Cromwell Down Under
by Paul D. Handel
The Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC) Memorial and Army Tank Museum at Puckapunyal in Victoria is the home to several interesting British tanks of the early Second World War period. One of these is a Cromwell Mark 1 Cruiser Tank. It is believed that this Cromwell Mark I tank is a very early example of this family.
The details surrounding the Cromwell in Australia are somewhat difficult to ascertain. In September 1942 a Cromwell Mark I was ordered for £10,000.00, with a freight cost of £1,500.00. The vehicle was probably ordered to allow the Australian Directorate of Armoured Fighting Vehicle Producton (DAFVP) to view the latest type of British Cruiser Tank, as the Australian Cruiser Tank programme was in full production at that time, and upgunning was one of the priorities of the programme. In any case, the tank was shipped to Australia and arrived at the end of August 1943, when it was sent to the DAFVP. The tank bore the number T121171U on its arrival. It mounted a 6 pounder gun but had the hull machine gun mount blanked off. Examination of the vehicle shows it to be wearing 14 inch wide tracks, with 20 tooth sprockets, and having a trapezoidal-shaped air intake on the engine deck.
It does not appear to have had much public exposure. Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944 it was painted in an overall two colour camouflage scheme. The vehicle apparently remained at the DAFVP for quite some time, as it appeared in 1943 being used as the crock vehicle during winching trials of the Recovery Tank Aust. No. 2 (based on the M3 Medium Lee).
In 1944, when the War Office Trials for the Sherman and Churchillwere announced, the Commander 4th Australian Armoured Brigade, Brigadier Denzil Macarthur-Onslow, proposed that in addition to those types, other vehicles be considered for jungle trials, including the Cromwell. He was advised that it was not considered advisable to use it in trials as:
“This is a cruiser tank and not designed for the slow speeds required for jungle operations. In addition it is the only Cromwell tank in Australia and is a very early model and spares are very limited.”
Along with the Crusader, it was located at the AFV School at Puckapunyal by the end of hostilities in August 1945, and was specifically mentioned in a list of AFV’s which were to be retained at the AFV School as an Historical Collection when this was authorised in 1946.
Now that the Museum at Puckapunyal has almost its entire collection under cover for the first time in over 50 years, the vehicles are gradually being cleaned and painted. The colour scheme chosen for the Cromwell represent s the condition in which it arrived in Australia. The Cromwell is finished in a British Khaki Green Drab and with the words “Not to be stowed on Deck” painted on the turret. Both these markings have been taken from photos of the actual vehicles during their time in Australia.
Thanks to the Curator of the RAAC Memorial and Army Tank Museum; Mr David Fletcher of the Tank Museum, Bovington for a copy of the Contract Card, and Mr Laurie Wright for assisting with photographs.
Article Text and Photographs Copyright ©
2002 by Paul D.
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