Tanks on Trial: Churchill – a Bad Tank or a Good One?

Hello everyone,

first, a quick explanation what this post will be about. About a week ago, we had a bit of an Skype conversation with David “Listy” Lister – just some friendly jabs from my side about the Churchill not being exactly a stellar design. Listy, the British fan he is – of course started to defend the Churchill and from this discussion came an idea – let’s make it a trial and let YOU, the people, decide.

So, here’s how it’s going to work – the rules:

I am going to write a text (an “accusation”) about my opinion on the Churchill and why it wasn’t a good tank design. Listy is going to write his “defense” and send it to me for publication in this very same post. I do not know what he is going to write and I won’t know until I open his e-mail. He doesn’t know what I am going to write either (of course, based on the argument, we both have a rough idea about the matter though). I post both arguments at the same time and then there will be a poll about who is right and YOU, the people, will decide:

Was Churchill a good tank design, or was it in fact a piece of (s)crap?

Let’s begin!

(please note that my knowledge of British tank details is nowhere near Listy’s, so I will not be going into too much detail and will get naming conventions probably wrong at some point, that however should not invalidate the general principles of the accusation)

Silentstalker’s Accusation

Churchill is possibly the best known British heavy tank and one of the iconic vehicles of the British tree in World of Tanks. But… is it good? Was it good actually? Did it historically make sense? Let’s find out.

What we now know as the Churchill series of infantry tanks came to be as a replacement for the Infantry Tank Mk.II, widely known as the Matilda II. Matilda II was a nasty surprise for the Germans – its tough armor proved to be invulnerable to everything but the most powerful enemy guns. It however (apart from generally being underpowered) had one fatal flaw: it was so small it was practically impossible to upgun. Hence, a new infantry tank was needed.

Let’s switch to the desperate year 1940, when Britain was barely holding on against the onslaught of the nazi air force. At that point, resources (including steel) were at premium – and being primarily a naval power, the steel was allocated to the shipbuilding industry. At that point, Soviet Union was still Germany’s ally, USA weren’t in the war yet and Britain was standing practically alone. It was at this point the development of the Churchill started with the A20 Infantry Tank.


One might argue that in a country, that had very limited resources, developing a 43 ton infantry tank with the meager firepower of the 2pdr (although sufficient in 1940) was a complete waste of resources and thus a flawed concept from the beginning (the same way the Maus was pointless for the Germans – a resource hog, that – unless fighting under ideal conditions, such as German air superiority – would prove to be more a burden than a boon).

The entire concept of the tank was built around three conditions:

- very thick armor
- infantry-type mobility (cca 20 km/h on the road, cca 10 km/h in terrain)
- sufficient armament

Looking back, it’s now obvious that the day of very slow (infantry) tanks was over by then (which actually almost every nation managed to understand – Americans with their M3 Medium and later the Sherman, Russians with their T-34 universal medium tank and the KV-1, which was not very mobile either, but compared to the early Churchill, it carried better armament, also was a pre-Blitzkrieg design – and of course the Germans with their Blitzkrieg concept), but the development and production proceeded anyway.

The design of the A20 successor, Churchill Mk.I was obsolete by the time it was designed, let alone by the time the tanks started rolling off the production line (mid 1941). It was slow, underpowered (39 tons, 350hp engine) and unrefined. The speed with which it was designed and rushed in production meant that the design was full of flaws, unreliable and prone to breakdowns. The frontal armor was quite thick (102mm), but the turret was small and underarmed (only a 2pdr). This proved to be a bane of all Churchills until the end of the war – the lag of armament behind the enemy armor and gun development (although the OQF 75mm gun was adequate – although not excellent – for its time). The vehicle was also very slow, barely reaching 14 km/h off road – suitable for defensive operations perhaps, but not for anything else. Churchill Mk.I was also equipped with a hull mounted howitzer, that had to be aimed by moving the entire tank. This solution was as pointless as it was obsolete and the howitzer was removed in the future versions of the tank.

The first use of the Churchill was the infamous and doomed Dieppe raid in August 1942. The battle was an unmitigated disaster and all the Churchills that made it to the shore (and didn’t drown) were either knocked out or got stuck and were abandoned. Germans took a look at the captured Churchills and their conclusion was it was an obsolete tank in every respect and nothing of worth was found (the armor was apparently judged as obsolete). This disaster nearly led to the cancellation of the Churchill program.

Several Churchills (upgunned to 6pdr) fought in Africa as well in late 1942, but the numbers involved were small and thus the performance cannot be really measured, especially considering the fact that by the Second Battle of El Alamein, the German forces were in pretty bad shape and generally underequipped, compared to the divisions attacking the Soviet Union. In one instance, the Churchill managed to actually defeat one Tiger (the Bovington Tiger), but that was just an insane portion of luck, as the shell jammed the Tiger turret and the crew decided to bail out – other than that, the Churchill, despite being 40 ton heavy tank, was completely outclassed by the Big Cats.

Better picture of the Churchill is offered by the Soviets. Around 300 Churchill Mk.III’s and IV’s (equipped with a 6pdr and partially new turret) were sent to the Soviet Union and actually participated in the legendary Battle of Kursk. We know that the Germans thought the Churchill was rubbish. Thanks to the translated report (special thanks to Ensign Expendable), we can see what the Russians thought about the Mk.IV Churchill tank:


The Russians, who were the first to battle the best Germany had to offer were not impressed with the Churchill, to put it mildly. They noted:

- fragile suspension
- poor track maintenance possibilities
- gearbox breakdowns and oil leaks
- insufficient visibility of the crew from the tank
- poor traction (!)
- gun jams, ungergunned compared to the Soviet tanks
- the tank was (in late 1942!) considered equal to the KV-1
- the tank is generally unreliable

Soviet conclusion:

“Conclusion: the armour and armament of the English heavy tank MkIV Churchill is sufficient to fight any German tank. The MkIV is unrefined, both from a design and production standpoint. When used in the field, it will require frequent repairs, and replacement of parts and entire modules.”

