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Building A Cromwell Force

Building A Cromwell Force
with John Lee

I wanted to write an article introducing the Cromwell tank as I have a personal connection with one of the regiments the Cromwell tank was issued to, 8th Royal Irish Hussars of the 7th “Desert Rats” Armoured Division. My Grandfather served as a tank commander throughout the war with the regiment starting in the Desert and ending in Europe. In Europe, he commanded a Cromwell tank.

The Cromwell tank was issued to the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments in each of the four Armoured Divisions (Guards, 7th and 11th, 1st Polish), the 1st (Czechoslovakian) Independent Armoured Brigade Group, as well as being the main combat tank in the 7th “Desert Rats” Armoured Division.

The Desert Rats had returned from Italy in January 1944 leaving their Sherman tanks behind and having to learn how to operate the new Cromwell tank.

The Cromwell (heavy cruiser) tank was the first real advance in design. The Rolls Royce Merlin engine converted for tank use was called the Meteor and when coupled with the Merit Brown epicycle gearbox and Christie suspension system had a top speed of 40mph (64kmh) making it the fastest British tank of World War Two! It had 77mm maximum armour plating, 75mm dual purpose gun and 2 Besa machine guns. 

While this was a good design, it was still outclassed by the German tanks such as the Panthers and Tigers they would soon face. With its fast speed, reliability and low profile, the crews would soon learn to use those to their advantage to compensate for their lack of firepower against the German heavy tanks.

The advantage of the 75mm dual purpose gun is that it fired the same ammunition as the Sherman and Churchill tanks making ammunition resupply easier.

The Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments were meant to be the eyes and ears of the Armoured Divisions, but they were frequently used as the fourth Armoured Regiment in the division. The main difference between the two types of regiments is that the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments lacked the 17pdr Firefly or later Challenger in each Tank Troop.

Each regiment consisted of 4 squadrons plus an HQ. In the new D-Day: British book, both types of squadrons are represented.

Building A Cromwell Force

Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Squadron made up of:

  • Squadron HQ

    • 1 or 2 Cromwell (75mm)

    • Up to 2 Cromwell CS (95mm) 

  • 1-4 Cromwell Troop(s)

    • 2 or 3 Cromwell (75mm)

    • 1 Firefly (17 pdr)

  • 0-2 Stuart Troop(s)

    • 3 or 4 Stuart (37mm)

  • 0-1 Crusader AA Troop

    • 2 Crusader AA (Twin 20mm AA)

Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Recce Squadron made up of:

  • Squadron HQ

    • 1 Cromwell (75mm)

    • 2 Cromwell CS (95mm) - Optional

  • 1-5 Cromwell Troop(s)

    • 3 Cromwell (75mm)

  • 0-2 Stuart Troop(s)

    • 3 or 4 Stuart (37mm)

  • 0-1 Crusader AA Troop

    • 2 Crusader AA (Twin 20mm AA)

As you can see from both formation layouts above, you should be able to make a fairly strong formation that can withstand a formation break.  Add an Infantry platoon (para, air landing, commando, motor, rifle, or even an allied armoured rifle platoon!) and artillery.  Round out your force with some heavy AT assets with either M10 SP (17 pdr) and/or Typhoons to take care of any Tigers lurking around and you will have a mobile balanced force ready to play. 

Building A Cromwell Force

Use the Cromwells and Stuarts to tear down the sides of the table to get those flank shots while the Fireflies and M10s (17pdr) take long range shots to keep your opponent honest! This is a fun and fast and mobile army to play. If you play the Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Recce Squadron, they have the “Scout” ability for your Cromwell platoons. Advance them down the flanks in cover and they will be “gone-to-ground” – harder to hit and will have Jerry worried.

