The Burma Campaign

Performance of the Churchill Tank in Burma - 1945

During late April and early May 1945, a single Churchill tank was operating in Burma.  It had been sent from India to undergo trials as to the suitability of the type for action over ground typically encountered in Burma, and presumably that similar to terrain likely to be fought across in Malaya.  The British War Office intended to re-equip the 254th Indian Tank Brigade with Churchill tanks in time to support projected operations in Malaya.

The Churchill tank sent to Burma in early 1945 may have been a Mk V, fitted with a 95mm howitzer.  For the duration of the trial, it was under the command of Headquarters Squadron of the 3rd Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), and was delivered to the unit on 28th April 1945.  The story of this tank and the subsequent conversion of the 254th Indian Tank Brigade to Churchill tanks is told here:  Churchill Tanks in Burma and India.

The Headquarters, 254th Indian Tank Brigade prepared a brief ‘interim’ report on the trial, which is found in the Brigade “Operations Report for Period 16th January – 25th March 1945”, filed with the Brigade war diary, held by The National Archives as file WO 172/7142.  The report on the Churchill is transcribed in full below.





Operations Report for Period 16th January – 25th March 1945



2  Notes on:-



(g)  Churchill Tank Mk.V.





Up to 15 May 1945.


1. Mileage.        580 total.          360 with this formation.

2. Petrol Consumption.              0.5 m.p.g.

3. Country.                    Flat track mileage mainly rd work occasional cross country on diversions.

                                    Average speed on rds 15 m.p.h.

                                    Longest run on tracks at one time          45 miles.

4. Rounds fired.                        Nil.

5. General performance and defects


(a) Engine




(i) Dust and moisture enter distributors, eventually causing misfiring and overheating; distributors should be dust-proofed.

(ii) Fuel filter inefficient in that water and sediment reach carburettors which have to be stripped and cleaned.

(iii) Hydraulic throttle control defective: will not hold pressure when hot; fluid leaks from throttle control box.

(iv) Carburettor accelerator pump assemblies are bolted down on to the float chambers by four brass bolts:  these fatigue with vibration and break or shake loose:  existing locking method by “tap washer” not satisfactory.

(v) Apart from overheating due to defects, engine temperature has seldom exceeded 200F.


(b) Transmission and steering




The engine oil pipe lines from pump to filter and from filter to engine burst and considerable oil got on to the O.S. (left hand) steering linings affecting the left hand steering.  These pipes were replaced with copper pipes which have given no trouble.  This happened at DELHI during the preliminary trials.

Now the O.S. final drive oil seal has failed and oil is picked up by the fan and spread throughout the final drive compartment: both sets of steering brake linings and the main brake linings are oiled up, and there is a danger of the oil eventually reaching the clutch.

The tk is still “steerable” but is not fit for operations.


(c) Suspension and tracks




(i) Suspension satisfactory.  Tracks (manganese steel) appear to have an excessively high rate of “stretch” and require frequent attention.

(ii) Mud ploughs are too fragile: one was torn off and wrapped round sprocket.


(d) Hull




(i) Crew report no complaints of excessive heat in drivers [sic] or fighting compartment.

(ii) Crew report that there is adequate room for stowage of normal scale of personal kit without the use of outside bins.

6. Comparative performance.


(a) There has been no opportunity for hill climbing.

(b) The tk has not been in action and no comparison can be given of operational performance.

(c) On approach marches the CHURCHILL has negotiated all river crossings which LEES have crossed and on one occasion gave a faultless performance where there was a bad approach which stuck some of the LEES.

(d) Due to collapse of rd verge where the rd was built up to cross a peat bog the tk came to rest at an angle of some 35 degrees with the O.S. track just on the edge of the rd.  There was very little support from the semi fluid peat on the N.S. hull; but the tk appeared to be quite stable.

 7. Conclusion


Until this tk can be used in a continuous operational role with, and for the same length of time between, workshop attention as LEES, no comparison can be made.

It has been noted, however, in regard to track maintenance, that the manganese track can be “thrown” from the suspension rollers without breaking or jamming the drive: this also happens with LEES, but the end connectors and wedges are much more easily removed and refitted than the type of track plate connection on the CHURCHILL manganese steel type track (track pins held in place by “keep” plates welded over the holes in the track plates).


10 April 2018