The Soviets noted that even the British weren’t completely satisfied with the Churchill – from the same report:

“The reason that the Vickers company did not receive the contract to develop the Churchill is that when the head engineer of the company (responsible for the successful Valentine tank) saw the A22 project, he refused to have anything to do with it.”

Long story short, Soviets considered even the “modern” Churchill Mk.IV inferior to their own design and rightfully so. Churchills were used further in Italy and Normandy, but the Normandy (and latter) situation is very specific by itself. While the Churchill deployment was reasonably successful, one has to consider the general conditions of the battlefield:

By mid-to-late-1944, the German army was for all intents and purposes defeated. Generally, the Germans were plagued by:

- poor crew training, dropping sharply with crews having literally a few hours of training before being sent to action
- fuel and maintenance situation
- the Allies practically ruled the air and destroyed the convoys without too much danger from the Luftwaffe

The Allies on the other hand were backed by the mighty American war machine, that (apart from several local issues) brought untold tons of fuel and ammunition to the field. The Allied planes ruled the air, which meant the Allied convoys were no longer threatened, while the German were. All these factors combined into the fast and crushing Allied advances. The real question is, was the Churchill truly the maker of these successes, or was it the combination of the factors and the fact the Allies would advance just as well WITHOUT the Churchills, saving tons of steel for more medium tank projects such as the Cromwell, like the Americans did? I do believe the situation to be the latter case.

One of the commonly vaunted advantages of the Churchill was its climbing ability. Obviously, such an advantage (climbing where other tanks cannot) can be considered situational at best (much like the Hellcat’s maximum speed, that in most cases provided no tactical advantage whatsoever). Even if we discount the abovementioned Russian report about the Churchill in fact being prone to losing traction (at least in the Mk.IV variant), there were only singular cases where this was of any help.

On the contrary, the terrain passability of the Churchill tank was not excellent. From the account about the “Cuckoo” captured Panther, serving with 4 Bn Coldstream Guards:

“As the historical sources of Coldstream Guards state, the road and terrain conditions around Waldenrath were very complicated. Everywhere, where the tracks of Churchill tanks and Churchill Crocodile flame tanks skidded around the icy surface and the vehicles drifted around, ending up in ditches, the eight-ton-heavier “Cuckoo” Panther was driving around at high speeds without any problems and continued its aimed fire against discovered targets, while – when needed – helped to recover stuck vehicles”

The thick armor of the Churchill did not always provide sufficient protection against modern enemy guns either. During the battle of Hill 309, three German Jagdpanthers managed to knock out 11 Churchills in a couple of minutes, losing only two of the vehicles in the process. In general however, the armored forces of course liked the added protection, but given the tradeoffs (especially the speed), one can wonder, how much a value would such a tank have in an environment not completely protected by an allied force. After the war, the Churchill was used practically only by Commonwealth forces, Poland (that inherited it from the western Polish units equipped by the British), but generally phased out quite soon. Discounting the AVRE variant, only Ireland kept it for quite long (probably for the lack of funding to replace it with anything better).

Conclusion – while not being a complete disaster like for example the Valiant, I do believe that the Churchill reputation is somewhat overblown. Compered to his Soviet and German contemporaries, it was undergunned, it was terribly slow and generally underpowered. Much of its success can be attributed to the general Allied forces advantages and it is quite possible that other tanks in its place might do even better. By 1945, the infantry tank design was hopelessly obsolete and despite the measure of success it had in the war, the project premise was flawed even when it was concieved by 1940.

And now, David “Listy” Lister’s Defense:

The Churchill, Saviour and Liberator Europe

You will probably be asking how can I defend a Churchill’s cross country mobility when they got stuck on the beaches of Dieppe. After seeing this the Germans tested a Panzer IV on a beach, and got the following results. To quote David Fletcher:
“This showed that on beaches with a slope between 15 and 20 degrees the German tank could manage quite well but where the slope increased to between 30 and 40 degrees the tank started to slip then dug itself in until the tracks ceased to function.”
The Beaches at Dieppe are made of surface called “Chert” which is lots of tiny stones. It’s like driving on ball bearings, and they get into the running gear and cause thrown tracks. But you won’t be able to dig yourself in. The Germans tested on a nice sandy beach. Despite the Chert at Dieppe 15 of the Churchill’s managed get across the beach and clamber over the seawall.

In the fighting about Cleve in late 1944 the Germans flooded the area so badly that resupply could only be carried out by using DUKW’s. Even the roads were impassable to trucks. Yet the 6th Guards tank brigade equipped with Churchill’s, fought and continued the advance.
In this book, Churchill’s cross an underwater bridge over the Dneiper river, and operate without problem along side T-34′s in a swamp.

The hill climbing ability of the Churchill is also legendary. Many times in Italy and Tunisia the Churchill’s would climb hills the Germans thought were utterly tank proof. On one occasion a Colonel Koch of the Herman Goering regiment, transmitted this radio message:
“… been attacked by a mad tank battalion which had scaled impossible heights and forced me to withdraw!”
Finally the 4th Grenadier Guards in Churchill’s were the unit that set the record for fastest advance of any armoured unit in Europe.

I’ll mention the 4th Grenadiers again here, after WWII a study was carried out on all armoured units in 21st army group. The 4th Grenadiers had the lowest casualty rate of all of them. There’s reports from Italy of a single Churchill getting hit over 100 times by enemy AT weapons. There’s a report from Normandy where a Churchill crested a ridge line and an enemy ATG opened fire, the first round hit the Drivers periscope and concussed the Driver. The Germans then shot at it until darkness. The only effect was to shoot off the Churchill’s external fittings, and at night fall the Crew were able to escape unharmed apart from a headaches from the impacts of shells all day. The Churchill itself was recovered and repaired.

