Light Tank Mk VIII
The Tank, Light, Mk VIII (A25), also known as the Harry Hopkins
Harry Hopkins
Harry Lloyd Hopkins was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration , which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country...

, after President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Roosevelt's chief diplomatic advisor, was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 light tank
Light tank
A light tank is a tank variant initially designed for rapid movement, and now primarily employed in low-intensity conflict. Early light tanks were generally armed and armored similar to an armored car, but used tracks in order to provide better cross-country mobility.The light tank was a major...

 produced by Vickers-Armstrong during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The Mk VIII was the latest in the line of light tanks
Light Tanks of the UK
Light Tanks of the UK include the Light Tanks Mk II to Mk V.Between the First and Second World Wars, the British produced a series of similar light tanks. They saw use in training, and in limited engagements with British Empire units such as the South African Army during the East African Campaign...

 the company had built for the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, and was intended to be the successor of the previous light tank designed by Vickers-Armstrong, the Mk VII Tetrarch. A number of changes were made to the Mk VIII, most notably increasing its width, length and weight and also increasing the thickness of the armour. The design of the tank was submitted to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 in late 1941, with an initial order for 1,000 models being made by the Tank Board of the War Office in the same month, a number that increased to 2, 410 in November. Production began in June 1942 but immediately began encountering problems with the tank, and a number of modifications had to be made to the design after complaints were made by the War Office and the Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment. These problems were so acute that only 6 tanks had been produced by mid-1943, and only 100 when production ended in February 1945.

By mid-1941, officials in the War Office and the British Army had taken the decision that light tanks were no longer to be used by the British Army due to their inferior weapons and armour, as well as their poor performance during the conflict. Consequently the Mk VIII was obsolete by the time that any significant number of the tanks had been produced, and none ever saw combat. A number of plans were made by the War Office for the design in light of this decision, including equipping reconnaissance units with them, or the unsuccessful idea of attaching wings to them so that aircraft could tow them as gliders into position to support airborne forces; eventually it was decided to hand over those tanks that had been built to the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 for use in airfield defence. One variant on the Mk VIII was designed, the Alecto self-propelled gun
Alecto (SPG)
The Alecto was an experimental self propelled gun developed by the British during the Second World War but terminated with the end of the war in Europe.-Development:...

 which was to have mounted a howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

 and used as a close-support vehicle by airborne forces; however only a few were ever produced and they were never used in combat.

Development History

The Mk VIII was the light tank designed by Vickers-Armstrong to be the successor to the Mk VII Tetrarch for the British Army. The company intended that the Mk VIII would improve on the design of the Tetrarch in a number of areas, particularly that of armour protection. It had thicker armour than the Tetrarch, with the frontal hull and turret armour being increased to a thickness of 38 millimetres (1.5 in) and the side armour to 17 millimetre (0.669291338582677 in), and the turret and hull were given more sloping surfaces than the Tetrarch to help deflect shells. The dimensions of the Tetrarch design were also changed, with the Mk VIII being longer by 6 inch (0.1524 m), wider by 1 in 3 in (0.381 m) and its weight being increased; these alterations meant that the tank could no longer be air-portable, as it was too heavy to be carried by the General Aircraft Hamilcar
General Aircraft Hamilcar
The General Aircraft Limited GAL. 49 Hamilcar or Hamilcar Mark I was a large British military glider produced during the Second World War, which was designed to carry heavy cargo, such as the Tetrarch or M22 Locust light tank...

Military glider
Military gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g...


The same 12-cylinder engine as in the Tetrarch was fitted to the Mk VIII, although the increased weight meant that its maximum speed decreased to 30 miles per hour (13.4 m/s). The armament remained the same as the Tetrarch's: one machine-gun and a 2 pounder
Ordnance QF 2 pounder
The Ordnance QF 2-pounder was a British anti-tank and vehicle-mounted gun, employed in the Second World War. It was actively used in the Battle of France, and during the North Africa campaign...

 40 millimetres (1.6 in) main gun. The tank also kept the unusual steering system used in the Tetrarch design; this steering and mechanical system accomplished turns by the lateral movement of road wheels, which bowed the tracks. When the driver turned the steering wheel all eight road wheels not only turned but also tilted in order to bend the tracks and make the tank turn; the idea was to reduce the mechanical strain and waste of power caused by the traditional system used to turn tanks by braking one track. Unlike the Tetrarch, the steering system of the Mk VIII was power-assisted.

