How many tanks?

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

  1. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    No. It's been on my to do list for quite some time. However, it's a very long list and that to do is a long way off the top.

    What does Harris have to say about Evans and the effort in France?
  2. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    He has nothing particular to say on Evans, but explains quite comprehensively the accumulated thinking that led to the RAC being so tactically and operationally poor. He also dismisses any attempts to blame their equipment. It is really quite an eye opener.
  3. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    It sounds like Harris read the same documentary evidence as I and found himself coming to the same understanding and conclusion. The way others seem to disagree with me on ahf, I was under the impression my conclusions were unique. It's nice to know I'm not alone. :)

    As regards equipment, the British worker is infamous for blaming his tools. Nothing new there. British tanks were not particularly good as what they were supposed to do. But generally they were handled so badly that they rarely succeeded in achieving what they were capable of doing!
  4. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Yes, you are definitely following the same path as Harris, although he identifies the villain of the piece as Percy Hobart, who during the mid-30's was the most fanatically committed to keeping the tanks apart from all the other arms.

    Well, my view is increasingly that during the first three years of the war, the British tanks were if anything slightly better than those of the Germans, but hey-ho.
  5. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I don't see Hobart as the villian, but he was certainly one of the villians.

    The British Army's problems were far, far deeper rooted than a single, single-minded officer of a single cap badge. Arguably, his approach was a reaction to other probkems elsewhere.

    Hmmmm. In some respects, I agree with you. The performance of the tanks was predicated on the performance of the users. It is difficult to see German tanks being used more effectively and it is also difficult to see British tanks being used more ineffectively.
  6. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Going back to this piece of information it occurs to me that if you take the interim establishment of 334 tanks, this would include 193 Cruisers.

    If we assume that 3 RTR took either 27 or 28 Cruiser tanks to Calais, then 165 + 27 = 192, and 165 + 28 = 193. Which is bang on target.

    So, is the confusion simply due to the possibility that the official figures, as laid out above, omitted the losses for 3 RTR?

    This would actually tie up the puzzle in a fairly neat way.
  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    If you add the 27 identified Cruisers with 3 RTR to the official losses, you get:

    ....6 Cruiser Tank I
    ..22 Cruiser Tank I CS
    ..32 Cruiser Tank II
    ..57 Cruiser Tank III
    ..58 Cruiser Tank IV
    ....10 Cruiser Tank IVA
    185 total cruiser tanks.

    This total looks far more realistic.

    + 7 recovered
    192 total Cruiser tanks.

    One below the WE. So what happened to tank No.193? Perhaps this entry from 5 RTR's war diary is the answer:


    T 4398 would be passed on to the RAOC Workshop at Tidworth for repair.

    So you can see that it is possible to account for all 193 tanks of the divisional war establishment. It is apparent that many of the regiments actually took more than their allotment of Cruisers, but it should be remembered that they weren't expecting to go straight into action, but to collect at Pacy to organise and undergo maintenance and repair. It would be here that the jockeying of tanks between units would continue to occur, just as it had been during the month prior to departure. It is also likely that many of these regiments were taking the Brigade and Divisional HQ's Cruisers, which would also have been part of the great sorting while they were in France, had sufficient time been available.
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
  8. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Indeed, the calculation looks deliciously promising except for one thing. When you consider how many tanks were back in the UK after the return of 1st Armoured Division, those 27 can't have been lost in France. That number, 27, according to one document was the number that either went and returned or never went in the first place. I'm inclined to believe the former.

    Here's what I wrote previously:
  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    If the DC(S) figure is correct, then your calculation indicates that the number of Cruisers was 8 lower than the interim War Establishment (193-185 = 8). This could potentially be explained from the 5 RTR war diary, in which the 7 A10 Mk.IA's with mountings unfitted do not appear to have been loaded, and A13 T4398 broke down on the way to Southampton docks.

    However, I calculate that 343 tanks were actually built up to the end of May - 120 x A9, 61 x A10, 65 x A13 and 97 x A13 Mk/II & IIA - so that 186 Cruisers would have been in France, thus 7 below establishment.

    Is "units" defined here? Are training units specifically excluded from this definition?

    If we were to assume that 186 Cruisers had been sent to France, and 7 returned, this would mean that 179 Cruisers had been lost.

    From there, 333-179 = 154.

    If we take the Cruisers with units (118) and in depots (29) away from this total we get:

    154 - (118 + 29) = 7

    Which would indeed confirm that seven Cruisers had returned.

    Your reasoning that many more Cruisers returned is based on the proposition that training units etc. were not included in "units", which may well be correct, but I would like to see evidence of this.

