17th/21st Lancers, Blade Force

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by MudGrunt3/7, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. MudGrunt3/7

    MudGrunt3/7 Junior Member

    I am working with Trux to recreate the Blade Force order of battle (OOB). Blade for was a mobile, combined arms group formed for the Race for Tunisia, 13 November - 12 December, 1942. To develop the OOB for a large unit we will start with each of the Regiment/Battalion sized formations that comprised Blade Force - here we will discuss and develop the OOB for the 17th/21st Lancers Armoured Division.

    I will make individual posts to this forum describing each troop, squadron, and then the regiment.

    Please join in the generation of this OOB if it interests you. I will be glad for any additional information, corrections, and thoughts. Using this feedback I will update the appropriate troop, squadron, and/or regiment description. You get to give pearls of wisdom, while I do the heavy lifting :)

    It will be very interesting to see how this information grows and how detailed it can become.

    I am using the following references:

    [1] http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-MTO-NWA/USA-MTO-NWA-15.html#fn2

    [2] History of the Second World War, Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart.

    [3] Battle Axe Division, From Africa to Italy with the 78th Division 1942-45, Ken Ford; paperback edition first published 2003 by Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2BU; ISBN 0 7509 3199 X

    [4] Albert Kesselring, Paolo Battistelli; Kindle Edition, published 21 August 2012; Osprey Publishing, Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford OX2 0PH, UK; ASIN: B008IS2748

    [5] Humber Light Reconnaissance Car 1941-45, by Richard Doherty; Published 2011 Osprey Publishing, Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford, OX2 0PH, UK; ISBN: 978 1 84908 310 2, E-book ISBN: 978 1 84908 311 9; Page 23

    [6] Crusader and Covenanter Cruiser Tanks 1939-45, David Fletcher; Published 1995 by Osprey Publishing, Ltd, Elms Court, chapel Way, Botley, Oxford OX2 9LP, United Kingdom; ISBN: 1 855325 5128

    [7] Orders of Battle, Second World War, 1939-1945, prepared by Lt Col. H.F. Joslen; Originally published 1960, re-printed & bound 13 Feb 2009 by Naval and Military Press; ISBN-13 978-1843424741.

    [8] Mailed Fist, 6th Armoured Division at War, 1940-1945, by Ken Ford; Published 2005 by Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2BU; ISBN 0-7509-3515-4.

    [9] A History of the 17th/21st Lancers, FFrench Blake; Published 1962 by MacMillan & Co., LTD, St Martin’s Street London WC2.
  2. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Should be interesting.

    Good luck!
  3. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    As per the post below, I see that they are already online
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  5. MudGrunt3/7

    MudGrunt3/7 Junior Member

    Owen & Phaethon,

    Thank you for the Blade Force War Diary. Trux has been providing me the information from that diary, but it is good to see it in it's original form. I have also seen the forum on Blade and Hart Forces. If the information we capture here passes muster, then I can also put the information I have on Hart Force on that thread.
  6. MudGrunt3/7

    MudGrunt3/7 Junior Member

    The 17th/21st Lancers were equipped with new production tanks in September 1942. These were Valentine Mk Vs and Crusader IIIs. As Trux stated very well - the 17th/21st Lancers had an infantry tank (Valentine Mk V) acting as a cruiser tank and a cruiser tank (Crusader III & Crusader II CS) giving heavy support.

    In this topic we detail the Valentine troop. The goal is to capture the prescribed duties and rank of the personnel, type and model of equipment, and logistical requirements particular to a fully manned and equipped troop of the 17th/21st Lancers for the period of November - December 1942.