I’m sure Silent will have mentioned the incident when three Jagdpanthers killed eleven Churchill’s in one fight in Normandy. The Churchill’s attacked and occupied a wooded hill. Then as evening fell the three Jagdpanthers attacked them from behind, and pushed through the formation. I challenge any tank to do better to a surprise attack from the rear in the dark! What is often forgotten is all three Jagdpanthers were knocked out by return fire.
The next morning the position was assaulted by Tigers and German infantry, and the Churchill’s saw them off. Which brings us nicely onto…

Many people will claim that the Churchill is under-gunned. Why Because it can’t penetrate the armour of a King tiger at 1000 yards? The most common enemies the Churchill is likely to see is a German infantry man, A Stug or Panzer IV, then the big cats. Those big cast were very very rare, almost as rare as engagements at long range. The average range for a tank fight in WWII was about 600 yards. At those sots of ranges even the Big cats need to be careful lest they get a 6pdr APDS! At those sorts of ranges the Tiger I and the Panther, while they can penetrate the front armour of a Churchill, its by no means assured.

So Churchill’s were adequately armed for the job they were meant to do, not the one in a million fight were they had to face off against a Ratte.
But if you insist I give you the Churchill MKVII AVRE, armed with a 165mm gun firing a 60Lb HESH round. That’s pretty well armed!

In closing
In the title I made a fairly bold claim, that the Churchill is the Saviour and liberator of Europe. I think I’d better explain that. On D-day the Allied plans hinged around joining the US and Commonwealth sectors together. The extreme western flank was at a place called La Hamel. The Germans had a huge fortress there, which withstood the assault. Although the British had gotten ashore the Fortress was dominating the beach. By the afternoon this position remained. If you can’t resupply the Troops ashore on this beach, then the Beach would fail. If Gold Beach had failed then the Germans could roll up both landings from the flank with ease. The Fortress had been pounded by battleships and shrugged off their attentions.

Then a single Churchill AVRE appeared. Its shots breached the walls allowing the capture of the fortress. With out that Churchill its possible that D-day, and along with it the Liberation of Europe would have failed.
Now onto Operation Bluecoat. The US forces had the breakout from Normandy. However they were getting pummelled in the flank by the Germans. Operation Bluecoat was a hastily planned assault by Churchill’s to prevent the Germans launching a counter offensive into the US flank. Again if Operation Cobra had been hit in the flank the war might look very different.

My closing argument is this: Churchill’s served as gun tanks, not AVRE’s, in Korea fighting against the Chinese. Churchills continued to serve as AVRE’s until 1964, a frontline service life of about 22 years. Surely after war’s necessity was gone, the Churchill would have been replaced if it was bad? Or maybe it was an awesome machine that over came early design flaws to be the best British tank, possibly even the best allied tank of WWII?

So, how do YOU decide?

Who do you side with?

Who do you side with?

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90 thoughts on “Tanks on Trial: Churchill – a Bad Tank or a Good One?

  1. hmm, interesting. I would really like to see a reply to the other’s accusations before voting

    • Oh also SS, high torque is actually a bad thing when driving on icy roads (you too easily overcome the static friction), so the example about not being good on ice actually re-enforces the idea of it beeing good at hill climbing.

    • Yeah, a sort of short rebuttal to the others points would be interesting – as you would get in a normal debate. Send the two arguments to each other, have a few hundred words response based on that (but don’t show the second replies) and post it all :)

  2. The Churchill suffers from a similar problem as many other British tanks. It was not a very good tank, and was designed for essentially one job only. Yet it did this one job especially well. While in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t great, its crews loved it and swore by it.

  3. Had the A33 Excelsior not been cancelled in favor of Churchill, it may very well prove Churchill to be an obsolete PoS.

    • The Excelsior didn’t offer much that the Churchill didn’t already do.

      • Except it’s much lighter(less material usage) and could go faster. A better tank that’s more affordable?

  4. Polish units received first Churchills in late summer 1941. Tanks were not liked as completely not reliable. Technical officers of Polish 16th Tank Brigade cooperated with envoys of companies manufacturing Churchills and several changes were proposed and accepted.

    Churchills were not liked and were replaced with Covenanters in June 1942 and in September 1942 Brigade received first Crusaders, very liked by Polish tankers..

  5. I must say you both made valid points and so I don’t see a clear winner. But still I voted for defense, cause from what I read the Churchill wasn’t as bad as you claim it to be. Sure it wasn’t a powerhouse but then again its the Brits were talking bout. They’re always a bit behind times

    • I sided with accusation, not that it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t better what the opposition and soviets had, you might call Churchill a sufficient tank for the job it had to do.

      And placing AVRE into discussion? Bitch please, ok then don’t compare to PzIV anymore, but lets take Sturmpanzer IV into consideration now, it did miracles too, I mind you.

  6. In my opinion, Churchill is not that good as ‘heavy’ tank (i know it designated as Infantry Tank, bear with me) but not that failed or bad either. Its adequate, doing it job well but not spectacular.

  7. Very nice article! When I see a very long article in FTR, gennerally I just check some paragraphe. But today I read all of it =D

    Very very nice idea!

  8. It is “Le Hamel” (typo?) typical normand name for a small village. It appears to designate a part of the Asnelles village that was indeed fortifies by the Germans.

    As always very good read here. No vote, can’t decide.

  9. Hmmm… In statistics SS WOULD win, but as Listy pointed out, a lot depends on the situations.
    (Like in MTG, you can have a powerful control deck and stil lose if your opponent has a “crappy” aggro deck)

  10. Soviet Union was not Germany ally, keep writing revisionist history, you might make your way into the gallery with Reagan and Thatcher.

    And lets just forget how ‘Murica built the German Nazi industry literally, with wall street money and how Britain was all cuddly do with the Nazis

    • Well maybe not real ally, but USSR supplied Germans with fuel. And could you elaborate that part about USA and Germany?

    • “Soviet Union was not Germany ally”

      How else would you call a joint invasion on Poland, and then dividing Baltic Countries and taking Besarabia from Romania?
      Not to mention all that trade in raw resurces crucial for Germany and war technology to USSR (tanks, warships, etc.).