    But it only represents an increase if we assume that the official figure of 158 is correct. I actually get 58 Cruisers being built in June (5 x A9, 30 x A10 and 23 x A13) so that by this metric 28 tanks would have returned from France if 158 were lost. However, if 179 tanks were lost, the number of returns would once again be 7.
  10. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    All that being said, I've found some evidence that more than 7 Cruisers were returned from France:

    5 RTR war diary confirms they brought back 7 Cruisers and 4 Light tanks:

    5 RTR.jpg

    2 RTR WD also confirms that they brought back an unspecified number of Cruisers and Light tanks:

    2 RTR.jpg
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I have 3 different MoS data sets on deliveries. In two documents, the accumulative total to the end of May is 343, on the other one it is 342. 342 is then used in an official historical narrative (unpublished) entitled "Design & Production of British Tanks". Which is correct? The difference is ironed out after the June returns.


    Not with you. :(

    333 is the total number of Cruiser tanks delivered until the end of June (401) less the 68 sent to Egypt.
    118 is noted as being the number of tanks on 1st July "in the hands of troops" - DC(S)40 14th Meeting - dated 6 August. (It specifically states this does NOT include "a small number of tanks with training units." (see below)
    29 is the number I have calculated to be in depots. In another document, excluding training tanks, it is noted that for 30th June there were 125 with units and 22 in depot = 147 in total. If the following day, it is 118 with units (by a different counting process no doubt), 29 are in depot (ie 147 in total). (See below)
    333-147 = 186.
    186 = Cruiser tanks lost in France AND Cruiser tanks with training units. DC(S)40 4th Meeting - dated 11 June - states 21 Cruiser tanks in training units on 10 June.
    The numbers that have returned from France are included in the 118 or the 29 or those in training units (about 21). Best guess is in the 29 number as they needed a lot of work done on them.

    Now, where does the 7 Cruiser tanks returning from France come from? It doesn't tally with any of the documents recording returns: Evans' report, port unloading manifest, etc etc. It is a number which seems to have been plucked from the air by AFV WO. Or was it simply plucked. Look at the calculations we are doing. 333 less 158 (lost in France according to AFV WO) less 147 (supposedly with units or in depots) less 21 (noted in training units a couple of weeks earlier and what is left? SEVEN. 7 is the number that AFV WO cannot account for. So how do we account for them to balance the books? Write them down as having returned from France and hope that nobody spots that if they have returned, they are included in the numbers 118 or 29 or 21!!!!

    Not based upon reasoning but the wording in the documents excluding tanks in training units.

    Here is your evidence:

    Indeed. Which numbers do we assume to be correct, and which not???

    Depending on which MoS data set you use, it was 58 or 59. That difference cancels out the difference of 1 up to the end of May (342 or 343) and evens up to 401 whichever data set one uses.
  12. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    But this contradicts your earlier post which stated that:

    I wasn't querying any of your working, which holds together, I was just questioning the official loss total of 158 Cruisers. In post #70, I gave evidence that more than 7 Cruisers returned from France.

    Going back to your post # 5 on Page 1, you stated that:

    If Evans' report of 14 Cruisers returned is correct, and it is much more likely to be correct than 7 Cruisers, then if 158 Cruisers were lost and 14 were recovered, that obviously ties in with Half Yearly Report No.2's total of 172 tanks taken to France.

    But if 185 or, especially, 186 tanks went to France, this number is, tantalisingly, 14 more than 172.

    Are you noticing that all these anomalies are multiples of 7? i.e. 7, 14, 21, 28.

    This is what is leading me to suspect that there is some kind of calculation error in the documentation going on here, rather than undocumented returns of tanks from France.
  13. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Different calculations from different data sets.

    185 result is based upon production of tanks up to and including May (342 less 68 in Egypt).
    185 being the number missing from the UK, thus possibly/probably in France. If 158 were lost there, that leaves 27 as returnees.

    186 result is based upon production of tanks up to and including June (401 less 68 in Egypt).
    186 being the number lost in France and those in training units. If 158 were lost in France, that's 28 hangover. With 21 or thereabouts in training units, we have a few (maybe 7) unaccounted for. But those unaccounted cannot be returnees, because they should be counted in those remaining in the UK: 118, 29 or 21ish.

    I am comfortable that the MoS data is very solid.
    I think the 158 lost in France is good and I tend to believe it is accurate. But who knows for sure?
    The rest of the data?????

    Then there is the problem which crops up in analysing MoS data in conjunction with WO data. The two do NOT align. The MoS data is dated on passing inspection at the factory. The WO data is, at the very earliest, based upon arrival at COD Chilwell. How long a delay between the two? How long did it take an A9CS coming out the factory in Belfast to cross the Irish Sea and get to Chilwell (or direct to the unit as some did in May)??? In other words, I'd suggest the 7 (or similar) unallocated could well be those in the MoS data set but in transit so not included in the WO data sets.

