The Churchill I was armed with a 2-pounder anti-tank gun and coaxial Besa machine gun carried in a small cast turret and a 3" howitzer carried in the hull front. The turret was too small to carry the upcoming 6-pounder gun, even though the tank had been designed with that weapon in mind.
The Churchill I was originally built with exposed tracks and air intake lourves on the hull sides. During the long re-working programme most were later given track covers and had the air intakes moved from the side to the top to prevent them getting clogged. The new type could also take a trunk to allow the tank to wade through deeper water.
The oddest variant was the Churchill IICS (Close Support), which carried the 2-pounder in the hull front and the 3in howitzer in the turret. The turret mounted 3in howitzer was perhaps a valid idea, although it wasn't a terribly effective weapon, but the hull mounted 2-pounder was largely useless. Only a handful were produced.
The supply of 3in howitzers ran short early in the production run of the Churchill, and so most tanks were completed as the Churchill II, with a second Besa machine gun in its place.
The Mk I carried 150 rounds of 2-pounder ammo and 58 rounds of 3in ammo.
The Mk I was produced in 1942. 303 were built, alongside 1,127 Mk IIs, for a total of 1,430 2-pounder Churchills.
The Churchill Mk I took part in the disastrous attack on Dieppe of August 1942. They were used by the Canadian Calgary Regiment, 14th Canadian tank battalion. Twenty nine tanks began the attack, about half got across the sea wall, and all of them had to be left behind at the end of the attack.
The Mk I, Mk II and Mk III made up the equipment of the 21st Army Tank Brigade and 25th Army Tank Brigade during the fighting in Tunisia early in 1943. They missed the first stages of the fighting in Italy, but did see service in that theatre during the fighting on the Gothic Line in 1944.
A number of Mk Is and Mk IIs were upgraded to Mk III standard by giving them the new turret.
Churchill Mk I, A22, Infantry Tank Mk IV
Hull Length: 24ft 5in
Hull Width: 8ft 2in
Height: 10ft 8n
Crew: 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, co-driver/ hull gunner)
Engine: 350hp Bedford twin-six
Max Road Speed: 15.5mph
Max Cross-county Speed: 8mph
Road Range: 90 miles radius
Armament: 2-pounder gun and 7.92mm Besa machine gun in turret, 3in howitzer in hull front