Churchill Mk.VII

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

Churchill Main Gun This view looks across the breech and recoil cylinder of the main gun from the loader's position. Visible is the intercom switch box at left, and a standard British canteen. The horizontal bar in the turret ceiling is a rotating travelling lock for the gun. Forward of that is a dome light. The cramped interior of most WW2 tanks permit no inside storage space for personal effects, which were generally strapped on the exterior of the turret and subject to the vagaries of weather and enemy action.

Churchill Smoke Discharger Looking to the right side of the turret from the commander's position, we see the smoke discharger mounted to the discharge tube, the opening of which is visible on the top of the turret forward of the loader's hatch. Note the bright silver interior of this tank; this was the standard colour for all British armoured vehicles, in contrast to the white of North American vehicles. In the left foreground, connected to the recoil cylinder of the gun, we see the latch for the travelling lock as above. Forward of the smoke discharger is the loader's padded view port.

Churchill W/T At the rear of the turret is the standard No.19 wireless set,  complete with protective grate and lit here by the open loader's hatch. This radio had A- and B-sets, for communication with other tanks and headquarters respectively, as well as an intercom function. I should mention that while this particular Churchill is run almost daily, restoration is not yet complete, as evidenced by the tangle of wires and cables. It all takes time...

Churchill from Right Escape Hatch Moving down, we now look through the open escape hatch on the driver's (right) side. Visible is the driver's seat back, and beyond, the flame gun apparatus (top right). The gunner's escape hatch is the round khaki green disc to the left of the seat. The two large hoses descending vertically at the right of the seat are the pipes for the flame mixture (in a standard Mk.VII infantry tank, this whole unit would be replaced by a BESA 7.92mm machine gun for close support). The Crocodile was the most effective of all Allied flame weapons. It was an ugly job, but a very necessary one. Wilson writes passionately about the effects on both targets and users.

Churchill Driver's Position A different angle from the same vantage point shows us the driver's position (top pic). There is a surprising amount of room in the driving compartment as a whole. The upside down 'U'-shaped tiller bar is shown connected to the horizontal surface immediately underneath the driver's view port. Forward visibility from this position is limited by the track horns on each side, but with the view port open, one gains an immediate sense of security from seeing the 152mm of armour in front of one's face. The driving position is comfortable and nowhere near as claustrophobic as that in the Valentine. One's legs are extended almost horizontally to reach the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals.

As can be seen in the lower picture, the transmission shifter and instrument panel are on the driver's front left. The transmission/drive unit in the Churchill had one tricky characteristic in that even in neutral, pressure on the tiller in either direction would turn the tank to the appropriate side. Apparently, this was a function of the neutral drive, which permitted one track to reverse while the other was driven forward, thereby ensuring a tight turning radius. While visiting this tank, I was unfortunately unable to corner the principal driver for a more complete explanation of this phenomenon, but hope to provide more information shortly. In the interim, should anyone have such an understanding, please contact me so that I can add to this explanation!

Another superb book about Churchills - albeit fiction - is THE KILLING GROUND, by Elleston Trevor. It too is out of print but available through the used book circuit. This story covers a British Churchill troop from the approach to the beach on D-Day, through a nameless battle in a dusty town somewhere in the Caen-Falaise sector. The characterizations are excellent, and there is much information on what it was like to live inside this tank at this time. Highly recommended!


Churchill Driver's Position

Churchill Interior Rear Looking to the rear from the driver's position.  Note that the handles for his hatches (on the ceiling, top) are painted the same khaki drab as the outside of the tank. This view gives some idea of the space restriction and clutter, even without bodies and kit loaded in! Going to war in a tank such as this took a very special kind of individual - one, I suspect, with a rather inhibited sense of imagination. Veterans I have met who served in armour slough it off, but they won't deny the same daily quotient of fear which also drove their infantry brethren.  The infanteers, however, will almost universally claim that the tanks were 'artillery-magnets'. Such men...

Churchill Left Escape hatch A close shot of the gunner's (left side) closed escape hatch. Upper right is the control handle and headrest for the flame gun. This vehicle is still under restoration, but is remarkable nonetheless.

Churchill Flame Gunner's Position
Looking through the gunner's padded hatch to a good view of the flame gun assembly. The handle protruding to the rear is the control, and to its left one can see the headrest immediately above
 the sight. The hoses below are for the flame medium and nitrogen propellant; they run through the interior of the tank right to the rear, where they connect through to the armoured trailer through heavy-duty couplings. In an infantry version of this tank, this gun would be a standard 7.92mm BESA machine gun for close support.

Interior stowage diagrams, courtesy of Chris Shillito of Armour in Focus :

For previous Churchill views, please click here!

12 Feb 00 Back to Canadian Armoured Corps
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Copyright © Geoff Winnington-Ball , 1999 - All Rights Reserved