Building A Cromwell Force

For me with all the new plastic kit releasing for D-Day: British, a balanced Armoured Squadron would look something like this:

  • Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Formation HQ: 2 x Cromwell (75mm)
  • Cromwell Armoured Troop: 3 x Cromwell (75mm), 1 x Firefly (17 pdr)
  • Cromwell Armoured Troop: 3 x Cromwell (75mm), 1 x Firefly (17 pdr)
  • Stuart Recce Armoured Troop: 4 x Stuart (37mm)
  • Crusader AA Troop: 2 Crusader AA (Twin 20mm AA)
  • Parachute Platoon: 7 x Bren Gun & SMLE rifle team, 2 x PIAT team
  • M10 SP Anti-Tank Troop: 4 x M10 (17 pdr)
  • 25pdr Field Troop: 4 x 25 pdr Gun
  • Sherman OP Observation Post: 1 x Sherman OP (MG)

This list oozes versatility. I can use the 25 pdrs to anchor one objective whilst providing a useful artillery template, and the Fearless Careful Parachute Platoon to anchor the other. The Parachute Platoon are also great for attacking and are awesome in the assault. The M10s (17 pdr) and Fireflies (17 pdr) will be able to engage at long range with their AT14 guns which can take out Tigers and Panthers from the front. The M10 (17 pdr) is my go-to ambush unit if I end up in a mission defending where there is the ambush option. The Stuart (37mm) has “Spearhead” so in those missions where I can, I will be able to expand my deployment area. They are also fast so can keep up with the Cromwells as they dash down the flank and using cover can take advantage of the “Scout” rule and cause havoc in my opponents back field taking out artillery and other lightly armoured targets leaving the Cromwells with their AT10 to take out enemy tanks in the flank!  

Building A Cromwell Force

Looking at a Armoured Recce Squadron, a balanced list would look something like this:

  • Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Recce Formation HQ: 1 x Cromwell (75mm)
  • Cromwell Armoured Troop: 3 x Cromwell (75mm)
  • Cromwell Armoured Troop: 3 x Cromwell (75mm)
  • Stuart Recce Armoured Troop: 4 x Stuart (37mm)
  • Parachute Platoon: 7 x Bren Gun & SMLE rifle team, 2 x PIAT team
  • M10 SP Anti-Tank Troop: 4 x M10 (17 pdr)
  • 25pdr Field Troop: 4 x 25 pdr Gun
  • Sherman OP Observation Post: 1 x Sherman OP (MG)
  • Typhoon Fighter-Bomber Flight: 2 x Typhoon

This is similar to the first formation except no Firefly (17 pdr) tanks in the Cromwell troops and no AA Tanks.  The Cromwell Troops all have “Scout” rule so can advance down the flanks under cover with the Stuarts being gone-to-ground making them harder to hit! I added Typhoons in the list to provide a second template option for both pinning and killing infantry and guns plus with AT 5 vs TA 1 or 2, gives Jerry something to think about where to place his tanks.

With both of these lists you can take advantage of the new D-Day: British Starter Force – Desert Rats Squadron which is great value. This box has most of what you need to build the above two forces including Cromwells, Stuarts, M10s, 25 pdrs, Paratroopers. Just add a couple of other boxes to complete the force.

Check out the D-Day British Starter Force- Desert Rats Squadron here in the online store...

I for one, am looking forward to running these two lists, especially the Desert Rats Cromwell Armoured Recce Squadron. My Cromwells will be showing off the 8th Royal Irish Hussars decals to pay homage to my grandfather’s regiment and can’t wait to get them on the table.

 

References

  • Churchill’s Desert Rats – From Normandy to Berlin with the 7th Armoured Division by Patrick Delaforce
  • The Desert Rats – The 7th Armoured Division 1940-1945 by Robin Neillands
  • The Desert Rats – The 7th Armoured Division in World War II by Major-General G.L. Verney DSO, MVO
  • Desert Rats at War – North Africa, Italy, Northwest Europe by George Forty

 

 


Last Updated On Thursday, May 21, 2020 by Luke at Battlefront