FV 221 Caernarvon tank
The FV221 Caernarvon Medium Tank was a troop trials vehicle introduced in advance of the production FV214 Conqueror Heavy Gun Tank. Great Britain started development work in 1944 of an infantry tank known as the A45, which was intended to support the main battle tank then in development, which eventually became the A41 Centurion. The A45 was planned as a universal tank, with a single hull that could be used in many applications, such as a flamethrower or an engineer vehicle. This becasme the post-war "Universal Tank" FV 200 series, a common hull for a family of vehicles ranging from self-propelled artillery, armored personnel carrier, three varieties of tank, etc.
One tank type was to be the heavy FV 201 of 55 tonnes, armed with an 83.4 mm gun. In 1949 it was decided to bring the heavy tank armament up to 120mm - the Conqueror. As this delayed the heavy tank project, 21 FV 201 hulls were combined with 17PDR equipped Centurion MK2 turrets. The first prototype of the FV200 series was completed in 1948 with the turret from the A41 Centurion and had a 17 pounder main gun. This interim design became the Caernarvan Tank, bascially a modified Conqeuror tank hull with a lighter Mark III Centurion 20PDR turret and gun. The armor on the hull was identical to Conqueror.
In 1954 Caernarvon 07 BA 70 (less turret) became the first AFV in the world to be fitted with a Gas-turbine. Despite its' size and weight, Conqueror was to be more mobile than Centurion due to low ground pressure from its' very wide tracks, and massive power from the fuel injected Meteor engine. Across rough ground Conqueror was faster! Caernarvon however was faster still as it was fitted with the lighter Centurion turret. Shock absorbers were fitted to the front and rear suspension units to dampen the ride.
Twenty-one Caernarvons were built with the Mk III 20 pounder turret as the Caernavon Mk II. The FV 221 was originally intended to be the "Main Battle Tank" member of the FV 201 series, but with the success of the A41 Centurion the Caernarvon was no longer required, and the Caernarvon was only used for chassis development work serving in troop trials. In 1955 the first Conqueror was produced. When the Conqueror turret was developed, the Caernarvons were converted into full Conqueror gun tanks. Twenty Mark 1 and 165 Mark 2 Conquerors were built including conversions of Caernavon MkIIs.
Some sources report the tank was named for Lord George Carnarvon, who married into the wealthy family of the Rothschilds, and went to Egypt for his health. Granted permission to dig at Luxor, Lord Carnarvon soon met Howard Carter whom he employed and financed in work leading to the discovery of Tutankhamens's tomb. In 1923, the year after Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered, Lord Carnarvon died. Lord Carnarvon's death sparked rumors about a curse of the mummy. Lord Carnarvon was not the only one who died after the opening of the tomb, but the man who actually found Tutankhamen, Howard Carter, lived a normal lifespan.
This tank was probably not named for Lord George Carnarvon, as the name of the tank is Caernarvon, not Carnarvon. Carnarvon and Caernarvon are older forms of the name of the town in North Wales currently known as Caernarfon. Caernarfon is possibly the most famous of Wales's castles. Its sheer scale and commanding presence easily set it apart from the rest, and to this day, still trumpet in no uncertain terms the intention of its builder Edward I. Begun in 1283 as the definitive chapter in his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a seat of government and royal palace. Caernarfon's symbolic status was emphasized when Edward made sure that his son, the first English Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. In 1969, the castle gained worldwide fame as the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
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