Light Tank Mk.VII TETRARCH (A17) gallery

(Tetrarch image). Although the tank was developed to replace the cruiser tanks, it became clear during tests that the A-17 was not fast enough and could not cross obstacles like cruiser tanks in service. However, it had a new and more powerful 2-pdr (40mm) gun than them, but even so, the fact that the commander had to act as a loader allowed them to be as effective as the other tanks.
(Tetrarch image). The Mark VII Tetrarch was a private adventure of Vickers and as such, Vickers developed the tank without counting on the opinion of the War Office, which they did not like too much, but in 1940, with the urgency of having the largest number of tanks possible after the Dunkirk disaster, the War Office placed an order for 100 units. The production was transferred to the Metropolitan-Cammell company which completed production in 1942.
(Tetrarch image). The Hamilcar glider was developed along with the Tetrarch light tank, and was designed to transport the tank in airborne assaults. The idea was brilliant, although in the end only one Hamilcar Squadron would participate in D-Day and with questionable results. The tank weighed about 7,600 kg, just to the limit of the maximum payload of the Hamilcar glider, but it is clear that the ability to have a light tank after landing in enemy territory, was a great advantage for the light troops deployed in this type of assault.
(Tetrarch image). Tetrarch had a Christie type suspension consisting of four large roadwheels, of which the last rear carriying the drive sprockets. The two center roadwheels moved slightly inwards or outwards on the track, which allowed to take gentle curves without having to stop the track on the inside of the curve. This system was driven by a car-type steering wheel and worked very well and although it was derived from a similar system used in the Bren Carrier tankettes, it was much more effective.
(Tetrarch image). The Tetrarch tank had a 2-pdr (40mm) gun similar to the one installed in the British medium tanks of the time, which gave it much more firepower than light tanks like the Mark VI that had a 15mm heavy machine gun, almost totally useless against other tanks. Some vehicles carried the “Littlejohn adapter” at the end of the 40mm barrel, (like this one on the picture), which gave greater penetration power to the armour-piercing (AP) ammunition designed for that purpose. A 7.92mm Besa coaxial machine gun completed the armament and they could carry two smoke dischargers, one in each side of the turret.
(Tetrarch image). Tetrarch mobility was entrusted to a Meadows petrol engine. The engine was a 12-cylinder and developed 165 hp, enough to reach 64 km/h, a really high speed for that time. Thanks to its Christie type suspension system, the tank could roll on its four roadwheels if the track was lost or damaged. This system was designed by Leslie Little and the roadwheels were made from armour plate, which reinforced the protection of the hull sides.
(Soviet Tetrarch image). The protection was one of the weak points of Tetrarch tank, as in the majority of light tanks, and the armour only reached a maximum thickness of 14mm in the glacis and in the front of the turret. Although there were plans to deploy the Tetrarch in North Africa within the 8th Army, due to cooling problems it could not be deployed there. Twenty units were sent to the USSR within the Lend-Lease program, and some were used in combat during 1943. After its re-deployment with Airborne Units, the Tetrarch was able to participate in Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Madagascar. The operation took place in May 1942 and involved 6 Tetrarchs that were framed in the ‘B’ Special Service Squadron. The role of these tanks was quite poor due to the nature of the mission and the terrain where they had to operate, really difficult for armoured vehicles.
(Tetrarch I CS image). There were some variants of Tetrarch tank as the “Tetrarch I CS“, which consisted in the installation of a 76mm howitzer instead of the 40mm gun. Only a few tanks were modified and had the mission of giving close support (CS) to the infantry. The 76mm howitzer fired two types of ammunition, smoke and high explosive (HE) rounds.
(Tetrarch I CS image). Tetrarch I CS and Tetrarch tanks participated in Operation Tonga, held in Caen, Normandy, between June 5 and 7, 1944, in which some 20 Tetrarch tanks supported various actions until October 1944 when they were finally withdrawn. Two Tetrarch I CS were attached to the Headquarters Squadron and four others were attached to a Light Tank Squadron or “A” Squadron within the 6th Airborne Armored Reconnaissance Regiment.
(Tetrarch I CS image). The 6th Airborne Armored Reconnaissance Regiment was attached to the 6th Airlanding Brigade and landed on the second lift. Its mission was to support two paratrooper brigades and perform reconnaissance to prevent German counterattack. The encounters with the German armoured vehicles were avoided as much as possible, although several Tetrarch were lost in combat and others were lost in accidents during the flight and landing in the combat zone.
(Tetrarch I CS image). The main mission during Operation Tonga ended up being support for infantry reconnaissance patrols and fire support, for which Tetrach proved to be a stable and efficient platform, but in August 1944 all Tetrarch of the “A” Squadron were replaced by Cromwell cruiser tanks, leaving only 3 Tetrarch assigned to the Headquarters Squadron.
(Tetrarch DD image). Another variant of the Tetrarch was the “DD” or “duplex-drive”. This variant appeared in June 1941 and was specially designed to allow the tank to float and be able to land on the beach directly from the sea. It was the first “DD” tank model to be developed successfully and later this system would be applied to other tanks such as the Valentine or the M-4 Sherman, which would participate in the Normandy landings.
(Tetrarch DD image). The duplex-drive system was invented by Nicholas Straussler and consisted of the installation of a propeller in the rear of the hull, which was moved by the tank’s engine, and the assembly of a large waterproof canvas screen around the tank. This screen was formed by 36 inflatable tubes fastened by steel beams, and was lowered when the tank reached the beach by a small explosive charge. Despite the success of the assembly, no Tetrarch DD was used in combat.
(Tetrarch I CS image). In summary it can be said that Tetrarch was a mediocre tank and perhaps failed in the commercial field, but according to some sources, the attitude of Vickers, did not help the Royal Army could request improvements in the development stage that would have made the vehicle more suitable for the requirements that were needed at that time. It was another confirmation of the limited role of light tanks in large operations such as those that emerged during WWII.

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