British Weapons

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by skywalker, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. skywalker

    skywalker Junior Member

    It appears as though in general British weapons werent particually held in high regard but apart from their Heavy Machine guns & Tanks etc etc did they have anything of superior quality. I have read (on this board) that British Artillery was superior to German Artillery.

    Why didnt general command issue a Heavier Machine Gun ?
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Well - they did; we had the Bren, then the .303 Vickers...and at the start of the war at least the .50 Vickers as well.

    The problem with the Sten wasn't it's weight or calibre - it was the build quality of the early items - as prejudiced by it's original design paramters. With a weapon built to THAT cheap and nasty an original specification, there's just so much improvement you can eventually cram into the basic design! :lol: You reach the point where you may as well start over...

    God forbid! It would not fire when you wanted it to and did when you did not want it to. A cheap and nasty weapon that must have caused numerous casualties amongst our own men. Specially fingers and thumbs.

    ...and feet and legs and 'nads if you dropped it on a hard surface! :mellow:
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I always thought the Bren had a good reputation (although British weapons are not my forte) and that the Enfield rifle was highly thought of also?
  4. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The Sten mags that I was issued with for D-Day had duff springs and after a few days were recalled for replacement. The PIAT didn't compare well with the Panzerfaust either. The Bren was a good weapon but once a gain didn't compare much to the Spandau, it was too accurate and only fired in short bursts - I hated the sound of the Spandau too.
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Jim was the Sten that bad?

    I always hear of people complaining about it but I remember watching a programme a few years ago where they did numerous tests on one against a MP40 and from what I recall there was very little in it.

    They even had a WW2 vet in the documentary who had used both during WW2 and he didn't seem to put the Sten down and spoke quite favourably of it from what I recall.

  6. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The British RA? Great..... 25 pounders? The stuff of legend. In Holland they tried out a new stunt. Now I know nothing about the Guns. But while we used the Dutch youth SS training camp, as a base for operations, They lined up a great many 25 pounders and instead of firing in salvos, they fired the lot in one go.... I recall the bloody awful noise. The German 88mm was, and still is, for the Veterans a gun of legend. Almost held in awe by the Tommie's. It would be interesting to get Toms or Rons opinion of the 88. For me it was deadly, and I have been under fire from one

    The Sten was so bad, that we carried it about under active conditions, without a magazine loaded. Seriously! If in any doubt? then an old friend Harry Grey would testify..I parted his hair with a burst..Genuinely.. Just by putting it on the ground.
    He was not best pleased I can tell you....

    The worst thing was ..It was not dependable and your life hung on its performance
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    My father refused to take a Sten. He ended up a Bren gunner. He too hated the very sound of the Spandau.
  8. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    Yes, it was a danger to the user. The trouble was that if you left the safety catch off a light knock of the butt on the ground would compress the spring and fire a burst. We lost a man that way in the back of a 3 tonner in 1950.
  9. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I've heard similar comments from veterans I've met regarding the Sten, Bren and Artillery.

    The impression I've always had of the state of British weapons in WW2 is that their inferiority was down to how we were caught relatively unprepared for war and had to try and manufacture a lot of weapons quickly and cheaply. I remember reading a quote about the Sten that the war office had to get weapons into the hands of the troops, and that any weapon even a bad one was better than none. Especially after Dunkirk with the lack of equipment the war office were facing the dilemma of choosing between quality or quantity.

    Whereas the Germans had been preparing for war for some time, and they would have been developing their weaponry from around 1933 onwards. I guess tanks are a great example too.

    David French's 'Raising Churchills Army' has a good section on the development of weapons.
  10. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    As shown many times in conflict, it not what you've got it's how you use it.

    " The British artillery demonstrated once again its well-known excellence.
    Especially noteworthy was its great mobitily and speed of reaction to the requirements of the assault troops".
    Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

    Monty was very scathing about the existence of superior German equipment, in a quote which i can't find at the moment he said something along the lines of;
    No matter how good you think of the German equipment, we shall simply blow it to bits with High Explosive.
  11. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Monty was an astute and very clever man. never popular in the media and press. Always criticized by the armchair generals back int the uK.
    But he did take Normandy ten days ahead of schedule, and he did destroy their armies with utter ruthlessness at Falaise.