    I too believe that more than 7 Cruisers tanks returned from France. I believe the number 7 is an AFV WO 'calculation' where 7 is the number that they have lost in the math and decided that the bookkeeping error must be returned tanks.

    The 172 relates to early May "under orders" for France not "taken to" as the date clearly identifies them as not yet having departed. I suspect that 172 is and AFV WO calculation derived from adding the 14 to the 158 - rather than a statement of fact. In otherwords, I don't think Evans' number proves anything. I think that number could well be correct for what came out of Cherbourg at the last minute with Crocker. I suspect Crocker is the original source of the information. I doubt anybody in 1st Armoured Division had a clue as to what happened to all the trainloads of tanks they sent rearwards. And I suspect some of them also made it back to the UK as BLR.

    Tantalizing..... But.....

    To me they all seem to be multiples of 1. :D :D

    The problem is AFV WO - the guardians of tank data for strategic planning purposes - hadn't got a clue what they were doing in this respect. Same story AFV Cairo. It is clear from the documentation that they made up and guessed numbers whenever they didn't have the 'correct' answer to hand. They seem to have thrown out original returns/documents almost as soon as they came in and aggregated everything into their 6 monthly reports. Later, when staff were asked to produce stats for others, they only had those periodic reports to work from - and the numbers didn't add up - so they just guessed.

    AFV WO RAC Progress Report No.2 written in 1941, but relating to May-December 1940, has a breakdown of units and tanks in France, but misses out a complete Div Cav regiment. The same document has the 172 previously "under orders" for France now listed as being in France, lists 158 being lost in France and 7 returning. That leaves another 7 unaccounted for.

    According to another AFV WO document, they only sent 348 Light tanks to France, in another it's 390 and another they state 407 were lost in France!!!!

    As early as 1944, the historians were chasing data on tanks to and lost in France. Brigadier Dunphie, then DDRAC wrote back in April 1944 a set of figures on how many tanks went to France based upon the unit establishment and the half yearly progress reports. He forget to include all the tanks sent over as replacements (Light and Infantry tanks). There seems to have been no attempt to research the actual number sent.

    Colonel Joslen, who was making an attempt in 1947 to reconcile all the contradictory data, manages to lose 30 Light tanks in his math.

    Another attempt by the historians (Joslen or Latham) in 1947 to reconcile how many tanks remained in the UK in June took AFV WO guesses as facts, transposed one data set over another, moved data referring to one date and claimed it was another date, and made the rest up to try and get the numbers to work. For example: The 172 originally notes as being "under orders" for France in "early May" are written up as "under orders" on 22 May. They subtract the 158 allegedly lost in France and the 7 that AFV WO say came back and spot that another 7 are unaccounted for. Thus, they conclude that "7 must have remained in the UK unshipped." They then use that number as part of a set of numbers that they've made up to 'prove' that 103 Cruisers remained in the UK on 30 June 1940.

  14. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    No, the 185 comes from the MoS figures that add up to 342 Cruisers being built by the end of May, and the 186 comes from the slightly different MoS figures that add up to 343 Cruisers being built by the end of May. The 185 and 186 are functionally equivalent.

    The issue here is that the Ministry of Supply had a dedicated Central Statistics unit staffed by professional statisticians, and headed by possibly the best actuary in the country - Kenneth Usherwood of Prudential Assurance. They also had dedicated statistical branches in each of their departments e.g. AFV Stats in the AFV Division. The War Office obviously had no such thing and so were always floundering.

    Well, the interim WE stated that 1 Armd Div should have gone to France with 193 Cruisers, but the numbers shown at the DC(S) meeting on 11th June imply, by your calculations that potentially 185 went to France. I think this number could/should be 186, because it is likely that 343 Cruisers were built by the end of May instead of 342.

    This means that 1 AD could have been 7 below their WE.

    Then, the WO official figures indicate that 158 tanks were lost. Thus potentially 28 tanks are unaccounted for (186-158), which is 4 x 7.

    Roger Evans stated that 14 Cruisers returned from France (2 x 7).

    Meanwhile, the figures shown at the DC(S) meeting on 11th June indicate that 14 Cruisers had been built during June up to that date, and the number of Cruisers in training was 21 (3 x 7).

    I don't know if there is anything significant in this, or whether I am just picking out patterns, but I can't help but feel that either 7 or 14 Cruisers have been allocated incorrectly in the documentation somewhere, and this error has cascaded downwards.
    morrisc8 likes this.
  15. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The 186 that I have previously arrived at comes from a completely different calculation and is NOT connected to the 185.

