Armour attachment on early Churchills.

by S. Osfield

In MkIs to MkVI the method of attachment of the heavier armour components to the ½ inch mild steel inner skin was by a series of large bolts. Although these bolts were spot-welded to the mild steel inner skin early in production it was felt that the larger bolts threaded to the thickness of armour were vulnerable to being driven into the hull by a strike. Consequently a longer bolt was substituted fitted with a cone shaped nut, this nut had two flats allowing the nut to be held during manufacture and was similar to those use on the turrets of A24-A27 Cruisers. Subsequently when many of the earlier tanks with short bolts manufactured under the initial contracts entered the rebuild programme a cone shaped fillet was welded over a number of the exposed bolt ends. This cone although similar to the later nut is identifiable as it is circular (has no flats on the sides), of course is solid and is welded to the side plate.

A number of “R” suffixed rebuilds retained the plain hull style until a second rebuild, an example T32418R (a MkII rebuilt to MkIV standard) can be seen on page 89 of Mr Churchill’s Tank by David Fletcher. Several authors have said that the bolts held additional armour plate in position this is not the case it must be emphasised that the extended bolts fitted with nuts has no connection whatsoever with appliqué armour fitted later to some Churchills. The bolts on the upper hull sides could not be modified as to do so would have interfered with the movement of track. Additionally several smaller bolts evidently did not warrant improvement.

Photo 1: Right

A close up view of the Otterburn target tank ‘Merlin’  A hit by an ATGW has blown off the forward AVRE attachment bracket and has removed the forward CONE exposing the bolt end. As can be seen in the photo the cone is solid without flats and is welded to the hull, but is not attached to the end of the bolt.

Left: Photo 2:

A still closer view of the area of photo 1, note the slightly recessed bolt end and that the cone had been welded eccentrically over existing paintwork.

Photo 3: Right

MkIII AVRE under restoration showing the two upper umodified short bolts.

Photo 4: Left

The Churchill MkIV at Feldom 3D (Pract-A/T) Catterick Camp Training Area near Richmond North Yorkshire. Showing ‘cone-nuts’ with 20mm hull appliqué welded to the hull, Showing that the appliqué is not retained by the bolts.

Photo 5: Right

Close up of the ex Otterburn MkIII AVRE under restoration by Bob Grundy near Wigan. Note the welded cone with appliqué armour fitted around the bolts. It is significant that all known appliqué kits have cut outs to clear cones or cone-nuts. Had the appliqué plan been mooted earlier in the rebuild programme, it would be been easier to fit solid appliqué over the existing plain hull sides on the earlier tanks.

All photos © Steve Osfield 1990-2000 with acknowledgements to:

Col. A Cross former Range Officer OTA & the staff of the Otterburn Training Area.

Range Officer and Staff Catterick Training Area

Bob Grundy of Wigan Tracked Armour Group.