Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Combat in the Second World War was marked by a fluidity that was absent from Great War battlefields. Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) had originally been conceived as a means to defeat the barbed-wire and machine-guns that had robbed infantry of their mobility and imposed the static, trench warfare of 1914-1918. The first tanks were used by the British Army in 1916, but technological limitations meant that they could not alter the fundamental nature of the battlefield during the First World War. During the interwar period, the German Wehrmacht devoted more attention to tank development which led to significant improvements in tank design and use in battle.
British doctrine called for tanks used in various roles. The Stuart, a light tank, was used for reconnaissance. Infantry Tanks such as the Churchill, which were relatively slow and heavily armoured, supported the infantry, as well as faster, more lightly-armoured “cruisers” or medium tanks which favoured mobility over power, of which the Sherman was an example. The former were usually grouped into independent army tank brigades while the latter made up the armoured brigades. The Sherman, meanwhile, was designed in keeping with American armoured doctrine, which established that the main purpose of the tank was to disrupt enemy infantry and communications. This doctrine, and the tank it produced, were to prove inadequate for the type of tank-versus-tank combat that occurred in Normandy. Heavy armour and a powerful gun were needed to stand up to the latest German tanks, and the standard Sherman had neither.
- “Canadian Valentine Tank MK VIIA”, Canadian War Museum Fact Sheet No. 5, edited by Fred Gaffen.
- “Ram Tank”, Canadian War Museum Fact Sheet No. 16, edited by Fred Gaffen.
- Chris Ellis and Peter Chamberlain, “Ram and Sexton”, Armoured Fighting Vehicle #13.