    He was a great general. Though some cannot ever come to terms with that view. When under the severest pressure, they called on Monty. Including the bulge.
  12. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I remember seeing in Normandy an order concerning the belief that Jerries weapons were better than ours and a warning that carrying and using enemy arms would not be tolerated. But my mate Ken had a Spandau and looked like a bandit with belts of ammo across his chest, when he opened fire with it he'd overlooked there were some paras to our front. They returned fire and gave the hedge behind us quite a trimming, he dumped it after that. One night we were crouched over a firefly, never having seen one before, when a para told us if we didn't put that fag out he'd put a round our way! Back to the Sten, didn't it have a mod which allowed the cocking handle to go right through the bolt to lock and stop it firing itself?
  13. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The worst thing of all Driver-op, was the bloody PIAT. If ever there was a God forsaken load of utter claptrap...That was it... I know, having been sent out as the outpost, with Panthers near by.
    I have heard so many claims about the heroic deeds with the PIAT, that I treat them all with a great big pinch of salt. The loading of the spring took two of us. The projectile lay in the bomb tray.... "loose" if you moved, it would fall out the front. You had to get very close, because the bloody thing was so inaccurate. It was clumsy and I could never quite understand how It never "got lost in action"

    If there was one weapon in our side that deserved the title of absolutely useless, it was the Bloody PIAT.. I have hear that they have been fired from the hip...Must have been a very strong man. To hold it in position. Not to mention the recoil that knocked you back 6 feet laying on the ground.. Yet there are claims that they were fired from the hip. First thing is... How the hell did they keep the bomb in place? Sticky plaster? Has anyone realistically tried running with a PIAT.

    What a shambles that was. The worst British weapon EVER. Much worse than the useless Sten.
    PS Infantry training with the PIAT was carried out in a prone position. With closed legs, and no trees or saplings behind you..The recoil could destroy your love life ! One other training instruction, as soon as fired rill away FAST...AS the tail fin is blown back at the operator PIAT? CRAP!
  14. Kruska

    Kruska Junior Member

    Yes, why the British being always a very professional army did so little in regards to infantry weapons always remains a mistery to me.

  15. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    It's my understanding that the Sten was developed to supply partisans with a cheap, disposable weapon with high fire power. Why the regular forces adopted it, I can only guess. I imagine to some bean-counters the Sten looked better than the expensive Lend-Lease Thompson.

    The Germans were the only army with a, now termed, general purpose MG. IMO the Bren was good for what it was, but it was not a versatile, belt-fed MG. Being on defence though the end of the war, the MG34 and MG42 paid high dividends for the Germans. It's been said the Treaty of Versailles drove the Germans to develop their light machine guns between the wars.

    I think its generally agreed the RA was among the best in volume and responsiveness. I would rank it above the Germans.

    I think British tank development suffered from the immediate needs of the fighting fronts which short circuited efforts for quality and quantity. German tank and cannon development was greatly influenced by their needs in battling the very good and plentyful T-34.

    The Enfield was a good quality bolt action (sometimes called a Mauser action) rifle. Everyone had one; only the Japanese reached the state where it was difficult to produce a quality rifle.

    I don't know much about the Vickers, was it the same heavy MG used in WWI? It wouldn't make Britian the only army using a WWI era heavy machinegun.
  16. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I think its because the Government and the War Office didn't want to spend the money on developing weapons unless they really had to. Thanks to the 10 year rule that assumed Britain would not fight another war for at least 10 years long term planning regarding equipment was based on cost-cutting. And of course by the time we realised we would have to re-arm, we were already playing catch-up.
  17. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The same debate comes up now and again about quality of British equipment versus German during the war. Some people are content to view anything produced in the UK as utter junk, and anything made for the Wehrmacht as flawless. I would say both armies had exceptionally good kit as well as items they must’ve wondered whether the enemy had deliberately infiltrated into their arsenal…

    For example, mid-war era, we have anti-tank crews equipped with a gun designed to engage tanks of the late 1930s. It’s physically light, has a low profile and can be manhandled into position, but by 1941 and 1942 it’s proving ever less capable against enemy tanks now sporting armour notably thicker than was the norm two years previous. Despite the limitations and the need to engage targets at much shorter range, while often operating in wide expanses with limited cover, it’s still the most numerically important anti-tank gun in the army. New models are promised, but they are slow in arriving and meanwhile the enemy tanks aren’t exactly sitting waiting.

