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- "All of it... shall be pierced through by this Black Prince."
- ―Kiri Shiratori
Tank, Infantry, Black Prince (A43) was the name assigned to an experimental development of the Churchill tank with a larger, wider hull and the famous Ordnance QF 17-pounder (76.2 mm) gun. It was named after Edward, the Black Prince, a famous 14th century English military leader.
As a development from the Churchill, the Black Prince was a continuation of the line of Infantry tanks. These were slower, heavier tanks intended to operate in close support of infantry.The parallel development in British tank design were the Cruiser tanks, which were intended for more mobile operations. A43 was the General Staff Specification number issued in 1943, for an interim tank that would eventually be superseded by a "Universal tank" that would eventually replace both Infantry and Cruiser class of tanks.
The cruiser one led to the Cromwell tank (and the 17 pounder armed Challenger variant) and then the Comet tank, (which had a variant of the 17 pounder gun) entering service during the war. While not as heavily protected as the Churchill, the Comet held the advantage in both mobility and firepower, and showed the way tank development was going.
The Black Prince began life at Vauxhall Motors in 1943, the General Staff designating it as A43. It was one of the first tanks designed to carry the high velocity 76 mm (3 in) Anti-Tank Gun, the Ordnance QF 17-Pounder, from the outset without needing any modifications. The A43 was seen as interim design, pending the availability of the ‘Universal’ or ‘Main Battle Tank’ that would replace both the Infantry and Cruiser class of tanks. This, of course, would become the Centurion.
The A43 was similar to the Churchill in almost every way. It used the same independently sprung bogie suspension and was powered by the same Bedford 12 cylinder engine. This 350-horsepower engine in a tank that was 10 tons heavier, led to the vehicle being even more underpowered and slower than the standard Churchill. There were plans to introduce the 600hp Rolls-Royce Meteor engine, however, this never came to fruition.
The main upgrade this vehicle gained over the Churchill was the mounting of the Ordnance QF 17-Pounder cannon in a new, larger, pentagonal turret. The gun, produced in 1943, was a much needed boost to the anti-armor capabilities of the British Armed Forces. It could fire 2 types of armor penetrating rounds. Either APCBC (Armor-Piercing, Capped, Ballistic-Capped) or APDS (Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot) shells. Secondary armament consisted of 2 BESA 7.92mm (0.31 in) machine guns. One was coaxial, while the other was in the traditional bow gunner position on the left front of the tank.
The turret, an unused design for the Centurion, was a considerable upgrade from the standard A22. Instead of having a sunken mantel behind a cutout slot in the front of the turret, it had a curved plate on a traditional pintle, a similar design to that used on the A34 Comet. Plans would later be made to mate the Centurion Mk.I’s turret to the Black Prince chassis, but for unknown reasons, this never happened. As a larger gun than what was mangable in the Churchill required a new larger turret on a wider turret ring and consequently a widening of the tank hull in order to carry such a turret.
To cope with the increased weight of the new features, the running gear and hull were strengthened. The suspension was typically Churchill. It consisted of 12 separately sprung wheels with idler at the front and drive wheel at the back. In testing, it was found that Black Prince retained the Churchill’s excellent cross country and climbing abilities.
The Black Prince shared the same tank commander’s “bird cage” gun laying sight that was used on the Comet. It was given the nickname ‘the birdcage’ but was a distant target blade-vane gun sight. It was used by the commander to help lay the gunner onto a target.
Another feature, that the Black Prince shared with the Comet, was the canvas cover used on the turret front. During trials, it was found that dirt and small stones could get stuck in the gap between the mantlet and the main turret, preventing it from moving up and down. The solution to this problem was the fitting of a strong canvas cover. Sometimes the canvas cover would get stuck in the top gap between the mantlet and the gun when it was elevated. To solve this problem, long thin pockets were added to the top of the cover and metal strips inserted inside to add rigidity.