      • Stalin wanted to regain lost territory that the Russian Empire lost during WW1 besides that Polish territory belonged to Belarus to begin with and do not start with “Uh but Poland had half of Russia in 15h century” Might as well just say that Mongolia has rightful ownership of half of Eurasia then but that is a long time ago but WW1 was not back then.

        Stalin was the last to sign the deal, he did so like I said above and to gain time in order to build up the army in order to defend his country from the Nazis, Stalin was not a moron he perfectly knew the Nazis would be coming for USSR because Nazis and Socialists does not get along very good

        • No, Stalin’s goal was to bring the entire Europe under communist regime. The western allies were supposed to attack Germany once they invaded Poland, so that both sides would exhaust themselves and then the Soviets would step in and take over the weakened states with ease this time. Hitler would never start the war without the support from the USSR mind you (and this info comes from Russian historians).

          And Nazis and Socialists not getting along? NSDAP WAS a socialist party….

          • Maybe some people just didn’t eat up the bs propaganda that is anti-Soviet.

            • The best anti-Soviet propaganda was the USSR itself. I wonder why everyone was joining Hitler right after they got free from the red scum and later wanted to side with the West, not the Glorious Communist Empire that was a big tumor on the face of this planet. Maybe the death of millions caused by this retarded regime was a propaganda too?

            • Fun fact: the biggest history liars based on the principle “we won” are the Russians that deny all of their war crimes because “hey, we freed Yurop!!!!!!!!!11111111111111″.
              But yeah, I’m talking to a Putin fanboy, why do I expect reason. Go kiss uncle Stalin goodnight and go to sleep, maybe you will get your food ration for the day and a day off from the lead mine.

    • They weren’t allies, but they weren’t exactly enemies either (at least not officially).

      They had a nonaggression pact, but it only meant they wouldn’t fight each other directly (but a brief proxy war with Finland fighting off a Soviet invasion was perfectly fine apparently). Neither side had any intention of actually honoring this agreement either.

      In fact, the Soviets were finishing preparations for the Invasion of Europe when Operation Barbarossa began. If the Germans had been just a couple of weeks late in beginning their advance, it’s possible that the war’s outcome might have been different, by allowing them to make the Soviets look like the aggressor (of course then the Soviets could rebuke that by claiming to desire to “liberate” Europe, the most likely result being that the Soviets would have ended up controlling ALL of Germany instead of just the Eastern half of it by the time the war ended).

      • Not allies? So Stalin wasn’t hosting German tank training grounds? Wasn’t supplying the Germans raw materials and the Germans sharing technology in return? They didn’t invade Poland together?

        They might not have intended to honour the agreement but the fact of the matter is the USSR was a willing partner of Germany prior to Hitler stabbing him in the back.

        • Not really, you seem to lack the capability to understand that they simply used each other, I wont lie. The USSR was not exactly the top on the list when it came to technological advanced in the 1930s, so sharing technology was a perfect deal Stalin just could not say no to.

          Roosevelt had similar deals with USSR but then again Roosevelt was a Social Democrat and Hitler was a Nazi, Roosevelt and Stalin where good friends, Stalin and Hitler was not. Its really simply when you just read proper history not that garbage written in those American “history” books

          • Did you ever see any communist history book or even your ‘American “history” book’? Did you ever live in a communist country? You seem like someone born 1990+, never actually experiencing communism first-hand but glorifying USSR just because they happened to be opposed to USA and anti-USA is a current trend among The Cool Kids. Hell, I’m not even pro-American but I’ll never claim USSR was ever nicer of the two.

  11. I’m with Listy on this one.

    I’ve repeatadly claimed the Churchill was the best mass-produced tank the british had in WW2, without that neccesarily saying much… Pretty much every argument I’ve had for that Listy has allready covered, so I’ll avoid repeating them.

    What SS brings up against it is mostly that it was:
    *Hopelessly unreliable, which I agree with, especially in the earlier models.

    *Armor not resistant to the L/71, just like any other allied tank to see service. Against the Stug’s and Panzer’s it was most likely to encounter however it was completely sufficent.

    *Skidding off the road on ice. Fair point, and something I presume has much to do with the track design and steering mechanism. The Churchill tracks aren’t designed to give much grip in sideways direction, and the steering system though viewed as good by british standard was obviously not as smooth and linear as the fragile one on the Panther. As anyone who have driven in slippery conditions will know, it’s all about being smooth. Jerk around and you will loose traction, which isn’t ideal on such a heavy vehicle.

    Fair to say. All respect to the brave men who crewed these vehicles, but brits have never been known as great winter drivers. In an ideal world proper winter driving training would probably have rectified this problem almost completely.

    • Churchills were one of the first tanks to have a neutral steer capability, ‘turn on the spot’ with their steering design which was very advanced in its time

      • Nah, it’s simpler as I said above, In icy conditions, the dynamic coefficient of ice is so low that once you start to skid, it’s very difficult to regain control. Therefore you must put very little force on the tracks, otherwise the skidding will start. With the Churchill’s high torque, it is almost impossible to put low force on the tracks, hence the skidding. However the Panther with the lower torque is easier to drive on ice.

  12. The churchill was as ugly as its’ namesake, but :
    considering the available resources in Britain in 1940,
    considering available technical expertise in Britain in 1940,
    considering available manufacturing techniques not devoted to either shipbuilding, aircraft manufacrue (BoB)
    considering that a tank fights as part of combined arms, not alone, it was a success,

    in spite of :
    poorly designed armour
    narrow tracks (bad in Russia)
    a gear box requiring a post graduate degree in physics to operate
    undergunned for a heavy tank

    as for its slow speed, how many ww2 tanks ran at higher speeds? Not many if they wanted to keep their engine running for any length of time. Final test of a tank is if the crews like it/have confidence in it, did they?

  13. Treat Soviet reports of allied equipment with a pinch of salt. There’s more than one example of them deliberately altering test reports to make the equipment look worse than it was. This was easily confirmed with comparing British and US reports (which match) on the same equipment. A good example is the Soviet report on the P47D-27 – they deliberately gave it poorer performance figures.

