Light Tank Mk VI file photo [32401]

Light Tank Mk VI

CountryUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerVickers-Armstrongs, Limited
Primary RoleLight Tank


ww2dbaseDesigned by and originally built by Vickers-Armstrongs, Limited, the Light Tank Mark VI, which entered service in 1936, stemmed from the Carden-Lloyd series which began with the Mark VII tankette designed by Sir John Carde in 1928. It was one of the fighting vehicles selected in 1935 for production by other manufacturers to familiarise them with this particular form of heavy engineering. The Mark VIB which was in service at the outbreak of World War II was the latest version of the range and the one produced in greatest numbers.

ww2dbaseLike its predecessors, which had confounded the sceptics by an ability to operate in India's mountainous northwestern frontier, the Mark VIB was powered by a 86-horsepower Meadows six-cylinder engine mounted at the right hand side of the hull with the transmission led forward to drive front sprockets. The turret was enlarged to accommodate a No. 7 radio set in the rear section, and a circular cupola was added to provide the commander vision with some degree of protection. The driver sat on the left-hand side of the hull and the turret, also off-set to the left, accommodated the commander and gunner for the 0.5-inch Vickers Heavy machine-gun and 0.303-inch rifle-calibre machine-gun secondary weapon. The simple and dependable Horstmann suspension with inclined springs cradled the front engine and the spocket drive that carried through a bevel cog wheet to a steering clutch on each track. The steering method was alarming because if one steered on overrun after breaking the drive, the tank went into reverse by swinging the free track round the driven portion. There was a tendency to shed tracks, which fortunately could be replaced fairly easily. The Vickers Light Tanks did, however, have one redeeming virtue. They did not break down with anythng like the regularity of some later and bigger affairs.

ww2dbaseProduction from the begining of the war until the end of June 1940 was 320 tanks, of which 180 were produced in the first four months, 80 in the first quarter of 1940 and 60 in the second quarter. The Mark VIC, which followed the Mark VIB in production, was similar in almost all respects except that it lacked the turret cupola and mounted a 15-millimeter BESA and a 7.92-millimeter calibre BESA machine-guns in place of the Vickers guns. Both types would serve with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1939-40, equipping both the divisional cavalry regiments and as headquarters tanks of 1st (Army) Tank Brigade. But despite being mobile and fast their thin side armour was easily pierced and the machine-gun armament was utterly inadequate on the battlefield.

ww2dbaseIn Egypt the Mark VIC survived a little longer. On 12 May 1941, the Tiger convoy arrived in Alexandria with 238 tanks, including 21 Mark VI Light Tanks, to re-equip the 7th Armoured Division. Many of these newly arrived tanks needed immediate servicing to prepare them for battle and at least eight of the Mark VI vehicles were found to need complete overhauls. All this resulted in the opening of Archibald Wavell's intended offensive to raise the Siege of Tobruk and re-capture eastern Cyrenaica (Operation Battleaxe) to be postponed until mid-June. Battleaxe was a complete disaster with half the British tanks knocked out (including three Vickers lights) and cost Wavell his job as Commander-in-Chief Middle-East. By the end of 1941, apart from a few still in Malta, the Vickers light tanks had been finally retired from the Tank Brigades. Attempts to convert them into anti-aircraft tanks failed, although the Germans managed to employ some captured vehicles as anti-tank gun carriers.

B. T. White: Tanks and other AFVs of the Blitzkrieg Era 1939-41 (Blandford Press, 1972)
Duncan Crow (Editor): British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations 1919-46 (Profile Publications Ltd, 1972)
Ian V. Hogg & John Weeks: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn Publishing, 1980)
Eric Offord: British Tanks 1914-45 (War Monthly issue 15)
Philip Trewbitt: Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Dempsey Parr, 1999)
A.J. Smithers: Rude Mechanicals (Graftton Books, 1989)

Last Major Revision: Feb 2023


MachineryMeadows 6cyl petrol engine rated at 86hp
SuspensionTwo two-wheeled bogie units each side, sprung on twin Horstmann coil springs
Armament1x0.5in Vickers Heavy machine gun, 1x0.303in rifle-calibre machine-gun
Length3.58 m
Width2.05 m
Height2.23 m
Weight4.9 t
Speed40 km/h off-road; 55 km/h on-road
Range210 km

MachineryMeadows 6cyl petrol engine rated at 86hp
SuspensionTwo two-wheeled bogie units each side, sprung on twin Horstmann coil springs
Armament1x15mm BESA machine gun, 1x7.92mm BESA machine gun
Length3.58 m
Width2.05 m
Height2.23 m
Weight5.3 t
Speed40 km/h off-road; 55 km/h on-road
Range210 km


Light Tank Mk VIA of UK 3rd KingA Light Tank Mk VI receiving engine repair work on its engine at a British Royal Army Service Corps workshop, France, 3 Jan 1940Wrecked Light Tank Mk VIC on a road between Huppy and Saint-Maxent, Picardy, France, 27-29 May 1940Light Tank Mk VIB vehicles of UK 7th Armoured Division in North Africa, 2 Aug 1940
See all 8 photographs of Light Tank Mk VI Light Tank

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