The Black Prince weighed around ten tons more than the Churchill so the suspension was modified and the tracks widened by 10 inches to carry the extra load. However, the Churchill's 350-horsepower (260 kW) engine was retained, leading to the tank being underpowered and slow, with maximum speeds of 10.5 mph (16.9 km/h) on roads and 7.5 mph (12.1 km/h) cross country. This was so slow that the tank's tactical usefulness would have been limited. Consideration was given to the use of the Rolls-Royce Meteor engine; this would have increased the available power to 600 hp (450 kW), but the idea never left the drawing–board due to the cancellation of the project. Likewise, plans to fit the Black Prince with the turret from the Centurion were again never carried out.
By the time the Black Prince appeared in May 1945, the Sherman Firefly had acquired a proven combat record, the Comet tank was in service and the introduction of Centurion was imminent. All these tanks carried the QF 17-pounder or a derivative; all had better mobility than the Black Prince and the Centurion had frontal armour of comparable effectiveness. The Black Prince had become redundant and the project was abandoned.
The Black Prince marked the end of the development of the Churchill tank, and the end of the Infantry tank concept in British tank design.
In Girls und Panzer
West Kureouji Grona vs. Bellwall
A Black Prince is utilized by West Kureouji Grona Academy, crewed by Kiri Shiratori (Kilimanjaro) and her gunner, the Assam look-alike. It is first used in the pre-emptive attack made against Bellwall as it is air-dropped onto the schoolgrounds, tearing a sizable portion of them apart in the process during landing, when Kiri comes and issues her challenge to Bellwall in person.
It is then seen during the match against Bellwall Academy in which it serves as the flagtank for West Kureouji. Kiri spent most of her time using her subordinates as her shield (specifically a Churchill) but her gunner was able to eliminate Bellwall's T-44 and damage their Panzer II in a single shot. Despite Bellwall's attempts to counterattack, the Black Prince was able to send their flag tank, a Tiger I commanded by Emi Nakasuga, down a steep ledge, immobilizing it.
It later circled around the mountainside in order to finish off the Tiger I flag tank. After spotting the silhouette of a tank, they fired, believing it to be the Tiger I belonging to Bellwall. After the smoke cleared however, it became apparent that they had been tricked, for the silhouette was actually that of Bellwall's Panzer II. The Black Prince was then struck in the side by rounds fired from the Tiger I's 88mm cannon, immobilizing it and preventing it from fleeing. They were then finished off by Emi's tank: resulting in a defeat for Seiguro and a victory for Bellwall.
- Originally in the Monthly Comic Alive magazine version Kilimanjaro landed in Bellwall Academy's ground with a Centurion tank but during the match she uses a Black Prince, it has been corrected in the paper version as the Centurion has been replaced by the Black Prince. Although a closer look reveals that tank is actually a Churchill mk VII with a long barrelled gun and not a real Black Prince.
|Light Tanks and Tankettes||7TP • AMR-35 • BT-42 • Crusader • CV L3/33 • FT-17 • M22 Locust • M24 Chaffee • Mark VI • Panzerkampfwagen II • Panzer 38(t) • R35 • T-70 • Tetrarch • TK Tankette • Type 95 Ha-Go • Type 97 Te-Ke|
|Medium Tanks||Centurion Mark I • Panzerkampfwagen III • Panzerkampfwagen IV • Panzerkampfwagen V "Panther" • M3 Lee • M4 Sherman • M13/40 • Matilda II • Carro Armato P26/40 • Somua S35 • T-34 • T-44 • Type 89 I-Go/Chi-Ro • Type 3 Chi-Nu • Type 97 Chi-Ha|
|Heavy Tanks||ARL 44 • Renault B1 Bis • Black Prince • Churchill Mark VII • IS-2 • KV-2 • M26 Pershing • Carro Armato P26/40 • Mark IV • Panzerkampfwagen VI "Tiger" • Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. B "Tiger II" • Panzerkampfwagen VIII "Maus" • VK45.01 Porsche Tiger|
|Tank Destroyers||Elefant • Jagdpanzer 38(t) "Hetzer" • Jagdpanzer IV • Jagdpanther • Jagdtiger • Semovente da 75/18 • Sturmgeschütz III • T28 Super Heavy Tank|
|Self-Propelled Artillery||Karl-Gerät Mortar|
|Main Battle Tank||Type 10|