four different types of track used by the Churchill: Riveted,
Heavy Cast Steel, Light Cast Steel and Manganese. All
four types of track were composed of shoes connected together
by pins and were designed to run dry requiring no lubrication.
track was used on the very early prototypes Churchills and appears
to that desinged as part of the A20 contract using pressed steel
face plates that were riveted to the underlying track. This
track type was is only to be found on the very first protoype
and producion vehciles and was soon replaced.
Of the three
later track types the Heavy Cast Steel track was the first to
be produced, but perhaps surprisingly all three track types
were designed within a relatively short space of time, and later
all three would see simultaneous active service.
Early in 1941
it had been recommended to the Tank Board that any heavy or
fast vehicle should be equipped with manganese tracks as this
material had a better shock resistance. A new manganese track
was designed for the Churchill and prototype was available for
testing by 13th August 1941. Unfortunately there was a shortage
of production capacity to manufacture the new track and after
discussions between Ministry of Supply and Vauxhall it was recommended
that not only should the new manganese track under go test but
that "a Ford Iron Track made from the Manganese steel
pattern should be tested as soon as possible" as well.
The sequence therefore appears to be that whilst the manganese
track was the preferred successor to the Heavy Cast Steel track,
shortage of available available production capacity ensured
it would be the last type to be introduced into production.
Churchills were plagued with track and suspension failures.
The Heavy Cast Track has gained a bad reputation as a result
of track failures during the Dieppe raid (although this is a
much debated subject). There is some evidence to show that there
were some initial problems with the Manganese track as well.
In a field trial report on reworked Churchills issued in July
1942 the Department of Tank Design reported that one vehicle
developed "cracks in the webs behind the centre lug"
on no less than ten links. On one link the centre lug broke
away altogether "shearing off or damaging most of the sprocket
ring retaining bolts on both the final drive and idler wheel."
These faults had occurred after only 84 miles testing (although
whether this Track was fitted new during rework is not stated).
The 'problem' track links were apparently manufactured by Singers
and were duly replaced by "similar links produced by Butterly
Foundry Co." Later in a preliminary report on Churchill
tanks of 1st Army in Tunisia (26/03/43) the manganese track
is reported as not having proved as good as the cast track.
Unfortunately the report does not go into any further detail
though it may be significant that during the Tunisian campaign
some very heavy going was encountered.
1942 assertion that manganese track would be preferable for
heavy vehicles, it is noticeable from photographs that many
AVREs, Gun Carriers and even Post war flails were fitted with
the Heavy Cast Track. There are also plenty of photographs of
vehicles in the later stages of the war in Europe still fitted
with the Heavy Cast Track. The implication is that there was
that weight of vehicle was not a deciding influence in track
choice which was more likely to have been made based upon the
expected terrain conditions for a particular vehicles role.
Thus the Manganese Track and Light Steel Track were favoured
for mixed running i.e. roads and fields. Heavy Cast Steel track
was preferred for fields and mud i.e. heavy going.