The Vickers Archer tank destroyer came about because of a need to make the 17 pounder anti tank gun more mobile. The 17 lb gun was an excellent anti tank weapon with a fire power nearly equal to that of the dreaded German 88mm gun, but it was also big and heavy needing a vehicle to move it, this meant it could only really be used in a defensive role. With the fluid and rapid advances of the Allied forces following D Day defensive weapons were becoming much less useful. In a similar way that the German forces used out of date tank chassis to mount their tank destroyers the British decided to make use of the chassis of the Valentine infantry tank, which although outdated was large enough to mount the gun although without a turret.
The weapon was mounted in a low open topped armoured box, a very common design in tank hunters of all nations. Due to length of the gun the barrel extended into the rear of the vehicle which kept length down but meant that the gun actually recoiled into the driver’s space making it impossible to fire while moving, (the gun was mounted facing backwards which meant that after firing the driver could jump in and the vehicle could drive away without needing to turn round).
The Archer first came into service in October 1944 seeing action with the Royal Artillery in France, Germany and Italy. By the end of the war over 600 had been produced (production ended in May 1945) and after the war many saw service with the Egyptian Army during the Suez Crisis. The Archer weighed in at 15 tonnes, had a crew of 4 and a top speed of 8 mph off road. It also carried a Bren machine gun for defense against infantry. Designed as a stop gap measure, the Archer proved to be a hard hitting and effective vehicle despite its awkward design. A surviving vehicle can be seen in the Bovington tank museum in the UK.
|British Anti-Tank Artillery 1939-1945 (Osprey New Vanguard), Chris Henry. An interesting look at the evolution of the British anti-tank gun, from the tiny early 2-pdrs up to the massive 32-pdr guns and the self-propelled tank destroyers that appeared late in the war.|
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