Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks

Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) (Fake Tanks)

United Kingdom (1950s)
SPG – Fake

The British FV214 Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank was developed in the early 1950s in answer to the increasingly hostile Soviet Union, and its newly developed heavily armored tanks, such as the IS-3. The 120 mm gun-armed Conqueror was the first and last Heavy Gun Tank produced and operated by the British Army. It had a short service life of just 11 years, from 1955 to 1966. While the Conqueror was based on a hull that was designed to be adaptable, no Self-Propelled Gun was ever built using this hull.

Decades later, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was preparing a new British tank line. Due to poor research or possibly completely intentionally, the top of the artillery tech tree appeared as the ‘Conqueror Gun Carriage’ or ‘GC’, a completely fictional adaptation of the Conqueror chassis which utilizes an archaic 9.2 inch (234 mm) ‘siege gun’ placed in a fixed superstructure.

That being said, elements of this tank did exist in one form or another.

The Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) as it is presented in World of Tanks. Image: Wargaming.net

The WoT Representation

A small ‘History’ is provided for this vehicle by Wargaming:

“A proposal to mount a 234-mm howitzer on the chassis of the Conqueror. The power unit was placed in the front. Existed only in blueprints.”

– WoT Wiki Extract

Despite not being given its ‘Fighting Vehicle (FV)’ number, the Conqueror GC is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series produced in the early 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War. The FV200s date back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The first in the series was the FV201. Despite a long development period, the FV201 project was canceled in 1949, with development moving onto the FV214 Conqueror. As such, only four vehicles of the FV200 series were ever produced and entered into service. These were the FV214 Conqueror and FV221 Caernarvon gun tanks, and the FV219/FV222 Conqueror Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs).

The ‘Conqueror GC’ as it appears in ‘World of Tanks’. While clearly fake, the vehicle is based on a real chassis. Photo: Wargaming.net

Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) variants of the FV200 were planned. These were based on the FV201. The SPGs were designated the FV206 and FV207. The FV206 was classed as ‘Self-Propelled Medium Artillery’ while the FV207 was ‘Self-Propelled Heavy Artillery’. While it is unknown what gun the FV206 would have used, it is known that the FV207 was to mount a 155 mm howitzer. Neither of these vehicles made it further than plans, and no drawings of them exist today.

A representation of the FV207 exists in World of Tanks, but as no official documents remain, it is hard to believe that this representation is in any way accurate. Neither the ‘blueprints’ mentioned in WG’s claim to the historicity of the vehicle ‘Conqueror Gun Carrier’ nor this FV207 have ever been publicly presented either. The FV207 appears to be based solely on the real FV3805 instead. Either way, there is no way to confuse the alleged and invented FV207 with an even more invented Conqueror GC.

The FV201-based FV207 as it appears in World of Tanks. Image: Wargaming.net

Cold War British SPGs

For much of the Cold War, the Royal Artillery – the part of the British Army responsible for this kind of vehicle – relied on one Self-Propelled Gun, the FV433 Abbot. The Abbot was built on the hull of the FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and was equipped with a 105 mm Howitzer in a fully traversable turret. The Abbot appeared in the late 1950s, but before this was in development, there were experiments with other SPG designs.

After the Second World War, the United Kingdom was still using the Sexton as its primary SPG. A long development program was launched to find a replacement and, while ultimately resulting in the Abbot, other vehicles also went through development. The design that came closest to completion was the BL 5.5 inch howitzer-armed FV3805 which was based on the Centurion. While this made it to prototype trials, it never entered service. The Abbot would serve as the UKs front line SPG until the early 1990s, when it was finally replaced by the 155 mm gun-armed AS-90.

Left, the FV433 Abbot and, right, the experimental Centurion-based FV3805. Photos: Author & Ed Francis

In-Game Design of the ‘GC’

‘Gun Carriage’ is a uniquely British term used to describe Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs). Although this fake one is labeled as being based on the FV214 Conqueror, the layout of the hull suggests that it is actually based on the FV215. The FV215 never entered service, but it was designed to be the Conqueror’s replacement and, while sharing many components, had a narrower hull, a rear-mounted turret, and a centrally mounted engine. This layout is shared by the fake ‘GC’ with a fixed fighting compartment at the rear and centrally mounted engine.

