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Valentine Mk.III Tank In New Zealand Service

Developed by Vickers in the late 1930’s the ‘Infantry Tank Mk.III, Valentine’ was designed as a tank to support infantry operations, and over the course of the Second World War over 8200 of the type were produced—these accounting for almost a quarter of all British tank production during the war years.

The (New Zealand) National Army Museum's operational Valentine is a Mark.IV, but it's seen here in the colours of the Mark III's that participated in the Pacific Theatre during WW2.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

In addition to being used widely by the British Army, a significant number of the type were supplied to the USSR, and 255 were used by the New Zealand Army.

Valentines were introduced into the New Zealand Army in late 1941 to equip the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Tank battalions. Of these, 100 were Mark II’s, 74 were Mark III’s and 81 were Mark V’s, These tanks were equipped with a QF (Quick Firing) 2-pounder gun which could only fire armour piercing rounds which meant while they were perfectly adequate for training within New Zealand, they were not ideal for close infantry support work in front line areas.

When the New Zealand 3rd Division was sent to the Pacific Theatre in 1942 they were accompanied by a tank squadron of nineteen Valentine Mk.III’s (plus six additional replacements), of which seven had been converted into the Mk.IIICS (for ‘close support’). This unique conversion replaced the QF 2-pdr guns with 3-inch howitzers which had previously been installed on Australian Matilda IV tanks.The howitzers were capable of firing high explosive shells which made the IIICS far more suited to close infantry support work in the jungles of the Solomon Islands.These tanks could carry 21 high explosive rounds (compared to the 60 rounds of armour piercing shells that could be carried in the 2-pounder equipped models), and 14 smoke shells.

Another view of the Valentine Mk.IV. The Museum’s Valentine Mk.IIICS, which is one of the veterans of the Pacific Campaign, is currently in storage awaiting its turn for restoration.  

In February 1944 the tank squadron saw its only action against the Japanese. Two Valentines of the squadron on Nissan (Green) Island were tasked with supporting infantry who were driving the enemy from the village of Tanaheran. The tank crews suffered no casualties during the engagement, but one of the Valentines temporarily reversed out of the battle, carrying a wounded infantryman away from the Japanese small arms fire.

George Pycraft from the National Army Museum in Waiouru (New Zealand) talks about the museum's WW2-era Valentine tank which was used in the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War.

Introduced into service in 1942 the Valentine was powered by an AEC A190 diesel engine which could propel the tank at speeds up to 24km/h on the road, and its fuel capacity gave it a range of 140 km (on a road surface). The crew of four (commander, gunner, loader, driver) were protected by armour from between 6-6mm thick, and were armed with either the QF 2-pdr gun or a 3” howitzer (on the Mk.IIICS models) plus a single 7.92mm machine gun.

This is a video of a cut-away engine exhibit at the National Army Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand. The engine is a 6-cylinder AEC A190 Diesel that was installed in an a Valentine Mk III tank used by the New Zealand Army during WW2.

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