Arguably the best British Tank of World War II, the A34 Comet was a cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of the Second World War. It was developed to overcome the firepower shortfall of previous cruiser tanks, as the Cromwell tank, whilst retaining their design features.
With this tank, the British had at last a British tank with decent armour, speed and a good gun. Comet was popular with its crews and was extremely fast, reliable, was easy to drive and had excellent off road performance. Armour was decent for a 33 ton tank but clearly inferior to the mammoth German tanks of the period but better than that of tanks such as the Sherman or Cromwell.
The A34 Comet was the ultimate British cruiser. Using mostly already available parts and designs this tank was equipped with a new anti tank gun, the 77mm HV, almost identical to the excellent 17pdr, providing a serious punch and an answer to the heavily armoured German Tanks at the end of the war. This gun gave the tank hitting power equal to the Panther. It could take on the Tiger at reasonable ranges.
The gun used the same calibre (76.2 mm) projectile as the 17-pounder, but the cartridge case was from the older QF 3 inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft gun loaded to higher pressures. The resulting round was completely different from 17-pounder ammunition. Overall the round was shorter, more compact and more easily stored and handled within the tank.
The 77mm HV was effectively a shortened 17-pounder. This made it possible to mount the gun on a smaller turret ring. The gun was still capable against opponents, and firing APDS rounds, it was more accurate and consistent than APDS from the 17pdr and 6pdr, which were inaccurate over 700m and often ricocheted.
Comet was intended to be in service by December 1944, but crew training was delayed by the German Ardennes Offensive. By the end of the war, 1,200 had been produced. The British 11th Armoured Division was the first formation to receive the new tanks, with deliveries commenced in December 1944. It would also be the only division to be completely refitted with Comet by the end of the war.
Due to its late arrival in the war in north west Europe, the Comet did see combat but did not participate in big battles. The Comet was involved in the crossing of the Rhine and the later Berlin Victory Parade in July 1945. The Comet's maximum speed of 32 miles per hour (51 km/h) was greatly exploited on the German Autobahns.
This example of Tank, Cruiser, Comet I (A34) can be found in the Bovington Tank Museum (United Kingdom).