Status Report: Christie Tanks Part 1
With help from CaptainNemo
Those of you with long memories may recall that WoT once showed a US tech tree with Christie tanks on it. On that tree there was the M.1919, and M.1921 at tier 2, the M.1931 and M.1932 at tier 3 and the M.1935 at Tier 4.
Since then not a lot has changed but I have gathered together as many of the sources reputable and otherwise on the subject to give a run down for people as to the totality as far as possible of the vehicle options we have.
Part 1 – Tanks
Part 2 – Guns and sources
So a run down of the tanks:
M.1919 (possibly in Maryland, USA under trials in 1919)
Carrying a 57mm 6-pounder gun this is a rather well armed tank for 1919 albeit with a rather modest 25mm thick maximum of armour(considered sufficient to stop a .50 calibre bullet). Based on a truck chassis, this sturdy 13.5 ton tank powered by a 6 cylinder 120hp engine was capable of 7mph on tracks and, on wheels, 14mph. This is also reports as 11/21 respectively. It is running on Christie Patented suspension (filed 1921) derived from the M.1919 8” self-propelled gun. (See Part 2)
The M. 1919 was determined to be mechanically unreliable with the engine and transmission basically inaccessible and the tracks being ‘poorly designed’.
Very very little is written on this tank but it appears to be a decent design for the era. The design has now evolved to incorporate added side plates and a roomy turret with the same 57mm 6-pounder gun and a machine gun in a second top turret. Armour should be expected to be the same as the M.1919 but clearly with improved tracks and what appears to be access doors in the glacis armour. (Right hand image shows mantlet removed).
M.1921 (Yes, I know the same name)
Christie appears to have recycled a lot of the components from the M.1919 to make this turretless tank. It had the same 120hp engine and same performance but with the 57mm 6-pounder now mounted right in the noise of the vehicle flanked by two .30 calibre machine guns. Armour is variously given as ¼” to ¾” up to 1 inch. It was reported to have become stuck in a ditch during trials in June of 1922. A contemporary account of the trials described a 2.24” gun and that despite weighing 14 tons, a 9 ton version was available.
Again, very, very little known other than this image. It is possible this is just the lightened version of the M.1921 as it is noticeably shorter and with simplified suspension.
M.1932 (M.1928 ‘A’ also known as ‘T3’)
The M,1932 first appears in October of 1930 (Don’t make the error of assuming the M.19xx relates directly to the actual date). This is one of the fast designs of Christie. This convertible tank could manage a very impressive 42.5mph on tracks and 70mph on its wheels but given the look of the tracks one wonders how long they would last. The Official Ordnance data sheet gave it a much more modest speed of 27.3 mph off road with a weight of 8.6 tons, or 10.5 tons fully laden. With the Ordnance Liberty V12 338hp engine, later improved to 387 hp, this was a well powered machine.
In this configuration it is shown fitted with two machine guns, one forward and one for AA use but also planned was a 37mm gun. Also mentioned are plans for the use of a 4” mortar (not clear whether it means mounted frontally or as a mortar carried for indirect fire use, and even a 75mm gun.
The planned turreted version was not shown on this demonstrator and a very, suspiciously similar, concept was later presented as the M.1932 now claiming a 750hp Hispnao-Suiza engine (Also given as 1000hp – it probably looked good in a new report). In 1932 it was claimed this vehicle could reach 120mph ‘if forced’ which, given the tendency for this vehicle to shed tracks at high speed, would fall in the ‘terminal velocity’ category if true.
The armour numbers quoted also vary, generally giving 12mm or 0.5” as the thickness, with an outer and inner layer and the suspension sandwiched between the layers.
Flying Tanks ‘A’ and ‘B’
Other than these images, nothing is known about these vehicles and they may well be Russian concepts based on Christie’s designs or a plan to convert one of the T-3 vehicles received into a flying tank. Both Russia and Walter Christie dabbled in the flying tank idea.
