From the Vault: The Illustrated London News

Here are three interesting pictures from old issues of the Illustrated London News.  The first one is interesting in that attempts to combine the best features of US and Soviet tank design.  The irony of this picture is that its in a British magazine in 1950, a period when it could could be argued that the UK possessed the best tank (or at least one of the best) in the world in the Centurion.  The second picture is from 1944 and shows what the Allies thought German armor looked like at the time.  It is interesting that while the Panther drawing looks fairly accurate, the other vehicles are really not close at all.  The final picture is from 1943 and show the M3, M4 and Churchill tanks.

Sept. 23, 1950 and is titled: Combining Heavy Fire-Power with Speed and Maneuverability: A Drawing of a Composite Tank Incorporating the Best Features of American and Russian Designs.


Text from the picture: It is generally conceded that we have yet to see the ideal tank, for the designers of armored vehicles are faced with much the same problems as naval architects who have to compromise with the conflicting claims of speed, heavy armor and firepower within a given weight.  In addition, the tank designer has to produce a vehicle with a low silhouette, and one capable of traversing varied types of terrain.  The Russian T-34 was the best tank developed during World War II and proved more than a match for the first U.S. tanks in Korea, although the arrival of the new Patton tank has redressed the balance.  The T-34 weighs 33 tons, carries an 86mm (sic) gun and is faster than the U.S. Sherman.  It is, however, lightly armored , but its low silhouette provides some measure of protection.  The Patton tank weighs 48 tons and carries a 90mm gun and is powered by an 810 HP air-cooled engine giving a speed of 35 m.p.h.  on the open road.  The silhouette has been lowered to 9 ft. 1 in., and demonstrates that both U.S. and Russian designers agree on two factors.  Firstly, that a tank must be built around its gun, and secondly, that it should have speed and mobility even at the sacrifice of armor protection.  On these pages we illustrate a composite tank combining the best American and Russian ideas and showing the many features that must be incorporated before a model gets beyond the testing stage.  And even then it may be argued that in this “ideal” tank the thickness of armor protection has been wrongly sacrificed for greater fire-power.


August 12, 1944: The Armor Against Us: Some Details of Germany’s Modern Armored Vehicles in Use in Normandy Today.

1944 german tanks
Text from pictureDuring the course of this Second World War Germany has employed a wide variety of armored vehicles, many of an experimental nature and subsequently withdrawn.  Those illustrated above are all in general use in the Normandy front and elsewhere.  The enemy’s main tank strength today consists of the semi-obsolete Mark IV, the Mark V Panther and Mark VI Tiger.  Considering the last two of these, Mr. Churchill, in his war review in the House of Commons on August 2 quoted a letter from General Montgomery describing them both as unreliable mechanically, the Panther in particular being “very vulnerable from the flanks.  Our 17-pounder gun will go right through them.”  The Panther, which has been said to be the enemy’s most successful cruiser type, has a maximum road speed of about 30 m.p.h., is very maneuverable, and is armed with the long-barreled 75mm gun.  The Tiger, in its latest version is improved in many details, a noticeable change being it’s enlarged turret, which still mounts the 88mm gun.  Hornet, mounted on a Mark IV tank chassis; the 7.5cm on a Mark III tank hull; and the Wasp, which carries a 10.5cm howitzer.  A larger mobile howitzer is the Bumble Bee, which carries a 15cm weapon.  Half-track vehicles in use by the Germans number many types, including mobile anti-aircraft guns, armored ambulances, and armored cars.  Another interesting piece of armor is the mobile pill-box shown in tow by a half-track vehicle.  The pill-box travels upside down on detachable wheels and its upturned and sunk into the ground wherever it is required.  The Beetle and its larger brother, the B-4 are “explosive tanks.”  First encountered in Italy and now in Normandy.  The Beetle in electrically controlled through a long unwinding cable but the B-4 is driven as close as possible to the Allied before its driver leaps out, guiding it for the remainder of its journey by radio control.  Both of these “secret weapons” carry explosive charges which are detonated by remote control, but neither has proved very successful.  Twelve B-4s were seen on the Canadian front in Normandy on August 2 of which two were knocked out by Piats, and detonated their charges.  They behaved as if completely out of control, and none of the twelve caused any casualties. 


March 29th, 1943: Details of Three Models Beneath Whose Attack the Enemy has Already Staged In North Africa, and Which May Yet Play a Major Part in Future War Zones.

Lee, Sherman, churchillText from picture: These drawings by our artist, who worked on them in co-operation with the War Office, reveal for the first time some of the interesting internal arrangements of three famous tanks, all of which have already earned the respect of the Axis in the North African theater of operation and are likely to play important roles in future war zones.  The British Built Churchill tank is undoubtedly one of the finest yet designed for its purpose – that of a supporting weapon for infantry.  Like most other designs, it had its “teething troubles”   – questions, it will be remembered , were asked about it in Parliament – but these were overcome and it has since proved its worth not only in North Africa, where war correspondents have spoken highly of its qualities but in Russia, where, in the hands of our allies, it did sterling work in driving back the Germans from Stalingrad.  The Churchill has massive armor protection, and is now fitted with the famous 6-pounder gun in place of the original 2-pounder, and has in addition two heavy machine-guns.  Its heavy tracks, passing high over its hull, are reminiscent of the tanks of World War I, but its performance is a vastly different proposition to those witnessed in the days of Cambrai.  Approximately 40 tons in weight, the Churchill houses a crew of five men, and it’s liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed petrol engine gives it a speed of 15-20 m.p.h.  The other two tanks illustrated are American products, though it was recently stated that British engineers had a hand in their design.  The General Grant  model came into action in Libya as an answer to the German Mark IV with their 75mm gun.  The air-cooled radial engine of the General Grant had the advantage that in case of breakdown, it could quickly be removed bodily and replaced by another engine.  The main disadvantage of the model, as was pointed out in “The Illustrated London News” at the time was the limited traverse of the gun an error cured in the later and greatly improved version, the Sherman.  It was Sherman tanks which gave Rommel such an unpleasant surprise at El Alamein.  Their massive cast-steel turrets revolve in a full circle, carrying the 75mm gun through a complete traverse of 360 degrees.  The Sherman, which can be fitted with either a Diesel or a petrol engine is now in service in very large numbers with the Allied forces in North Africa.   


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