Vickers Light tank Mk VIc
Vehicle design and service history:
The Tank, Light, Mk VI was the sixth and last in a long line of light tanks built by Vickers-Armstrong for the British army during the interwar period. This long lineage created a level of standardization between the previous five models, with the Mark VI similar and identical in many respects to its predecessor the MK V. The turret had been expanded to accommodate a three-man crew, along with additional space to house a wireless set. This in turn increased the weight of the tank to 10,800 pounds (4,900 kg), which though heavier improved the tank’s handling characteristics. The additional weight was also offset by the addition of an 88 horsepower (66 kW) engine, which increased the tank’s top speed to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
The tank utilized a Horstmann coil-spring suspension system, which over the previous models had been found to be both durable and reliable, though due to the short length-to-width ratio the tank tended to pitch violently on rough ground, making accurate gunnery on the move rather difficult. The MK VI had a crew of three consisting of a driver, gunner and commander, who would also serve as the radio operator. This crew was protected by between 4 mm (0.16 in) and 14 mm (0.55 in) of armour depending on location, giving the tank complete resistance to rifle and machine gun bullets from the front.
Initial production of the MK VI began in 1936 and would ultimately end in 1940 with 1,682 tanks of all variants being built. There would be several production variants though in order to solve problems encountered with the original design. The first the MK VIA had the return roller removed from the top of the leading bogey, and instead attached to the hull sides instead, along with an improved faceted commanders cupola to increase visibility when inside the tank. The MK VIB was mechanically identical to the MK VIA , but had design tweaks to make production faster and simpler, including a single-piece armoured louvre over the radiator and a more plain circular cupola. The MK VIC would be the final major production iteration of the MK VI, and had its cupola omitted and wider bogeys and three carburettors installed in an attempt to improve engine performance. More importantly, though the MK VIC was equipped with a much more powerful armament taking the form of a 15 mm (0.59 in) and 7.92 mm (0.312 in) Besa machine guns.
Due to this tank being viewed as the superior light tank, the MK VI would see service both in reconnaissance roles and that of colonial warfare, making it an unusual for the fact it was used by the British army to perform imperial policing duties in British India and other colonies. It was found to be well suited for this role, and due to the additional factor of the cancellation of the proposed “Sixteen Tonner” medium tank in 1932 due to the costs involved, the MK VI quickly found itself a staple of armoured units of the British army with just over a thousand in service with the British army at the outbreak of the second world war.
Because of this ready availability, The majority of the tanks possessed by the British Expeditionary force in France were Mark VI variants, arranged into 7 Royal Armoured corps, each of which were equipped with 28 of the tanks. The majority of these were marked VIB and VIC variants, and a total of 331 Mark VI light tanks would be lost during the battle of France with several examples captured by the Wehrmacht. From the fall of France, the tanks would go on to serve on multiple fronts, though normally in the rear roles, such as home and airfield defence, before being gradually retired and phased out as more powerful cruiser tanks became readily available with all units removed from front line service by the start of 1943.
Mass 5.2 long tons (5.3 t)
Length 13 feet (4.0 m)
Width 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)
Height 7 ft 3 in (2.26 m)
Crew 3 (commander, gunner, driver)
Armour 4 – 14 mm
Main armament 15 mm Besa machine gun
Secondary armament 7.92 mm Besa machine gun
Engine Meadows 6-cylinder petrol 88 hp (66 kW)
Power/weight 16.9 hp/ton
Transmission Wilson pre-selector gearbox
Suspension Horstmann inclined springs
Ground clearance 10 inches (250 mm)
Fuel capacity 30 imperial gallons (140 L; 36 US gal)
Operational range 130 miles (210 km)
Maximum speed 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) (25 miles per hour (40 km/h) off road)
Additional historical photos/ images:
- Light Tank Mk VI - Wikipedia (Wiki for the class)
- Panzerserra Bunker- Military Scale Models in 1/35 scale: Vickers light tank Mk VIB - case report (source of photos and some additional info)
- Vickers Mk VI > WW2 Weapons (Additional source)
- Vickers Light Tank Mk.VI (1936) (Tank encyclopedia for the class of vehicle)