M.1917A1 6 ton
Not exactly a Christie design, but instead a plan from 1930 by Captain George Rary to modernize the existing 6 ton tanks with the Franklin 100hp engine (M1917A1 had an extended hull with this engine already but retaining the old suspension) but utilizing Christie suspension. The old 37mm gun and machine gun in the turret were to remain. Getting no further than the drawing board, and out of the chronology of the designs of Walter Christie, this would make a nice little premium tier 2 tank for any small Christie line of tanks WG might add. (I know secretly that CaptainNemo is a Renault FT-17 collector so he is desperate for this one for his collection)[CN: I here by point out that it is infact Listy who collects all of the Renault FT-17s. His collection is far bigger then mine.]
M.1931 also known as T3 and M.1940
The names are confusing as Christie, rather in his own manner, described this 1931 model as being '10 years ahead of its time’ – thus M.1940, which is not very helpful.
The Liberty engine for this is given as 338hp, and as 343hp, capable of being uprated again giving a credible 40mph on tracks on the road and 70mph on wheels and an average cross country speed of 21.1mph.
When fitted with a 37mm gun and .30 calibre MG in turret it was known as the T-3 Combat Car, and when using the .50 calibre MG, just as the T-1 Combat Car. That 37mm gun is also referred to as a ‘one pound cannon’ and again Christie offered a 4” mortar, a 75mm gun and ‘several machine guns’.
This is Christie’s most famous design and appears widely in the contemporary press and given his very loose naming, and to be frank honesty standards, some of the claims have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Some of these chassis were acquired by the US for testing, others by Russia and Poland, although Poland did not receive them and they were impounded by US Customs. The Polish version was to be the T3E1 fitted with chain driven drive. Certainly some of the ideas were used by the Poles even if the tanks themselves never arrived. The Russians famously adopted much of the design and Lord Nuffield in the UK purchased a chassis for use in the A.13 Cruiser tank project although his may to be one of the ‘spares’ from the aborted Polish purchase. (see below)
Of the 9 M.1931 examples built:
No. 1 - Designated T3 delivered to Ft.Knox 1932, designated T1 Combat Car by the Cavalry
No. 2 - Designated T3 delivered to Ft.Knox 1932, designated Medium Tank T3 by the Infantry, named ‘Tornado’
No. 3 - Designated T3 delivered to Ft.Knox 1932, designated T1 Combat Car by the Cavalry
No. 4 - Designated T3 delivered to Ft.Knox 1932, designated T1 Combat Car by the Cavalry
No. 5 - Designated T3 delivered to Ft.Knox 1932, designated T1 Combat Car by the Cavalry
No. 6 - Ordered by Poland which defaulted, built as T3E1, designated Medium Tank T3 by the Infantry, named ‘Cyclone’
No. 7 - Ordered by Poland which defaulted, built as T3E1, designated Medium Tank T3 by the Infantry, named ‘Hurricane’
No. 8 - Sold to USSR as BT-1
No. 9 - Sold to USSR as BT-1
Of the T1 Combat Cars (T-1CC) examples delivered, some or all were converted from chain driven final drives to gear driven and redesignated T1E1 Combat Cars. The T1E2CC is the T1E1CC now fitted with a Cummins Diesel engine.
The Tank Museum, Bovington, shows this vehicle as the one trialled in 1937 known as 'Christie A13.E1' and obviously being an M.1931 albeit now with added mufflers. The British trials show that the A13.E1 managed 64.3mph when going downhill.
A further 5 examples of the T3 Medium tanks were ordered by the Infantry and were designated T3E2 below
M.1928 ‘B’ (T3E2)
So despite having the same M.1928 designation as the turretless T3 previously, this ‘E2’ is very different. These E2's are actually the 5 new M.1931's ordered by the Infantry in 1932. Why it is named M.1928 when it should really be M.1932 is beyond me and may just be a mis-referenced in some sources and then re-quoted by others, but the fact that it is also known as the T1E3 is just plain confusing.
Sporting a well angled turret fitted with a 37mm gun this is actually looking much more tank-like than some of his earlier designs. The reason could be maybe a little unfairly attributed to the fact that Christie didn’t build it. This was modified from that earlier T3 by the LaFrance and Foamite Corporation in 1932 with a wider nose and turret and later (by the same firm) with differential steering in 1935. The ridiculous number of machine guns sprouting from every available face (2 in hull corner sponsons and three in the turret – 2 per side and one in the rear); 5 in total show the complete ignorance of some of the designs of the year – more MG’s must be better right?