    So, I’m obviously giving my interpretation of the British 2-pdr anti-tank gun in North Africa? Or, could the same account hold true for the Germans on the Eastern Front in regards of the 3.7-cm Pak, nicknamed the ‘doorknocker’ by the troops?

    By comparison to a number of German designs, British (and US) weapons appear quite utilitarian. The British No.4 SMLE is an updated version of the same weapon introduced in 1896, practically half a century earlier. The Bren isn’t even British, it’s based on a Czech weapon, the ZB26 designed in Brno and produced by the Enfield small arms factories, hence Bren (Brno and Enfield). The Sten is the biggest stinker of all in many eyes, there were innumerable problems with it. The Vickers medium machine gun dates back to pre the Great War and hadn’t altered much.

    Not a terribly ‘sexy’ line up of weapons, but they all had one thing in common; they were perfectly lethal if imperfectly designed. And lethal was their job. In skilled hands, the No.4 could achieve a rapid rate of fire despite its bolt action, though with a conscript army there were decidedly fewer skilled hands (refer to August of 1914 for an account of what could be achieved with well trained riflemen). The Bren proved utterly reliable in desert, mud and jungle, and while having a lower rate of fire could keep pumping out rounds even when the barrel was screaming to be changed. Later models of the Sten improved design quality, airborne variants were much improved over the Woolworths gun of 1941-42. Most men issued a Sten in Infantry and Armoured formations were not in Rifle Sections (just the Corporal leader) but drivers, signallers, gunners and motorcyclists. They needed a weapon, but on balance they were far less likely to have to use it, and for some carrying a rifle was impractical. The US had a similar approach and opted to use the M1 carbine in such circumstances. It was mechanically much more reliable than the Sten, but the lower powered round got a bad reputation for limited stopping power (though there are counter arguments that this was exaggerated).

    Equivalent German weapons to those above? The Kar98, a good two years younger than the No.4 predecessors, likewise bolt action though held five rounds rather than ten for the SMLE. The Germans attempted to replace it during the war with no less than three alternatives; the semi-automatic G41, largely thought of as a disaster (yes, a flawed German weapon), the better G43 and the ‘revolutionary’ Stg43. The latter two were very capable weapons, but the Germans could not produce enough to replace all but a fraction of the bolt actions in service. The G43 was rare enough to be a sniper’s weapon and the Stg44 made a far greater impact on post-war developments than actual combat (see AK47, though the Soviets would argue they were already going that way!).

    The MG34 was the first attempt to produce a light machine gun that could be handled by a Section/Squad with a bipod, or used for sustained fire from a tripod mount. It had a far higher rate of fire than anything it opposed, because the German Army believed once an MG opened up then enemy infantry would go to ground within a few seconds, so the best option was a gun that could fire as many rounds as possible in that brief window. That meant that the LMG became the focal point of the German Squad as regards firepower, with rifles as very much secondary weapons. It can be argued it was their principle arm. It was highly effective, but overly designed and susceptible to stoppages in poor conditions. The MG42 was more robust and easier to mass produce, and by 1944 I’d suggest it was the German’s primary infantry weapon if accounts are to be relied upon. Very few references to overly accurate German rifle fire, but an abundance of ‘spandaus’ halting progress until silenced or withdrawn.

    The German MP40 was a weapon that early on had issues with the safety, similar to the Sten in some respects. These were resolved and it was a reliable weapon, that some Allied troops liked to use when captured examples were to be found. Ironically, over on the Eastern Front, the Germans were quite happy to hand in their MP40 to the stores and pick up a Soviet PPSh 41, so much so that the Germans began adapting captured stocks to 9-mm from the Russian 7.62-mm round! And they also adopted captured Russian field guns to the anti-tank role to make up for the shortcomings of the Pak35/36.

