United Kingdom (1950)
Tank Destroyer – Around 442 converted total

Development

By the fall of the 1940s, British tanks were the Centurion and the Comet, both armed with the wartime 17 pdr, but the 20 pdr was about to enter service. At the same time, the Army reserve Territorial units and their armored corp branch needed a new tank. A compromise was achieved by taking some Cromwells already in service in this unit, and armed them with a 20 pdr wrapped into a new tailor-made turret. The result was called FV4101 Cromwell Heavy AT Gun or FV4101 Tank Medium (Mk.VII mod.B), Charioteer by the Royal Ordnance.

Design

Basically, the FV4101 was a Cromwell tank, with the same chassis, drivetrain, engine, transmission and mechanical parts. But Robinson and Kershaw Ltd at their works in Dukinfield (Cheshire) responsible for the conversion, chose to create a brand new turret which would be adapted to the new, much longer 20 pdr gun. This was achieved by creating a long but narrow turret (mirroring the late German experimental turrets) to offer a minimal target.

The internal space allowed nevertheless some room for the recoil, but there was no space left for a three-man crew. The gunner was placed at the left and commander at the right. In addition the turret flanks were slightly sloped but lightly armored as it was believed the range of the new gun far exceeded the gunnery range of Soviet tanks at the time. The turret was equipped also with smoke grenade launchers.

Production

The conversion was achieved in 1951-52 at Robinson and Kershaw Ltd but exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint. Factory records gave a total of only 200, while the Finnish Defence Forces sale of used equipment states some 441 vehicles were converted.

Six vehicles survived and are on display today. One at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, another in Parola tank museum and standing at the main entrance of the Army Academy in Lappeenranta (both in Finland), one at Yad la-Shiryon Museum in Latrun and one at Bovington.

Operators and Active service

UK

The Army Territorial reserve armored corp used the Charioteer for a very short time. Between 1954 and 1960, many were sold to foreign armies at low prices (see after) and the British ones were in reserve by the 1960s.

Austria

The Österreichisches Bundesheer purchased 56 of these and kept them in service until the early 1960s.

Finland

The Finnish Army took delivery of 38 “Charioteer Mk.VII Mod.B” kept in service until 1979.

Jordan

The Royal Jordanian Army took delivery of 24 vehicles, given the 3rd Tanks Regiment in 1954, and later resold to Lebanon.

Lebanon

43 vehicles were obtained in the 1960s and passed on in 1976 to warring factions, like the Arab army, South Lebanese Forces, and “Tigers Militia”. All saw heavy action in and around Beyrouth until 1993 for some. Some fall into the hands of Palestinian fighters (PLO) which operated them against IDF forces during the 1978 South Lebanon conflict.

Sources/Links about the Charioteer

The FV 4101 Charioteer on Wikipedia
Surviving Charioteers (pdf doc)

FV 4101 specifications

Dimensions 28.87 x 10.17 x 8.53 ft (8.8 x 3.1 x 2.6 m)
Total weight, battle ready 29 tons (63,841 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Rolls Royce Meteor 12-cylinder gasoline (600 hp)
Suspension Improved Christie system
Speed (road) 32 mph (52 km/h)
Range 149 mi (240 km)
Armament Main : 83.4 mm QF-20 pounder (3.3 in)
Secondary: coaxial 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine gun
Armor 14-64 mm (0.55-2.52 in)
Total conversions 200 to 442 in 1950-52
FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer
FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer.

Finnish Charioteer tank destroyer
Finnish Charioteer, 1960s.

Jordanian Charioteer with the late 20 pdr
Jordanian Charioteer with the late 20 pdr

Lebanese Charioteer
Lebanese Charioteer, PLO, 1985, now preserved.

Gallery

FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer
Various color references and liveries of the Charioteer.

FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer

FV214 Conqueror
FV101 Scorpion
Share →

6 Responses to FV4101 Charioteer

  1. EckiEcki says:

    One correction – It’s a tank, not a tank destroyer.

    • Stan Lucian says:

      Well, this is arguable.
      It was made on the basis of an already existing tank – like most tank destroyers
      It featured a more powerful gun at the expense of armor – like most tank destroyers
      They replaced tank destroyers and SPGs when they entered service.

      • EckiEcki says:

        You should check out the article written by David Fletcher in Wheels & Tracks. This highlights that the tank destroyer ID is incorrect, although a common mistake, and explains the vehicle’s actual design and operation. It’s probably the best source of information on the vehicle outside of the Tank Museum archives themselves.

        Also the provisional user handbook and parts list show it’s designation was Tank, Medium Gun, Charioteer.

  2. EternalPumpkin says:

    Why the yellow and purple camo? Could you make a drawing of this scheme?

    • David.B says:

      In fact we would need a solid contact inside Latrun to gave some clues about the livery and its accuracy. Sometimes reconstructed patterns are to be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand it could have been a genuine local improvisation with available colors if carried as such. The thing is, this painting is looking too recent.

      • EternalPumpkin says:

        Yes, you are definitely right there. Museum tanks are often sloppy in their painting, and the shcemed they are painted in are often unhistorical. Generally museums just want to put something on their tanks to make them look acceptable. Look foreward to any updates!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.