  14. First captured tiger was knocked out by a churchill.

    The Churchill was a very good tank, just early models being badly built and less than reliable set the whole programs tone with the brass. Undergunned wasn’t that big of a deal when for the most part nothing around it was armed better on the allied side.

    Don’t forget it was also saddled with british generals who often never found a problem they could meet most incorrectly.

    • It jammed the turret with a lucky hit and the crew bailed from a perfectly working, intact Tiger.

      • If you read Bovingtons report from when they stripped Tiger 101 down you will see a round penetrated the roof of the drivers compartment – one of the gun trunnions was damaged as was the gun balancing gear so putting the gun out of action,

        This came to light when it was stripped for rebuild – some parts had had bodge cosmetic repairs done over the years.

        The first Panther to be knocked out by the western allies also fell to the same Churchill unit it Italy – and the 6pdr had previously knocked out 2 Tigers in tunisia (towed guns) with penetrations starting at 800m according to the US observers after action report (standard AP as well not APDS).

        • So the driver was wounded? If you’ve read combat reports from the eastern front, Tigers had there hatches blown in by 15cm mortars killing the driver and the tank was still driven off and repaired. There was nothing which would have prevented that Tiger from driving off other than the crew ran away.

          • Hmmm lets see a fully working tank shooting at you at very close range – driver and radio op in front compartment likely wounded and your gun out of action, – would you just sit there or would you bail out, bear in mind the 6 pdr could pen the side and rear of the Tiger at 800m at the time according to a US after action report i saw,

            The Churchill was better in the terrain than the tiger was and they had no way of knowing if it was the only tank around.

            The tanks tended to be recovered after the battle and dragged off for repairs not during the fighting.

  15. Propably 1 of the most intristing articles i have read in FTR untill now and i reeeeally like the idea
    2 sides making an argument about certain tanks and how good or bad they where is pretty nice
    Hope you can do it with other tanks too :)
    in the article now
    Churchills although they seem to be the weak guy in this part seem to be not that of an issue cause despite being obselete they helped the war and succed in it
    I wont vote cause both sides making very strong points
    SS is more focues on statistic stuff while Listy was refering on succes of the Churchill tanks
    IMOP churchill was a mediocore tank that it can do well at the jobs it was assined too
    also no tank is bad in a War situation each tank will succed while the circumstances let too
    so yeah Churchill at the time it was needed and with the lack of resources that England suffered that time they quite despreate to make a tank that somehow will stand the ground against the germans
    and finally intristing note
    i like the aproach that every nation did at WW2 you see soviets stream line T-34′s
    Americans with there shermans and stuff

    Hope for more of these type of articles :)

  16. A good part of the accusation is based on Russian reports. Let’s consider that a bit more carefully. Russian terrain circumstances were insanely tough on just about anything. Furthermore, Russian reports on tank performance are not always exactly fair. Poorly trained crews in poor tactical circumstances can make anything look bad. Last but not least, politics came into play. It would not do to admit to superior Western design, so you can imagine how eager experts were to give postive evaluations. The second bit of the accusation is based on a fairly flawed understanding of the resource situation of the British. If anything, they did not have a lack of steel. Remember, the British were gifted with exceptional coal and iron resources. Oil on the other hand, was a major issue. Something they got from the very start of the war supplied in bulk by the USA. If we go to the defense, we see a few very cogent arguments: actual combat track record is good. There is simply no arguing with that. Also, the fact Churchills continued to serve after the war is a big point in their favour.

  17. I have to say, coming in I was quite certain that I would actually vote for SS, but upon hearing Listy’s argument, I have to say that I would side with Listy. I maintain that it was as much a waste of resource as the Tigers were, but considering that in comparison with the Tigers, the Churchills were far more effective at getting the job done, which I believe this vote was meant to ask.

    Anyway, DO THIS MORE OFTEN PLEASE! It was quite fun to read through and decide.

  18. When you build a tank to make it as fast as infantry, the concept is flawed from the beginning and the tank bad.

    Churchill infantry tank savior of Europe? Ask French people if their infantry support-like tanks saved them from inferior yet more mobile German tanks in 1940.
    Infantry tanks well armored and armed (for the Mathilda II, obviously not for Mathilda I) failed completely to break through the flanks of a panzer division in the battle of Arras simply because a few flak and artillery guns.

    And I’m sorry but you lose all credibility when saying that a single Churchill saved the D-day. One operation including thousands of soldiers, 5 landing beaches, huge fire support from aviation and battleships, etc. can not be won by a single tank. It’s not the extraordinary success of a Churchill but the one of a whole army that “saved” the D-day.

    • A few Infantry tanks pretty much unsupported broke through the German forces at Arras and were stopped because they had no support and all German weapons were brought to bear.

      The Allies in 1940 were suffering what the Germans did in 1944 – total air-superiority by the other side, it was not just a tank V tank not even better tanks winning (Stonne was a good example of French forces giving better than they got – especially B1 Bis Eure).

      Tactics – strategic and local level as well as a vastly superior command and control system by the Germans was really what defeated the Allies – along with a almost total unpreparedness for war.

  19. Ooh, nasty SS bullying my beloved Churchill!

    A couple of points I’d like to add in it’s defense, alongside what Listy had already mentioned.

    The Churhchill was a tough bugger, and not just in terms of pure armour thickness. You could penetrate it’s armour and often find your shot has done no critical damage to the tank, other than a superficial hole. This wasn’t just limited to shooting the main body of the tank – there’s a surviving Churchill which I believe was a lend lease one sent to Uncle Joe, it’s full of holes and noteably a several of the road wheels & corresponding bogeys on one of the tracks are missing. This particular vehicle was apparently still quite operation despite have taken such a beating. I doubt there are many mass produced tanks ever built that could suffer such a punishment without being utterly inoperable.

