WW2 British Light Tanks

Vickers Light Tank Mk.V

United Kingdom (1935)
Light tank – 22 built

The first British three-man light tank

The previous Light Tank Mark IV was the last two-man Light Tank, since it appeared clearly in exercises that the commander was overloaded. He was at the same time gunner, loader, radioman and had to take decisions and monitor the battlefield, sometimes even directing others when asked for. There was no real option as to how to drop one of these tasks. A third crew member was indispensable, like in other “scaled-up” tanks of the British Army. This imposed a brand new design of an enlarged tank, which would ultimately serve as a testbed for the mass-produced Light Mark VI. The L3E1 was the initial prototype, tested in 1934.


Although the drivetrain and chassis were similar to the former Mark IV, the hull was widened, heightened and lengthened, and the new turret was larger, rounder, with sloping sides. The turret ball race counted 213 ball bearings and it was held in place by six clips. At the bottom was a pedestal containing the radio batteries, ammunition and gunner’s seat. The latter also operated the radio, although the well-loped turret’s rear made it difficult for a radio to fit. The gunner used his shoulder to elevate the two independent Besa machine-guns, one ZB.53 (7.92 mm) and one heavy ZB.60 (15 mm) machine-guns, which gave the vehicle some antitank capability. There was a sighting scope with one scale for each gun.
The commander had a rounded cupola of the “bishop’s miter” type. To allow larger fuel tanks to be fitted at the rear, this part was lengthened. A single return roller was placed just above the front coil spring arm. Components and tracks were the same as previously used on the Mark I. Overall these choices appeared judicious. A three-man crew also spread the maintenance load. The top speed was reduced, but the range was undiminished.


Twin 15 mm (0.59 in) AA Besa machine-guns or quad AA machine-guns in a Boulton & Paul turret (same type mounted in the 1938 Defiant fighter) were mounted on one or two separate Mk.V light tanks. These paved the way for the following Mk.I AA tank, which had quad 7.92 mm/0.31 in Besa machine-guns mounted on the Mk.VIA chassis.
The Mark V AA prototypes pioneered these series. An experimental antitank version was also tried with a 2pdr (40 mm/1.58 in) fit in an open-top turret, and another fitted the same gun in a large, sloping back turret. Other tested various technical modifications, like receiving an extra bogie wheel and longer track, a continuous rubber track, a Perkins diesel engine, revised turret bustle for radio, wireless box, no top rollers configuration, or without “Bishop’s Mitre” cupola.

The Light Tank Mark V in action

In 1934, twelve prototypes of the Light Tank Mk.V were sent to the 1st Light Battalion Royal Tank Corps for testing. A first for the development of British tanks, a team of mechanics from Vickers-Armstrong lived with the Battalion during the trials, allowing manufacturer and end user to directly communicate. However, this wasn’t often repeated in the future. In 1940, some were shipped to France, to operate as advanced training tanks for the BEF. The Light Mark VI made up the bulk of the British light tank force. Little is known about their fate, but, since none were repatriated, only the remaining few in Great Britain were still available after the defeat of France, for home defense. It’s most likely they were phased out after 1941.
According to some sources, ten were purchased by Australia in 1936.

Vickers Light Mk.V specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 13ft 0in x 6ft 10in x 7ft 4in (4.10 x 2.15 x 2.80 m)
Total weight, battle ready 4.1 tonness (10.740 lbs)
Crew 3 (driver, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Meadows ESTE 6-cyl gasoline, 88 hp (65.64 kW)
Speed (road) 32 mph (48 km/h)
Maximum operational range 125 miles (201 km)
Armament Besa ZB.53 (7.92 mm) machine gun
Besa CZ.60 (15 mm) machine gun
Armor From 4 to 12 mm (0.1 to 0.45 in)
Total production 22


About the Vickers Light Tank Mark V on Wikipedia
WWII Vehicles

Early Light Mark V derived from the L3E1 prototype in 1934. The Horstmann suspension system was virtually unchanged.
Early Light Mark V derived from the L3E1 prototype in 1934. The Horstmann suspension system was virtually unchanged.Light Mark V, fully equipped, possibly used by the BEF for training in France, prior to May 1940.
Light Mark V, fully equipped, possibly used by the BEF for training in France, prior to May 1940.


The cartridges used by all of the versions of the Vickers Light Tanks.  The Mk.V used the 7.92 mm and 15 mm machine-guns, which used the 2nd and the 4th shells. Source: Bronson, British Collectors of Arms & Militaria Forum.
ossibly one of the Australian Light Mark Vs which were operationally used in North Africa, 1941-42.
Possibly one of the Australian Light Mark Vs which were operationally used in North Africa, 1941-42.
Probably a prototype testing a revised turret and cupola
Probably a prototype testing a revised turret and cupola
Serial Mark V light tank, 1935 or 1936Initial prototypeQuad machine-gun Bolton-Paul turret AA prototypeTwin Besa 12.7 mm (cal.50) AA prototype.
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By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

7 replies on “Vickers Light Tank Mk.V”

Hi! You have bad calibers on guns.
Classic BESA machine guns used still original 7,92 × 57mm Mauser round instead of the rimmed .303 calibre round that was standard in British use, it was still adopted in its original calibre. It was standart Czechoslovak caliber for machineguns, inclusive ZB-53 (Or BESA in British hands).
That Larger calliber wasnt 12.7, but 15mm. You can hear it in original name 15 mm kulomet vz. 38 (15mm machinegun vz.38), in British hands called 15mm Besa machine gun. It use original Czechoslovak cartridge 15×104 mm (sometimes called 15mm CZ 60 or 15mm Mod. 1938). Will be glad, if you can adapt it, thanks. 🙂

ONLY the Vickers Light Tank model VIC was fitted with the 15mm Besa heavy machine gun, the others had the Vickers .50 (12.7 x 81) the information given to you is incorrect.

“quad Boulton & Paul AA machine-guns (same type mounted in the 1938 Defiant fighter’s turret)”? So, in other words, four British Browning .303s? Boulton-Paul dont make guns, they make turrets and systems. The gun used in the Defiant is the exact same gun used in the Lancaster, Halifax, Sunderland, Stirling…almost every British bomber, and basically the same gun as used by the Spitfire and Hurricane. Thats like saying “an M16 Quad-.50 used 4 Sperry machine guns, the same used in the Sperry ball turret of the B-17 bomber”. Yeah, okay, and every OTHER gun position in the plane, and most every other US plane and turret made during the war! The only reason to say something like that is if the actual Sperry or Boulton-Paul turret, or turret-drive system was used, and that talking about the turret, not the gun (BTW, it became “Boulton Paul Aircraft, Ltd” in 1934; the & was only used prior to that). I mean, perhaps these particular Browning guns were literally stripped out of Defiant turrets and mounted to tanks instead, but it ought to say that instead. It seems a great deal of info is lost or corrupted online by people badly re-phrasing others work and garbling the original meaning so they can post online without copyright violation…and then someone comes along and copies THEIR work, garbling that as well, like the game “Telephone” (aka “Chinese Whispers…if that hasnt been banned as ‘hate speech’ yet). In 3-4 steps, it is saying something totally different from what was originally stated.

Rephrased the part about Bolton-Paul. What the author meant was that an entire Bolton-Paul turret was fitted (sans the glass parts).
Yes, we are trying to avoid the telephone game by going as much as possible to primary sources in our new articles. However, our old articles are not up to scratch and a lot badly need a rewrite.

And a BESA is not a “light machine gun”. Not being a heavy doesnt make it “light”. A Bren is a LMG. A BESA is a medium, if you have to call it something other than just “machine gun”.

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