The FV214 Conqueror (left) and its intended replacement, the FV215 (right). Photos: Author & Tankograd Publishing respectively

This fixed compartment, or casemate, holds the 9.2 inch main armament. The design of the compartment seems to take a lot of cues from the FV3805, featuring the same cylindrical, ‘limited traverse turret’ and a similar layout of periscopes, sights, and hatches. There is also a large hatch and recoil spade installed on the rear of the vehicle. Real SPGs, as they are operated in pre-arranged fixed positions, usually operate with the large rear hatch, or ‘tail-gate’, open. It provides easy access for resupplying ammunition during a fire-mission and also, by being open to the elements, provides ventilation by letting smoke and fumes from the gun escape. The spade is used to transfer recoil forces from the chassis directly to the ground, easing the strain on the suspension. When the vehicle was in position, it would be lowered to the ground. When the gun is fired, the spade provides a back-stop by digging into the ground.

Left, the real FV3805 prototype. Right, the fake Conqueror GC. Note how similar the casemates are, as well as the layout of hatches and periscopes/sights. It is likely that the game designers took a lot of inspiration from the real vehicle. However, they added one more hatch than they needed to. The hatch closest to the gun, on the wall of the casemate, was for the driver of the FV3805. The hatch is also present on the ‘GC’, but as the driver is in the hull, this would be redundant. Images: Ed Francis & Wargaming.net respectively

Armor on the hull is listed as 130 mm (5.11 in) for the front of the hull, 50.8 mm (2”) on the sides, and 76.2 mm (3”) on the rear. This is not too far off the armor thicknesses of the Conqueror, however, it is tricky to pin-point the exact thickness of the hull armor due to conflicting sources. The upper hull was between 4.7 and 5.1 inches (120 – 130 mm) thick, sloped at 61.5 degrees from vertical. This would give an effective thickness of either 11.3 or 12.3 inches (289 – 313 mm). Side armor was 2 inches (51 mm) thick. This is not the same for the more similar FV215 however, with planned thicknesses of 4.9 inch (125 mm) sloped at 59 degrees on the upper glacis and just 1 ¾ (44.5 mm) on the sides and rear.

The crew is also closer to that of the FV215, being made up of a 5-man team. This consists of the commander, gunner, driver, and 2 loaders. It must be said though, that two loaders would be expected in a vehicle such as this due to the scale of ordnance. As with all FV200s, the driver of this fake SPG sits at the front right of the hull.

Mobility

Despite the closer similarity to the FV215 which would have used a Rover engine, this fictional SPG is listed as having the same engine as the Conqueror, consisting of the Rolls-Royce Meteor M120. This was a water-cooled, petrol-injection engine developing 810 horsepower at 2,800 rpm. It was a derivative of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2. In-game, this propels the SPG to a top speed of 34.3 km/h (21 mph) forwards, and 10 km/h (6 mph) in reverse.

The Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 engine installed in the Conqueror. User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065

The Horstmann suspension of the ‘GC’ is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels would be made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Archaic Armament

One of the most illogical choices in the design of this spurious gun carriage is its armament consisting of the BL 9.2 Inch Howitzer Mk. II. The BL (Breech Loading) 9.2 inch (234 mm) Howitzer was a ‘heavy siege howitzer’ designed in 1913. It saw service with the Royal Artillery in the First World War as a counter-battery weapon.

Period line-drawing of the BL 9.2-inch Howitzer Mk. II. Image: Landships.info

In its day, this howitzer was an extremely powerful weapon, firing a high explosive shell that weighed up to 290 pounds (130 kg). These shells could vary from 28 to 32 inches (71 – 81 cm) long, with a High-Explosive (HE) payload – of either Amatol, Lyddite, or Trotyl (TNT) – weighing anywhere from 25 – 40 pounds (11 – 18 kg). There were two versions of the 9.2-inch howitzer – the Mk. I and the Mk. II. It is the Mk. II that was chosen for this fake SPG.

Artist’s representation of the 28 & 32 inch (71 – 81 cm) long shells of the 9.2-inch (234 mm) Howitzer showing their scale against a 6-foot (1.83 m) man. Produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Mr. C. Ryan.

