chutes and does not provide clearance. This leads the situation that the gas wave resulting from firing the gun in such position will tear away and break the forward mud skirts.

        The viewing devices installed in a turret of the tank provide satisfactory visibility. Similar devices were installed in the Polish "Vickers" tank produced in 1939.

        The engine of the tank is of quite modern design of the autotractor type. The engine design is executed with the minimum use of scarce nonferrous metals and configured for mass production. Along with these advantages the MK.IV engine is not a mature design and consequently its reliability in operation could be called into question.

        In the transmission of the tank, the turning mechanism requires serious attention. Turning is accomplished by one component of the mechanical gearbox. The turn mechanism provides for the tank turning in place, ease of control of the tank at movement and high maneuverability for a heavy tank. Hydraulic steering with a servo mechanism facilitates management of the tank.

        The running gear is not strong enough for a 40-ton tank. Short-term tests have shown that welds of the inner roadwheels fracture and the wheels come off the axles of the trucks and after this, the external roadwheels together with axles are lost. The support arms of the trucks then start to rub along the track and quickly fail. The flanges of the roadwheels in the trucks fit closely against the spacers of the track links, increasing the wear of the roadwheels and tracks. When moving, the roadwheels heat up greatly as a result of increased friction of the roadwheels along the track. The track pins are not sufficiently durable and will break.

        Conclusion

        Based on the armament, armored protection and maneuverability, the English heavy tank Mk.IV Churchill can conduct effective battle against tanks of German army.

        In its given version, the Mk.IV tank appears unfinished with regards to its construction and production. During operations with service units the Mk.IV tank demands frequent repair with replacement of separate parts and whole assemblies.

        Separate parts of the tank (the turn mechanism integrated with the gearbox, etc.) are an original design and can be recommended for introduction in domestic tank production.

        This estimate is detailed enough and comprehensive, written before the appearance of the Tiger tank and the Panther tank with which Churchill, as with our KV, is unable to combat, but this basically did not enter into the Churchill’s function. As an infantry support tank, the Churchill was quite successful up to the war’s end.

        Estimating "Churchill's" constructive and operational characteristics it is necessary to note the curious fact. Trying to create as much as possible impregnable infantry tank capable besides it is rather easy to overcome – fortified constructions, Englishmen have programmed variety of parameters which in one hull benefited, and in other harm. So, the big length of the hull allowed to overcome easily ditches and trenches, but thus the tank had parity L/B equal 1,72 (at "Tiger" — 1,12) that sharply limited its maneuverable qualities even in the presence of rather successful transmission. Coverage by a hull track, on the one hand, allowed the tank to overcome obstacles not accessible to other tanks, and with another, has led to sharp increase vulnerability front section of the tracks. Almost all tanks knocked out were hit in the front sponsons. Besides, in the winter the skids for the top run of tracks became packed with snow (it was especially showed in Russia) because of what the track rose above an epaulet of a turret and got jammed it.

        Sometimes it is necessary to face opinion that "Churchill's" armament has been sacrificed for armored protection. It not so — the English simply had nothing to sacrifice. During the Second World War they did not create a powerful tank gun, as a result they adapted the 17-pdr anti-tank gun for this purpose, but for "Churchill" it was too large.

        Nevertheless crews loved the fighting vehicles. The reason for it was, perhaps, only one — powerful armored protection. Here it is pertinent to relate an episode from the operations of the 50th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment. On March, 22nd, 1943 five tanks Churchills from this regiment under command of Guards Captain Belogub attacked the opponent. The tanks rushed German positions where four of them were knocked out and one retreated. Crews did not leave their tanks and from March 22 until March 25 they remained in them and fired from their spot. Every night submachine gunners of 50th Regiment delivered ammunition and the foodstuffs to the tankers. Over three days the Churchills destroyed an artillery battery, four bunkers, an ammunition warehouse up to two platoons of infantry. The Germans repeated suggestions that the crews of the knocked-out tanks surrender were answered with fire. On March 25, the tankers managed to hook a tractor to Belogub’s tank and tow it to the rear. The crews of the other three tanks departed with the infantry. Without estimating the organisation of the fight which has led to such result, it is necessary to underline that the crews which stayed in tanks for three days did not suffer any person killed. The lives of the tankers were saved by the Churchill's armour, which the German artillery could not penetrate at this time.

