Exercise Dracula: Tank Showdown? [Aug-Sept '43]

Discussion in 'General' started by Charley Fortnum, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Not being a tank man, I'd never heard of this--short version in this video:

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  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I read the title as "Why the British Chose the Sheman Tank" - albeit that decision - I guess - was made sometime prior to Exercise Dracula - Aug/Sept 1943?

    I read these on "Exercise Dracula" recently:

    The Chieftain's Hatch: Exercise Dracula

    Exercise Dracula Part II: testing between the Centaur, Cromwell & Sherman, by World of Tanks

    Also there's a ref here: Cromwell tank - Wikipedia

    "The first real field test of the design was carried out in August–September 1943, when examples of the Centaur, Cromwell, Sherman M4A2 (diesel engine) and Sherman M4A4 (multi-bank petrol engine) were all tested in Exercise Dracula, a 2,000 mile long trip around Britain. The Shermans proved to be the most reliable, by far, requiring 420 hours of specialist fitter attention over a total distance travelled of 13,986 miles (22,508 km). This corresponds to 0.03 hours per mile. In comparison, the Cromwells drove 11,582 miles (18,639 km) and required 814 hours, or 0.07 hours per mile. The Centaur managed only 8,492 miles (13,667 km) due to constant breakdown, and required 742 hours, or 0.087 hours per mile."

    Ref'ing the "The Chieftain's Hatch: Exercise Dracula". world of tanks. 5 July 2014.

    I would have assumed anyhow, however, I think, that by Aug/Sept 1943 the UK army had a fair idea of the Sherman's general capabilities?

    M4 Sherman - Wikipedia

    Has: Sherman M4A2 (diesel engine) - production from April 1942
    Sherman M4A4 (multi-bank petrol engine) - production from July 1942

    So were testing something established with something getting "The first real field test of the design" ?

    There's some refs. on the Shermans in the 24th Lancer War Diary, with the 24th L getting the first mention I could see of training with them: "29/6/43 1500 Selected Officers and men of the Regiment attended a medical demonstration at Burrow House Camp. Individual Gunnery and D & M training on the new Sherman tanks was carried out throughout the month."

    And SRY war diaries. The SRY having had their own models out in Africa etc. i.e.

    3rd November 1942: "At 0200hrs orders were received that, as 7 Mot Bde had not reached their final objective, it was decided to await the hours of daylight. At dawn the Regt moved out again onto the left flank, and this was a most successful day in the history of The Sherwood Rangers.

    Along the front lay a line of sand dunes with 50mm guns dug in. The CO decided, with the approval of the Bde Comd, to move forward, seizing the ridge running East - West, and then attempting to take the line of the road. The operation was entirely successful, great praise being due to Maj Christopherson and Lt Bethel-Fox, who was wounded, and the other members of A Sqn, for their magnificent work in reconnaissance, and to the Grant and Sherman sqns for knocking out 50mm guns by shellfire. Capt McGowan, B Sqn, firing from his own tank, scored a direct hit on a 50mm [gun], which he blew sky-high. Having reached the sand dunes, the CO carried out his intention and swung West, with the Crusaders moving along the ridge as a cover from German A Tk guns which were known to be just on the other side. Two tps of 12L, who were in the neighbourhood, agreed to watch the left flank and rendered most valuable assistance.

    By 1400hrs the Crusaders had reached to within 200yds of the road and the Sherman sqn, followed by RHQ, moved up behind them. During this operation an 88mm gun opened up and brought fire to bear on the advancing Shermans of C Sqn. Smoke was therefore put down on this gap and the remainder of the Sherman sqn advanced under its cover without suffering casualties.

    Upon reaching the line of the road, shellfire became fairly intense and many A Tk guns were
    brought to bear, but it was obvious that this was part of the rearguard action and nothing more. The Grants were then brought up and two were knocked out by the 88mm [gun] in question on their passage forward.

    Staffs Yeo, on the right, were asked by the CO to conform, to straighten the line and join up with 10H, who were conforming to the general movement. This they did and pushed forward, two tanks being knocked out rapidly - they then withdrew.

    The Brig talked to the CO on the radio and asked him whether he would like 3RTR put in round the left flank, and whether he considered that this would influence the position. The CO replied that his appreciation was that the enemy was fighting a delaying action with guns and A Tk guns, that he would be gone in the morning, and that any movement on the part of 3RTR tonight would not materially influence the result of the battle and could only cause unnecessary loss in tanks.

    The Brig agreed with this appreciation and at dusk the Regt withdrew to leaguer some 500yds behind the line of the road. It had been a long and tiring day, but the work of all concerned had been magnificent and much appreciated by the higher command. A considerable barrage was put down by British forces on the Germans during the night.

    The Adjt, Capt F R Warwick, was seriously wounded in the head by a piece of shrapnel and was evacuated. Maj J D Player, 2IC, arrived in the evening."

    And 8th November 1942: "At first light the Regt moved out into their old posn and shortly afterwards the CO was sent for to Bde and told that The Buffs had cut a way through the wire to the North of the railway line, and it was therefore decided that the Regt should go forward, dig in the tank ditch and pass into Matruh and on to the main road. This was successfully carried out, the CO deciding to use the Gen Grant tank which, at this period in the war, had become less valuable than the Shermans. He therefore took command himself of one of the B Sqn Grant tanks and was first veh into the
    town. 3RTR, who had been put round the flank, arrived almost simultaneously in the main square of Matruh. Everyone was most delighted. There were very few prisoners. The sun was shining and Matruh lagoon was looking at its brightest[?].

    After a wash and change of clothing the Regt, with the rest of the Bde, moved some kilos up the road and took up open leaguer formation to the North of it, by 1030hrs. Having been responsible for the taking of Matruh, the whole Bde was formed up facing West and ready to go on. The traffic started streaming by.

    The BBC reports and information during the afternoon gave news of the landing of American forces at Algiers and Oran, and the presence of an Anglo-American fleet in the Mediterranean, under the command of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, formerly CinC Mediterranean Fleet.

    Further, the int reports stated that the German tank strength was down to 20 and the Italian to 30 tanks, with some 40,000 prisoners taken, and the enemy appeared to be on the run. Everyone settled down in the afternoon and enjoyed the sunshine and a rest, and the sense of accomplishment and the beginning of the break-up of the Axis forces.

    A party of about 40 men under Capt S J Garratt had to be provided for unloading petrol on Matruh Dock, lighters having begun to come in as soon as the town had fallen.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
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