    This leads into my next point – the crew suvivability. I don’t have any figures to hand but I’ve read on several occasions that the Churchil had the highest crew survivabiltiy of any western Allied tank. A good example is the Kingsforce in Africa – during their battle with the Tiger two took direct hits. One was shot “extremely lucky” and penetrated the hull mg port, going through the tank and setting the engine on fire. None of the crew were killed or even injured despite this, and were able to bail out and extinguish the fire. A high crew survivability obviously leaves you with experienced tankers in high moral, safe in the knowledge that they’re not all dead men the second your enemy realises you’re climbing up the hill behind him (that according to him you shouldn’t be able to climb up anyway because it’s too steep for tanks…)

    If only the Black Prince came a few years early and was able to play with the Tiger…

  20. I vote for the Churchill! Not the best allied tank, but surely one of the best!

  21. SS were you always interested in tanks, or did WoT turn you into a tank fanatic (like me)?

  22. I think it’s pretty badass to stay alive until the 60s when in reality you are built in the 40s for something as obsolete as the infantry-tank concept…
    The churchill might have had faults and never could participate in modern tank warfare, however in ww2 it seems like a damn awesome engineering/combat tool to have in support!

    Btw did those russians like anything they didn’t build themself?

      • Actually, I’ve read they hated the Sherman almost as much as the poor Americans who crewed it. While the British were very impressed with the gun and the quality of engineering throughout the vehicle, the Russians considered it poorly armed and unnecessarily complex. Like the Russian report on the Church in the debate, they thought it needed too much maintenance. They also accuse it of being easy to roll- although quite where you’d find a hill on the steppe to topple over escapes me… ;-)

        • Too much maintenance can come down to training, the israeli takers hated the cent to start with as too complicated and needing too much maintenance compared to their other tanks, yet after General Tal instigated proper maint regimes and training it became possibly the most loved of the Israeli tanks at the time.

        • I had read about their issue with the tank rolling over – it was due to it being driven on the steep slops of raised roads through boggy wetlands

  23. Churchill, awful tank. Tank as a infantry support vehicle? That tactic for a tank became obsolete once the blitz tactic was being used because infantry tanks are just too slow, therefore can be countered in so many ways, compared to other tanks, there is obviously a good reason why eventually the idea of infantry support tanks were becoming less welcomed and were hardly used by the end of the war compared to other tanks. Tanks are not meant for infantry support, they are meant for tanking on other armoured vehicles. The name ‘Churchill’ deserved to be named for a better tank.

    • All tanks are infantry support vehicles, StretoGuy. The reason the Germans were so successful in the War was their understanding of combined arms warfare was so much better than everyone else’s. Combining anti tank guns and specialist support troops with the panzer arm allowed them to be far more effective than their initially poor tanks had any right to be. They started the war with under gunned and thin skinned designs markedly inferior to the allied vehicles they trounced so convincingly.
      The Brits had to unlearn all sorts of theoretical bs to become as effective, as did the Americans in turn.
      ‘Slow’ is relative, btw. 19mph for early Churchills was reasonably quick for the period- better than KVs and R35s. The 12mph of later models was considered an acceptable trade off by the people who knew the subject best- the British tankers, engineers and designers responsible for giving the army the equipment it needed to fight and win.
      And they did win, convincingly, everywhere the Churchills fought after Dieppe.
      It was a great tank. The technology to make it obsolete only became available in the closing months of the war. In 1940 you could have fast or well armoured, not both. It would have been nice to have a thousand or so Centurions lined up for Arras, but it took the hectic evolution of four years of total war to make that machine a practical prospect. The Churchill was available in large numbers, it was good at what it did and it was entirely fit for purpose.

    • Fixed casement SP ATG and support guns also died out mostly at the end of the war, being kept mostly in specialist roles and as the equipment was already built.

      Blitz tactic was an allied term to explain their losses in France and the low Countries, it was not a German tactic, a myth perpetuated to this day.

  24. Sided with the accusation, for one major reason: the Churchill was IMHO too resource hungry in production compared to what it gave the army. The situations where it was a savior are what-if arguments and isolated cases. The German counterattack on the beachheads was prevented by Hitler’s mismanagement of his own armor anyway, who’s to say it wouldn’t have failed even without the Churchill’s breakthrough?
    It was a very, very close decision for me, as it’s a choice between overall efficiency of the machine in the context of the war effort, where I see it as decidedly underwhelming, if not even a fail, and the actual effectiveness in stellar situations, where it proved its worth in some heroic circumstances. I tend to look at wars from the top-down perspective, and from that view, economy+cost effective weapons win.
    Britain would have been better served with smaller, more mobile machines IMHO, but then its a matter of having people to use them, and here I’m not sure it would get properly used. Apart from Montgomery, who still made more use of the terrain than the mobility of his forces to win Alamein, I don’t see who could have made proper use of a fast armored force in the British command cadre… Someone with more expertise could perhaps point out such commanders to me, I’m not that well informed in that area.
    As for the Russian reports, I’d ignore that area completely, the underlying arguments burying the Churchill are its cost-effectiveness and outdated doctrine it was based on.

    • The problem with your idea that it ate too many resources is that Britian couldn’t use the methods the US and Russia were using to mass produce tanks.

      They were building tanks with craftsmen for industries that used lots of labor and bolted/riveted construction. Meanwhile america was learning how to cast entire medium tank hulls in one shot and heavy “automation” where factories used heavy machinery to take out as much of the manual labor as possible. Both america and russia were investing in welding technology for all industries. So the US could make M4s by the shipload with few skilled laborers. Russia could throw together KV-1 and T-34 in conditions that would have shut anyone else down.

      So the Churchill was built in the manner that Britian COULD build tanks at the time, and comparing them to any other nation is not productive as they couldn’t do the same things.

  25. I think once the Churchill matured, it was fit the design criteria well and when used for what it was designed for (the infantry tank role), it was perfectly fine.

    The unfortunate thing was that it was designed for the wrong kind of war.