        Enjoy.

        Regards
        Scott Fraser
        Last edited by Scott Fraser; 25 Oct 14, 03:57.
        Ignorance is not the lack of knowledge. It is the refusal to learn.

        A contentedly cantankerous old fart

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Scott Fraser View Post
          On the Leningrad Front, at the beginning of the Vyborg operation on June 10, 1944, as part of 21st Army there was the 21st Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment, partially equipped with Churchill tanks
          31 Guards Tank Regiment.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Scott Fraser View Post
            Here is some information on Churchill tanks in Red Army service.

            From Танки Ленд-Лиза в бою (Михаил Барятинский; Яуза/Эксмо 2009), сс 114 – 127.
            Mk.IV CHURCHILL

            The history of the Churchill heavy infantry tank began in September 1939 when in the Joint Staff of the British Army developed the A20 project. They were supposed to replace the Mk.II Matilda, which was already in series production and serving in the Army. The requirement for a new, even more powerful fighting vehicle arose, apparently, for a rather simple reason. The Second World War had begun, the British Army had gone onto the Continent, and before them again have arisen bristled up barrels of the guns of the fortified “Siegfried Line” and the fear before item war with Germany was already endemic to the English military establishment.

            It was suggested that the new fighting vehicle would have frontal armour not less than 60 mm that would provide protection against the 37mm German anti-tank guns, and would reach speeds of about 15 km/h. It was planned to place the guns — two 2-pdr and coaxial BESA machine guns — in sponsons on the tank sides. Finally, to best overcome vertical obstacles the track should go around the tank hull.

            The result was a tank from the First World War, executed with better technology (20 years had passed)! For the sake of justice it is necessary to note that there were other variations of the armament differing in both caliber and placement of the guns. However, the alternative to putting guns in the sponsons left the project developers only the installation of one gun in a turret and another in the front of the hull (similar to the French heavy tank Char B.1bis).

            The contract to complete the project and construct four prototypes was concluded in December, 1939 with the Royal Arsenal and the firm Harland аnd Wоlff Ltd. From Belfast. A prototype was made in the autumn, and testing proceeded till the end of 1940. The first 14 series tanks received the designation Mk. IV and left the shops of Vauxhall Motors only in June of 1941. The new fighting vehicle received the name "Churchill".

            Even during the design of the tank the industrial group building the Churchill included 10 English firms. By December 1945, 5640 fighting vehicles of this type were made.

            Structurally the first series of the Infantry Tank Mk. IV Churchill I represented a rather original tank. The tank hull was executed in the form of a rectangular welded box. The English designers managed to make its equal to the width of the tank and include coverage of the hull with the tracks. It provided a flexible enough configuration of components of the tank and comfortable working conditions for the crew. The maximum thickness of the hull armour was 101 mm and the turret armour was 89 mm.

            At first glance, the tank’s gun was powerful enough. The British had no tank gun in 1941 other than the 2-pdr, which was placed in the turret with a coaxial BЕSА machine gun. For a tank weighing 38 tons, apparently it seemed small, so in front plate of the hull, to the left of the driver, a 3-inch howitzer was installed. The firing possibilities of that gun, however, was severely limited by the extension of the side sponsons.

            The engine was a liquid cooled, twelve-cylinder horizontally-opposed Bеdfоrd "Twin-Six" carburetor engine of 350 hp, which allowed the tank to accelerate to 27 km/h. More speed from an infantry support tank was not required. The transmission included an one-disk main dry-friction clutch and a mechanical four-speed Merrit-Brown Н4 transmission united in one unit with the differential, turning mechanism and final drives.

