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"Worst tank of World War II?" Topic

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07 Jun 2018 6:27 p.m. PST
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Personal logo optional field Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 3:36 p.m. PST

There's endless debate about which was the best tank of WWII, some argue the Sherman for reasons of reliability and ease of manufacture, others say the Panther or the Tiger for their heavy guns and very heavy armor, and others the T-34 for it's various innovations such as sloped armor. Yet, I've never heard an argument as to which of the many failed tank designs of the war was the worst.

What is (are) your pick(s) for works tank of the Second World War?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 3:54 p.m. PST

It would be too easy to pick on the Italian tankettes, so I'm going with the Italian P40 – because the design was done in 1940 and by that time they had no excuse not to know better.

All the Italian Tanks were pretty dreadful.

Ron W DuBray18 May 2013 3:58 p.m. PST

any Italian tank, close 2nd would be any Japanese tank.

Texas Jack18 May 2013 4:01 p.m. PST

This is a very difficult question, because some tanks have poor reputations because they were not used in the role for which they were designed, and then the early war tanks have it bad because they are really interwar designs, and thus should not be compared to, say, a 1944 model.
BUT, that will in no way stop me from giving an opinion! grin
I would have to say the Japanese Type 4 Ke-Nu. It sported a 57mm gun, which would have been great in 1941, but unfortunately was produced in 1944. And then there was the paper-thin armor…

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 4:02 p.m. PST

I was thinking Japanese as well – but their later designs showed promise : link

Rudi the german18 May 2013 4:13 p.m. PST

Renault FT



The antonov T60

The Kugelpanzer light recon vehicle…

Or just the DAF M 39

Greetings and have fun….

Texas Jack18 May 2013 4:13 p.m. PST

@ 20th Maine
Wow, that´s one of the few Jap tanks that doesn´t look like it came out of a cereal box!

redbanner414518 May 2013 4:20 p.m. PST


Texas Jack18 May 2013 4:21 p.m. PST

I thought about the T-35 as well, but I decided not to include pre-war designs. But yeah, not a great tank.

JimSelzer Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 4:44 p.m. PST

M3 Grant

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 4:52 p.m. PST

Does the FT17 count?

Sundance18 May 2013 4:54 p.m. PST

There are too many to name.

Agesilaus18 May 2013 4:57 p.m. PST

Tiger II and all its variants. Too wide for the rail cars. Too heavy for the bridges, or its own transmission for that matter. Made a great pillbox if placed properly, but usually broke down in an open field before it got there. Too complicated to fix easily. Often caught fire because of their petrol engines.
Japanese tanks were light and had thin armor, but they had to be transported to the battlefield by sea. Only the Japanese and the Italians built tanks that were powered predominantly by diesel engines.

Fonthill Hoser18 May 2013 5:00 p.m. PST

The Covenanter. Ordered into production before any prototypes had been built, so basic design flaws weren't discovered until production was already underway. 1700 were built, none saw combat. That the British would withold a tank from combat when they used so many poor types says a lot for it.


Frederick Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 5:17 p.m. PST

Well – there are quite a few

Of the Italians, the L11/39 – after all, it was designed in 1937 – and was out of date by 1939!

The Covenanter is a good choice as well – built in 1940, 1700 built, not a one saw combat – and it's not like the Brits were swimming in extra tanks in 1942!

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 5:18 p.m. PST

I'm partial to the Semple tank for the honor. The corrugated iron armor wins the day, though the total lack of engineering drawings for the design is also noteworthy.



Mark 118 May 2013 5:19 p.m. PST

Are we looking for tanks designed during WW2? Did they have to reach production?

Or are we speaking of tanks that which fought in WW2, regardless of whether they were pre-war or wartime designs?

I can see two possible ways that a tank could be "worst". First would be if that tank was just an abysmal mess for the crew and the unit commanders. Second would be if that tank used up national wartime resources for no useful results.

For me … in both cases the British Covenantor scores pretty high on the list. It was a wartime design. It reached production, with some thousands built. It was in fact the only "cruiser" in production for some time. It was so bad it was never deployed overseas, except for a rare few that made it to the western desert (I've never seen records of how many were sent or what they did there, but I have a photo of one in service with the British in the desert). So complete was the failure of the Covenantor that the British had to use an infantry tank, the Valentine, to serve as a cruiser.

Why was it so bad? Several issues. First, it was on par with the Crusader, which is to say it had insufficient armor or gunpower for the day. Second it's engine was even LESS reliable than the Crusader, which is to saw worse than bad. Third, the radiators for the engine were … wait for it … ON THE FRONT SLOPE of the hull! The committee discussion that led to that idea I can only begin to imagine.