With a 13 ft 3 in (4 m) barrel, the Mk. II appeared in late-1916 in response to a request for greater range. The Mk. I had a range of 5.7 miles (9.2 km) while the Mk. II had an increased range of 7.9 miles (12.7 km) with a muzzle velocity of 1,600 ft/s (490 m/s). The complete gun weighed around 6 long tons* (6.1 tonnes) and had a maximum elevation of 55-degrees. The in-game depiction limits it to 45 degrees, probably due to internal space limitations. On this fake SPG, the gun is mounted in a thinly armored cylindrical housing – known as a ‘limited traverse turret’ – that gives it a horizontal traverse arc of 60 degrees. The exposed parts of the gun, such as the recoil-buffer, are also covered in a representation of protective armor.

*Long tons are a unit of mass unique to the United Kingdom; for ease, it will be shortened to ton. 1 long ton is equal to about 1.01 metric tonnes, or 1.12 US ‘Short’ tons.

Just over 500 BL 9.2-inch Howitzers were produced. While there is no question that it was a powerful weapon, the howitzer would have been completely obsolete in the early-Cold War era that this vehicle is set in. The weapon was officially retired during the Second World War, and was replaced by much more accurate and advanced weaponry.

Head-on view of the Conqueror GC showing the large Howitzer in its armored cylindrical ‘limited traverse turret’. Note also the armor wrapped around the recoil buffer and the area above the barrel. Image: Wargaming.net

God Save the Truth

The Conqueror Gun Carriage is, without doubt, a fake vehicle. It is not the worst of Wargaming’s fake tank crimes, as at least a few of the components used in its design did exist in one form or another. In reality, there would not have been a need for this ‘Gun Carriage’. Had there been a need, it is highly unlikely that designers would turn to an almost-antique weapon to arm it, especially as the gun was officially retired almost 10 years before this vehicle would have ‘existed’.

Rear-view of the Conqueror GC showing the recoil-spade and rear ‘tailgate’. Image: Wargaming.net


Illustration of the fake Conqueror Gun Carriage (GC) produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

British Artillery Guns of WW2
arcaneafvs.com
wiki.wargaming.net
www.landships.info
Rob Griffin, Conqueror, Crowood Press
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing

Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks

FV215b (Fake Tanks)

United Kingdom (1950s)
Heavy Gun Tank – Fake

The need for a heavily armed tank was highlighted for the British Army in 1945, when the Soviet Army unveiled its newly developed heavy tank – the IS-3 – at the Berlin Victory Parade. The Armies of Britain, France, and the USA realized they had nothing to counter this new threat. In later years, the IS-3 would prove to be a far less threatening tank than originally thought. At the time, however, these armies were concerned. In response, the US would develop the M103 while the French would experiment with the AMX-50. Great Britain would develop the FV214 Conqueror and FV215 Heavy Gun Tanks.

Decades later, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was preparing a new British tank line. Due to poor research or possibly completely intentionally, the top of the tree appeared as the Heavy Gun Tank FV215b, a fictional marriage of a FV215 chassis with the FV214 turret and gun with a fictional engine. Fortunately, Wargaming has withdrawn this fake vehicle, although they replaced it with an equally questionable one.

That being said, elements of this tank did exist in one form or another, so those shall be explored.

In-game render showing a profile view of the FV215b. Image: Wargaming.net

The WoT Representation

A small ‘history’ is provided for the vehicle by Wargaming:

“A proposed plan for a heavy tank based on the Conqueror Mk. II. Unlike the production model, this modification featured rear placement of the fighting compartment. Never saw production or service.”

– WoT Wiki Extract

The FV215b is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series. The FV200s date back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The FV215b is also presented as a variant of the planned FV215, or to give its officially long-winded title, the ‘Tank, Heavy No. 2, 183mm Gun, FV215′. This tank was set to be the replacement of the FV214 Conqueror (Tank, Heavy No. 1, 120mm Gun, FV214).

In-game render of the FV215b showing a top-down view. Image: Wargaming.net

Reality: Heavy Gun Tanks

The term ‘Heavy Gun Tank’ is a uniquely British designation. It refers to the size and power of the gun, not the size and weight of the tank. Heavy Gun Tanks were specifically designed to destroy enemy tanks and/or fortified positions.

Tank, Heavy No. 1, 120 mm Gun, FV214 Conqueror. The Conqueror was Britain’s answer to the Soviet IS-3. It served from 1955 to 1966. Photo: Author’s own

The Conqueror was the first and only ‘Heavy Gun Tank’ that Britain would build and put into active service. Based on the FV200 chassis, the Conqueror was an imposing vehicle. It measured 25 feet (7.62 meters) long – not including the gun, 13.1 feet (3.99 meters) wide and 11 feet (3.35 meters) tall. It weighed 65 long tons* (66 tonnes), had armor up to 13 inches (330 mm) thick and was armed with the powerful L1 120 mm gun. Firing Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) rounds, this gun was able to punch through up to 17.3 inches (446 mm) of 55-degree angled steel armor at 1,000 yards (914 meters). Entering service in 1955, the Conqueror had a short service life, being retired in 1966 after just 11 years of service. It was replaced by the FV4201 Chieftain.

