The FV 214 Conqueror, also known as "Tank, Heavy Gun No 1 120 mm Conqueror" was a British Main Battle Tank of the post-war era, sometimes classified as a heavy tank. It was developed as a response to the Soviet Josef Stalin IS-3 heavy tanks and carried a larger 120 mm gun compared to its peer's, the Centurion, 20-pounder (83.4 mm). Its role was to provide long range anti-tank support for Centurion tanks. They were issued nine to a regiment in Germany; usually grouped in three tank troops.
Description[edit | edit source]
The gun design was American, the same as used on the US M103 heavy tank; with separate charge and projectile, as would also be the case in the Chieftain that followed. The charge was not bagged but in a brass cartridge, which offered some safety advantages, but reduced shell capacity to 35.
The armour was very heavy for the time, especially in the front, where it was seven inches (178 mm) in the horizontal plane. Unfortunately, this, along with the weight of the huge turret required to house the large gun and the very large hull volume, made the vehicle very heavy, giving it a relatively low top speed and making it mechanically unreliable. Also, few bridges could support its weight. However, rather like the Second World War Churchill tank, the Conqueror had exceptional terrain handling characteristics and proved to be as capable cross country as the lighter (and on paper slightly faster) Centurion tank.
One feature of particular note was the rotating commander's cupola, which was at the heart of the Conqueror's fire control system, advanced for its time. The commander could align the cupola on a target independently of the turret, measure the range with a coincidence range finder, and then direct the gunner on to the new lay mechanically indicated to him by the cupola. In theory, when the gunner traversed to the new lay he would find the target already under his sights, ready to be engaged. Meanwhile, the commander was free to search for the next target.
The system may have been inspired by a similar device, without range finder, installed in WWII German Panzers which was apparently highly successful, but was not repeated in subsequent tanks until an updated electronic version of the same idea appeared in the American M60A2.
Development history[edit | edit source]
The chassis was from the A45 Infantry Support Tank, started in 1944 shortly after that of the A41 Centurion. After the war the project was relocated to that of the "Universal Tank" design of the FV 200 series. The 200 series was to have used a common hull for all uses (self-propelled artillery, armoured personnel carrier, three varieties of tank, etc.). One tank type was to be the heavy FV 201 of 55 tonnes, armed with an 83.4 mm gun.
In 1949 it was decided to bring the armament up to 120 mm. As this delayed the project, in 1952 the FV 201 hull was combined with a 17 pounder-armed Centurion Mk 2 turret to give the FV 221 Caernarvon Mark I. Twenty-one were built with the Mk III 20 pounder turret as the Caernavon Mk II. The FV 221 may originally have been intended to be the "Main Battle Tank" member of the FV 201 series, but with the success of the A41 Centurion such a vehicle was no longer required. In either event, the Caernarvon was only used for chassis development work serving in troop trials. In 1955 the first Conqueror was produced. Twenty Mark 1 and 165 Mark 2 Conquerors were built including conversions of Caernavon MkIIs. Production continued until 1959. It had lost much enthusiasm once the Centurion was upgraded to an L7 105 mm gun.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- FV 214 Conqueror
- Mk 1
- Mk 2
- Mk 2/1/H - rebuilt Caernarvons
- FV 222 Conqueror Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) Mk 1
- 8 Produced
- FV 222 Conqueror ARV Mk II
- 20 Produced
- Weight: 57 tons
- Winch capacity: 45 tons (direct pull)
Operators[edit | edit source]
- United Kingdom 1955-1966. Deployed in West Germany only.
Combat history[edit | edit source]
Surviving Vehicles[edit | edit source]
This is an incomplete list.
In the United Kingdom, Conqueror tanks are displayed at the Bovington Tank Museum, and the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Other tanks are in the collections of the Musée des Blindés in France, the Royal Museum of the Army in Brussels and the Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia. One is privately owned in the United States as part of the Littlefield Collection.
There are also two MkII ARVs at the Military History Museum on the Isle of Wight. One is shown in the photograph on the right. The second vehicle is off picture to the right. Both are outside and are in a similar condition. A MkII ARV is held by the REME Museum of Technology, although it is not on display.
There used to be a Conqueror at Base Vehicle Depot Ludgershall - a gate guard named William.
References[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Baxter, Brian S. (1989). Breakdown: A History of Recovery Vehicles in the British Army. HMSO, for REME Museum. ISBN 0-11-290456-4.
- Dunstan, Simon (2003). Centurion Universal Tank 1943-2003. Osprey Publishing (UK). ISBN 9781841763873.
- Ford, Roger (1997). The World's Great Tanks from 1916 to the present day. Brown Packaging Books. ISBN 1-897884-29-X.
- Griffin, Rob (1999). Conqueror. Crowood Press. ISBN 1-86126-251-5.
[edit | edit source]
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