ARM: Book Review - A13 Cruiser Tank Mk. I and Mk. II by Peter Brown

Book Review: Armor PhotoHistory #4 - British Cruiser Tank A13 Mk. I - Mk. I I by Peter Brown; Model Centrum PROGRES, Warsaw, Poland, 2015; 88 pp. with
142 photos, 27 color plates and 7 pages of 1/35 scale plans; retail price U S$46.95 via Amazon (ISBN 978-83-60672-23-5)
Advantages: first complete and thorough study of the initial British Christ ie-based cruiser tanks; excellent set of drawings and color plates, all in 1/35 scale
Disadvantages: none noted
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Christie tank design fans and early war British arm our fans
    John Walter Christie was an odd duck who made a goodly amount of money mot orizing fire equipment in the early 20th Century, but he fancied himself to have the perfect answer for creating a useful combat vehicle that combined wheeled and tracked drives on one chassis. Being an American, he first off ered to the US Army but after purchasing only seven tanks from him they tur ned him down for any more vehicles.
    Highly miffed at the rejection, Christie then offered his designs abroad a nd sold them to the Soviets, the Poles and finally to the British.
    In the early 1930s the British was sorting out what kind of tanks they nee ded and came to the conclusions that they needed light tanks, infantry tank s, and fast cruiser tanks. Their first efforts at the "cruiser concept" wer e not really very cruiser-like - the A9 and A10 designs being equipped with the patented Vickers "Slo-Mo-Shun" suspension being a big giveaway. So the y then looked to the Christie design to solve their problems of higher spee d.
    Morris Commerical Cars LTD bought one of the two demonstrators Christie ha d used for the US Army and under the designation A13E1 it underwent trials in the UK. But while performance was good it was planned to use a similar d esign of turret to the A9 and A10 that mounted a 2-pdr gun in a two man abr east (three with commander) turret, so a new hull with a wider center secti on was built and under the designation A13E2 the new tank underwent testing starting on 7 October 1937.
    The usual sorts of teething troubles were found and as a result an evolved vehicle, the A13E3, was built. This passed testing and the new vehicle was adopted for service as the A13 Cruiser Tank Mark I.
    The tank evolved to the A13 Mark II and then A13 Mark IIA, but in 1940 the situation was complicated by complete renaming of the vehicles, with the A 13 Mark I becoming the Cruiser Tank Mk. III, the A13 Mark II the Cruiser Ta nk Mk. IV, and the A13 Mark IIA the Cruiser Tank Mk. IVA. 337 tanks of all models were built between 1939 and 1941.
    All were mechanical similar - a new short-pitch track was used and the Bri tish did not bother with the convertible drive features of the original Chr istie, maintaining as tracked drive only. While the Mark I used a turret wi th smooth sloped sides and a water-cooled Vickers .303 machine gun in the t urret, the Mark II added spaced plates on the sides of the turret set at st eeper angles and the Mark IIA a 7.92mm Besa air-cooled machine gun. Top spe ed was 30 mph (50 kph) and range 80-100 miles (130-160 kilometers) on gasol ine.
    The A13 was used in France and then in the early desert battles, but survi vors were relegated to training by the end of 1941 and served with the non- deployed Cruiser Mk. V Covenanter at home; its linear descendent, the Cruis er Mk. VI Crusader, was associated with most of the big desert battles and was the mainstay cruiser tank until the US M3 and M4 types became widely av ailable. The last Christie-based design to serve was the Cruiser Mk. VII Cr omwell.
    Peter is a very thorough researcher and has tracked down where all of the tanks were sent and with which units they served. Most of the photos in the book are based on either snapshots from British war photographers or captu red German shots of A13 tanks after capture. From most of the shots in the book, it appears one of their big drawbacks was fragile tracks as nearly al l of the capture shots show the A13 missing one or both tracks.
    Modelers will love the excellent drawings of all the variants of the A13 C ruiser tank family as well as the 1/35 scale color plates which will make f inishing and correcting the Bronco model kits much easier. Sadly Bronco use d a great deal of faulty information when they made their A13 kits and as a result any true modeler will have to correct their mistakes.
    Overall while not cheap this is an excellent first effort from Peter (who has written numerous articles for "Military Modelling" and the Tank Museum journal "Track-Link" and is a one-stop source for the A13 family.
    Thanks to Bob Gregory for passing along the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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