*Long tons are a unit of mass unique to the United Kingdom; for ease it will be shortened to ton. 1 long ton is equal to about 1.01 metric tonnes, or 1.12 US ‘Short’ tons.

The next step would have been the FV215. This was in development just as the Conqueror entered full-scale production. This vehicle used a modified chassis that was slightly narrower than the FV214 at 12 feet (3.6 meters) compared to 13.1 feet (3.99 meters). The FV215 would also have had a rear-mounted turret, and would have been equipped with a powerful L4 183 mm Gun. To accommodate the rear-mounted turret, the powerplant was moved to the center of the vehicle. It would appear that this fake ‘FV215b’ is based on the hull of the real FV215.

‘Tank, Heavy No. 2, 183mm Gun, Fv215’, the planned replacement for the FV214. Developed in the early 1950s, it was armed with the powerful L4 183 mm Gun. It never entered service. Photo: Rob Griffin, Conqueror

In-Game Design of the FV215b

The ‘FV215b’ is basically a rear-turreted Conqueror, although it is based on the real FV215 chassis as stated above. There was never a ‘b’ variant of any description planned for the FV215. In-game specifications record the vehicle as weighing 70 tonnes or 68 long tons. This is heavier than both the FV214 and the real FV215 by about 4 long tons (4.06 tonnes). Hull armor is listed as 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the front, 101.6 (4 inches) on the sides, and 76.2 (3 inches) on the rear. This is nowhere near accurate. On the real FV215 hull, armor was planned to be 4.9 inch (125 mm) sloped at 59 degrees on the upper glacis and just 1 ¾ (44 mm) on the sides and rear.

Despite errors like this, the FV215b does share some accurate parts of its design with both the FV214 and FV215 respectively. These include the 4-man crew (commander, gunner, loader, driver), Horstmann suspension system, the turret and integral ‘Fire Control Turret’, and the 120 mm L1 gun.

In-game render of the FV215b. Image: Wargaming.net

Engine

In-game, the FV215b is equipped with the Rolls-Royce Griffon. This is, in reality, an aircraft engine. While Rolls-Royce aero engines have been adapted for use in armored vehicles, there is no evidence at all to suggest that there was ever a plan to make an AFV variant of the Griffon. An example of a converted Rolls-Royce aero engine is the Meteor – as used in the Conqueror. This was an adaption of the Merlin, an engine famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2.

The Griffon was a 37-liter, 60-degree V-12, liquid-cooled engine. It was the last V-12 aero engine built by Rolls-Royce, with production ceasing in 1955. It was used on such aircraft as the Fairey Firefly, Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Sea Fury. The engine produced over 2,000 hp in its plane configuration, but in game it is listed as producing just 950 hp. This is not far fetched, as converted aero-engines were often de-rated for use in armored vehicles. Meteor is an example of this. As the Merlin, it produced up 1,500 hp depending on the model. When de-rated as the Meteor, it produced just 810 horsepower.

The Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 Aero-engine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The real FV215 was set to be propelled by the Rover M120 No. 2 Mk. 1 producing 810 hp and propelling the vehicle to a top speed of just under 20 mph (32 km/h). In this fake tank, the installed Griffon engine is recorded as propelling the vehicle to a top speed of 21 mph (34 km/h). While faster than the real FV215, this is the same top speed as the Conqueror which was propelled by a less powerful engine. As with the real FV215, the engine is mounted centrally, separating the Driver (located in the right front corner of the hull) from the rest of the crew in the turret.

Suspension

The Horstmann suspension of the FV215b is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. It has been used on all the FV200s including the Caernarvon and Conqueror, but also on the Centurion. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels would be made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Turret & Armament

Both the turret and main armament of the FV215b were taken straight from the FV214 Conqueror.

The main armament of the FV215b consists of the 120mm L1A1 ‘A’ gun. While there were two versions of the 120 mm Gun – the L1A1 and L1A2 – there was never an ‘A’ subvariant. Maximum penetration in-game is listed as 326 mm (12.8 inches).