And finally, for the coup de grace, the single large turret hatch opened by sliding backwards. When driven at any speed, if the driver hit the brakes or worse yet bumped into an obstacle the hatch would slide forward abruptly and slam shut. If the commander or gunner had their heads out of the hatch for a look around at that moment, there was a genuine risk of decapitation!

Yeah … I'm thinking that one stands pretty high on the list no matter if you were a crewman, a unit CO, or a national policy maker.

(aka: Mk 1)

Personal logo Jlundberg Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 5:23 p.m. PST

Add the R35 to the bad early war tanks. FT gets points to me for longevity. There were no Mark IVs running around. How about the T-35

Battle Phlox18 May 2013 5:40 p.m. PST

The Renault FT was the best tank of WWI. Almost all later tanks were designed around its concept of a single revolving turret. In 1940, however, it belonged in a museum.

The early A9 and A10 Cruisers were pretty bad. Paper thin armor and flimsy tracks.

peterx Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2013 6:33 p.m. PST

The Italian and Polish tankettes were very flawed designs. Deathtraps. In fact, all the Italian tank designs ( FIAT L6/40 and FIAT M13/40) were pretty dangerous for the crews, flaming coffins. Japanese tanks (I.E. type 95) were also very poor designs. The Brits (Vickers light tank) and Yanks early light tanks (M3) were poorly armored, poorly armed, and had very bad survival rates as well. Too many poor designs to choose the worst.

Lion in the Stars18 May 2013 6:38 p.m. PST

Tiger II is the 'worst' in terms of distracting production, too heavy, and logistics nightmare. Panther II rates a close second.

The Italians had decent tank designs, but the P40 lacked enough engines (literally not enough factories, because the crooks running Italian industry kept pocketing money instead of expanding).

Skarper18 May 2013 9:03 p.m. PST

Reading the wiki entry on the Covenanter I'd say it has got to place in this competition…

I think the Tiger II is a good entrant despite it's strength on paper – all those resourses really should have gone into building PzIVs, StuGs or just keeping the Tiger Is in production.

To be fair you we have to limit the field to nations that could have done better and should have rather than the likes of Italy and Japan who really lacked the resources or the experience of armoured warfare. Japan's tanks were just meant to support infantry in an Army that was little more than a WW1 level in tactics and equipment. Italy never had the industrial base to build battleworthy tanks – especially with all that iron and steel sunk into ships..

And excluding inter war designs is also a good idea – AFVs built in peace time are designed to different parameters – many are never really expected to get into combat and are just for training.

For my vote I'd like to give an honourable mention to the M24 Chaffee. By that stage of the game the Yanks really should not have been experimenting with light tanks when their ubiquitous M4 Sherman could do most anything a Chaffee could anyway. [The Soviets discontinued their T-50, T-60, T-70 rather than trying to fix it.]

Martin Rapier18 May 2013 10:59 p.m. PST

Light tanks weren't bad per se, they were just light tanks!

Some fairly awful designs might be:

The German equivalent of the T28, the NbW thingy, can never remember the name.

I would also hesitate to condemn the T35, multi turreted heavy tanks were a big interwar thing, for which I largely blame the Vickers Independent:)

Skarper19 May 2013 2:00 a.m. PST

I think the concept of a 'light tank' is flawed though and this should have been apparent when the M24 got into production. I can see it was a matter of 'momentum' rather than proper planning that got it built and that momentum continued to the M41 Walker Bulldog and even into a prototype contemporary of the Bradley that was stillborn.

Light tanks look great to the logistics train until you realise they can be destroyed by the cheapest and lightest enemy weapons and the crew almost never survive their destruction.

Something else will win though…probably one of the woeful British designs…

Rudi the german19 May 2013 3:11 a.m. PST

Neubaufahrzeug…. Not a tank only a design concept… But was used to create impression that tanks are present… Does not count…

(Stolen Name)19 May 2013 3:42 a.m. PST


skippy000119 May 2013 4:10 a.m. PST

Panther because the driver needed a fire extinguisher near him when he started the engine.
Sherman because of ammo storage and the ease the engine/gas tank brewed up when hit. I talked to a 2nd Armored Div Vet and he said they threw out the azimuth reader, gyro stabiliser and engine governor because they were a pain in the butt or too big for the turret space.
T-34 because the driver needed a ball peen hammer to help him/her change gears and the bare bone construction(no cushions for seats etc.).
Most British, Italian, Japanese and French tanks because their turrets were too small, lousy metallurgy and built for the wrong role.

All subjective-The best tank in the world is like the best beer in the world, the one you have when the enemy has none.

