The Churchill Mark 1 tank first saw active service in World War Two at Dieppe in 1942. The Churchill was the fourth development in a series of infantry support tanks and despite its bloody start to combat at Dieppe, it proved to have a reliable design.
In 1942, the Churchill had the heaviest armour of any British tank in service. It had reasonable cross-county speed and its movement across the countryside was considered to be excellent.
However, the Churchill did have one design failure – its armament was inadequate. The Churchill could not fire high explosive shells except from its close-support howitzer in the hull. However, many Churchill’s were not fitted with a howitzer as the majority carried a 7.62-mm machine gun in the hull.
The Churchill weighed 38.5 tons and at its maximum, its armour was 102 mm thick. It had a crew of five and a maximum speed of 17 mph. The Churchill’s maximum range was about 100 miles. Its armaments were a 2-pounder gun in the turret with a co-axial machine gun and a 3-inch howitzer or 7.92-mm machine-gun in the hull. For the Dieppe raid, the tanks were made waterproof and fitted with exhausts that allowed them to be launched to the shore in about 7 feet of water. However, as the above photograph shows, many of the Churchill’s never made it off of the beach.