Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Owen, Jul 12, 2006.
thanks for a most excellent post.
glad to see one of my threads from 2006 is still going .
Great post, many thanks!
All the best
Before 1941 the British Army had not provided Anti Tank ammunition for the 3.7" AA gun or the obsolescent 3" 20 cwt AA guns. This cannot have been helped by the sepearation of the AA from the field army, though understandable given the priority given to the AA defence of the UK.
Alanbrooke, as the GOC Home Forces seems to have played a part in enabling the 3.7" AA gun to be used in the ATk Role. His diary entries for June 1941 record his dissatisfaction with a display of anti-tank shooting and demands an anti tank weapons to deal with heavy tanks..
Alanbrooke's diary entris show him raising the matter of Anti tank ammunition for these equipment and rcord a satisfactory shoot ion September 1941.
by 1944 the plans for Op Overlord include HAA guns as the last line of Atk Defences for the beachheads as well as a substitute for medium artillery. 2nd Army chose to take 3.7" HAA instead of medium guns because of their versatility.
Incidentally it wasn't just Allied who exaggerated the calibre of the anti tank guns which knocked them out. A German training note issued by the Inspectorate of Panzer Troops in August 1944 reminded Tiger crews that they were not invulnerable and that 93mm AA guns could knock them out. This seems to suggest two things. 1) the possibility of the 3.7" ion the Ani tank role had some effect on the Germans and 2) the Germans did not appreciate the effectiveness of the 17 Pdr.. .
Blindingly obvious really, in Normandy the beachhead was a tad compact, and the AA Bdes, who owned the 3.7 were all packed in. In N Africa, the AA Bdes also owned 3.7 and apart from Tobruk they were all a long way from the front because their role was defending the ports and rear areas. This wasn't just an army, and certainly not a RA, decision. This would be a matter for the Theatre C-in-C.
Given that AA Bdes usually only had a single HAA regt (LAA being more numerous) then it all seems an entirely sensible military decision. Obviously like any other unit HAA regts had to be prepared to defend themselves, and if their bde was close to the front then anti-tank ammo would probably be useful, although given the tks of the first couple of years of the war HE was probably fit for purpose.
The other reality is that pre-war the AA branch, particularly HAA, was young and small but expanded rapidly as part of the development of ADUK (and was mostly TA), an RAF command. Their focus was home defence. The rest of the army was focussed on overseas territories and expeditionary war. Such different focus in a developing environment inevitably meant that HAA wasn't terribly interested in tanks unless they started flying and integration with the rest of the army was obviously not as big an issue as working with the RAF was. All things taken into account, eg BoB, they it seems clear to me that this was a reasonable decision at the time, in the end it comes down to priorities. Wittering on about the split in the Royal Regiment suggests to me two words: "plot" and "losing", and a failure to understand priorities with the added complication of most HAA units being TA.
From Hogg's The Guns of World War II:
No clues as to who or where...
My father served in 284th H.A:A Bty .R.A......from Normandy through to Hamborg and the 3.7 gun was used in Normandy and Holland in the AT Role.....They were trained in England for this role and had AT ammunition to use. I have both documentation and photos of the guns being used in the AT role
It would be interesting to hear what you've got, Geoff. I've got an HAA tactical manual that refers to AT in the context of defending the AA gun position in the event of an attack, but nothing on the procedure which might be markedly different depending on the mark of 3.7" gun.
On the Normandy beach areas it was laid down that where practicable HAA guns should be sited where they could provide anti tank defence. AA requirements were always an overriding factor. HAA troops carried a small amount of anti tank AP ammunition.
It is not clear if the HAA units received special training in the AT role. Some were trained to undertake coastal defence as well as AA roles.
In the event they were not called on to engage enemy armour.