To give it its full name, the ‘Ordnance, Quick Firing (QF), 120 mm Tank, L1 Gun’ was an extremely powerful weapon with dimensions to match. Muzzle to breach, it measured 24.3 ft (7.4 m) and alone weighed 2.9-tons (3 tonnes). The gun was designed to fire both Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) and High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition. The in-game penetration of 326 mm is far lower than that of the real gun. Firing the APDS round at a muzzle velocity of 4,700 fps (1,433 m/s), the L1 could penetrate up to 17.3 inches (446 mm) of 55-degree angled steel armor at 1,000 yards (914 meters). Elevation is listed as +15 to -7 degrees. This is accurate to the Conqueror, although a limiter prevented the gun from depressing past -5 degrees.

The impressively long 120 mm L1 gun, seen here on a surviving Conqueror Mk. 2. Photo: Author’s own

The turret is a fairly accurate representation of the one designed for the FV214 Conqueror. Even so, the armor values are way off. In game, it is listed that the turret is protected by 254 mm (10 inches) of armor on the face, 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the sides, and 101.6 mm (4 inches) on the rear. In reality, it is hard to pin-point the exact armor thicknesses on the Conqueror’s turret, thanks largely to conflicting sources. We do know that armor on the turret was between 9.4 – 13.3 in (240 – 340 mm) sloped at 60 degrees on the face, with a 9.4 in (239 mm) mantlet. The sides were 3.5 inches (89 mm) thick, while the rear was 2 inches (51 mm) thick.

A couple of features unique to the Conqueror turret also remain present. One of these is the Fire Control Turret (FCT) – located at the rear of the turret. This replaces the traditional commander’s cupola, and is a self-contained unit that can rotate independently of the main turret. The FCT features an integral range-finder for use by the commander. He would scan around looking for targets, range it, and then pass the data onto the gunner who would then engage.

The other feature is the hatch on the right wall of the turret. This hatch is the ejection port for spent main-gun casings. They were ejected from the turret via the troublesome ‘Mollins gear’, a piece of equipment that frequently broke down on the Conqueror.


In-game render of the FV215b showing the rear-mounted turret. Image: Wargaming.net

99.9% Non-Existent

The FV215b is, without a doubt, a fake vehicle. It is not the worst of Wargaming’s fake tank crimes, as many of the components used in its design did exist. In reality, there would not have been a need for this tank. The real FV215 was designed to replace the Conqueror and have more firepower, so a tank created by mating the FV215 and FV214 would have been completely pointless.

The Tank was introduced to ‘World of Tanks’ in 2014 just to fill the British ‘Tier X’ heavy tank role. In 2018, it was replaced by another less-than-authentic tank, the ‘Super Conqueror’, at least on PC. The FV215b remains in the console and Blitz versions of the game.

Quite remarkably, this photo of a Mk. 1 Conqueror with the turret traversed over the engine deck has often been mistaken for an FV215b. Such mis-identifications are a clear result of Wargaming introducing fake tanks and trying to pass them off as real. Photo: Profile Publications


Illustration of the fake FV215b Heavy Gun Tank produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

wiki.wargaming.net
Rolls-Royce Engines: Griffon
Rob Griffin, Conqueror, Crowood Press
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing
David Lister, The Dark Age of Tanks: Britain’s Lost Armour, 1945–1970, Pen & Sword Publishing


Categories
Cold War British Fake Tanks

Caernarvon ‘Action X’ (Fake Tanks)

United Kingdom (1950s ?)
Medium Gun Tank – Fake

The ‘Tank, Medium Gun, FV221’, otherwise known as ‘Caernarvon’, appeared in the early 1950s and was a mating of an FV200 series chassis and the turret of an Mk. III Centurion. It was designed as an interim vehicle to fill the gap while Britain’s first Heavy Gun Tank, the FV214 Conqueror, was in the final stages of development.

Decades later, in 2018, and despite the real FV221 Caernarvon already being present, the popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) – published and developed by Wargaming (WG) – was looking for a new premium tank (a vehicle bought with real money that provides special in-game benefits) to add to the British ‘tech tree’. The result was a ghastly blend of 4 separate parts (engine, turret, armor plates and hull), all to create a fake tank with a double fake name. It is known in-game as the Caernarvon ‘Action X’.

