A27M Cromwell Mk. IV

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Overview

The Cromwell Mk. IV is the standard British medium tank, functioning in the "cruiser" role.

History

In 1940, the British were aware that their mainstay cruiser tank, the Crusader, was already obsolete. Designs for a replacement were submitted to the General Staff, although the resulting A24 design was plagued by engine problems and never reached the front lines. The subsequent A27M design used the powerful Meteor engine, derived from the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin powerplant used in the Spitfire. After several more changes including a change from a high-velocity 6-pounder gun to a medium-velocity Royal Ordnance 75mm weapon, the Cromwell finally entered combat in June 1944 with the Normandy Invasion. Overall just over 4,000 A27s were produced; while it was intended to replace the Sherman in service only the British 7th Armored Division (the famed "Desert Rats") fully converted to the type. Other British units used its high speed in the reconnaissance regiments of armor divisions while mostly retaining the Lend-Lease Shermans due to their greater numbers and better mechanical reliability. Cromwell units operated in four-tank troops, with one or two of those tanks being either VC Fireflies or A30 Challengers armed with the 17-pounder antitank gun; a squadron was comprised of three troops plus a command troop incorporating a command tank and two close-support variants such as the Cromwell Mk. VI.

Combat Performance

Aside from higher speed, the Cromwell Mk. IV has the same strengths and weaknesses as the US M4A4 Sherman and its stats are virtually identical. The Cromwell must use its high speed to close with German armor and maneuver around to hit their flanks; its 75mm gun is useless against the frontal armor of Tigers and Panthers and its armor can be shredded at long range by German 75mm and 88mm guns. During the Normandy campaign British armor units would compensate for these weaknesses by including one or two Sherman Fireflies or the limited-production Challenger (an A27M with the 17-pounder gun fitted in an oversized turret) in each four-tank armor troop; in combat the Fireflies would take up covering positions and "snipe" German armor as the Cromwells advanced. In return, the superior 75mm HE shells and higher rate of fire of the Cromwells would cover the Fireflies from infantry attacks. The modifications made to the Firefly turret also made it impossible to carry a commander's radio set; troop commanders could not lead their units from a Firefly.

Detailed Unit Info