War on the Wheels

War on the Wheels
The story of the people

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Vauxhall Motors, WWII and the Churchill Tank

This may be an example of those who choose to record their role in an historic event gaining a voice for posterity. Whether this is the case or not, the story is important.

Vauxhall Motors in Luton began the war with the delivery of many thousands of Bedford trucks. In time a number of variations on the basic model were produced including an all-wheel-drive that would revert to a single axle drive in normal road conditions.

With the poor performance of existing tanks largely of a Great War generation, there was a major initiative to produce a tank that would take on the Germans. Initially Vauxhall contributed to its development, but were then asked to design and manufacture a brand new and more powerful engine of 350 b.h.p., six times greater than the Bedford engines currently in production. A new test bed had to be built, but the prototype of the new engine was running only 89 days after the request had been made.

The Ministry of Supply then decided that it needed a very much heavier tank and Vauxhall were commissioned to design and build it. In his account of Vauxhall during WWII, W.J. Seymour is at pains to point out that no self-respecting engineer would produce a brand new vehicle without extensive testing and a whole sequence of prototypes. However, England after Dunkirk was in a desperate hurry to get into a position when it could stand up to Germany. The Churchill, as it was called, was put int production. It was not a success on day one, but rather developed through modification into a machine that did the job. Vauxhall were developing a successor when hostilities ceased.

The Churchill was perhaps best known in the many ways it was adapted, from flame thrower to bridge transport and anti-mine flail.



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