Crusader A15 Mark I tanks. Note auxiliary turret with 7.92 Besa machine gun in front hull. The Crusader A15 was the sixth version of the British cruiser series of tanks, which favored speed over armor. The Crusader was a fast tank, but it was mechanically unreliable and lacked firepower and protection. When a shipment of Crusaders and a shipment of Lend-Lease M3 Stuart light tanks were sent to North Africa with the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), the British crews initially favored the Crusader because it was more comfortable and easier to fight. However, within a few days, the Stuarts were functioning without maintenance, while the Crusaders were breaking down at the rate of six per day and needed constant technical attention. On the Crusader I, the main turret hatch had to be locked open or it would cause injury to the driver when he stood in the turret and rough ground or shell fire knocked the hatch closed. The auxiliary turret was found to be cramped, uncomfortable for occupation, and had a limited field of view; when the auxiliary turret's hatch was open, the main turret could not traverse. The auxiliary turret was deleted in favor of additional ammunition in future versions. The Crusader entered combat as part of Operation Battleaxe on June 15, 1941 with the 6th Tank Regiment. The Crusader's armor was defeated by the long 50mm (1.97 inch) main gun of its principal adversary, the Panzer III. The 2-pounder 40mm (1.57 inch) main gun of the Crusader bounced off the Panzer III's armor, while the Panzer III could engage at longer distances and their rounds went right through the Crusader. Twenty-seven Cruisers and sixty-four Matilda IIs were lost during the battle, which failed to achieve British objectives. After Operation Crusader in November 1941, which was named after this tank and achieved limited objectives (most notably the temporary relief of Tobruk), Crusader was withdrawn as a primary battle tank from other theatres, but remained in front line use in North Africa through 1943. After the North African campaign Crusaders served the rest of the war as a platform for anti-aircraft defense. Date and Location Estimated.
Caption ©2007 MFA Productions LLC
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