Vickers Medium Mk II tank

This short post will give a few details on a distinctive Interwar era tank used by the British army – the Vickers Medium Mk II tank. There are a few internet based sites with info but here we bring together some details related to the 1936 time period to give you an idea about this  unique looking vehicle at the time of The Abyssinian Crisis.

The Vickers tank, introduced in 1923, represented a significant jump in design concept and execution compared to British designs of the Great War. Featuring sprung suspension, a fully rotating turret and compartmentalised engine the design was quite lightly armoured (6-8mm all over) and really only designed to be proof against rifle calibre weapons as no true anti-tank gun threat was then developed.

Underpowered resulting in a top speed of 13-15mph, the crew consisted of Commander, Gunner, Driver, Radio Operator and Loader. By the time of The Abyssinian Crisis (1936) the vehicle layout had a turret equipped 3pdr gun with coaxial mounted Hotchkiss machine gun, along with one left/right hull side mounted Vickers machine-guns. Numerous variants had a mix of Hotchkiss and Vickers machining-guns which can be confusing, however, for the Mk II tanks in Egypt, they are as described here.

The 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Corps, was formed in Egypt in 1933 and was equipped with ‘tropicalised’ MkII tanks with better ventilation, heat insulation and asbestos plated. This battalion was supplemented by the 1st battalion RTC was also dispatched from the UK to bolster the Egyptian defences because of Italy’s build up in Africa. Complementing the battalion were Carden Lloyd Carriers and Rolls Royce 1924 pattern armoured cars. The vehicles were painted in a desert camouflage pattern of BS.52 Pale Cream and BS.46 Red Oxide disruptive pattern coloration.

6 RTC in Egypt, Vickers Mark II




Here’s a short video giving a nice run through of the vehicle.


Vickers 6-ton tank

The Ethiopians were the beneficiaries of taking into service a small number of the highly successful export tank design by Vickers, the Mark E light tank, commonly referred to as the ‘6-tonner’.

vickers 6 tonner sm

Vickers 6-tonner in Abyssinian colors

This three man light tank was developed as a private venture, ultimately being rejected by the British due to concerns about the arrangement of the unique leaf spring bogie suspension system. It was well received however by many foreign buyers proving a popular seller due to its simple, mechanically sound design and quite affordable price tag. It inherently embodied the elements of a good tank, remaining in production for a decade, seeing service right up to the Second World War and beyond.

In The Abyssinian Crisis the Type A Vickers 6-tonner finds its way into service with the Abyssinian Armoured Field Force. These vehicles were shipped from England along with their trained Ethiopian crews, being equipped with dual Vickers machine guns, which were to prove quite effective as only Italian artillery was capable of taking it on.

The 6-tonner is an excellent vehicle to bolster the Ethiopian Regular Army or Imperial Guard Forces, with which it was most associated.


Here’s a short video giving a nice run through of the vehicle.