After the end of WWI, the victorious nations wrapped it up so smoothly that Europe was a powder keg with a slow fuse. The question was when it would explode. By the middle of the 1930s, the answer was obvious: soon.
At the beginning of WWII, the British tank corps were numerous and disjoint. The reasons why the British failed to figure out what they wanted to do with their tanks falls outside the scope of this article. Let me just remind you that British tanks were split into two classes: slow and well protected infantry tanks and fast and lightly armoured cruisers.
In the summer of 1939, the British decided that they needed a heavy tank for operating in Europe. In September, a special committee was formed, and tasked to produce requirements for this new tank. The people in this committee were the same that solved a lot of tank questions in 1914-1918: Swinton, Wilson, D'Encur, and others. In October of 1939, they were officially named "Committee for development of a special vehicle for the Ministry of Supplies".
Britain and France were getting ready for combat with the assumption that the war will be positional. The committee relied on French experiences, which were all in a trench war. The committee was most interested in the B1 bis tank, which served as a source of inspiration for their task.
The vision of the project was to create a long tank, to make it more effective at traversing terrain covered in craters. The armour was to protect it from gun calibers up to and including 47 mm at 100 meters. The tank's speed was not supposed to be very high, 8 kph, with a range of 50 miles. The tank was to be equipped with a field gun in the front, two 40 mm guns in sponsons, and rotating machine gun turrets. The tank was to be delivered to battle via railroad.
Two companies were tasked with creating a prototype: "Foster" and "Harland and Wolf". Foster's engineers included members of the "Special vehicle committee". These people called themselves "The Old Gang", or "TOG". This initialism was used to name the tank that the old gang was making.
Blueprints for TOG I were ready in December of 1939. The tank was very British, combining advanced technological solutions with obviously obsolete elements. The stiff suspension allowed it to be simple and easy to produce, but was not much different from the suspension of the heavy tanks of WWI. The side-mounted guns were also ancient. On the other hand, the electric transmission made by English Electric Company was very interesting. The tank's engine powered two generators, which in turn spun the tracks with electric motors. Turning the steering wheel changed the voltage, which changed the speed of rotation of the tracks, and the TOG turned. Sadly, this was not a perfect setup. Engineers could not solve the problem with frequent deformation of tracks and wheels. The electromechanical transmission was ultimately discarded in favour of a hydraulic one, which was less reliable.
In October of 1940, the engineers discarded the sponsons. The TOG received a Matilda turret with a 40 mm gun and a 7.92 mm machine gun. The 75 mm field gun in the hull remained. The tracks were widened, to reduce ground pressure. This was the modification fitted with an electromechanical transmission. Due to poor cooling system performance, both the transmission and the engine were damaged.
At the same time, the TOG II was undergoing development. This tank had a lower suspension, and the turret was meant to carry a 57 mm gun. The 75 mm hull gun was gone. According to the blueprints, the sponsons were still present, but they were not included in the only prototype, built in 1941. The turret was missing too, with a wooden mockup taking its place. The TOG II R was meant to have a real one, but it was never built.
The last of the models was the TOG II*. It had a torsion bar suspension, thanks to which, the tank was sped up to 14 kph. It had a new turret, capable of housing a 76 mm gun. The TOG II* was the first British tank to use that caliber. The tank was never mass produced. It was already 1943, and even the British, with their odd opinions about tanks could see that their TOG was no match for German Tigers and Panthers.
The TOG project ended. The TOG II* turret was equipped with an electric motor and mounted on the Challenger tank.
Original article available here.