Light Tank Mk V with twin 15mm Besa guns for AA role.
Light Mk V fitted with quad Boulton & Paul aircraft-type turret. Note folding side armour plates.
In the early 1930s Vickers came up with the Mark II Light Tank. Ultimately produced in Marks II through VI, the original Mark II weighed some 9,250 pounds, had a crew of two, was powered with a 66-hp engine, and was capable of 30 mph. It had maximum 10mm armor and armament consisted of one .303-caliber machine gun. This reconnaissance tank was successful in a policing role throughout the British Empire in the 1930s, but it was totally obsolete for the World War II battlefield. Under battlefield exigencies the British did employ a few Mark IIs in a combat role, in North Africa and in the 1941 Abyssinian campaign. The Mark II then went through a series of modifications, including an improved suspension in the Mark IV, which entered service in 1934, and the Mark V, which appeared in 1935. The Mark V was the first light tank with a three-man crew, two of whom were in the turret.
The Light Tank Mk IV was a more powerful development of the Mk III and reverted to the Meadows engine as used in the Light Mk I. In the Mk IV the suspension was further modified to dispense with the idler wheel, the bogies being respaced accordingly. The hull was re-shaped at the rear to give more room internally. In other respects it was similar to the Mk II and III. As with the Mk II, there was also an Indian Pattern version with a cupola on the turret. The Light Mk V, which first entered service in 1935, incorporated several improvements intended to overcome the deficiencies of the earlier models. The hull was lengthened slightly to allow the fitting of a two-man turret, and two co-axial machine guns were fitted. The larger turret incorporated a commander's cupola and the heavier weight aft of both the turret and the extra crew member greatly improved the handling qualities; a return roller was added to the front suspension bogies. Both the Mk IV and Mk V were obsolete at the start of World War II, though a few remained in front-line service with units equipped with later marks. Most were employed for training, however, in the various tank schools in Britain and overseas.
Two light Mk V chassis were used for experiments with AA mounts in 1940. One was fitted with a twin 15mm Besa machine gun mount in place of its turret, and the other had a Boulton & Paul quadruple Browning power-operated aircraft turret fitted. At first this retained the Perspex canopy, later removed. Light armour folding flaps were fitted for crew protection. These were development vehicles only.
Summary: Light tank, based on Carden- Loyd 1920s tankette. Widely used in the 1930s throughout the British Empire and early in World War II, when it was, however, hopelessly obsolete. Mark VIs comprised the bulk of British armored strength in France in 1940.
Production dates: early 1933–1940 Number produced: – (more Mark VIBs were produced than any other model in this series of light tanks)
Manufacturer: Vickers, Woolwich Arsenal Crew: 2 (Mk II, III, IV, V) or 3 (Mk VI)
Armament: 1 x.303-caliber Vickers machine gun (1 x .50-caliber machine gun in some Mk IIIs); also coaxial 1 x 7.92mm and 1 x 15mm Besa machine guns in the Mk VI
Weight: 9,250 lbs. (Mk II, IIA, IIB); 10,080 lbs. (MK III); 9,520 lbs. (Mks IV and V); 10,800 (Mk VI); 11,740 lbs. (Mks VIA, VIB, VIC) Length: 11’9” (Mk II); 12’ (Mk III); 11’2” (Mks IV and V); 12’12” (Mk VI)
Width: 6’4” (Mks II, III); 6’12” (Mks IV and V); 6’9” (Mk VI)
Height: 6’8” (Mk II); 6’11” (Mk III); 6’9” (Mks IV and V); 7’4” (Mk V)
Armor: maximum 14mm; minimum 4mm (Mk VI)
Power plant: Mk II: Rolls-Royce 49.2kW six-cylinder 66-hp engine; Mks IV-VI: Meadows ESTL six-cylinder 88-hp engine
Maximum speed: 30 mph (Mk II); 35 mph (Mk VI)
Range: 130 miles (Mk VI)
Fording depth: 2’
Special characteristics (pos/neg): fast, with a long range but of light, riveted construction with very thin armor and inadequate armament Special models: Efforts to convert some of these light tanks into antiaircraft tanks mounting twin 15mm Besa guns were a failure, although the Germans did utilize some captured models as antitank gun carriers.