The Conqueror’s introduction into, and retention in service was largely down to the Soviets keeping in service the JS3/T10 series of heavy tanks, armed with the 122 mm guns at a time when the principal British tank, Centurion, was only armed with a 20 pounder (83.4mm) gun. To add to this situation, during the Hungarian uprising of 1956 a T54 was diverted into the British Embassy compound and hastily examined before return to its owners. The armour thickness was drastically overestimated.

Originally the FV200 series was supposed to be a new universal or main battle tank, but in the event Conqueror (FV214) saw service essentially as a tank destroyer, the idea being to issue them as a back-up to Centurion units. With the number of changes introduced and procrastination encountered during the procurement stage, it was a miracle the tank entered service at all.

Many histories dismiss Conqueror as being “too big, heavy, noisy and difficult to maintain”. However, examination of the facts does not entirely bear this out. At 65 tons and armed with a 120mm gun the basic dimensions, if not the technology, of the Conqueror were roughly the same as a modern MBT, although Conqueror entered service in 1955. There were a couple of annoying faults with the design, including the Mollins device for the shell case ejection and the device for stabilising the gun on the move which took the gunner several seconds to get control of the gun back when halted. (As a back up tank Conqueror was not designed to fire on the move). Given a fraction of the time and money expended on other designs neither of these problems were insurmountable and despite them the tank was popular with many of the crews who served on it.

The 120mm gun outranged the JS3 by a very comfortable margin, and on the straight and level the vehicle was actually faster than Centurion, which it was designed to support. The design of the fire control turret was also ahead of its time. Overall, given adequate maintenance and a motivated crew, Conqueror was an impressive vehicle indeed.

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