            The running gear on each side consisted of eleven dual roadwheels of small diameter without tires, a drive sprocket at the rear and an idler wheel at front. Supporting return rollers were absent. Their function, as with First World War tanks, was carried out by running the track along the top of the hull sponsons. The suspension consisted of individual swing-arms on cylindrical springs. There were numerous changes in the design over the course of production, including changes to the running gear, the engine and transmission. Basically, production models were differentiated by their armament, so the updated “Churchill II” had a second BESA machine gun installed in the front plate instead of the howitzer.

            From February 1942, the updating “Churchill III” was armed with a 6-pdr gun in a larger welded turret. The “Churchill IV” differed from the previous model in the method of manufacturing the turret — it was cast. The majority of these tanks had the 6-pdr gun Mk V with longer barrel installed.

            The USSR was sent Churchill III and Churchill IV tanks under the Lend-Lease program. In total, 344 vehicles were dispatched, of which 253 tanks reached their destination. The first 10 tanks arrived in the USSR in July 1942. Churchills, with heavy tanks of Soviet manufacture, served in Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiments. The statutory strength of these regiments (per shtat № 010/267) was 21 tanks and 214 personnel. The title "Guards" was appropriated right after the order to form the regiments. Independent tank regiments were attached to armies or fronts when created. Their structure quite often included both foreign and Soviet tanks. It is necessary to note that in Soviet documents of the time these tanks usually were designated “Mk. IV”. (Matildas were listed as “Mk.II” and Valentines as “Mk.III”.)

            The Churchill's fighting debut on the Soviet-German front took place during the Battle for Stalingrad. 47th and 48th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment took part in the defeat of the surrounded German forces. Subsequently 48th Regiment was returned to the rear, replenished with equipment and transferred back for operations subordinate to 38th Army, where it participated in the liberation of Kiev on November 6, 1943.

            Churchill tanks also participated in the Kursk battle. For example, in the battles around Prokhorovka, the 5th Guards Tank Army included the 15th (10 Mk.IV) and 36th (21 Mk.IV) Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiments. Subsequently the 15th Regiment received KV-1S tanks, but the 36th re-equipped again with the Churchill and was sent on to the Leningrad Front. In mid-July the 10th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment arrived in the 1st Guards Tank Army, and on July 21, acting with the 39th Tank Brigade, 174th and 57th Rifle Divisions, it attacked enemy positions along the direction of Andreevka - Petropole - Kopanki. In the course of the action the tanks were cut off from the infantry and practically all were knocked out — in the first day 16 Churchill tanks were destroyed. After that the regiment was withdrawn to the rear and equipped with other equipment. The 34th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment arrived at the Bryansk Front on July 13, 1943. On August 5 its Churchill tanks were the first to rush into Orel.

            On the Leningrad front in April 1943, there was the 49th Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiment, equipped with 21 Churchill tanks and three Universal Carriers. This regiment, together with 38th Independent Guards Tank Breakthrough Regiment which arrived on the Leningrad front, fought in engagements before the final lifting of the Leningrad blockade. The 50th Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiment fought as part of the Volkhov Front, subordinated to the 8th Army from March 17, 1943. In a rare occurrence, this unit, acting with other divisions was actually to operate in accordance with the tactical mission of breaking through a well-entrenched strip of enemy defenses. In using Churchills in forested marshlands, our tankisty noted the Churchill’s inadequate cross-country ability and unsuitability for Russian winter. In particular, after a few days of operations our crewmen all desired that the catalytic heaters be replaced with more functional domestic heaters.

            On the Leningrad Front, at the beginning of the Vyborg operation on June 10, 1944, as part of 31st Army there was the 21st Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment, partially equipped with Churchill tanks. The regiment took part in the battle for Vyborg from June 18 until June 20th. By the time the city was cleared, there were 6 Churchill tanks and 32 KVs remaining in the regiment.