And yet in spite of this MG lunacy the weight of this rather handsome tank despoiled by MG’s is still just over a ton heavier at 11.5 tons. Assuming the same engine as the early T3 with the improved 387hp this is a fast and maneuverable tank; better than many of its contemporaries and certainly better than the rather horrible Official US designs of the era. The US Army rather sensibly obviously saw the potential and wanted to buy the chassis but Chrisite being the obstinate fellow he was refused to sell it saying he could improve the design yet further.
M.1932 Combat Car
Also known as the M.1933 when fitted with cupolas over the crew positions and obviously derived from his earlier tank designs as evidenced by the retention of the front and rear wheel mounts. Engine said to be a 250hp unit providing a top speed of 60mph.
Walter Christie was obsessed with speed and deployment of tanks by aircraft no matter how impractical, undesired, or unnecessary it may have been. This version plans on using a 300hp unit supercharged to 450hp capable of 60mph on tracks or 90mph on wheels (same proviso as above regarding the unlikeliness of managing this speed). Again, flimsy armour for bullet protection only with this design. It is very likely just a, yet another, rebuilt M.1933. Also seen with a short weapon at the front said to plan for up to a 75mm gun mounted although this is likely the ‘B’ model below.
A longer M.1935A with an obviously larger gun which appears to be a 75mm. This design uses a Hispano-Suiza 750hp Petrol engine and is probably just the M.1935A rebuilt into a longer form to carry that gun.
Seemingly carrying over some the M.1935 ideas in a small light tank, with a casemate design. There are no photos known of it to me although it reportedly was trialled with a dummy gun. Either mounting, or intending to mount, the Christie-Curtiss D-12 300hp Aero Engine. This one, for Christie, is unusually designed to be driven on tracks only. The trials report of April 1936 mentions an intended option of mounting an 37mm or 47mm gun.
This is simply the above M.1936 rebuilt with a very ‘Day the World Stood Still’ looking cupola covering the front. Offered at the time to the UK Government for the fast cruiser programme the top is open so it could mount a turret or, using the cupola removed, as a barbet mounting like a tank destroyer. Fitted now with the Curtiss-Wright 430hp aviation engine and at only 6 tons this is more of a racing car than a tank with armour stated to be 11/16ths of an inch thick.
The Curtiss Wright engine is now said to be 450hp (20 hp more than the M.1937 version) this is a bigger and more spacious hull than the earlier M.1936 and M.1937 models and although no images of it are available, it shows signs of being yet another conversion of an earlier model. It used a lot of aluminium in the gearbox casing and internal components to keep the weight down.
Now here we sort of enter uncharted waters with Christie because of a total lack of reliable information. This vehicle resembles, and is probably based upon, the T.12 design. It is said to have been a plan for a high speed airbourne tank destroyer using a 90mm gun. Going nowhere, this vehicle was later modified as a tracked truck and then scrapped.
Looking decidedly like the M.1941 above fitted with a mocked up upper casemate, and the lower part obviously based on the M.1936, the M.1942A features no less than 6 machine guns (1 front , 1 rear, 2 each side); this is a seriously ugly vehicle albeit with some well angled plates.
(No confirmed image; this is listed as the M.1941 but isn't)
M.1942B (also known as M.1943 and M.1950)
Yes, M.1950 because again, the design is ahead of its time this project was never finished. No additional details are currently known.
If you are a little confused by some of the names and conflicted numbers then welcome to the club. As a direct result of the behaviour of Walter Christie renaming, reusing, and frankly providing misleading information relating to his designs to the various publications who witnessed them we shall probably never get an accurate description of some of his designs. The designs were undoubtedly ahead of their time in some ways but when, even what you’d think would be THE seminal account of his designs done by his son gets so much information wrong, or just completely fabricated, it is impossible to give Walter Christie the credit he deserves properly.
No matter what the history of the salesmanship, and wheeler-dealing of Christie was though, there are far more tank options from him than most people are aware of, until now. Despite Wargamings current obsession with premium only tanks, perhaps the time has come to revisit these Christie vehicle as a mini-line of their own.