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British Covenantor in North Africa

Discussion in 'North Africa: Western Desert Campaigns 1940 to Ope' started by Vince Noir, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. Vince Noir

    Vince Noir Member

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    Sorry if this has been asked before but Im just wondering what happened to the Covenantors sent to Egypt.

    Did any see action?

    I doubt they did given the problems with the radiator but wonder as I recently found a picture of one at a desert workshop being repaired along with a Sherman, a Stuart and several Valentines.

    Im guessing the workshop is way behind the lines and repairing vehicles used for training or test purposes but it does have the 'feel' of a workshop near the front.


    Im wondering if anyone has any more info on their use in North Africa?


    Many thanks for any info.


    Vince 'Electro Poof' Noir
     
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Looked into this as I'd thought the Covenanter hadn't actually gone abroad except as a bridgelayer. It appears 'some' were sent to the middle east for use in training, could this be what the picture is?
    Any chance we could see it?
    Cheers,
    Adam.
     
  3. Vince Noir

    Vince Noir Member

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    I will see if I can do something with the pic... Its in a PDF text file I was sent.

    It could be during training, that was the only possible reason I could think of and its born out by the selection of British tanks there. It could even be a workshop training area! :)
     
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    This could come in useful; Very handy and unintrusive free program for extracting pics and screengrabs if you can't save 'em in the usual way:
    MWSnap
     
  5. Vince Noir

    Vince Noir Member

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    I photographed it instead...


    [​IMG]
     
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Does indeed look like a Covenanter doesn't it. so hard to differentiate from the Crusader but that wheel-gap and the cooling louvres point in that direction.
    Thought it could possibly be a modified A13 Mk.II rather than the Covenanter (A13 MkIII) as they were used in France and in the Western desert by 7th armoured?? Don't reckon though, something wrong about the turret, 'Sunroof', louvres and overall shape after having a proper look in the books.

    Great shot though.
    :flag_uk: :stugg: = :D
     
  7. Otto

    Otto No More Half Measures Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I've been looking for something just like this, thanks VP!
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The third vehicle back is indeed a covenator. The IWM photo original has it as a repair area in Suez (eg near Alexandria). It was taken about the time of El Alamein (note the Sherman in the far background as well as two Valentines all of which saw their first service in Africa at that time as well).

    It would appear that about 6 to 10 covenators went with 1st Armored Division to Egypt most likely to make up for the inevidable shortages in Crusaders. It is also likely that at least some of these saw some combat. But, how much is not known.
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Nice one T.A., been bugging me and foolishly didn't check IWM Collections online., surprising amount of Covenanter shots on there, (I suppose as she mostly stayed at home) including this excellent colour shot:
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    A clipped version of this photo was an Airfix Magazine cover in the late 60s ! :)
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Actually, I discovered the same photo in a Brian Perrett's book The Valentine in North Africa about 10 or so years ago and got the IWM number from him. I followed up on why a Covenator was present hence, the discovery that a handful were shipped to make up for shortages in equipment.
     
  12. Owen

    Owen O Patron  

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    Full detials from IWM.

    Photo No.: E 22739
    Photographer: Gladstone (Sgt)
    No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit

    Title: THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORTH AFRICA 1942

    Collection No.: 4700-32

    Description: Newly-arrived Royal Armoured Corps troops working on a variety of tank types at a training camp near Abbasia in Egypt, 2 March 1943. In the foreground are a Valentine and Stuart tank, with Crusaders and more Valentines behind. On the right is a Covenanter tank, perhaps the only example of its kind to have arrived in North Africa.
     
  13. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    There is a thread about this dating back a few years. There was a small number of Covenanter tanks in North Africa. I cannot remember who posted it. Got It

    Ally tanks in North Africa.
    TA was the poster.
    10-12 tanks delivered to the 1st Armd div.
     
  14. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    Wouldn't surprise me at all if the Covenanter saw action in NA. There's an interesting quote on its reliability from Peter Brown's Missing Lynx article here:


    This indicates that by mid-'42 the Covenanter was comparably reliable to most of its peers, at least in temperate climes, and this may have been the case for several months beforehand when the Mk.III first came into service. It's worth noting that the Tetrarch, which also had a Meadows engine, was barred from service in the desert due to cooling concerns, although it performed well in the hot climate of Madagascar. I've not seen any complaints relating to Covenanter bridge-layers in Bougainville.

    As far as I can tell the evidence to support the Covenanter's reputation as being abortively unreliable is actually fairly scanty. Certainly the case David Fletcher makes against it in "The Great Tank Scandal" and the Osprey profile is significantly lacking in documentary proof.
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say the turret was actually out of its ring and just sitting on the hull - hence the strange-looking angles etc.?

    Regarding the comparions in faults and reliability...by the end of its production run there had been major modifications to the positioning of the Covenanters' radiator in its front compartment, and the addition of SEVERAL more electrically-driven fans to circulate air into as well as back out of the compartment. Controlling the airflow in as well as out is important - as anyone who's having PC overheating problems will know well!

