The Iconic Churchill Tank in 31 pictures

 
Churchill Mk IV of North Irish Horse crossing the Senio River over two Churchill Ark, April 1945
Churchill Mk IV of North Irish Horse crossing the Senio River over two Churchill Ark, April 1945
 
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The tank that had the honor of bearing the name of Winston Churchill easily falls into the category of one of the most iconic British armored vehicles of the Second World War. With its first prototype hitting the testing grounds in December 1940 and rolling off the production line just six months later, the tank had been hastily designed during the Blitz to fight off a potential land invasion of Britain.

The Churchill was introduced as an infantry support tank, and, in its design and intended role, was rather old-fashioned.  As such, it relied on its heavy armor, which significantly reduced its speed. It utilized a large longitudinal chassis and all-around tracks with multiple bogies, as it was borne of a WWI mindset ― it was to act as an infantry-support vehicle, intended for large-scale breakthroughs on the front line and capable of overcoming extremely difficult terrain and steep slopes.

Polish Churchills Mk II
Polish Churchills Mk II

But thanks to the German Blitzkrieg doctrine, the frontline became a fairly relative term, not at all more or less static as in the days of the Great War.

As for the firepower, the initial two versions relied on 40 mm and 57 mm guns, respectively. The original Mark I Churchill included a howitzer placed in the hull’s front for providing infantry support, while the turret gun was to ward off enemy tanks. The idea was abandoned in the following version and the howitzer was replaced with a bow machine gun.

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, whose name was borrowed to christen the tank, allegedly complained to the South African Field Marshall, Jan Smuts, about his armored name-sake:

“That is the tank they named after me when they found out it was no damn good!”

Contrary to Winston Churchill’s remark, the tank performed fairly well in its early combat days, especially in North Africa. It was responsible for knocking out a Tiger I in Tunisia, in 1943. This particular Tiger was the first to be captured and studied by the Allies, making it crucial for the war effort.

Churchill Mk II during field trials 2
Churchill Mk II during field trials 2

Other theatres of war followed as the tank saw action under the flags of many Commonwealth nations and the Soviet Union via the Lend-and-Lease program.

Its sturdy design found great use among the AVRE units, with modifications such as the bridge layer, or different large-caliber howitzers used against German fortifications along the beaches of Normandy.

Overall, more than 5,640 were produced, in eight different models, and many more variants.

 

Churchill Ark (Armoured Ramp Carrier) and Sherman 52 “Spiteful”
Churchill Ark (Armoured Ramp Carrier) and Sherman 52 “Spiteful”

 

A column of Churchill Crocodile tanks
A column of Churchill Crocodile tanks

 

Churchill VI of 6th Guards Tank Brigade Holland 1945
Churchill VI of 6th Guards Tank Brigade Holland 1945

 

Churchill ARV and Ram tank at Aborfield, 23 April 1943
Churchill ARV and Ram tank at Aborfield, 23 April 1943

 

Churchill tank maintenance ,Normandy August 1944
Churchill tank maintenance ,Normandy August 1944

 

Captured Churchill Mk III tank after Dieppe raid, 1942
Captured Churchill Mk III tank after Dieppe raid, 1942

 

British heavy infantry tanks Churchill Mk II
British heavy infantry tanks Churchill Mk II

 

Churchill Mk VII during field trials, England 2
Churchill Mk VII during field trials, England 2

 

M19 Tank Transporter carrying a Churchill
M19 Tank Transporter carrying a Churchill

 

Churchill ARV Mk II
Churchill ARV Mk II

 

German soldiers taking cover behind Soviet Churchill, Eastern Front
German soldiers taking cover behind Soviet Churchill, Eastern Front

 

Churchill AVRE with applique armour carrying a fascine
Churchill AVRE with applique armour carrying a fascine

 

Churchill Mk VII named Calgary of 8th Army, Senio River Italy 1945
Churchill Mk VII named Calgary of 8th Army, Senio River Italy 1945
Note the track ‘armor’
Note the track ‘armor’

 

German Churchill tank 2
German Churchill tank 2

 

Churchills Mk VII 1944
Churchills Mk VII 1944

 

Churchill Mk II on heavy tank transporter M19. M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and 12-wheel M9 trailer.
Churchill Mk II on heavy tank transporter M19. M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and 12-wheel M9 trailer.

 

Captured British Churchill Mk III tank 2
Captured British Churchill Mk III tank 2

 

Churchill AVRE 3
Churchill AVRE 3

 

Churchill Mk VII Crocodile tank and NZ soldier Senio River Italy April 1945
Churchill Mk VII Crocodile tank and NZ soldier Senio River Italy April 1945

 

Churchill Tank 1944
Churchill Tank 1944

 

Churchill Tank Mk III T32203 1944
Churchill Tank Mk III T32203 1944

 

Churchill tank unloads in England 1943
Churchill tank unloads in England 1943

 

Churchill tanks near Hanover Germany 1945
Churchill tanks near Hanover Germany 1945

 

Churchill Tanks Tunisia 20 May 1943 2
Churchill Tanks Tunisia 20 May 1943 2

 

Flame throwing tanks Churchill Crocodiles wait in Granarolo dell’Emilia Italy April 1945
Flame throwing tanks Churchill Crocodiles wait in Granarolo dell’Emilia Italy April 1945

 

Polish Churchill Mk II tank T31829
Polish Churchill Mk II tank T31829

 

Churchill Mk II on heavy tank transporter M19. M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and 12-wheel M9 trailer.
Churchill Mk II on heavy tank transporter M19. M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and 12-wheel M9 trailer.

 

Close Up Petard 290 mm Mortar of Churchill AVRE tank named Fury 1944
Close Up Petard 290 mm Mortar of Churchill AVRE tank named Fury 1944
 
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