    17/21st Lancers Valentine Troop War Establishment

    Troop Leader's Tank
    • Troop Leader & Tank Commander (TC), Subaltern armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Driver, Corporal armed with .38 caliber revolver, ? rounds. The Corporal would take command of the tank when the Subaltern left to coordinate with Squadron & Regiment command as well as any forces being supported.
    • Gunner, Private armed with Sten Mk II 9mm submachine gun (SMG), ? rounds and ? magazines
    • Loader, Private armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Valentine Mk V

    Number 1 Tank
    • TC, Sergeant armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Driver, Corporal armed with .38 caliber revolver, ? rounds
    • Gunner, Private armed with Sten Mk II 9mm submachine gun (SMG), ? rounds and ? magazines
    • Loader, Private armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Valentine Mk V

    Number 2 Tank
    • TC, Corporal armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Driver, Corporal armed with .38 caliber revolver, ? rounds
    • Gunner, Private armed with Sten Mk II 9mm submachine gun (SMG), ? rounds and ? magazines
    • Loader, Private armed with caliber .38 revolver, ? rounds
    • Valentine Mk V

    Each Valentine Mk V Contained
    • Armed with 2-pdr gun and Besa 7.92.57mm medium machine gun (MMG)
    • No. 19 Wireless Set
    • Bren caliber .303 British (7.7x56mm) light machine gun (LMG). Used for anti-aircraft defense, defense in the harbour/leaguer, or if the crew had to bail out of the tank.
    • 79 rounds 2-pdr ammunition
    • 3,150 rounds Besa 7.92x57mm rounds
    • ? caliber .303 British rounds
    • ? Bren LMG 30 round or 100 round pan magazines
    • 36 imperial gallons of diesel fuel in the internal tank.
    • A cook stove so that the crew could prepare their own food.
    Each tank towed a Rota trailer described by Lt.-Col ffrench Blake in reference [9] as "a box containing ammunition, slung between two pumpkin-like wheels holding fuel, which was extracted by a small hand-pump".

    Rota Trailer Contents
    • 106 rounds 2-pdr ammunition
    • 4 boxes of Besa 7.92x57mm rounds (how many rounds per box?)
    • 120 imperial gallons of diesel
    • 10 imperial gallons of water
    • 7 boxes of rations
    (Rota trailer information provided by Trux)

    Troop Totals
    - 12 All Ranks
    - 1 Officer
    - 3 Non-Commissioned Officers
    - 8 Enlisted

    - 3 Valentine Mk V tanks
    - 9 caliber .38 revolvers
    - 3 Sten Mk II SMGs
    - 3 Bren LMGs
    - 3 No. 19 Wireless Sets
    - 3 Rota Trailers

    - 237 2-pdr rounds in tanks
    - 318 2-pdr rounds in Rota trailers
    - 9,450 Besa 7.92x57mm rounds in tanks
    - 12 boxes of Besa 7.92x57mm rounds in Rota trailers
    - ? Caliber .303 British rounds in tanks
    - ? Bren LMG 30 round or 100 round pan magazines
    - ? Caliber .303 British rounds in Rota trailers
    - ? Caliber .38 revolver rounds with personnel in tanks
    - ? Caliber .38 revolver rounds in Rota trailers
    - ? 9mm parabellum rounds in tanks
    - ? Sten Mk II magazines in tanks
    - ? 9mm parabellum rounds in Rota trailers
    - 108 imperial gallons of diesel in tanks
    - 360 imperial gallons of diesel in Rota trailers
    - 30 gallons of water in Rota trailers
    - 21 boxes of rations in Rota trailers

    Missing details are colored red.

    • Are the correct terms used to identify the tanks - Troop Leader's Tank, Number 1 Tank, and Number 2 Tank? I used terms that were convenient for me, but I don't know if they are accurate to the terminology the unit would have used then.
    • Do you have any details I've left out?
  7. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Just a little something.

    My understanding is that....

    Order of Battle refers to units.

    When it is men and equipment that is being referred to, it is War Establishment. (In this case Middle East War Establishment).

    Men only, would be bayonet strength.

    Keep up the good work.
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Stowage diagrams for Crusader III. These are copies of copies but quite readable.

