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Britain had been the worldwide trend-setter in tank development from 1915, but had lost its leadership position as the Second World War approached. Hampered by restricted expenditure on the army in favour of the Royal Navy and the massive expansion of the Royal Air Force in the years leading up to the war and still organised for operations in Imperial defence as an expeditionary force, the British Army entered the war unprepared for the very sort of combat its influential theorists such as J.F.C. Fuller and B. H. Liddell Hart had advocated.
The British Army had developed two types of tanks - "Infantry Tanks" which were heavily armoured with good all terrain performance but were slow. This lack of speed was not considered a flaw as they were designed to support infantry assaults on enemy strong points or urban warfare where the ability to outpace a man on foot was deemed unnecessary. The other type were "Cruiser Tanks" which were intended for independent maneuvering, rapid breakouts and flanking attacks. Early Cruiser tanks gained performance at a cost in the armour they could carry. Reliability was an important issue especially in the harsh conditions of North Africa and the mountainous terrain of Southern Europe, where the A10 and A13 in particular were plagued by broken tracks and overheating engines.
British tank crews were trained to fire on the move and the armament was mounted for optimum balance such that the gunner could aim with his body rather than use geared elevation. This reduced available space inside the turret. Both early Cruiser and Infantry tanks carried the Ordnance QF 2-pounder, a 40 mm anti-tank gun, a good match for the contemporary German 3.7 cm KwK 36, and effective against tanks of the time but increasingly outclassed as the war progressed. Production shortages caused by losses in France and the Battle of the Atlantic forced the British to delay widespread introduction of the Ordnance QF 6-pounder (57 mm) anti-tank gun until 1942.
The lack of an adequate high-explosive shell for the 2-pounder and the growing number of 5 cm KwK 38 anti-tank guns in the Afrika Korps gave the German army in Libya a huge advantage for much of late 1941 and early 1942. This began to be offset by late 1942 but the Wehrmacht continued to enjoy a 12–18 month lead in tank and anti-tank gun development and production until the end of 1944. Britain produced 5000 tanks in the year of 1944.