Churchill Mk.VII

Please click on the photos at left (as applicable) to jump to large-scale copies

Churchill Front The business end of a late model Mk.VII Churchill Crocodile flame tank. These were converted from standard Mk.VII infantry tanks in time for Normandy. The Churchill in whatever guise is a formidable beast which performed a unique role in British service, and supported British and Canadian infantry formations ably throughout the conflict in Northwest Europe. Canadians themselves used a much earlier version at Dieppe before re-equipping with Shermans.

In this picture, note the driver's vision block is open and note the normal BESA machine gun has been supplanted by the flame gun.

Churchill Profile The profile of the Churchill gives some indication of its size. From this angle, this Crocodile is identical to the standard Mk.VII infantry tank, which was the version most common in the latter part of the war. Sporting a 75mm QF main gun, 152mm frontal armour and excellent tractability, the Churchill could absorb punishment which frequently rendered Shermans hors-de-combat, as well as traverse ground which would bog the smaller American tank.

Churchill Front Right A closer profile shot gives some indication of the brute size of the Churchill. Frequently the mud guards over the front horns were removed, usually by choice and if not by collision or enemy action. With it's unique design of having its massive steel tracking up front, the Churchill could climb or batter through obstacles which would stall the Sherman. Note the round escape hatch for the driver, just forward of the spare track links.

Churchill Rear Right Looking forward from right rear gives some indication of the length of the beast. Having many small road wheels permitted the tank to function even if some were destroyed by enemy fire. The top speed for the 40 ton Churchill was approximately 12 mph, driven by a Bedford 12 cylinder power pack of 350 hp. This tank was designed as an infantry support vehicle where speed was not an issue. For more on Churchill specifications and development history, please see Claus Bonnesen's superb site ON ARMOUR.

Churchill Rear Left Left rear view shows details of the still intact hook-up for the Crocodile armoured trailer, which contained the fuel and propellant. The quintessential reference for both the Churchill in general and the Croc in particular is FLAMETHROWER, by Andrew Wilson. Written shortly after the war by a former Croc tank commander, the book is a first-hand, sobering peek into life in Churchills in the Northwest Europe campaign. It's out of print now, but still available through the used book market; see our BIBLIOGRAPHY page for details on how to search for a copy.

Churchill Turret Turret detail on the Mk.VII Churchill. Earlier turrets were one-piece cast, while this was of both cast and welded construction. The hole in the left foreground is the smoke discharger outlet (see next page for the other end). The two horseshoe-shaped protuberances are vision ports. With two turret hatches, escape for the three crew in the turret was much easier than in the normal Sherman. Wilson indicates too that the Churchill was much less prone to immediate fire upon being hit, compared to the Sherman.

Churchill Commander's Hatch The commander's cupola, showing the padded clamshell hatch covers and the vision blocks. Visible to the rear and rear left are the two antenna brackets for the standard No.19 wireless set mounted in the turret bustle. 

Churchill Turret Left Looking in through the commander's hatch, we see the gunner's seat immediately below and forward. On the right is the breech for the 75mm QF (Quick Firing) cannon, a British adaptation of the U.S. M3 75mm mounted in the Sherman. To the left of the breech is a BESA 7.92mm machine gun, and to the left of that, the sight for the main gun. On the far left is the control box for radio and intercom, controlled by the tank commander. Surprisingly, for its size, there isn't a lot of room in the Churchill's turret.

Churchill Turret Right At top, the loader's station, looking forward through his hatch. The main gun is at left, and ammunition storage bottom centre.

Originally designed in 1941, the Churchill was initially equipped with the standard British 2pdr AT gun. Later this was upgraded to the excellent 6pdr (57mm), which was a superb AT gun with its APDS round, but lacked an effective high explosive round. Hence, the 75mm QF gun, which was rather the opposite. British doctrine favoured fighting tanks with wheeled antitank guns rather than other tanks, which were supposed to support the infantry in the advance.

This was to change rapidly based on experiences in Italy and Normandy, but unfortunately, the effective 17 pdr AT gun could not be fitted to the Churchill  and was instead adapted to the Sherman (Firefly version).

The bottom picture shows the view forward from the gunner's seat. Centre frame is the gunner's headrest and below that, the main gun sight. Immediately to the right is the BESA machine gun.

Churchill Gunner's Position

For more Churchill interior views, please click here!

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Copyright © Geoff Winnington-Ball , 1999 - All Rights Reserved