World of Tanks: The British are coming
Finally, after a long wait, the British tanks are coming. We do not know when will they appear, but at least we get to see some of them, together with a fancy trailer and a brand new Brit Tank-Tree. Although we do not have any in-game details about these tanks, we can always look to history for some answers, or at least suggestions. Without further stalling, set your mind accordingly, and let us jump head first into the British Tank Tree.
World of Tanks: Tea and Crumpets
The British when designing their tanks followed, what I feel, was an outdated mind-set. A lot of their heavy tanks were aimed at providing Infantry Support. The Churchill, Matilda and Valentine tanks were all aimed at Infantry Support. Their lack of a proper main gun became apparent when faced even with the German Panzer IV. Despite their respective gun and equipment upgrades none of these tanks could honestly rival heavier Axis tanks. The main “idea” behind the British Medium tanks were Cruiser type tanks. Think speed, rather than outstanding protection. Even though the concept was sound, British Cruiser tanks suffered from mechanical problems, and later on, a general lack of firepower. The British had to rely, in part, on the American Sherman, which they customized (the Sherman Firefly being one such example).
Based on the currently available British Tank-Tree, we can see only two possible pathways. “Heavy” or “Medium”, although in the case of the Heavy line you have a choice between a “Medium” tank start, or a “Light” tank start. As always, I will provide a background source for those tanks for which I can find some details, with a short note from myself.
Mini Light Tank Section
Cruiser MK I – Created during the inter-war period it was not a “nice sight”. By that I do not mean it was not an effective tank. It was in fact a very good design against lighter Axis tanks (Panzer IIs and IIIs, as well as the early Italian tanks). However, it did lack protection. Considering it was mainly used in France and North Africa it was inadequate for later period of the war. Let us be honest, a 2QPdr gun will not penetrate a Tiger I. It could make a decent Tier II tank however.
Cruiser MK II – Heavier than the MK I, the MK II had a similar gun, yet more armor, which also greatly cut down its speed. Perhaps even more so than the MK I, the MK II suffered terrible mechanical failures. Let us hope they will not be implemented into the game.
Valentine – The further up we go, the more speed we sacrifice for armor. Out of the three Light Tanks, the Valentine is by far the slowest, yet the most heavily armored, and much better gunned. The trade-off appears to be fitting as you quickly progress toward the Heavy tanks, however I do not know if it is fair to classify a 4th Tier Tank with (historically) 65mm armor and a top speed of 24km/h as a Light tank (in comparison, the Panzer III has 70mm armor at the front, in-game).
From the Vickers, to the Conqueror
Vickers MK II – The Vickers Mk II never saw combat. It was used as a test vehicle, and it lacked armor and speed. As such, it fits in nicely with the other Tier IIs, although the (historical) size of its main gun is a bit worrisome (47mm)
Vickers Mk III – Although it appears to have the same (pathetic) armor and an “ok” gun, its speed of 45km/h makes you wonder whether you could stun your enemies with the sight of a “Flying Box”. Time will tell.
Matilda – When I look at the Valentine and Matilda I sense a distinct similarity, Tier wise. They both have tough armor, although the Matilda is thicker. Both are incredibly slow, and their guns appear to be more or less similar. As such, both the Valentine and Matilda make adequate introductory tanks to the Tier V Heavy tank… the Churchill.
The Churchills – Rather than breaking down to you each Churchill in turn, let us stick them all into one “point”. The Churchills could be identified by their incredibly odd shape, no matter if you looked at the MK I or the Black Prince. The role of the Churchill was always that of Infantry Support. They were meant to offer support and protection for infantry, and their bulky shape offered adequate cover. As the war progressed the Churchills received higher caliber guns and improvements to their armor and other equipment. The Black Prince was the last of the Churchills. An experimental Infantry-Support tank with a slightly wider hull and bigger gun. Despite their armor, the Churchill’s low-speed and shape might prove to be a huge problem for anybody who prefers hiding to frontal combat. The flat front will pose a real threat to the driver and radioman, even if it will have a good armor buff. The flat sides will not help much either, and the Churchill might fall prey to sniper tanks and accurate SPGs.
