Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M), and the related Centaur (A27L) tank, were one of the most successful series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second World War. The Cromwell tank, named after the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell, was the first tank in the British arsenal to combine a dual-purpose gun, high speed from the powerful and reliable Meteor engine, and reasonable armour, all in one balanced package. Its design formed the basis of the Comet tank.
The Cromwell and Centaur differed in the engine used. While the Centaur had the Liberty engine of the predecessor cruiser tank, the Crusader, the Cromwell had the significantly more powerful Meteor. Aside from the engine and associated transmission differences, the two tanks were effectively the same and many Centaurs built were given the Meteor to make them Cromwells.
The Cromwell first saw action in the Battle of Normandy in June 1944. The tank equipped the armoured reconnaissance regiments, of the Royal Armoured Corps, within the 7th, 11th, and Guards Armoured Divisions. While the armoured regiments of the latter two divisions were equipped with M4 Shermans, the armoured regiments of the 7th Armoured Division were fully equipped with Cromwell tanks. The Centaurs were not generally used for combat except for those fitted with a 95mm Howitzer which were used in support of the Royal Marines during the invasion of Normandy.
Centaur I or III upgraded with Meteor engine, or built as such. The most numerous variant with over 1,935 units produced.