    However, the 186 that you have calculated from an identical calculation to the one where I arrived at 185 is also out there. Add another tank to the production stats and you get one extra probable in France. Quite so.

    The interim establishment is based on what was expected to be with the Division by 1 June. Since they started the move overseas a week earlier, it is likely the actual number taken is a bit below that.

    185 or 186 I believe is the best answer available from extant documantary evidence.

    Whether the production number is 342 or 343 is impossible to determine. As I wrote, I have three data sets from the MoS and two aggregate to 343 and one to 342. However, I decided on 342 as that is the number chosen by the official MoS historian for his (unpublished) narrative. Maybe he chose wrong. The odd tank relates to a Cruiser IVa.

    Agreed, 7 below the interim establishment set for 1 June.

    Agreed. It could be 27 or 28.

    Those two examples look like quite unrelated coincidences. The number of Cruisers that Evans remembers bringing back and the number produced up to a particular date from the start of the month to be presented at a meeting have no connection.
  16. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Well if John Crocker brought back 14 tanks, it looks like the movements of the other 14 unaccounted for tanks will forever remain a mystery. Rather annoyingly, the number of Cruisers evacuated to Nantes was 15, but I suppose they could have brought all but one of these back to England.

    Would you be able to give me references to where I can find Roger Evans' 19 page report, and the DC(S) meeting minutes for June and July, Mark? I will make it worth your while....
  17. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    On a general note, are there any photos available of T9174, which was the supposedly 64th and last A13 Mk.II? The reason I ask is that I think there is an outside chance that this was actually an A13 Mk.IIA.

    Also, has there been any accounting of the tanks that 3 RTR lost during the skirmish at Guines, from the photographic record?
  18. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

    The file can be found at The National Archives: WO 199-3185 General de Gaulles operation at Leon and General Evans reports on France 1940.

    Don Juan likes this.
  19. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Indeed. I think we have gone as far as is possible with documented evidence. Movements staff at the ports were only required to log 'vehicles' so it is impossible to separate lorries from car from tanks etc in their data - let alone one type of tank from another and which unit they belonged to!

    A careful analysis of photographic evidence may provide some clues; to help build a data set of the tanks remaining in the UK - but I suspect that route has already been attempted by others who have preceeded us. jhunt may be able to provide some insights on what might be found there as image data seems to be his area.

    Remember, we are not treading virgin territory. All these questions have been considered by many people previously. Ellis was desperate to get his facts right for the official history and finally gave up even though he had the full support of the cabinet historical section with full access to surviving documentation. I am sure Peter Brown and others have gone over this again and again.

    What we have done is come to an understanding of the data which is different to what has previously been published and understood by most: 185 or 186 Cruiser tanks were likely to have been taken to France, 27 or 28 are likely to have returned to the UK to fight another day! The generally accepted histograph tends to run with just 7, or 9 or sometimes 14 returning and then assume that the total sent was one of those numbers added to the 158 noted as lost in France: 165, 167 or 172. Unfortunately, those numbers then contradict the numbers that are claimed to have been sent over and around and around we go. Sometimes recorded evidence is more a hindrance than a help in providing us with history.

    What happens next in people's understanding is that, rather than look down the path that more went to France and more returned, they look to find reasons to explain why so few were sent to France. Evidence of that has been shown in this thread.

    BFBSM has just written that Evans' report is in WO199/3185. That rings true. I have a digital copy of it so I'll dig it out from my hard drive and send it to you. At the same time I'll track down the references for the DC(S) meeting minutes. I don't have the complete files (bound up as books if I remember) as I only snapped piccies of a handful of pages I thought might be interesting. If you would like some shaky, fuzzy images of those pages, I can send them to you as well. Just ask.

    I would argue that it is almost certainly a Besa armed A13 Mk.IIA. The 15th example of the production line.

    I believe the last Vickers armed A13 Mk.II was T.9159: produced in May 1940, taken by C/10H to France and lost there.

    Additionally, I have the first Besa armed A13 Mk.IIA as T.9160. Also produced in May 1940 but not taken to France. It was immediatley issued to 3RTR on their return from Calais and went with them to Egypt later in the year. Transfered to B/5RTR in Egypt and moved forward to el Adem with the Battalion. When ordered forward to the Mersa el Brega area in March 1941, it was one of the tanks which didn't make it all the way and was abandoned enroute. Never recovered and was probably next seen by human eyes by Germans during their advance in April 1941.

    I'll leave that one for jhunt to comment on.
  20. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks Mark - BFBSM has now provided me with the file for the Evans report. If you are able to provide me with the NA references for the DC(S) reports I will photograph them on my next visit to Kew. I will also pass them on to you, if you like.

    Thanks very much for this info!

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