Conqueror Tanks – The three final British heavies are all Sub-Variants of the Conqueror. Each of the Conqueror tanks share a very modernistic “look”. They have a decent speed for Heavy Tanks, and their main guns cannot be ignored in any way. Although they never saw active service, nor were they ever produced in serious numbers, the Conquerors most certainly form a nice “Crown Jewel” upon the head of the British Tank tree.
From the Cruiser to the Centurion
Cruiser Tanks – All of the Cruiser tanks sacrifice armor for speed. Starting at the Cruiser III and IV, these tanks lack almost any protection, while having good speeds. Their guns appear to be similar to their “cousins”, but in-game variable might differ. As we go up the Tiers, through the Covenanter, Crusader, Cromwell and Comet we see the essence of Cruiser tanks. The speed of these tanks remains at a constant high-speed, while their protection is always, to a degree, sub-par. Their firepower does not appear to be that much worse than what we can observe among other tanks. The Comet with its 77mm gun might not beat a Tiger I with its 88mm during a fair firefight, but the Comet has the advantage in speed. This advantage most certainly signalizes that the French might lose their monopoly on infuriating heavier tanks, with their speed. On the other hand, it does not seem like the Cruiser tanks will have a “Revolver” firing system. Time will tell what will the “Cruisers” truly offer us.
Centurion – The Centurion is by no means a “Cruiser” tank. It is a Main Battle Tank (just like the Type-59). It has both decent protection, speed and a good gun. Holding in mind that it is a Medium tank it cannot be used for front-line engagement. The entire “Light” line appears to be focused on flanking, surprise attacks and quick retreats. It is most likely that the Centurion will have a higher top-speed than the Conquerors (their speeds are almost equal, historically). In any other case the Centurion might be outclassed by other Tier IXs. It is important to note that there is no Tier X British Medium tank. The Centurion Mk, 5-9 is as high as we go for now. So before you point your finger at the IS-4 or any Heavy tank, hold in min that it is on the level of the E-50, or equivalent. A decent tank, but not a Heavy Tank.
Premium Tank and TD?
Sherman III – Although it does not appear on the British Tank Tree, the Sherman III might be one of the Premium tanks, available to the British. Sent to Britain through the Land-Lease agreement, the “Sherman III” was in fact a Sherman M4A2 with a 75mm gun. This is not to be mistaken with the Sherman Firefly, which used a different “base”. Due to its gun type and base, the Sherman III could be a Tier V (the tier VI Shermans are all M4A3s).
Tortoise (A39) – When I played Men of War, the Tortoise always caused the same reaction in me, “What is that?!”. Designed and produced near the end of the War, the Tortoise was a heavy and slow “Gun Platform”, but mechanically reliable. In terms of gameplay it does not appear to be a Top Tier TD. It has a 95mm gun, and 200mm armor, which sets it at around the Tier VII-VIII area. Although it might be a Premium TD, I am more reluctant to believe it is one of the Tank Destroyers which will be openly available.
In Short Summary
The British have a good selection of tanks. On one hand you have slower, more clunky, yet better armored and gunned Heavy tanks. On the other, you have quick and lightly armored/gunned Mediums. Neither of these tank appears to be suffering a flaw which is not to be expected from a Heavy or Medium tank. The one clear downside I do “smell” is the shape of the british tanks. A lot of them suffer from the box-shape syndrome. The Churchill/Black Prince is a box waiting to be fired upon. In a lot of cases there is absolutely no angled plating. In the few cases when it is present it might prove impossible to use it effectively.
The question of firepower is also important. Even though lighter tanks will be threatened by the British tanks, can we say the same for Heavier tanks? Considering the vast majority of “Top Guns” are only 77mm I would expect a lot of trouble piercing tougher plating. On the other hand, once the Tier VII barrier is broken, there will be access to much more modern, and as such, much better gunned Medium and Heavy tanks.
While we wait for more news, I shall head off for some tea and crumpets. Cheerio!
Alex “WriterX” Bielski