How many tanks?

Discussion in '1940' started by MarkN, May 29, 2016.

  1. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    tanks at docks  1940.jpg T 9139 tanks   jpg.jpg
    A few more from my collection, one of the tanks is Mr Roberts T9153.
    Keith T 9153 tank mr.jpg T 9153 tank.jpg tank 12.jpg T 9139 tank.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
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  2. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Great collection Keith but you are a tease... it took me ages to spot that the second A9 image had been flipped and is in fact another view of T7251 which was lost/abandoned next to the Pont Faidherbe, Calais. The spire in the background is Notre-Dame de Calais.

    Upon reflection, T7251 does appear to have been knocked-out elsewhere – Jamie says on the Rue du Four à Chaux (#48) – so much of the vehicle debris may simply reflect a German collection point.


    You can just pick out T7251 amongst the wreckage in this aerial picture.


    I’ve marked the location on Google but, as you can see, little remains – a consequence of later Allied bombing I believe.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  3. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    Sorry about that, photo printed that way round. photo of Same tank.
    tank bef 1940 T 7251.jpg
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  4. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    one more
    british tank 4.JPG
  5. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    On the face of it, this list shows that losses were far below the number of tanks that were sent to France. For example, it lists six A9 gun tanks as being lost in France, when fourteen such tanks were recorded as travelling with regiments to the Continent - ten with 2 RTR, three with 5 RTR, and one with 3 RTR. If these figures are to be believed, and one believes in the "evacuation" theory, then no less than eight A9 gun tanks were evacuated at either Cherbourg or Nantes.

    This is obviously implausible, so what happened? I believe that a clue can be found in the minutes of a meeting of the Tank Recovery and Repair Committee held at the War Office on 19th February 1940. This was attended by various RAOC high-ups, as well as representatives of SD7. Regarding repairs in the BEF, the following passage is interesting:


    "BLR" stands for Back Load Return, and essentially means the evacuation of vehicles needing repair to the UK. It is notable that the request to exclude certain tanks does not include Light tanks, so these may have been deemed subject to 50% BLR as a matter of routine. It should be noted, however, that the proposed exclusion of Cruiser and Infantry tanks from BLR was being undertaken on the presumption that by the time hostilities commenced, there would be a nice smooth AFV repair operation underway in the AFV Area at Pacy-sur-Eure. Events turned out to be quite different, of course, with the Armoured Workshops being improvised at Louviers. Given the volume of repairs in June 1940, and the vulnerability of the workshops, were the A9's, and indeed other tanks, sent back to the UK by BLR long before the evacuations at Cherbourg and Nantes commenced? It should be noted that later in 21 AG, the BLR-ing of Cromwells, Shermans etc. was quite a commonplace.
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  6. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Hello, hello! I wasn't expecting this thread to come alive again. And pictures too! :)

    I'm not sure where your information comes from of 10, 3 and 1 off A9 gun tank with 2, 5 and 3 RTR.

    From the WDs etc...
    3 with 5RTR tallies. The 1 with 3RTR tallies with what jhunt posted on page 1, but where he gets that from I have no idea. And the 10 with 2RTR contradicts the 2RTR WD which has either 8 or 10 A9s total of which 4 were A9CS - ie 4 or 6 A9 gun tanks.

    Nevertheless, just 4 from 2RTR added to 3 from 5RTR takes us over the 6 number that were allegedly lost in France. Some must have come back somehow, somewhere, sometime.

    On the subject of backloading to the UK. As hinted at in my earlier postings, I think this is highly likely. Documentary evidence indicates a number of trainloads were sent rearwards by RAOC/1 Armd Div workshops. Taking BOW Nantes for example, what were they supposed to do with them on arrival? The didn't have any capability to do anything with them other than store them or send them on.

    Your WO excerpt dated 19 February probably has little relevance to the actual situation in June. The only units capable of working on Cruiser tanks were the ones sending them back down the line. What is the point of sending them back to be parked?
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Is this an assumption that four of the A9's in 2 RTR were CS, or is there e.g. photographic evidence to confirm this?

    Anyway, I've been digging around in my files, and I've got some evidence of the make-up of 3 RTR that contradicts what jhunt put up.

    This is an excerpt from a report by Captain H.C.W. Ironside, who was a member of 3 RTR's RHQ. Bear in mind this must be a post-war report, as Ironside went straight into a POW camp after the surrender of Calais:

    HCW 1.jpg

    So that's 12 x A13, 9 x A9 and A10, and 24 x Light Tank Mk.VIB, for 45 tanks in total. I would guess the number for the A13's must be an underestimate, but who knows?

    3 RTR's commanding officer, Lt.Col. Reginald Keller, submitted a report approximately a month after the surrender of Calais, and he had this to say about the initial outlay:

    RCK 1.jpg

    So four of 3 RTR's tanks went with the Bays, this following the general pattern of 3rd Armour Brigade sending tanks ahead with the 2nd Armoured Brigade in order to best utilise the shipping space.

    Keller also confirms the presence of A10's later on while the situation was devolving:

    RCK 2.jpg

    This is again backed up by Ironside thus:

    HCW 2.jpg

    So going from this evidence, 3 RTR seems to have been a much more A9/A10 heavy unit than has been previously assumed on this thread.

