Early variations of the Cromwell A-27M Infantry Tank had carried different combinations of engines and main guns, but the new 75mm gunned tank driven by the Merlin Meteor engine was designated the Cromwell IV.
The driver and hull gunner were contained in one compartment in the tank body; the commander, gunner, and loader occupied the turret. The interior was somewhat cramped, especially if the driver and hull gunner had to make a hasty exit. Later versions included an escape hatch for them.
From its introduction in early 1943 to the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the Cromwell A-27M Infantry Tank was used to train new tank crews.
During Normandy, Cromwells went to France with the 7th Armored Division. Its combat debut was not a success.
The Cromwell was initially stymied by the small operating area beyond the beachhead, which did not allow its best features -- speed and agility -- to be used until the breakout from Caen.
Alter the Caen breakout, the Cromwell's Meteor engine became its greatest asset. It provided extreme agility and a good turn of speed and was very reliable. The Cromwell advanced at a rate of 70 miles per day after the breakout from the Normandy beachhead.
It had become obvious earlier than Normandy that the 75mm gun was no match for the heavy armor of the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther and the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I, nor was the Cromwell's armor protection against their more powerful main guns.
To deal with the latter, appliqué armor was bolted onto Cromwells to increase the tank's armor thickness from 2.5 inches to 3.9 inches.
The Cromwell A-27M Infantry Tank's chief advantage remained its superior agility and speed when compared with Nazi German tanks or the American M-4 Sherman. While the Cromwell was not a match for the Panther in a toe-to-toe slugging match, it was fast and maneuverable enough to take a Panther out from behind.
The next step in up-rating the Cromwell was to mount a larger gun. But the chassis was considered too small to take a larger turret. The chassis was lengthened by a little more than five feet, and a new turret, mounting a 17-pounder (76.2mm high-velocity) gun, was added.
This new tank was named the Challenger (not to be confused with the Challenger Main Battle Tank) and from its first appearance in early 1944 was used to support the Cromwell and provide heavy, long-range firepower.
But even the Challenger, with its more powerful gun, did not solve the problem of facing Panthers and Tiger Is.
A new tank was designed and built based on the Cromwell plan. Called the Comet, it mounted the 77mm 49-caliber gun. The gun was capable of penetrating 4.3 inches of armor angled at 30° at 500 yards. The Comet reached the front lines in November 1944.
While the Cromwell was overshadowed by the American M-4 Sherman, which could outperform it in most respects, the Cromwell made an important contribution to British armored tactics and to the race across northern Europe.
To learn about Cromwell A-27M Infantry Tank specifications, see our final section.