    Exterior left hand side and front.
    Crusader III Stowage 1.jpg

    Turret and fighting compartment, front.
    Crusader III stowage 2.jpg

    Exterior right hand side and rear.
    Crusader III Stowage 3.jpg

    Turret and fighting compartment, rear.
    Crusader III Stowage 4.jpg

    Drivers compartment.
    Crusader III Stowage 5.jpg


    PS. I know nothing of 1st Army, 6 Armoured Division or Blade Force. I do have some documents and know where to find others. My real task is advise David (Mudgrunt) on British documents, terminology, operating procedures etc. However I do have a liking for these small, almost piratical forces, which were often formed for specific tasks.
  9. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    I've been studying Blade Force for a while now. One thing that i notice is that Authors continually associate the name 'blade force' with the 78th battleaxe division. The Lancers were part of the 6th armoured division, the name Blade Force arises from the Sword of the first army. Blade force was originally destined for Bone and was envisioned as a show of force against light opposition, it was not intended to fight, as it did, against strong opposition. The reason for this was the cancellation of the landings east of Bougie due to the inclusion of the Casablanca landings which delayed the advance east.
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    What I take to be the relevant War Establishment Table since 17/21 Lancers were sent from the UK. The lists of personnel are long and not particularly revealing so I post only the Organisation part of the document. As always this is what the War Office intended, or hoped, to provide and may differ in detail from the actuality. Changes could also be made at Division, Brigade or Regimental level.




  11. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I seem to recall seeing 17/21 Lancers credited with something like 18 Valentines and 6 Crusaders per Sqn, which is very much over the usual 19 tanks per Sqn; that was a long while ago though and that was from a vanished web source, and assumes my memory is OK...At any rate I gained the impression they were a bit over WE strength.

    II/151/2 should be the right WE (1st Army didn't operate under the same WEs as 8th Army). The details for pistol ammunition (on man/for gun) will be in the last few pages of the WE.

  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Yes I have seen it mentioned that the 17/21 Lancers were over establishment but no clear source for it. Elsewhere there are two references to 11 Valentines per squadron. From memory one says a squadron was left with its 11 Valentines, the Crusaders having all fallen out. Another says that the squadron had 11 Valentines and five Crusaders on one occasion, presumably the others having fallen out. I will try to find the exact references.

    There do not seem to be references to ammunition in this table.

  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Completely agree with you as it seems that 78th Div won the war all by themselves at times - Blade force was a thrust by 6th AD plus other units in much the

    same way as the 6AD didn't win the war by themselves either…and I am thinking of really excellent divisions fighting alongside 78 th In Italy such as the kiwi's - 4th

    and 8th Indian - 1st Cdn - Polish -

    They ALL did their share…

  14. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Trux. That "Centaur" looks mighty like a Crusader to me!

    Tom. And there I was thinking that the Yanks won WWII! ;)
  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Perhaps there is some confusion here between order of battle (OOB) and table of organization and equipment (TOE).

    An earlier thread on this forum also discussed Blade Force, here: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/13150-blade-and-hart-forces/

    The US official history (Howe) lists 17th/21st Lancers, B Squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry, and 1st/1st US Armored Regiment (from 1st US Armd Div) as elements of the force.
  16. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Oops. The reference cited in 2) in the first post has it all. Sorry.
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    David W

    No No... trust you to get it all wrong - they only won the NWE shindig - Gerry - Ron and I won the Italian thingi with a little help from Smudger's Dad...

  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have corrected the post. They are of course Crusaders.

  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Stowage diagrams for the Rotatrailer.

    rotatrailer 1.jpg Rotatrailer 2.jpg Rotatrailer 3.jpg

  20. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    My mistake sorry, I was forgetting ammo vanished off WEs before weapons did.

    The nearest thing I can find is for a Tank Bn (ACI May41) which had 12 rounds per pistol (plus 6 reserve each), 50 rounds per rifle (plus 9000 reserve for all rifles) and 250 rounds per SMG (plus 350 reserve each). This was for Thompson rather than Stens. LMGs have 1000 rounds per dismounted weapon (plus 500 reserve each) and 700 rounds per scout car weapon (plus a total of 5000 reserve for all scout car LMGs).


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