The British Vickers Mark I & Mark II Medium Tank

The British Vickers Mark I & Mark II Medium Tank

The British Vickers Mark I & Mark II Medium Tank was the Royal Armoured Corps’ standard tank throughout the 1920s and 1930s. It was famously used during the newly formed Corps’ armour experiments on Salisbury Plain.

Introduced in 1923, it had a number of innovative features; it was the first British tank to enter service with sprung suspension and a rotating turret for the main gun. It was armed with a 3 pounder 47mm main gun, with Vickers machine guns in the hull and Hotchkiss machine guns in the turret. (Unusually, these turret machine guns weren’t mounted co-axially with the main gun and were operated independently).

The Vickers Medium was powered by an Armstrong Siddeley air cooled engine which was mounted at the front, next to the driver. It had a top speed of 30mph.

The British Vickers Mark I & Mark II Medium Tank Family of Variants

It was produced in two major variants; The Mk I and the Mk II. Of these two major variants, there were a number of sub variants.

Mk IA had its armour thickness increased from 6mm to 8mm, and an anti aircraft mount for an additional Hotchkiss machine gun.

Mk IA* was fitted with a commander’s cupola and the Hotchkiss machine guns were all replaced with a single Vickers machine gun, mount co-axially with the main gun.

Mk I (India Pattern) was armed only with machine guns.

Mk II was introduced in 1925, was similar to the Mk I but had armoured skirts to protect the tracks.

Mk II* also had its Hotchkiss machine guns replaced with a single Vickers machine gun.

Mk II** was converted from Mk II* tanks and had separate mountings for the 3 pounder main gun and Vickers machine gun. An armoured container for a radio was also fitted to the rear of the turret.

Mk IIA had the ventilator on the left of the turret covered by an armoured box.

The Mk 2 was obsolete by the break out of WW2, but was still in service in small numbers as training vehicles. Some were issued to front line forces to make up for the numbers of other tanks that were lost during the BEF’s withdrawal to Dunkirk and may even have seen limited action in the Middle East.

Page written and submitted by Bruce Forrest