Tank Chats #14 Canal Defense Light

From the Tank Museum:

Mark II A12, Matilda Canal Defence Light (CDL)

Night fighting always presents problems but searchlights had been tested on tanks as early as 1919. The idea of turning them into an offensive weapon is credited to a Mr A V M Mitzakis, who devised his scheme before the war but the British authorities did not take it up until about 1940. The idea was to use a light of such power that it would dazzle the opposition, leaving them temporarily blind and disorientated.

Five British and two American battalions were trained on CDL and two of the British units went out to Egypt. In fact the CDL was never employed as intended. A few tanks were used to cover the Rhine Crossing and there were incidents in India after the war but that is all.


Veteran of 736th “Canal Defense Light” Battalion turns 92

143560aThe Arizona Daily Courier has posted a human interest piece about a former US tanker named Jesse “Pete” Henson, a veteran of the 736th tank battalion.  The 736th battalion is notable for being one of the units equipped with the Canal Defense Light, a powerful searchlight mounted on an M3 medium tank intended for use in nighttime operations.  The article recounts Henson’s personal history, noting that in 1943 he received orders to the 736th Tank Battalion. Originally based at Camp Rucker, Alabama, Henson’s unit started tank training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  “We were introduced to these strange machines,” Henson said, describing the Canal Defense Light, a British invention that mounted a 13 million candlepower search light and machine gun turret on an M3 tank. The machine was so odd-looking, Henson said, that the men started calling them “Gizmos.”  “We were top secret,” he said.

Full article here.