    Therefore I think that either the official figures are a severe underestimate for the number of lost A9's, or lots of A9's were returned.
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  8. jhunt

    jhunt Junior Member


    On 3RTR, attached is the only photo of 3RTR tanks in Calais that I have seen that shows what could be an A9(or maybe A10) gun tank. These are the probably the tanks that were prematurely burnt on 24th of May. This photo shows 5 tanks, there were 6(the last is obscured) in order they are A13MkI from C Squadron, A13 MkI from HQ B Sqn, A9 or A10 from RHQ?, A9CS from HQ A Sqn (Not T7245, which was abandoned on Rue La Fayette), an A13MkII, (Probably not T9161 or T9163 which were abandoned elsewhere) behind these unseen is another A13MkI from 1Tp A Sqn. Note the A13mkII and A9/A10 that do not appear in later photos and must have been moved.

    From Photos: A9 CS tanks were: A Sqn T7245 abandoned on Rue Layfette, the one above ( could be T7259) and from B Squadron T7239 knocked out in the attack on Guines probably the one commanded by Captain O'Sullivan and T7251 knocked out on Rue De Four a Chaux and later moved.

    The photographic record of 3RTR in Calais is the most complete of any 1AD regiment and definitely demonstrates the loss 5xA9/A10, maybe there were others but I believe that it is unlikely. More on 2RTR shortly.

    Regards Jamie

    6_Cruiser Tank Mk III A13.JPG
  9. jhunt

    jhunt Junior Member

    With Regard to 2RTR A9CS definitely identified are A Sqn T7241 and TT7248, B Sqn T7244(Definitely 2RTR, but maybe another squadron) and T7250. There are other photos of 2RTR CS tanks that I can't specifically say are one of the above tanks, they may or may not be, but at least I can say there was a minimum of 4A9CS amongst the 8 A9 that have been reported to have been with 2RTR.
  10. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    An educated and logical assumption that seems to have held good. See jhunt's subsequent post.

    I also have a report by Kellar on the events at Calais. My copy doesn't mention any of the tanks going with Queen's Bays. So thanks for confirming something l have long expected.

    2RTR WD states 4 of their Cruiser tanks were dispatched early with 9L: 2 A9 and 2 A13. However, there is a difference of 5 tanks between what the took on their sailing and what they claimed the had in France! Nevertheless, these two things compliment one another and demonstrates the possibility that 3RTR tanks were found and photographed south of the Somme.

    It is my belief that a good few more tanks went to France and returned to the UK than is documented.
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The definition in the image l see is not brilliant, but l do not see any machine gun turrets on the 3rd tank whereas the are clearly visible on the 4th tank. Compare the two. I would thus suggest the 3rd tank is an A10.
  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi Don Juan,

    BLR = Beyond Local Repair.


  13. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member


    ...50% of Base repairs should be sentenced Beyond Local Repair and sent to the UK...
    has a different feel to
    ...50% of Base repairs should be sentenced Back Load Return and sent to the UK...

    Moreover, do the words of the February document should not apply to Infantry or Crusier tanks mean the latter two types were subject to 0% or 100% BLR?
  14. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I agree - that tank is an A10

    Yes - "Beyond Local Repair" implies a post facto judgement on the tank's condition, whereas "Back Load Return" is simply a neutral administrative term. As the discussion I extracted the quote from was prior to operations, it is talking about sending a fixed proportion of repairs back to the UK regardless of their relative condition. I interpret the quote as implying that Cruiser and Infantry tanks were subject to 0% BLR.
  15. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Returning back to this for a moment...
    There seems to be no definitive answer possible as to how many, and the breakdown by type, of what tanks 3RTR took to France. Each account seems to differ. Moreover, do the numbers quoted include or exclude the four documented as having sailed with Queen's Bays and thus to be found south of the Somme?

    I have already mentionned that the 2RTR WD documents four (perhaps five) of their Cruiser tanks going ahead with 9L. It is also documented that 5RTR were to send six of their Cruiser tanks ahead with 10H.
  16. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Interesting comment from Roger Evans on 29th May:

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  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Don Juan, MarkN,

    Re the abbreviation B.L.R.

    My understanding from later REME sources (1944) is that at that time this was a common abbreviation that stood for Beyond Local Repair. Sources include:

    WO171/2377 - 90th Coy RASC:
    'During last night’s move, owing to extreme darkness and heavy rain, Pl Water Truck went over embankment near PUTANGES. No personnel casualties. Truck recovered today by Coy W/S and evacuated as beyond local repair.'

    WO166/15946 - Inspector B Vehicles REME:
    'On receipt of your instructions regarding vehicles in V.R.D. for disposal I made contact with C.E.M.E. Chilwell who gave me the names of the V.R.Ds where vehicles which had been condemned as being beyond local repair, as being disposable because they were off specific contracts and not repairable if Class IV or lower, or as being under specific instructions for disposal.'

    WO171/2345 - 3 Coy RASC
    1x3 ton vehicle evacuated, beyond local repair. Strength of vehicles reduced to 226 all types.

    WO171/523 - 50th Division CREME
    CREME visited 23 A.B.W. re evacuation of vehicles ex 50 (N) Div beyond local repair.

    And from 'The Administrative History of 21st Army Group':
    Between D+2 and D+11 669 vehicles were brought into the workshops of 30 Corps, 509 were repaired and returned to units and 130 classified as beyond local repair, the remainder being written off.

    In post #45, the extract from the RAOC document only says 'B.L.R.', do you have a source that suggests that means "Back Load Return" as it seems strange that the term would be changed during the war. But, obviously, stranger things have happened - especially in the British Army in WW2!


  18. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Hi Tom,

    I've seen references to back loading on many occasions, however, this reference (scroll down to page 669) would appear to confirm that your suggestion is in fact the correct one.
  19. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member


    Written on 31st May, after the skirmishes of the 24th and the poor effort of 27th, it's a comment that underlines how out of touch Evans was with the reality around him and how out of his depth he was in commanding 1st Armoured Division.
  20. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Have you read this book Mark? If not, I very strongly recommend it.
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