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History of Tanks - T1 Cunningham

A look at the history behind the T1 Cunningham.

The T1 Cunningham, named after the manufacturer James Cunningham, Son and Company was a prototype that existed from 1927 to 1932. Despite never having been mass-produced or seeing time in active combat, the T1 Cunningham had several modified versions such as the T1E1, T1E2, T1E3, all the way up to the T1E6.

Although it never saw real-life combat, the T1 Cunningham is one of the first eight tanks available for new players in World of Tanks, and even boasts one of the highest top speeds available out of the starting tanks.

In World of Tanks, the T1 Cunningham is actually the T1E1 version of the tank, which preceded the T1 prototype. The T1E1 was originally released in 1928, of which four were ever constructed. The fact that four were constructed makes the T1E1 the only version of the T1 Cunningham that didn’t receive a single prototype.

All other versions of the T1 Cunningham existed purely as a prototype, with the latest model, the T1E6, existing only in prototype form. The T1E1 was changed only slightly from the original T1, with the hull no longer extending beyond the tracks and having its fuel tanks repositioned above the tracks.

In World of Tanks, the T1 Cunningham is able to reach speeds of 41 km/h while the real-life version struggled to reach 30 km/h.

After the T1E1 prototype came the T1E2 prototype for the T1 Cunningham. The T1E2 was manufactured in 1929 and boasted an increased amount of armor that varied between 6.4 mm and 15.9 mm in thickness. Obviously, this affected the tank’s top speed, which shrunk to 26 km/p, 3 km/p slower than the T1E1.

Even though the T1E2 had a V8 engine and was able to boast a better power-to-weight ratio than the previous version, it still meant the tank was heavier and slower.

The T1E3 was the next prototype manufactured by James Cunningham, Son and Company for the Ordnance Department and was a modified T1E1 as opposed to a modified T1E2. The T1E3 appeared to be a decent middle-ground between the two previous versions as it was able to have similar armor to the E2 while maintaining a higher speed than the E1. 

However, one of the greatest improvements over the previous versions was the T1E3’s new style of suspension, which used coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers to create a vastly improved experience for the crew inside the hull. The previous prototypes used unsprung suspension and used equalizing links to spread out the impact of the terrain.

In 1932, the T1E4 was produced as another modification of the original T1E1. The modifications were more severe than the previous prototypes as the entire tank makeup was shifted around. The tank's engine was repositioned to the back of the tank, while the transmission and drive were placed at the front with the turret in the middle.

A new suspension system was also included, which bore a similarity to the British Vickers light tank. A semi-automatic gun replaced the previous version, another aspect World of Tanks draws from is how the T1 Cunningham can be upgraded to include the 37 mm Semi-automatic, the exact same M1924 that was included on the T1E4.

37 mm Semi-automatic M1924
37 mm Semi-automatic M1924

Released at the same time as the T1E4 was the T1E5, which was another modified version of the T1E1. This version came with a different braking system to reduce the slow-down when turning and was quickly adopted into other armored vehicles able to exceed 10 km/p.

The T1E6, the final version of the T1 Cunningham, was released in 1932 and was a modified T1E4 with a better engine. This engine increased its horsepower to 244, giving it the best power-to-weight ratio of all previous T1 prototypes.

Preservation of the T1 Cunningham was important as it marked one of the USA’s earliest ventures into armored vehicle construction. As such, the T1E2 was the only version preserved, with its original location being the outdoor display at the US Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland until the museum’s closure in 2010.

After this date, the T1E2 was relocated to the US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Centre at Fort Lee, Virginia, and is presently stored indoors. The preservation of the T1E2 prototype excludes the tank’s armaments. It is surprising that a tank with so many prototypes and improvements never made it into battle. However, World of Tanks players are lucky enough to be able to use what would have been the T1E1 on the virtual battlefield.

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Sam Chandler

Sam loves all things shooters, whether it's a cheeky chicken dinner in PUBG or diving into a raid in Destiny, he'll be there.