Boys anti-tank rifle combat reports wanted.

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Richelieu, Jul 7, 2017.

  1. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    The speed at which the Boys anti-tank rifle was rendered obsolete has generally left it with a poor reputation but I was wondering whether it was really deserved or more a consequence of a lack of expectation management as its effectiveness diminished. Can anyone point me to accounts of the Boys being used in combat or any official reports regarding its effectiveness please?
  2. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    I haven't got any combat or official reports. But in October 1941, my father's old unit, the 7th Loyals, tested the Boys anti-tank rifle on the beach at Redcar, where the battalion was on anti-invasion duties. One of the soldiers, Tom Mason, recalled how a Bren carrier was set up as a target and the men were assured by the CO, Lieutenant Colonel William Plant, that the rifle’s bullet would blast a hole in the vehicle. ‘But it just bounced off,’ said Tom. ‘It was useless.’
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I have one I will try and dig out over the weekend. In the meantime, have you seen this thread?
    What Is A "boys" Rifle?
  4. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Thanks Idler, I missed that one - lots of interesting stuff. I tend to the views expressed by von Poop and Don Juan but I am keen to see more evidence.

    tmac, this seems like a strange exercise to me: what would it do for the confidence of the troops who might be called upon to use carriers in the future if the bullets did pass through the armour? I believe that the Boys was more than capable of penetrating a carrier at any sensible range so wonder if this was in fact an exercise in reverse psychology and set up to fail. TonyE mentions the range of bullets available for use in a Boys including simple ball rounds which would have bounced off in the manner described.

    And my take on the grammar debate in the other thread is, for what it’s worth, that Boys was not possessive and does not require an apostrophe. e.g. It is the Maginot Line not Maginot’s Line.
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Unless it was a morale-boosting demo for the carrier platoon...
  6. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

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  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I banged up a combat survey, and a firing trial against a Panzer I on the old Boys thread. It could penetrate the Pz.I frontally at 300 yards, so I can't really see what more you could ask of it.

    That it couldn't penetrate a Panzer III and had a harsh kick is rather in the same arena of Naomi Campbell complaining about a Gucci handbag, I feel.
    canuck and Chris C like this.
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  9. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Can you remember which files these interesting insights came from Don Juan?

    Thanks Drew, but the sort of accounts that I’m really looking for are likely to be buried in the thousands of unit and directorate war diaries like Don Juan’s contributions, personal diaries and histories.
  10. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    A couple of mentions from the Greek campaign:
    Greek Campaign
    from the NZ 21 Battalion account of the defence of "Castle Hill", Greece April 15-6 1941:
    CHAPTER 3 — Campaign in Greece | NZETC

    Also here for use by Greek forces in 1941:
    Yugoslave & Greek AFVs 1941 • Axis History Forum
    see post 7:
  11. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The survey of opinions from France is from RAC Half-yearly Progress Reports Nos.1-4 (WO 165/89)

    The Panzer I firing trial is from RAC Half-yearly Progress Report No.5 (WO 165/131)

    Both these are at the National Archives.
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  12. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Not a report but interesting all the same


  14. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    "I was ordered to volunteer to drive my wagon into Kalamata. I picked up about twenty very unusual characters, all 'volunteers', but one young Aussie could have been a mountain - about 6' 9" to 6' 10", maybe bigger. He carried a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle with a bayonet permanently wired to it and he fired this gun from his shoulder. There were also some Kiwis and K.R.R.C's (King's Royal Rifle Corps) with Tommy guns and Brens but not too much ammunition."

    He must have been some man mountain to get it up to his shoulder in the first place - that thing weighed 36lbs without a bayonet wired to it (and wouldn't that affect the firing?) Even the Aussies nicknamed it ,'Charlie the Bastard' because of the recoil. I picked one up in the School of Small Arms museum in Warminster - even the ammunition weighs a ton. Many units in France in 1940 complained that they had little training with the weapon and precious little ammunition.
  15. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    From the training manual reprinted by Gale & Polden in 1944:

    After the Battle of France the returning members of the B.E.F. had many hard things to say about this weapon, the general impression being that as a weapon designed to stop modern tanks it was out of date, but—and this is a fact that cannot be avoided—it was never intended to stop modern tanks.