The 90th Middlesex H A A Regt RA of which 284 th Bty RA was a part of was a part of 5 AGRA ( 30 corps) when landed at Normandy....They were as I quote from the Regt Diary "destined for a ground role"...for which they had been trained for on various exercises in the UK in 1943/44
Here is a photo taken by my father of his 3.7 in action against tanks in I think operation Market Garden
I quote again from the regimental dairy " was forever ready to man his gun in an anti.tank role"
I hadn't made the connection with 5 AGRA, who I know practised anti-tank shoots before D-Day.
The photo's very nice - just a pity we can't see what the layers are doing.
I have a few more photos I can post on this subject but I have to download them...maybe tonight......I made the most of my photos and information available to the Imperial War Museum a lot of years ago because of the consistent Authors of books that deny the 3.7 was ever used in a ground role and anti tank role.....Which is wrong
Certainly HAA units were widely used in the ground role. Even the units assigned to defence of the Normandy beaches spent much of their time and effort acting as medium artillery in support of the forward troops for as long as they were in range. It is also known now that some were trained and sited for the coast defence role of the beaches.
I personally do not know if any units were actually trained for the anti tank role. Certainly they were to be ready to act against enemy tanks and carried AP ammunition for the purpose. I would love to see more of your photos and documents.
What a great picture. That's his own crew? Be even better if he was in the picture, but still great and very unique.
Good lord, Geoff. Brilliant picture.
And I'll add myself to the list of those fascinated by anything more you have.
One of those ongoing discussion issues, the 3.7.
By chance, a mate is in temporary custody of one at an EH (or whatever they're called now) property.
Been looking for a free .pdf of the manual/handbook. Sure I had one before, but can now only find paid copies.
When checking Operational Orders for large ops its fairly common to see HAA involved as well on ground shoots, not quite the answer but...
Damn impressive shot.
I think LAA had a secondary ground role as well, though. Certainly the Crusader Bofors AA had a secondary anti-tank role.
17 pounder SP's like the Archer were used in the "Pepperpot" general ground shoot and anti-bunker role.
I suspect there is quite an extensive "hidden history" here of RA units being employed in their secondary roles more commonly and extensively than in their primary roles.
Here are a few more of my dads photos when he told me that they were up against German Panzers.....As you can see the barrel elevation is level and looks like they are firing over "open sites"... Being an ex serviceman myself you know if that happens then the target is very close....and most likely tanks or armoured vehicles
That's one question answered: it's a Mark III - the later mobile mounting with the layers sitting backwards. Still unresolved - how did they aim in the anti-tank/direct-fire (not ground) role??
The first photo of the gun firing shows the gun level.....The target obviously very close.....My Father was adamant that they engaged German tanks in Normandy and Holland....I think if the target is that close then you just get on with it.
There will not be many photos showing the guns at close quarter fighting as the gunners have something else to worry about than saving the moment for posterity....I am supprised that this photo was actually taken.....And I would say to all the doubters,that what they are firing at , is so close and its most definitely not troops. He did mention that they were cut off and surrounded on the operation Market Garden...So it may quite possibly be there
This other photo though does show the gun in the ground role
90th (Middlesex) HAA Regt RA ..........Regimental Diary 1939 - 1945
" THE BRIDGEHEAD EXPANDS "
" All three Batteries were kept hard at it during the middle of July and ground gained here and there kept Reconnaissance parties on their toes.Several re-deployments of guns were made and the advance,whilst slow,was sure. On the 20th July, 272 Battery were called upon to deploy "B" troop guns in an anti-tank role to cover the TILLY-BAYEUX road, and these orders made one appreciate the thoroughness of training in ENGLAND,when anti-tank gunnery had been studied and practiced during the periods in the CHEVIOT HILLS.
During 15th July the Prime Minister visited an Observation Post used by 285 Battery and he watched with interest the effect of "air -bursts on enemy positions
About this period fire support was given to the 49th (West Riding) Division and 50th (Northumbrian) Division, in their attacks on VILLIERS BOCAGE and EVRECY"
unquote......I hope now that you will all agree that the 3.7 WAS used in an anti-tank role and that my photos and documentation back up my previous premise
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