Somua S3519 May 2013 5:26 a.m. PST

The poor little Renault FT shouldn't be considered for worst tank of WW2, as it is really a WW1 tank that the French just had so many of it was thrown into the fray. Although obsolete by 1940. It was the first "tank" that looked like and behaved like a modern tank. T34? All modern MBT's trace their ancestry back to T34 (and the Renault FT), it's sloped armour, powerful gun, wide tracks, high speed made it like something out of science fiction. Panther, Tiger, Sherman all were important tanks that succeeded in their mission for the most part. I'd have to vote for pretty much all the Italian tanks. They were all behind other nation's tanks in every aspect that makes a tank successful. Weak armor, weak guns, shoddy manufacturing, underpowered, prone to breakdowns, catching on fire. You could say the Japanese, but they didn't need tanks that much. You could say French tanks due to the one man turret, but their armor and guns were pretty good for the time.

Cyclops19 May 2013 5:27 a.m. PST

TigerII wasn't the worst tank of WWII, just the most overrated. I think the Covenanter has the win. It was built in the hundreds but the producing nation wouldn't use it because it was so bad, even though they were screaming out for pretty much anything with tracks and a gun.
I've also seen an interview with a WWII veteran who would have voted for the Cromwell. Considering it was produced in 1943 he considered the slab sided construction and low velocity 75mm gun unforgivable. It was fast though.

Jemima Fawr19 May 2013 5:29 a.m. PST

Texas Jack,

The Type 4 Ke-Nu Light Tank wasn't really a new tank – it was made by grafting the redundant turrets of Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tanks on to the existing hulls of Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tanks. Thus, it was actually an upgrade for the Type 95 Ha-Go, as the short 57 was marginally more useful than the 37.

A lot of the suggestions here seem to be for early/pre-war light tanks that were perfectly good in their day, but were simply used well beyond their sell-by date. That simply does not make them a bad tank, just badly misused.

Supercilius Maximus19 May 2013 5:53 a.m. PST

I'm guessing the brick under the Kugelpanzer is the one excreted by the operator when told what his mission was?

James Wright19 May 2013 6:30 a.m. PST

Picking out a crappy tank really depends on the role the tank was intended to fulfill.

Honestly, if armor's purpose was to fight enemy armor, the Sherman was not a wonderful tank. As an infantry support vehicle with that 75mm HE round, it was good though.

I would also look at pretty much any of the rivetted tanks, from any country (the Grant/Lee, Italian and Japanese tanks and some British etc). Rivets were just a terrible idea.

Texas Jack19 May 2013 7:27 a.m. PST

@ R Mark Davies-
Thanks, I didn´t know that! In that case I will withdraw it from the competition and put my money on the Covenantor.

RudyNelson19 May 2013 8:23 a.m. PST

The worst tank? So what criteria do you base the comparisons? Available material to build the tanks/ Some countries did not have the steel available or lacked the wide assortment or cannon to use.
Were the tanks at their introcudtion correct for their expected enemy? here was not many British Tanks weak in comparison to the German Panzers to face? maybe, maybe not. The Stuart was OK but quickly became inferior and should have been replaced sooner.

Was the Italian tanks really inferior to their expected enemy when initially designed? The same question for the Japanese. Their tanks were a match for the M3, M5 and Lee/Grant as well as early British tanks.

Griefbringer19 May 2013 8:53 a.m. PST

Original Matilda tank was a bit of an odd design, considering that it dates back to the late 30's. It had quite a decent amount of armour for the time (though the tracks were left rather exposed), but having only a single machine-gun for armament was not particularly impressive. At least the designers of Matilda II were a bit wiser in that aspect, and the production run for Matilda I was rather short.

That said, I don't think that Matilda I gets anywhere close to being one of the worst tanks of WWII, but it certainly is somewhat unimpressing as a design.

John D Salt19 May 2013 11:10 a.m. PST

My vote is with the Covenanter. At least it never made it into service as a gun tank, though, we weren't so daft as that.

If "worst" means "most brewed up by the opposition without achieving anything", the award might have to go to the T-26. Like the Italian tanks everyone loves to hate, a basically sound Vickers design of the early 1930s, quite unable to meet the demands of tank combat by 1941, and so tragically a death-trap for its crews regardless of their bravery or skill.

And, say what you like about Tiger II, it wasn't quite as bad as the Jagdtiger.

All the best,


Who asked this joker19 May 2013 11:36 a.m. PST

A10 Heavy Cruiser Tank gets my vote. Mechanically unsound. Not enough armor or firepower to fulfill it's original intent as an Infantry tank. GB was disparate for tanks so they made up a classification for it and sent 30 of them to France. It performed badly.

Jemima Fawr19 May 2013 11:37 a.m. PST

My vote also goes to the Covenanter – so many built an so few used in action (as bridgelayers). I suppose that it did at least free up decent tanks from training units for use at the front.

However, curious as it may seem, a few tank crewmen I've interviewed have been adamant that it was reliable, fast and generally well-liked! I've never got to the bottom of those assertions, but I can only assume that was because they never had to be shot at in one?

donlowry19 May 2013 12:42 p.m. PST

Only the Japanese and the Italians built tanks that were powered predominantly by diesel engines.