            As already mentioned, Churchill tanks equipped (sometimes partially) frontline tank regiments. For example, 39th Independent Kiev Tank Regiment as of March 2, 1944 was distinguished by a rather motley collection of fighting vehicles: three KV, two Matilda tanks, three Churchills, two Т-70s, two T-60s and 38 Т-34s. As part of the 8th Army on the Leningrad Front, there was the 82nd Independent Tank Regiment (11 KV-1S and 10 Churchill tanks). In September 1944 this regiment participated in clearing the fascist aggressors from Tallinn and islands off the Gulf of Riga. Those were the Churchill's last battles on the Soviet-German front.

            As we see, despite the limited number of Churchill tanks that arrived on the Soviet-German front, Churchill tanks were used intensively. However, to make a more or less objective comparison of the Churchill with its contemporaries very difficult. As a rule, all was reduced to its mobility, i.e. the tracks fitted, as already mentioned. It is still more difficult to make an estimation of a fighting vehicle after some decades because of the lack of actual material. The technical characteristics of the tank are not enough, and the incomplete descriptions of combat operations and the sketchy reports of veteran tank crew do not allow it.

            Therefore, when a document from those years in which the overall estimation of the vehicle is given, it is fortunate. Time has preserved this document - the Report on short-term testing of the British heavy tank MK.IV "Churchill" on the GABTU NIIBT proving range, dated on September 16, 1942. Under the heading "Conclusions", after first noting that a Churchill III was tested:

            1. Evaluation of the fighting properties of the MK.IV tank:

            The Mk.IV tank has less powerful armament than the KV-1 and the KV-1S but has the advantage in armored protection.

            The ammunition load for the machine-gun in the MK.IV tank is three times the load of the KV-1. The armour-piercing round of the 57 mm gun installed on the MK.IV tank will penetrate both sides of the armour of the German medium tank Pz.Kpfw.III, a total thickness of 60 mm from a distance of 950 m. The MK.IV tank has considerably smaller specific horsepower and as consequence, lower maximum speed. Despite that, the MK.IV tank does not have less average speed of movement than KV-1 and KV-1S tanks. On a stock course the MK.IV and KV tanks are equivalent.

            2. Evaluation of the reliability of the Mk.IV tank and its operational data:

            The English heavy tank MK.IV possesses insufficient reliability in the operation of separate components and aspects of both construction and production are unrefined.

            The MK.IV tank is poor at overcoming slopes or moving with a list because it sheds its tracks. The limiting list 20° is inadequate. In addition, movement with a list of less than 20° does not exclude the possibility of shedding a track. Fuel consumption is quite normal in all road conditions.

            3. Evaluation of the construction of the tank:

            The armored hull is unusually extended and, accordingly, is reduced in width and height. The bow of the hull is situated low in relation to the high sides with tracks which are enclosed in large mud skirts. This creates poor visibility for the driver and the gunner. The periscopic viewing devices installed for the driver and gunner increase visibility somewhat. The layout of the gun is along the axis of the tank and the channel of the barrel lies between the mud chutes and does not provide clearance. This leads the situation that the gas wave resulting from firing the gun in such position will tear away and break the forward mud skirts.

            The viewing devices installed in a turret of the tank provide satisfactory visibility. Similar devices were installed in the Polish "Vickers" tank produced in 1939.

            The engine of the tank is of quite modern design of the autotractor type. The engine design is executed with the minimum use of scarce nonferrous metals and configured for mass production. Along with these advantages the MK.IV engine is not a mature design and consequently its reliability in operation could be called into question.

            In the transmission of the tank, the turning mechanism requires serious attention. Turning is accomplished by one component of the mechanical gearbox. The turn mechanism provides for the tank turning in place, ease of control of the tank at movement and high maneuverability for a heavy tank. Hydraulic steering with a servo mechanism facilitates management of the tank.