  26. Really good read from both parts difficult to vote. But really good knowledge in there didn’t know a massive amount about the Churchill before hand. Voted for defence looks like a close vote

  27. Listy’s defence is like saying “This tank is not underpowered because I have a replay of one good battle in it”.

    • Actually, Listy’s defence is more like ‘this tank is not underpowered because it suits the maps and teams it plays’.
      It’s not a Tiger, but the Brits didn’t have much use for a big cat. Stand off tank vs tank battles in open country aren’t something the Brits faced. Close quarters, urban, forrest, bocage, hills and even mountains, on the other hand? The big cats- Tigers, Panthers and the SPGs they fathered- struggled in environments other than the wide open Russian steppe. Hardly surprising, since that was the field they were designed for. The Churchill was designed for mud, hills and craters. It was intended to face infantry at close range. Since that was exactly what it faced, it performed as advertised and was probably the most successful Allied tank of the war. People have to back to Dieppe- a single squadron of near prototype tanks thrown into a poorly planned and executed debacle- to find a defeat.

      • Even Dieppe was not a fault of the tanks, the supporting Engineers on foot could not breach the anti-tank obstacles on the promenade so 10 of the 15 tanks that got onto the promenade returned to the beach to carry on fighting and supporting the infantry.

        Hence the decision to build AVRE’s – initially based on the Ram chassis but later the much more versatile Churchill was used as well as numerous adaptations of the hull.

        As to the comment about them drowning – 2 drowned – 1 could not be unloaded leaving 27 that actually got landed – A mix or Mk II, Mk III and Oke’s

        The remaining 28 stayed afloat as a reserve and were never landed.

        None were destroyed by german AT weapons (one was hit by a aircraft bomb though and knocked out), they did succeed in damaging tracks and drive sprockets though so immobilising several.

  28. I had to vote defense, (I am British after all) People give the Churchill tanks a hard time because it did not do so well against panthers and tigers, but like Listy said, those tanks were so rare, so why judge Churchill vs them? Instead compare it to the pz III and IV. Pz IV had the better 75 mm gun, but Churchill had better armour, and in combat Churchill was found to handle itself perfectly fine against Pz IV.

    During WW2 we Brits suffered from that same old tired and foolish argument that tanks are obsolete, so we fell behind in tank development much to our cost when facing tanks like Panther… Was Churchill flawed? yes, was it a pointless and terrible tank, no. The role of a tank is to provide mobile fire support to engage enemy positions with armour to prevent / reduce casualties. It did poorly in mobility for most scenarios apart from some of the situations Listy pointed out, but in armour Churchill did do well. I have read countless stories from crews about how much of a battering the tank could take, and how good crew survival was, and when penetrated Churchill would burn very slow compared with other tanks. Once most of the mechanical problems were sorted out, it was a well liked tank by its crews, in contrast with Cromwell, which was not so well liked by crews.

    I was going to say that the tank Britain really needed during WW2 was Centurion… until I remembered that it was a massive tank, that would have taken up too much resources to build in any meaningful numbers at a time when raw materials were limited . So I guess what we needed was a tank like Cromwell, but with sloped armour and a gun mantlet, with a bigger turret ring so it could mount a better gun. Kind of like Comet… Shame nothing like that came along till the war was pretty much over.

    So in the end I guess we were lucky to have Churchill, warts and all.

  29. Nice experiment. Hope we can read more judgements in the future.
    I voted the Churchill guilty, for the accusation presents the tank in its war setting in general, while the defense uses a fes, very specific situations where it outperformed the enemy.
    That doesn’t mean it’s a bad tank, but a situational weapon is a lot worse than a general purpose one, for it looses more often than it wins.

    the interesting part is that it, like many other tanks, can be considered obsolete the moment they hit the battlefield, yet it became iconic while the others were replaced by newer tanks.

    • The accusations are also flawed, however. As the defense pointed out, Tigers and Panthers were comparatively rare next to the Panzer IV, which was the most likely opponent that a Churchill would have faced, and that’s not taking into account that tank vs tank engagements were the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. It did well in the job it was designed for once the initial design flaws were worked out, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge its capabilities based on something it wasn’t designed to do but ended up having to do anyway (with some degree of success): killing enemy tanks.

      Compare that to the Tiger and the Panther; those two tanks were designed from the ground up to kill tanks, the Tiger in particular being designed as a platform for the 88 mm gun, which for a time was the only German gun that could kill a Matilda II. However, the Tiger weighed around 65 tons, about as much as a modern MBT, but with an engine with only a third of the power as those in a modern MBT. Its mobility was in many ways even worse than the Churchill, and the slow traverse speed for the turret meant getting flanked was a very real danger for it. The Panther is a completely different beast altogether, but designed for much of the same role, and while being more mobile than the Tiger for sure, it suffered from having little to no side or rear armor, which, again, made it vulnerable to flanking. Overall, however, the biggest flaw with the Tiger and Panther is the same as the Churchill: they were over-specialized.

  30. Good read, I went to accusation by small margin. Good defense from Listy with those achievements that I think I didn’t read somewhere and he manage to anticipate some accusation that SS wrote. Some things that Listy didn’t won my vote is that other countries didn’t liked it, I know there’s patriotism and pride on each nation bashing other nation’s tank, but once you crossed that line and other nation feared,respect and liked that tank, and same with your own nation as well, that means you really created a very good tank.

  31. I must say the Churchill’s was NOT a good tank design, nor other WW II tank designs. They’re unreliable, mostly overrated, having paper thin armor and defeated by AT guns OR having more than adequate armor to be a target practice for bombers. Mind you almost any tank there is in WW II can be destroyed by AT guns of WW II (88′s) from half a mile away, same story for sticky bombs and satchel charge. So churchills might not be that bad after all if you compare it with the Porsche Tiger.

    • Porsche Tiger was just as bad as Henchel’s C10 Tiger.

      The M4 Medium Sherman’s was a good design along with the Panzer IV although both had issues and some of the problems were solved during the war. People still use the Sherman chassis today but not as much as during the 1950′s through 1990′s.

