MarkN wrote:For the start of Op CRUSADER, the Crusader tank was used by 6RTR, 2RGH, 3CLY, 4CLY and HQ 22ArmdBde. All tanks used by them arrived in the ME brand spanking new.
Don't think it matters a huge deal if they were new when they arrived in ME. The maintenance tasks given in the instruction manuals for these tanks set tasks at every 1 month OR every 500 miles, whichever came soonest i.e. Cruiser tanks were expected to rack up substantial mileage even when going about their normal duties.
I don't know how much mileage was expended by ME units when not ostensibly in action or in training. However, I do know that in the UK 15/19 Hussars received their first reworked Covenanter III's in May 1942, and were undertaking 1000 mile maintenance by July. And this was without them having been involved in any dedicated training exercises.
With regard to 3 CLY's problems, here's a passage from this book
A schedule was given of these breakdowns, which were in fact incurred by the 3rd County of London Yeomanry, a component unit of the 22nd Armoured Brigade, which revealed that no less than 11 A15's had broken down on the 23rd December, with on average an additional 4 breaking down on each subsequent day. The causes were a miscellany of issues, including track and suspension breakages, air compressor failures, water leaks, petrol stoppages, unserviceable fan drives and water pumps, and power traverse problems. This was an extremely controversial episode, although Captain R.H. Arbuckle of the RAOC had informed the commander of 22nd Armoured Brigade, Brigadier John Scott-Cockburn, on 4th January that these troubles were more due to the tanks involved being at the limit of their overhaul lives, than indicating inherent reliability problems:
"The reason for the large number of cruiser tank casualties due to mechanical troubles in the last battle and approach march was undoubtedly due to the fact that 90% of the tanks have exceeded the designed mileage before a complete overhaul becomes necessary. This overhaul mileage was assessed at 1200 miles and prior to the last battle most of our tanks had exceeded 1200 miles and many 1500.
The above fact reacted in two ways. First, there was a large scale failure of water pumps, air compressors and main fan drive sprockets due to wear or length of service. Secondly, owing to inadequate supply of new parts for the above assemblies, 'cannibalisation' was carried out among parts which although at the time still functioning had already performed as many service hours as the parts they replaced."
A memo from Brigadier Lloyd to the Chief of Staff (CGS) Middle East Forces, Lieutenant-General Arthur Smith, on 15th January 1942 stated that the limits imposed by the A15's overhaul life were realised before the commencement of Operation Crusader, and that an order had been issued to overhaul any machine that had less than 600 miles of operational life remaining. This couldn't be done for all regiments because the RAOC were preoccupied in modifying the axle arms for 22nd Armoured Brigade, but the majority of the Brigade's tanks were in fact within this mileage limit. However, the distance from the railhead at Misheifa, where the Brigade's tanks were unloaded, to Agedabia, which was their destination 200 miles west of Tobruk, was in the region of 400 miles, and this distance was estimated to be nearer to 700 miles after fighting and manoeuvring were taken into account. Therefore the Brigade's Crusaders could easily have exceeded their overhaul lives in this single advance, and it was calculated that 40, or 24%, of them would in fact have done this. Lloyd's memo stated that in fact 41 of 3 CLY's Crusaders had succumbed to mechanical failure, the overwhelming majority of which, being issued after October, would have been new tanks or recently overhauled, inferring that the breakdowns could not be exclusively attributed to excessive mileage. What Brigadier Lloyd didn't mention was that the regiment’s machines also included patched up battle casualties received from the 7th Armoured Division's Advanced Divisional Workshop between the 14th and 17th December, which the 4th County of London Yeomanry, also part of 22nd Armoured Brigade, described as being "in a fairly bad state and ill-equipped" and "semi-serviceable". Whether the 3 CLY's breakdowns were due to excessive mileage or not, it was clear that the Crusader's comparatively limited overhaul life was not conducive to the long approach marches required for operations in the Western Desert, and compared unfavourably to that of the M3 Stuart (3500 miles) and the Valentine (2500 miles). Lloyd estimated that the use of A15's in such circumstances would require a reserve of 100% replacement vehicles instead of the usual 50%, with the corresponding logistical implications.