I'm pretty sure the T-34 had a diesel engine, and one version of the Sherman did (M4A2?).

Timbo W19 May 2013 1:59 p.m. PST

I think the problem with the Covenanter was mainly the weird front radiator, meaning hot pipes running through the crew compartment. No doubt appreciated on a windswept Yorkshire moor in winter but not so great for Tunisia!

Another worst candidate – Valiant – a British tank project that was so badly designed the driver couldn't take more than a few hours driving it-

The first day gave minor problems and was abandoned after only 13 miles (21 km) of easy on-road driving. However, the driver was already exhausted by this time, finding that the steering levers needed his full weight to operate and that the seat, footbrake and gearlever all carried risk of physical injury in using them. The Officer in Charge decided to abandon the trials there and then as it was impossible and unsafe to continue expressing that "in his view the entire project should be closed".

Somua S3519 May 2013 3:58 p.m. PST

It is an interesting topic. Rudy has a good point. Once WW2 started, everyone was stuck (at least for a while) with what they had. The Italians just had needed minimal tanks to police their rickety empire. The Brits had experimented with cav/infantry tanks as had the French, but this turned out to be a dead end. The Germans seemed to get the idea the right. Command and control was the key. The crew, platoon, division acted as a single entity. Allied tanks fought almost individually. Armor, guns were secondary. Radio communication, training and doctrine won out over better armor, guns. Later in the war T34s and Shermans outflanked, out maneuvered the vaunted Tigers. The same can be said of the lightly armored PZ II, III and 38t when it came to their early war opponents. As much as I love them, Matildas and Char B's didn't stand a chance.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2013 6:14 p.m. PST

in what context?

Toshach Sponsoring Member of TMP19 May 2013 8:52 p.m. PST

The Maus. What a complete waste of time, money, and material.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP20 May 2013 1:36 a.m. PST

They were certainly some really lousy tanks which ended up being death traps.

My vote would go to the Japanese types with possibly the exception of the Chi Ha even this was bad enough :)

Yesthatphil20 May 2013 1:50 a.m. PST

I'm amazed to see Antonov's flying tank in a thread like this – it was an experiment (tick), it worked (tick) but wasn't progressed as there were better solutions to the problem (tick) – what is not to like about that project? Within the detachable glider wings is a T60 … one of the 'easy build' tanks that helped save Russia from the Nazis …

For _worst you probably need to look at a tank that didn't really work, like the Char B (hull mounted 'main gun' … using 2 separate guns to deliver the HE and AP munitions … driver doing the gun aiming … one man turret … etc.) and which played its role in defeat.

But I'd agree that the the late war German monsters were equally terrible (judged historically) …


Jemima Fawr20 May 2013 2:15 a.m. PST

Again, the Japanese types are suggested, but they were 1930s tanks that were simply used for too long. They weren't that bad (by the standards of the time) when they first went into service. I would also say that Japanese tankettes and light tanks were good enough for their usual tasking against lightly-armed Chinese infantry with insufficient AT weapons or against 1942-era US/British/Dutch troops.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP20 May 2013 4:15 a.m. PST

Another worthy contender would be the JagdTiger.

The reasons being

1) The gun was too big( You don't need a gun this size to tackle Shermans) for the job in hand therefore limited Ammo storage
2) It was too heavy . Very few bridges could support its weight.
3) The Engine was too small and struggled to move this beast.
4)Ran out of fuel too easily
5) Large vulnerable target especially against aircraft.
6) The resources that went into these could have been used for decent tanks like Panthers etc.

Supercilius Maximus20 May 2013 4:40 a.m. PST

<<However, curious as it may seem, a few tank crewmen I've interviewed have been adamant that it was reliable, fast and generally well-liked! I've never got to the bottom of those assertions, but I can only assume that was because they never had to be shot at in one?>>

Apparently the only gun version of the Covenanter destroyed by enemy action was hit by a bomb during a Luftwaffe raid on Canterbury in 1942.

Klebert L Hall20 May 2013 5:12 a.m. PST

Ones that haven't been mentioned:

KV-2 was pretty awful.
M6 was bad.
T-50 -60, -70, -80… obsolete when designed.
FCM Char 2C… prewar, but truly imbecilic.


mysteron Supporting Member of TMP20 May 2013 5:52 a.m. PST

Was the KV2 really that bad. I know it looks as though its been designed by GW but I was under the impression for its time it was pretty useful.

The similar thing could be said about the T70 as it spent a big part of its time filling in for T34s certainly at Kursk as T34 production got disrupted . However as a scouting tank which is what it was designed for the T70 isn't that bad IMO .

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