    So I'm tempted to say that the whole cooling circuit of the Covenanter is likely to be far more reliable by that point than the Crusaders' unreliable chain-driven fans, well-known for giving problems.

    Also - there's the wrinkle that both the Churchill and the Crusader seemed to have entered service with a LOT of unresolved issues; we all know about the factory's modification teams that followed the first Churchills around amending them to resolve known faults...and some of the problems that Crusaders arrived in the Delta with...but noone can ever say that the Covenanter - BECAUSE of all its problems - was ever "rushed" into operational service!

    I can't help noticing though...

    ...of the British-built types, the Valentine was the (as usual) unsung hero!

    (...or at least ONE of them was!!!)


    The ONLY problem was, however, that by then it was already uncompetitive vs. German equivalents in service in the Desert...and not capable of any real "stretching" in either uparmouring OR gun terms - as early as mid-1943 the Covenanter was declared obsolete for service in the ETO.

    In other words - by the time it was reliable, the war had simply moved beyond its specification?

    Personally I've always had a soft spot for the Covenanter, ever since seeing a couple of them fairly barrelling along in The Way Ahead. In fact...I can't help thinking that the very high quality colour pic up the thread actually dates from the filming of that David Niven tub-thumper of a fillm!

    One thing that struck me then - and still strikes me - is how physically SMALL the Covenanter is! I've said elsewhere....in the British tank design thread on AHF I think, all 50+ pages of it...that if push had ever come to shove in a 1941 attempt to invade the UK again....hull-down the Covenanter would have been as effective a 1941 tank in defence as any other in British service!

    Nor can I make myself see the forward-mounted radiators...once the actual cooling issues with it were resolved...as an issue; the plumbing to and from it would have been inside the armour box and thus "only" as vulnerable as any other part of the tank....or its nice, squidgy crew!...and in extremis a Covenanter could have limped a mile or two home with a leaking coolant system...

    Can you see any of the several "respected" designs from various combatants with rear-mounted engines but forward mounted transmissions similarly limping home after a piercing shot through the glacis into the tranny???

    And given that there wasn't much else under the glacis - except the driver to one side!...it DID after all use up an otherwise redundant space, and contribute to the overall compactness of the design.
     
  16. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    It's worth noting though that the Crusader's fans were changed to shaft-drive, though it's unclear when. In NWE, fully-loaded Crusader gun-towers, which were as heavy as the gun tanks, were very reliably towing 17 pounder guns and limbers at nearly 30 mph.

    At some point, the Crusader became a mechanically sound vehicle (and judging by the performance of the RMASG, so did the Centaur), but in all the hyperbole and angst that surrounds the chronicling of British tank development, nobody has bothered to find out when.
     
  17. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    I would agree with this. Both Covenanter and the Crusader Mk.I only had a very small window of 6-8 months when they were broadly competitive with German tanks as battle tanks. However, it could have occupied a similar role to the M3 Stuart as a reconnaissance vehicle. Theoretically it might have been an alternative to the M3 in NWE in 1944-45, but this was obviously not going to happen in practice because of the Stuart's peerless reputation for reliability.

    I think the best opportunity for the Covenanter to see action may have been Operation Ironclad in Madagascar, May '42. That said, they were already testing one untried tank, the Tetrarch, in that operation, so perhaps two unknown quantities may have been a bit much!

    (I have Covenanter declared obsolete in Feb '44 btw. Though I think there would only have been a few dozen at most still operational at that point.)
     
  18. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    ....or because the British clung on to the idea of wheeled recce vehicles far longer than most other combatants? ;) Certainly longer than the Covenanter was operational...

    ...as I have October 1943! ;) But that's "operational" as in potential combat...not obsolete for training still. As of October '43, the UK would have been rapidly getting over-full of combatworthy tanks!
     
  19. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    ...as in - which one of the EIGHT revisions to its cooling system?!!

    It was still never regarded as fully satisfactory - but did function better in cooler environments anyway!
     
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The reliability of the Crusader and Covenantor may very well have improved during the war. However, by then they had already lost the confidence of the RAC and were already obsolete for their role, unlike the Churchill which was still a useful AFV in 1943-45.

    David Fletcher's comments in "The Great Tank Scandal" are those of the official historian in a government publication, and carry a weight of organisational endorsement beyond an individual opinion. The tank was perceived to be unreliable and a poor design. Routing coolant pipes through a fighting compartment offers an additional hazard for the crew. I recall reading the one tank driver describing the terrifying experience of driving a Covenentor up and down the Yorkshire lanes with brakes which faded badly.

    The lack of complaints by the Gunners and Engineers may reflect the lesser demands of a different role. AFV's may be more reliable when driven well within their limits. A tank used as a gun tractor may not need make the violent accelerations and other manouvres a tank may need in combat.

    I am not sure that the used of Centeurs by the RMASG proves anything. The vehicles were originally to be used on landing craft without engines, then they were allowed to be disembarked and used, within a mile of the coast, until they broke down. 80 were deployed on D Day but within a couple of weeks, the RMASG was reduced to a battery of C 8. The fact that several of these never left Normandy is an indication of the limited value they offered to the RAC.
     

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