The Valentine Infantry Tank was a peculiar beast – it was produced in greater numbers than any other British tank of the Second World War, but saw very limited front line service. In British service the gun armed versions were used in North Africa, but were never the most important tank in use. A huge number were sent to the Soviet Union, but their use on the Eastern Front is fairly obscure (as is the case for most lend-lease equipment), and they were probably mainly used by second line units. As a result the author has the space here to examine in some detail the many variants produced – eleven marks of gun tank, with a range of different turrets and guns, the Bishop and Archer self propelled guns and a number of experimental vehicles.
A notable feature of this book are the detailed tables of information relating to the various marks of the tank – one full page for the basic details of the marks – guns, turret details, numbers delivered, differences between the types, another for the external and internal differences, one for production contracts and deliveries and a double page spread for the physical specifications (including some of the special types). There is also some interesting material on the interior of the tank – the location of the driver's controls, how the gears were operated, the different vision devices that was used and so forth – material that is rarely covered in much detail.
A picture is painted of a tank that didn't really have a place in the British Army's plans – too slow to be a cruiser tank, too light to be an infantry tank, but that was more reliable than its British contemporaries, and crucially was available in large numbers in the mid-war years. Many of the 'funnies' that were used on D-Day were developed using the Valentine, even if those early versions of flail tanks or DD tanks weren't actually used on the day.
Design and Development
Author: Bruce Oliver Newsome