      And armor will almost ALWAYS lose out to the gun. Although in more modern cases its missiles and HEAT rounds…

  32. I think in order to judge any tank produced by any body at any time is how long the tank had served for. If it’s a complete piece of crap even with upgrades and improvements then i guess nobody would be using them for long.

  33. I choose the accused one because this tank is just merely a major failure as a TANK. But as an assault gun this tank become a great success. But this tank is just suffer a lot of failure before the allied forces knows it’s full potential as assault gun. Also this tank just waste of resources because every time it’s deployment. it need a constant maintance. So, in my opinion this tank is just a fail project

    • All tanks need constant maintenance – C

      rews loved it though due to its ability to take punishment and keep going – its good crew survivabilty and its excellent cross country and rough ground mobility.

      The basic tank was used as an assault tank so not sure where you going with that, it was designed to assault positions giving close support to the infantry – to stay on the objective with the infantry to deal with enemy armour and counter attacks until the infantrys own AT guns could be brought up (to this end some Churchills towed the infantrys or RA 6pr and 17pdr guns onto the objective during the assault.

      Maybe you are confusing the AVRE or Crocodile with the basic tank – all were assault tanks though.

  34. SS, please make up your mind. You started with “it’s a crap” then ended with “reputation somewhat overblown”

    I don’t think churchill was a “crap.”
    Nevertheless, I concur with “reputation somewhat overblown” and voted for accusation.
    IMO churchill is adequately built for its designed purpose and some niche roles.
    However, the purpose of infantry tank is long obsolete and some exceptional characteristics it found (mainly hill climibing) are too limited in scope to be frequently employed or exploited upon.
    Were there tanks generally more efficient and/or more effective than churchill in its given role? Yes, several.
    Could the British do without the churchills? Probably not. Churchill was what Brits had. Thankfully, it was “good enough.”

    RE: Listy’s mention of “hobart’s funnies” churchil variants. Those are not churchills. Those are army’s utility tools based on churchill hull. Just because those were based on churchill does not mean there could not be better platform to install said utilities on. But like I said, churchill was what Brits had. They had to make do with what they have. It was good enough, but by no means exceptional.

    • The Ram tank was initially selected for the basis of the AVRE designs, the Churchill hull was settled on as it was a large roomy hull, had side doors enabling easier ingress and egress while under fire for the demolition team (the crew were not just limited to fighting in the tank, they carried demolition charges as well).

      It was well protected and easily adapted to many tasks – added to it its excellent mobility.

      No other allied tank could have done the full range of tasks that the Churchill did at the time.

      • No it’s not. Simply because the Soviets apparently have at least as many counter anecdotes then pros Listy shows in his post. Not that he isn’t pushing paper stats himself, like with the 6lb being sufficient…

        Listy’s reasoning is: it worked well here here and here, especially here in that hilly Italy thing. So it must be awesome.
        SS’s reasoning is: Actual usage showed flaws in the design, the “Paper stats” in themselves are bad. It worked well on some occasions, but it’s a reasonable assumption that other tanks could have achieved the same or better.

        • Soviets used 300 how many did the British use? I prefer to see what the majority users say about equipment as opposed to a minor user who has a diametrically opposed political thinking

          Soviets also tend to denigrate anything not built by them, they had comparable tanks to the Churchill of their own so with the small number they had it was not going to be regarded that well.

          • Don’t exchange cause and effect here: The Soviets didn’t aquire more Churchills because the vehicle didn’t meet any expectations.
            And seriously: They weren’t extremely picky for stuff that worked, see 2000 Valentines or 2000 M4s that weren’t exactly superior to Soviet equipment, and they had substantial numbers of “comparable tanks”.

            If we play the numbers game… Apparently the production cost of one Churchill was bout that of two Valentines; or when this one became increasingly obsolete 2 Shermans (two sets of engines, guns and so on reduces the gap to only that amount). Unlike Listy, I doubt the “missing” 5000 Churchills would have been felt when 5000 additional tanks would have been on the battlefields. (during the whole war, only counting 1943-45 we’d talk about 3500 each)

            • Lol the Soviets loved the 2500 Valentine though and used it as a light tank, it totally outclassed their own light tanks in all but speed and the combat speed of tanks was no where near their theoretical or road speed.

              Just because the Soviets had a disliking for a vehicle did not make it bad, you say one report from the Soviets who used around 300 Churchills makes it a bad tank yet ignore that the British fielded thousands of them successfully in combat with the crews loving them – yes many british tankers wanted a better gun after late 1940 – the 6 pdr could deal with nearly every tank it faced (it should have been entering service in 1940 and the 17pdr in early 1942) until late 1944 and by then 17pdrs were in common service.

              In British hands it was reliable, safe for the crews, and had adequate firepower for its main job and pretty much all it faced.

              Comparing one Churchill tank (34+ tonnes) with the production cost of two valentines (16 tonnes) well erm you do see the maths there ?

              It was much better armoured than the Sherman – had much better cross country and climbing ability than the Sherman – its 75mm was equivalent to the 75mm on Shermans while its 6pdr was better at AT work.

  35. SS was comparing Churchill to Cromwell, but the later wasn’t in production until a year later, which isn’t (not quite) everyone’s favorite until it was upgraded into Comet.

    We today knew all about spalling and actual statistic of engagement, but suffice to say having a heavy tank that can protect their crews well is quite important. And if they armed Churchill with 25pdr they would be a lot more successful then we know them today.

    As for being slippery on ice….even the German fail to prepare for it, they add grousers after the disastrous winter.

    • The Churchill had a 95mm gun on the C/S versions in Western Europe and was used succesfully but was not employed in action as often as it was in the HQ element – for most tasks the 75mm firing a couple of rounds did the job before the limited number or 95mm could get there. The 75mm being better for AT work as well – unless the HEAT round was issued at the time?

      Cromwells were liked for size and speed – gun suffered the same problem as the Sherman (as far as I can remember only the 75mm and 95mm versions saw combat). Later versions also had much wider tracks.