The first two tanks in the British medium tank line – the Medium Mk I and Medium Mk II – never really seemed to deserve that classification. Not only were they very slow, but their armour was practically non-existent, though their weaponry was alright. This last lead me to label them both more like tank destroyers, albeit with a dangerously large silhouette. With the Medium Mk III however we finally get to a vehicle which I feel can make an argument for living up to the label of a medium tank, more or less.
The armour is still pathetically thin – 14mm on the turret and the front of the hull, and 9mm elsewhere. Weak as that is however it is the first tank in this line that has a decent chance of bouncing some autocannon shots. To be sure, the Panzer I Ausf. C can still do considerable damage if it empties an entire clip, but that will not be the certain death it is as with the Mk II.
In terms of speed and engine power there is also an improvement – incremental but it seems to make a difference. Using rough calculations the hp/ton goes up a bit from 11.3 to 11.9 (with upgrade modules, but no equipment); and the top speed goes up from 40km/h to 48km/h. The impression of increase agility is also aided by having an increased traverse speed (comparing upgraded tracks, 32 d/s to 28). Again, another incremental improvement that just tips the scales to make the Mark III feel like something other than a boxy tank destroyer.
There are two quite legitimate guns to choose from on the Mk III, after the stock one. There is the QF 2-pdr Mk IX, with has the greatest penetration, accuracy and rate of fire – but low damage. Then there is QF 6-pdr 8cwt Mk I, which has slightly less average penetration (57 to 64), but considerably more average damage (70 to 45), somewhat worse accuracy (0.41 to 0.36), and a worse – though still good – rate of fire (20 to 28.57 rpm). The aiming time on both guns is the same, at 1.9 seconds.
I ended up going for the second of the two, preferring its larger alpha. However, now I take a slightly more in depth look I see the first gun has one really quite pronounced advantage of the second: premium ammo penetration. On the 6-pdr that I used my penetration with premium ammo boosted from the regular 57mm to 72mm. In other words, even with premium ammo I cannot penetration with any reliability a Matilda (except to the rear) or the front of a Hetzer, and that is before one thinks about Tier V vehicles. In comparison the 2-pdr premium ammo boosts the penetration from 64mm to 121mm, which is enough to frontally penetrate the KV-1. At just 1200 credits a pop the shells do not appear too expensive – but given the high rate of fire one is likely to chew through the credits. On the other hand, if one kept a good store of shells available for the Tier IV and V situations where it would be handy (say 40 out of the 130 ammo capacity) there would be the potential to rather surprise some Tier V tank drivers – and the rate of fire does make up a little for the low alpha.
Of course, irritating a Tier V tank on the Medium Mk III is a good way to end up dead – remember that thin armour. To help improve its survivability however the tank can, surprisingly, take some advantage of hull-down tactics to reduce its otherwise massive profile. The 8 degrees of depression is not brilliant, but does allow for some peeking. The 280hp (with the upgraded turret) also allows one to take a certain amount of punishment, though is mostly good for facing up against same-tier enemies.
The most dangerous opponents for the Mk III are the howitzer/HE equipped opponents such as the T82 and Hetzer. Those tanks have the raw damage to be able to one-shot you if their HE shell penetrates, and give the still-poor armour the HE shells certainly can.
My own time in the Medium Mk III has amounted to 16 battles, including 10 victories and 11 enemy tanks destroyed. Along the way I did get the Ace Tanker medal, but I did struggle when I was put into a higher tier battle. I do wish I had paid closer attention to the differences between the two guns now. Even so I had an easier time playing it than I feared, and now will be selling it on and starting the Matilda.