            The running gear is not strong enough for a 40-ton tank. Short-term tests have shown that welds of the inner roadwheels fracture and the wheels come off the axles of the trucks and after this, the external roadwheels together with axles are lost. The support arms of the trucks then start to rub along the track and quickly fail. The flanges of the roadwheels in the trucks fit closely against the spacers of the track links, increasing the wear of the roadwheels and tracks. When moving, the roadwheels heat up greatly as a result of increased friction of the roadwheels along the track. The track pins are not sufficiently durable and will break.

            Conclusion

            Based on the armament, armored protection and maneuverability, the English heavy tank Mk.IV Churchill can conduct effective battle against tanks of German army.

            In its given version, the Mk.IV tank appears unfinished with regards to its construction and production. During operations with service units the Mk.IV tank demands frequent repair with replacement of separate parts and whole assemblies.

            Separate parts of the tank (the turn mechanism integrated with the gearbox, etc.) are an original design and can be recommended for introduction in domestic tank production.

            This estimate is detailed enough and comprehensive, written before the appearance of the Tiger tank and the Panther tank with which Churchill, as with our KV, is unable to combat, but this basically did not enter into the Churchill’s function. As an infantry support tank, the Churchill was quite successful up to the war’s end.

            Estimating "Churchill's" constructive and operational characteristics it is necessary to note the curious fact. Trying to create as much as possible impregnable infantry tank capable besides it is rather easy to overcome – fortified constructions, Englishmen have programmed variety of parameters which in one hull benefited, and in other harm. So, the big length of the hull allowed to overcome easily ditches and trenches, but thus the tank had parity L/B equal 1,72 (at "Tiger" — 1,12) that sharply limited its maneuverable qualities even in the presence of rather successful transmission. Coverage by a hull track, on the one hand, allowed the tank to overcome obstacles not accessible to other tanks, and with another, has led to sharp increase vulnerability front section of the tracks. Almost all tanks knocked out were hit in the front sponsons. Besides, in the winter the skids for the top run of tracks became packed with snow (it was especially showed in Russia) because of what the track rose above an epaulet of a turret and got jammed it.

            Sometimes it is necessary to face opinion that "Churchill's" armament has been sacrificed for armored protection. It not so — the English simply had nothing to sacrifice. During the Second World War they did not create a powerful tank gun, as a result they adapted the 17-pdr anti-tank gun for this purpose, but for "Churchill" it was too large.

            Nevertheless crews loved the fighting vehicles. The reason for it was, perhaps, only one — powerful armored protection. Here it is pertinent to relate an episode from the operations of the 50th Guards Independent Breakthrough Tank Regiment. On March, 22nd, 1943 five tanks Churchills from this regiment under command of Guards Captain Belogub attacked the opponent. The tanks rushed German positions where four of them were knocked out and one retreated. Crews did not leave their tanks and from March 22 until March 25 they remained in them and fired from their spot. Every night submachine gunners of 50th Regiment delivered ammunition and the foodstuffs to the tankers. Over three days the Churchills destroyed an artillery battery, four bunkers, an ammunition warehouse up to two platoons of infantry. The Germans repeated suggestions that the crews of the knocked-out tanks surrender were answered with fire. On March 25, the tankers managed to hook a tractor to Belogub’s tank and tow it to the rear. The crews of the other three tanks departed with the infantry. Without estimating the organisation of the fight which has led to such result, it is necessary to underline that the crews which stayed in tanks for three days did not suffer any person killed. The lives of the tankers were saved by the Churchill's armour, which the German artillery could not penetrate at this time.

            Enjoy.

            Regards
            Scott Fraser
            Thanks .

            The report from 16.9.42 on Churchill reliability is not unsurprising. Even in N Africa, with a plethora of Vauxhall engineers in tow, the A22 was not really sorted until late 42. It was simply fielded about a year too early.
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