Vickers-Armstrong submitted the Mk VIII design to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 in September 1941, and in that same month the Tank Board of the War Office ordered 1,000 tanks, increased in November to 2,410. The Board hoped that production could commence in June 1942 at a rate of approximately 100 per month, to be produced by Metro-Cammell, a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong. It was also at this time that the tank was given the specification number A25 and given the name of Harry Hopkins Production began in June 1942 as expected, but immediately began to experience problems; these are not specified, but it appears that testing of the prototypes of the Mk VIII provided by Vickers-Armstrong raised a number of issues. A minute sent to the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, in September from the Ministry of Supply stated that there would be delays in delivery of the tank due to developmental problems, and a report issued by the War Office in December stated that a number of modifications would be required before production could be continued; the front suspension system was singled out as requiring extensive modification. Problems were still being encountered in July 1943, with a report from the Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment indicating that serious defects were still being found in the models being tested; the problems became so acute that trials of the Mk VIII were abandoned earlier than scheduled. By 31 August 1943 only six Mk VIII tanks had been produced, compared to a War Office requirement of 100 by the beginning of the year. Although the War Office persisted in retaining the design and issued an official requirement in November 1943 for 750 tanks to be built, only around 100 had been built when production officially ended in February 1945.

Operational history

By mid-1941 officials at the War Office and in the Army had finally decided that light tanks as a concept were a liability, and too vulnerable to be used by the British Army any further. This was due to the poor performance of British light tanks during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, caused when a shortage of tanks designed to engage enemy main battle tanks had led to light tanks being deployed against German armour; the resulting high casualties led to the War Office rethinking the suitability of the light tank design. The pre-war role of the light tank, that of reconnaissance, had also been found to be better carried out by scout cars which had smaller crews and better cross-country abilities. Consequently by the time that significant numbers of the Mk VIII were being produced by Metro-Cammell, they had already become obsolete and did not see combat. There was a requirement for a limited number of light tanks within the organization of British armoured divisions, but this had already been met by the American-produced M5 Stuart light tank
Stuart tank
The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II and supplied to British and Commonwealth forces under lend-lease prior to the entry of the U.S. into the war—and used thereafter by U.S...

. A policy report issued in December 1942 suggested that the tank could be issued to reconnaissance regiments or special light tank regiments raised for specialized operations. These suggestions were discussed and discarded, and instead it was decided that those tanks built should be handed over to the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 for use in defending airfields and airbases.

The Mk VIII was also discussed in terms of another plan known as the Carrier Wing
Baynes Bat
|-See also:-References:* *...

; in this plan flying surfaces, such as wings, would be fitted to the Mk VIII so that it could be towed by a transport aircraft and then glide into battle in support of airborne forces. The plan was dropped, however, after the prototype crashed after it had taken off.

A single variant of the Mk VIII was designed, the Alecto
Alecto (SPG)
The Alecto was an experimental self propelled gun developed by the British during the Second World War but terminated with the end of the war in Europe.-Development:...

 self-propelled gun. Originally known as the Harry Hopkins 1 CS (for "Close Support"), the Alecto was eventually given the General Staff specification number A25 E2. The Alecto mounted a 95 millimetres (3.7 in) howitzer on a lightweight version of the Mk VIII chassis
A chassis consists of an internal framework that supports a man-made object. It is analogous to an animal's skeleton. An example of a chassis is the underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame with the wheels and machinery.- Vehicles :In the case of vehicles, the term chassis means the...

 which had the turret removed so that the howitzer could be placed low down in the hull, and the armour was reduced to a thickness of 10 millimetre to reduce its weight, resulting in a maximum speed of 31 miles per hour (13.9 m/s). The Alecto was designed to replace the half-tracks carrying support weapons, such as howitzers, which British airborne formations used during the conflict, and was first developed in late 1942. It could also have been used in place of 75mm gun equipped armoured cars
AEC Armoured Car
AEC Armoured Car is a series of heavy armoured cars built by the Associated Equipment Company during the Second World War.-History:AEC of Southall, Middlesex was a manufacturer of truck and bus chassis and its Matador artillery tractor was used for towing medium field and heavy anti-aircraft guns...

. The War Office had ordered 2,200 Alectos but only a small number were ever produced, none of which saw service; many were converted into bulldozer
A bulldozer is a crawler equipped with a substantial metal plate used to push large quantities of soil, sand, rubble, etc., during construction work and typically equipped at the rear with a claw-like device to loosen densely-compacted materials.Bulldozers can be found on a wide range of sites,...

s for use by Royal Engineer
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

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