While all of the constituent parts used to make this tank did exist in one form or another, they were never put together in this way.

The ghastly ‘Caernarvon AX’ as it appears in ‘World of Tanks’. Photo: ritastatusreport

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The WoT Representation

A small ‘history’ is provided for this vehicle by Wargaming:

“A further development of the vehicles designed by the English Electric company under the “universal tank” concept (FV200). The project was discontinued in favor of the A41 tank (Centurion). No prototypes were built.”

– WoT Wiki extract

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is portrayed as a variant of the real FV221 Caernarvon, which is in turn part of the FV200 series of vehicles. Despite not being given its ‘Fighting Vehicle (FV)’ number, this fake is presented as a vehicle of the FV200 series produced in the early 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War.

The FV200 dates back to the final stages of the Second World War, when the British War Office (WO) was looking for a ‘Universal Tank’. The ancestor of today’s Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), the idea of the Universal Tank was that one chassis would spawn many variants, thus reducing costs, development and making maintenance and supply far easier. The first in the series was the FV201.

Despite a long development period, the FV201 project was canceled in 1949, with development moving onto the FV214 Conqueror, and in turn, the FV221 Caernarvon. As such, only four vehicles of the FV200 series were ever produced and entered into service. These were the FV214, and FV221 gun tanks, and the FV219/FV222 Conqueror Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs).

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ in-game. Image: WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro.

Reality: FV221 Caernarvon

In 1950, the gun and turret of the FV214 Conqueror was still in the development phase. The hull and chassis, however, were already in the final stages of development. The chassis was a simplified variant of the FV201 series. The main simplification was in the engine bay, where the power take-off for the additional devices that the FV200 series was to have been fitted with was removed. This simplification meant the tank was slightly shorter. Both of these factors reduced the weight and these savings in weight were reinvested in the tank’s frontal protection, with the glacis being thickened and sloped back slightly more.

With this part of the FV214 complete, the Tank, Medium Gun, FV221 Caernarvon project was launched. The aim of this project was to speed up the development of the Conqueror, while giving crews experience in the operation of the vehicle. The FV221 consisted of an FV214 hull mated with a Centurion Mk. III turret armed with a 20-pounder gun.

With an initial prototype built in April 1952, just 10 of these vehicles were built, the last one in 1953. These had a brief career, nonetheless, seeing extensive trial service in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and the Middle East Land Forces (MELF).

The FV221 Caernarvon, an amalgamation of the FV214 hull and Centurion Mk. III turret. Photo: Tankograd Publishing

In-Game Design of the Caernarvon ‘AX’

This fake tank is simply a fictional ‘upgrade’ to the FV221 Caernarvon ‘Medium Gun Tank’. As this vehicle is also equipped with a 20-pounder (84 mm) gun, it also fits the ‘medium gun tank’ designation. The term ‘Medium Gun Tank’ is a uniquely British designation. It refers to the size and power of the gun, not the size and weight of the tank. The role of a ‘Medium Gun Tank’ was to provide support for assaulting infantry by the sheer volume of fire and engaging lighter enemy armored vehicles. The role of engaging heavily armored vehicles and defensive positions fell to the ‘Heavy Gun Tank’, such as the Conqueror.

The hull armor for this vehicle is listed by WG as 130 mm on the hull front, 50.8 mm on the sides, and 38.1 mm on the rear. This is not too far off reality, however, it is still unclear as to just how thick the upper glacis of the tank was due to conflicting sources. That said, it is believed that the upper glacis is between 4.7 and 5.1 inches (120 – 130 mm) thick. The side armor is accurate, at about 2 inches (50 mm) thick, while the rear plate is actually around 0.7 inches (20 mm).

Despite the countless falsehoods present on this vehicle, the Caernarvon ‘AX’ does share some accurate parts of its design with the real FV221. These include the 4-man crew (commander, gunner, loader, driver), Horstmann suspension system, and the layout of the hull.

In-game profile shot of the Caernarvon ‘Action X’ showing the Horstmann suspension, one of the only realistic parts of this vehicle. Photo: WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro

The ‘Action X’ Turret

The ‘Action X’ turret is where this mutated tank gets its name. In its own right, the ‘history’ of this turret is a comedy of errors but, nonetheless, it must be clearly stated that the turret, by itself, WAS a real project. Unfortunately, the history of this turret is long lost, leading historians to piece together its history from fragments of files. The following information has been compiled by amateur military historians and TE members, Ed Francis and Adam Pawley.

