In 1938 Vickers was invited to join in the production programme for the new Matilda II tank, but as the company already had a production line established to produce a heavy 'Cruiser' tank known as the A10, it was invited to produce a new infantry tank based upon the A10. Vickers duly made its plans and its A10-derived infantry tank was ordered into production in July 1939. Up to that date the army planners had some doubts as to the effectiveness of the Vickers submissions, resulting mainly in the retention of a small two-man turret which would limit possible armament increases, but by mid-1939 war was imminent and tanks were urgently required.
The new Vickers tank, soon known as the Infantry Tank Mk III Valentine, drew heavily on experience gained with the A10, but was much more heavily armoured 8-65 mm (0.3- 2.55 in). As many of the A10's troubles had already been experienced their solutions were built into the Valentine, which proved to be a relatively trouble- free vehicle. Mass production began rapidly, and the first Valentine I examples were ready in late 1940. By 1941 the Valentine was an established type, and many were used as Cruiser tanks to overcome deficiencies.
The Valentine was undoubtedly one of the most important British tanks, but the main reason for this was quantity rather than quality. By early 1944, when production ceased, 8,275 had been made and during one period in 1943 one quarter of all British tank production was of Valentines, Valentines were also produced in Canada and by several other concerns in the United Kingdom apart from Vickers.
There were numerous variants on the Valentine, Gun tanks ran to 11 different marks with the main armament increasing from a 2-pdr (Valentine I-VII) via the 6-pdr (Valentine VIII-X) to a 75-mm (2.95-in) gun (Valentine XI), and there was even a self-propelled gun version mounting a 25-pdr field gun and known as the Bishop. Special-purpose Valentines ran the whole gamut from mobile bridges (Valentine Bridgelayer) to Canal Defence Lights (Valentine CDL) and from observation posts (Valentine OP) to mine-clearing devices (Valentine Scorpion and Valentine AMRA). The numbers of these variants were legion, many of them being one-off devices produced for trials or experimental purposes, typical of which were the early Duplex Drive Valentine vehicles used to test the DD system. Actually these tanks were so successful that the Valentine was at one time the standard DD tank. There were also Valentine Flamethrower tanks, and one attempt was made to produce a special tank killer with a 6-pdr anti-tank gun behind a shield. That project came to nothing but the Valentine chassis was later used as the basis for the Archer, an open-topped vehicle with a 17-pdr gun pointing to the rear. This was used in Europe from 1944 onwards.
The basic Valentine tank was extensively modified throughout its operational career, but it remained throughout reliable and sturdy. The Valentine was one of the British army's most important tanks at one point. It was used by many Allied armies such as that of New Zealand, and many saw action in Burma. The bulk of the Canadian output was sent to the Soviet Union, where the type appears to have given good service. The Valentine did have its drawbacks, but overall its main contribution was that it was available in quantity at a time when it was most needed, and not many British tank designs could claim the same.
Specification Valentine III/IV Crew: 3 Weight: 17690 kg (39,000 lb) Powerplant: one AEC diesel developing 98 kW(131 bhp) in Mk III or CMC diesel developing 103 kW ( 138 bhp) in Mk IV Dimensions: length 5.41 m (17 ft 9 in); width 2.629 m (8 ft 7.5 in); height 2.273 m (7 ft 5.5 in) Performance: maximum speed 24 km/h (15 mph); maximum cross-country speed 12.9 km/h (8 mph); road range 145 km (90 miles); vertical obstacle 0.838 m (2 ft 9 in); fording 0.914 m (3 ft); trench 2,286 m (7 ft 6 in)