    There are numerous British weapons that get a bad press; there are plenty of horror stories re the PIAT, and perhaps for every one there was also a burned out German AFV that somehow gets less attention. Kill rates for certain weapons types are very hard to come by, so we’re mostly left to draw our own conclusions, which often aren’t far away from our initial gut reaction. Some days I’m minded to believe that the British, and by extension Commonwealth, forces had the least effective weapons in every major category by comparison to the German Army excepting artillery, meaning small arms, handheld anti-tank weapons and guns and cruiser tanks. So what was killing those enemy troops then, harsh language?
  18. Kruska

    Kruska Junior Member

    Hello James Daly, and Gary Kennedy

    I guess that you are right in that matter in regards to peace time. However sending one's troops into battle for almost 6 years without ever improving on the infantry weapons is unbelievable to me.

    The British had no problems in developing and issuing weapons in other branches which equaled those of the Germans or even outperformed them.

    Just imagine 1944/45 the Germans (lets put aside production problems) had developed and issued the FG 42, STG 44, MG 34 and 42, (two main rifles - one automatic) the MP 38, 40, MP 41, the MP 18/EMP 35.
    and this Volkssturm MP, plus Panzerfaust/Panzerschreck.

    AFAIK those poor British fellows had exactly the same armament as in 1939. The Enfield, Sten, Bren, and Piat. The Vickers MG well! The Germans had those water cooled MG as well in the lesser projected areas (occupied territories). I think only some units such as the commandos were issued with Thomsons.

    BTW what weapon is this MG with the horizontal drums used on the LRDP vehicles?

  19. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Well the British did produce new infantry weapons. In 1939 the standard smallarms for the infantry were the SMLE, the Bren (introduced in 1938 to replace the Lewis) and the Vickers MMG. By 1944 the SMLE had been modified with the No.4 variant to ease production, the Bren had been tweaked a bit too, with the Thompson and Sten both introduced from 1940 onwards. The situation wasn't static. In 1940 the .55-cal anti-tank rifle was the means of defence against armour, the PIAT didn't appear until 1943 (last knockings in Tunisia and then Siciliy being its first test). Also the 3-inch mortar was quietly improved and could out range the German 8-cm weapon.

    One thing that makes me smile is that in 1945, the only 'modern' smallarms in the US arsenal were the M1 rifle and the M3 submachine gun. Their automatic weapons, the BAR (1918) the M1919 and M1917, had all been produced for the Great War, heck even the Tommy gun dated to 1928!

    I'd argue you can't put aside the production problems, because that's part of the issue. The Germans were good at finding new designs and poor at putting them into mass production. The Allies understood that stopping and retooling a major portion of your weapons industry to a new, and perhaps untested design, was not something that could be easily undertaken in wartime while keeping the pressure on your enemies. Hence 50,000 Shermans and perhaps 2000 Tigers. No comfort to a Sherman crew when they ran into one that statisically they were unlucky fo course.

    Someone might correct me but I think the LRDG weapons you're thinking of are Vickers 'K' guns, designed for use on RAF aircraft of early war vintage, such as the Battle.
  20. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    It did receive a conversion for infantry use, with an underside pistol grip - and was very reliable....BUT that reliability came with a very high rate of fire that couldn't be slowed much, and it ran through drum mags VERY quickly. That's why the LRDG and others liked it - hard punching power for a short time, perfect for covert/special ops.

    For infantry use - the drum mags were huge and heavy - and an over sized one that was produced to try and compensate for the high rate of fire was even heavier, it was the size and shape of a round two-layer tin of biscuits....but a LOT weightier :lol: A loader could only carry two, in a fore-and-aft bib arrangement :mellow:

    So although trialled extensively it was never issued to regular troops - although the Commandos used it occasionally for the hitting power; you can see one being carried by Commando Kieffer on D-Day in some of the B&W clips of them

Share This Page