The first falsehood to tackle is the name ‘Action X’. The official name for this turret was the ‘Centurion Mantletless Turret’, so called because it was a design for a new turret for the Centurion. The name ‘Action X’ appeared in a book published in the early 2000s, after the author cited seeing the name written on the back of a photo of the turret. What he fails to mention is that this was written in the 1980s, and does not appear in any official material.

Centurion fitted with the Mantletless Turret undergoing trials in the 1960s. Photo: ritastatusreport

Evidence suggests that the turret was developed alongside the Centurion and Chieftain, as a means of creating a method for poorer countries to upgrade their Centurion fleets if they could not afford to invest in the Chieftain. Despite popular belief, its development had nothing to do with the FV4202 project. The design was quite different from the standard Centurion design.
Where the standard Centurion turret had a large mantlet that covered the majority of the turret face, this design was mantletless. A large sloped ‘forehead’ replaced the mantlet, with the coaxial machine gun being moved to the top left corner. The rest of the turret remained rather similar to the standard turret. The bustle stayed the same basic shape, the commander’s cupola remained at the back right, with the loader’s hatch on the back left. Unfortunately, the real armor values are currently unknown. In-game, they are listed as 254 mm (10 inches) on the front, 152.4 mm (6 inches) on the sides, and 95.3 mm (3 ¼ inches) on the rear.

Other than the fact that just 3 of these turrets were made, with 2 of them fitted and tested on Centurion chassis and 1 destroyed in a firing trial, little more official information remains on the project. One of these three originals still survives, and currently sits in the car park of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.

The surviving ‘Centurion Mantletless Turret’ in the car park of The Tank Museum, Bovington. Note the position of the coaxial machine gun at the top left. Photo: Adam Pawley

Second to the name, the next error is the fact that this turret was never intended to be installed on any member of the FV200 series of vehicles. For one thing, this turret was developed almost a full decade after the FV221 Caernarvon. Another issue is the addition of the additional armor on the turret cheeks. The design of these has been taken straight from another WoT fake, the ‘Super Conqueror’. No such name was ever used. The tank was, in fact, a mere static test vehicle, a guinea pig that was pummeled by High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition to test their effects on armored vehicles. For this, the vehicle was covered with additional 0.5 – 1.1 inch (14 – 30 mm) armor plates over its bow and turret cheeks. There was never any intention – or even a need – to place these plates on the ‘Mantletless Turret’. In the World of Tanks game, a single Browning M1919A4 .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun was also added to the commander’s cupola on the turret roof. This was known as the L3A1 in British service.

On the left, the real Conqueror target vehicle, on the right, the fake Caernarvon AX. Photos: themodellingnews and WoT player & TE Community member, Nisstro, respectively

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is not the only vehicle in WoT to use the false name. The other vehicle is the Centurion ‘Action X’, which is based on the Centurions which were tested with the ‘Mantletless Turret’.

Armament

The armament installed on this spurious vehicle is the Ordnance Quick-Firing (QF) 20-pounder Gun with ‘Type B’ barrel. There were two types of 20-pounder: the ‘Type A’ without a fume extractor, and the ‘Type B’ with a fume extractor. The gun is, at least, an accurate choice, as the ‘Mantletless Turret’ was tested with both the 20-pounder and L7 105 mm gun. The 20-pounder was the successor to the 17-pounder gun of the Second World War and had a 3.3 inch (84 mm) bore. A range of ammunition was available to it. When firing an Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (A.P.D.S.) round at a muzzle velocity of 4,810 ft/s (1,465 m/s), the gun could penetrate up to 13 inches (330 mm) of armor at 1,000 yards (914 m). In-game, maximum penetration is listed as just 10 inches (258 mm).

The Caernarvon ‘AX’ in-game showing its ‘firepower’. Photo: Wargamming.net

Despite the accurate selection of a gun, there remains an error in the presentation of it in that there is a thermal sleeve around the barrel. Thermal sleeves are used to provide consistent temperature to the barrel, in turn preventing distortions due to thermal expansion caused by the temperature fluctuations around the tube. There were no such sleeves added to the barrels of the 20-pounder gun (either A or B) or the 105 mm until the 1960s.