    This weapon was designed to afford a means of protection against light armoured fighting vehicles, i.e., the type of vehicle which the Home Guard are likely to have to deal with, certainly in the early stages of either an air-borne or sea-borne landing on our coasts.

    It is very important that the Home Guard realize this before doubts arise as to its capabilities. An example to prove this point is that one would never think of putting into a boxing ring a bantam-weight to fight a heavy-weight unless one desired the complete annihilation of the bantam-weight.

    In our study of this weapon it is vital to get to know what it can do, how and when it can do it, and, having grasped that, not to expect miracles from it. Realizing the job it is designed for, it is a first-class weapon—in fact, there isn't a better.
  16. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Currently reading Jerry Murland's new book Cassel and Hazebrouck 1940 (Battleground series) and there are numerous references to the Boys being used against German armour. For example on page 88 describing the attack on 1 Buckinghamshire's 17 Platoon, May 27 1940 the following appears: "The [German] tank in question was one of three that was circling round 17 platoon's position, harassing them as much as possible and trying to unnerve the defenders. They were hotly engaged by 17 platoons's anti-tank rifles and, after one of them was hit, they withdrew "
  17. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Another brief Boys mention to share from Gash Boat: HMS Coventry 1939-1942 p 87 describing events during Operation Demon, the evacuation of Greece. Coventry has picked up a large number of Australian troops and then came under air attack
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  18. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Hopefully it doesn't seem like I'm spamming this thread. :D
    I'm half way through this book by Jerry Murland

    and there are a lot of accounts of use of the Boys throughout it. Some very successful indeed. One that stuck with me was on page 134 where Murland provides an account from Lt. Anthony Irwin of the 2/Essex near Pont A Vendin in which his Boys gunner knocked out a motorcycle combination and "then came the shot of the century. It was our anti-tank man again. With one shot he hit the [machine] gunner and knocked his head clean off his shoulders."
  19. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    "The Boys weapon was issued one per Infantry Platoon until 1943 when it was replaced by the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank. The weapons were reportedly used in small numbers afterwards, for example in the urban fighting at Ortona where they were used to blow locks off of doors."
  20. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    I thought that I would give this thread a nudge today, the anniversary of the Dieppe raid, with this account from James Leasor’s Green Beach (p.177) which is an account of the attempt to gather intelligence from the Pourville Freya station.

    The landing craft “could not come right in as they were under intense and accurate artillery fire, and also the sea was now too shallow; but each yard nearer meant one yard less for weary and wounded men to run through the water under ferocious fire. One or two Canadians had come out with Lee-Enfields to help engage the Germans, who were moving in relentlessly from a wide circle. If they could only halt them, this would help the men awaiting evacuation on the beach and the men in the boats. From concealed weapon-pits dug high up in the chalk face of the cliffs to the west, enemy machine-guns chattered like angry monkeys. Jack exhausted the Bren magazine and seized another one in an attempt to distract the German gunners from the targets on the beach. When that was empty, he grabbed the more accurate anti-tank rifle and rammed its huge cartridge in the breech.

    The rifle was far too heavy to fire from the shoulder, so he lay down on the ground and took steady aim at one of the dark mouths in the cliffs, from which machine-gun flames flickered like orange tongues. Forbes-Smith’s rules of aiming at Rosehearty ... The tip of the foresight in line with the shoulders of the backsight... first pressure on the trigger...

    The clumsy weapon kicked on its stand as he fired. He lowered it, wiping sweat from his eyes, peering up at the cliff. The machine-gun had stopped. It did not start again. But instead other light machine-gunners were firing down at them.

    ‘Jack’ is RAF Flight-sergeant Jack Nissenthall.

    Needs must, but there were evidently precedents... Chamberlain and Gander stated that the Boys had “for a while gained popularity as an anti-personnel weapon in Eritrea and Cyrenaica during 1940 and 1941. This was not by direct fire, but by producing rock splinters as ‘shrapnel’ after firing the solid bullets against rocks.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
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