The 20-pounder gun – both ‘A’ & ‘B’ types – was installed on multiple vehicles. It served on the Centurion from the Mk. 3 to the Mk. 5/2, after which it was replaced by the 105 mm L7. It was also the main armament of the FV4101 Charioteer Medium Gun Tank and, of course, the real FV221 Caernarvon.

The 20-pounder-armed Centurion Mk. 3 (left) and FV4101 Charioteer (right). Both of these are equipped with the ‘Type A’ 20-pounder. Photos: acemodel & peda.net

Erroneous Engine

As with the equally fake FV215b, the Caernarvon ‘AX’ is equipped with the Rolls-Royce Griffon. This is, in reality, an aircraft engine. While Rolls-Royce aero engines have been adapted for use in armored vehicles, there is no evidence at all to suggest that there was ever a plan to make an AFV variant of the Griffon. An example of a converted Rolls-Royce aero engine is the Meteor, as used in the real FV221 Caernarvon. This was an adaption of the Merlin, an engine famous for powering the British Spitfire and American Mustang fighter aircraft of World War 2.

The Griffon was a 37-liter, 60-degree V-12, liquid-cooled engine. It was the last V-12 aero engine built by Rolls-Royce, with production ceasing in 1955. It was used on such aircraft as the Fairey Firefly, Supermarine Spitfire, and Hawker Sea Fury. The engine produced over 2,000 hp in its plane configuration, but in-game it is listed as producing just 950 hp. This is not too far fetched, as converted aero-engines were often de-rated for use in armored vehicles. Meteor is an example of this. As the Merlin, it produced up 1,500 hp depending on the model. When de-rated as the Meteor, it produced just 810 horsepower.

The Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 Aero-engine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On the real FV221, the Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 No. 2 Mk. 1 produced 810 hp and propelled the vehicle to a top speed of 22 mph (35 kph). In this fake tank, the engine is listed as propelling this vehicle to a top speed of 36.3 km/h (22.5 mph).

Suspension

The Horstmann suspension of the Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is one of the accurate parts of this vehicle. On the FV200s, the suspension system had 2 wheels per-bogie unit. The wheels were made of steel, measuring approximately 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter, and constructed from 3 separate parts. These consisted of an outer and inner half, with a steel rim in contact with the track. Between each layer was a rubber ring. The Horstmann system consisted of three horizontal springs mounted concentrically, guided by an internal rod and tube. This allowed each wheel to rise and fall independently, although the system did struggle if both wheels rose at the same time. Four bogies lined each side of the hull of the vehicle, giving it 8 road-wheels per side. There would also be 4 return rollers, 1 per bogie. The drive sprockets were relocated at the rear of the running gear, with the idler wheel at the front.

Left, a schematic drawing of the Conqueror’s four Horstmann suspension bogie units. Right, this view of a Mk. 2 Conqueror being unloaded from a flatbed trailer shows how the suspension actuates. Sources: User Handbook for Tank, Heavy Gun, Conqueror Mk. 1 & 2 – 1958, WO Code No. 12065 & Rob Griffin

Fake, Pure and Simple

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ is just one of a litany of convenient or lazy fakes by Wargaming. Not only do they erroneously mate a turret with a hull that was never intended to carry it, they also use a completely false designation for said turret. To cap it all, they then adorn the turret with false additions, such as the armor plate.

Had this tank ‘existed’, it would have been completely redundant. The turret itself was not developed until the 1960s, after the Caernarvons had all been retired or turned into Conquerors. By this time, the FV4201 Chieftain was in development, and the Conqureor was about to leave service, showing just how obsolete the chassis was, not to mention the 20 pounder gun.

The Caernarvon ‘Action X’ was released into ‘World of Tanks’ with this optional gaudy ‘Fearless’ camouflage scheme. A fake camouflage scheme for a fake tank. Photo: Wargaming.net


Illustration of the fake Caernarvon ‘Action X’ produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Sources

Wargaming.net
WO 194/388: FVRDE, Research Division, Trials Group Memorandum on Defensive Firing Trials of Centurion Mantletless Turret, June 1960, The Tank Museum, Bovington
WO 185/292: Tanks: TV 200 Series: Policy and Design, 1946-1951, The National Archives, Kew
FV221 Caernarvon – Instructions for User Trials – REME aspect, September 1953, The Tank Museum, Bovington
Maj. Michael Norman, RTR, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, AFV/Weapons #38, Profile Publications Ltd.
Carl Schulze, Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank, Britain’s Cold War Heavy Tank, Tankograd Publishing