Ordnance Quick-fire 17-pounder gun

Discussion in 'Canadian' started by stolpi, Jan 28, 2017.

  1. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Firstly, 17 pdr had better penetration power than the famous 8,8 cm L/56 Flak 18/36/37. Much rarer 8,8 cm L/71 Flak 41/Pak 43 was clearly more powerful than 17 pdr but usually when one is talking on 88 he is talking om the first type. The 88 of Tiger I (8.8 cm KwK 36) was a tank gun version of the 8.8 cm Flak 36.
    The 6 pdr was much lighter than 17 pdr and so it became the A/T gun of infantry. IIRC every infantry battalion in ETO in 1944-45 had an anti-tank platoon of six 6 pdr guns. The divisional A/T regiment in ETO had 48 17 pdr guns and it was a Royal Artillery unit.
     
  2. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    So it was a matter of portability, then? Doesn't sound fair for your everyday Tommy (and GI, for that matter), to have to face the might of an oversized Panzer with a pop-gun, having a real tin-opener in stock, but maybe not available when needed.

    A bit of Ronson mentality, perhaps? Quantity over quality?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I'm sure that the 6 pounder continued to be produced for the same reason that the British continued to make 2-pounder anti tank guns and 2-pounder armed tanks earlier: they were very afraid of not having enough of SOMETHING to use and the delay in production that would be caused by the changeover. I think this was probably influenced by the loss of materiel at Dunkirk.
     
  4. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Why was a counterweight installed?

    I think the reason some Grants and Lees had one was to reduce the overall length of the tank so that it could fit in a shorter space for shipping.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  5. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Main problem with the 17pdr was its weight, it was roughly 3 times heavier than 6 pdr. Even in France troops sometimes had difficulties to get their 6 pdr guns to frontline because of bad going. It was better to have a 6 pdr in firing position when needed than four 17 pdrs stuck in the mud miles away. Besides 6 pdr could handle most of the German AFVs. And even Tiger's and Panther's sides and rear were vulnerable to it. Worst problem was Panther, its frontal armour was immune to normal 6 pdr ammo. King Tiger was even better protected but it was a rare beast.
     
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  6. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    See? That's precisely my point: A lot of Tommies would have made it back home had they had something decent to throw back at the Nazi, instead of just prayers and a lot of luck. Same thing happened with the 2-pounder against the DAK, I tanks against the 88, track-throwing cruisers trying to outrun a panzer charge (and that includes out-gunned Ronsons, too), to name a few. Try to outflank the Panzerwaffe's finest with such puny hardware, to get to its soft-underbelly (or its less impenetrable surfaces, for that matter) and you will end up with a bloody mess in yer hands.

    I share Seroster's view: IMHO, It was a matter of production and mentality. The Commonwealth had a top-notch compliment of designers, engineers, front-line soldiers (does not include "Old Boy" brass, please!!!), but it seems like no industrial wallahs worth the nick. On the other hand, Uncle Sam had a lot of these, but they took their expertise to the extreme; a lot of battles were won on a Panzer 8 - Tommy Cooker 2 score, just because the last two coffins standing (to round up two platoons, that is) wore a white star or a geometric shape on their turrets.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  7. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Frankly I don't see your point besides that much of the British tank production was crap. In 1940 Cruiser Mk. IV (A13 Mk. II) and Matilda were not bad tanks and Valentine production started in 1940. It was a decent and reliable little tank and the only British tank the Soviets wanted more and more. But then it was until late 1944 when Comet arrived that British produced a world class medium tank.
    But if you don't mean that the British should have in 1944-45 produce only The Ordnance QF 32pdr A/T gun, if that would have been ready, because it was the only British gun that could reliably penetrate Panther's frontal armour, then I don't see your logic. Germans understood that it was wiser to keep the 7.5 cm Pak 40 as their main A/T gun even if it could not penetrate the frontal armour of IS-2 and was struggling against "heavy Churchill's" (Mk VII) frontal armour even if they had much bigger, heavier 8.8 cm Pak 43, which could penetrate everything put against it during the war. Same to Soviets, they kept their lighter 76.2 cm A/T gun as their main A/T gun even if they had their 100 mm BS-3 gun. Those "Super A/T guns" were just too expensive, heavy and large to be used as the main A/T gun.
     
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  8. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    There is just no comparison between a 6-pounder, a 76.2 and a 75 PaK 40 as ATGs in a combined weapons team, simply because the 75 and 76.2 could handle most of the enemy armour, and the 6-pounder couldn't; that left Western Allied forces on the downside a lot of times. You mentioned tank quality, and that has a lot to do in this discussion, since what ATGs lacked in offensive punch, tank firepower compensated, and viceversa.

    What did the PaK face? A Cromwell? A Ronson? And it fell back on a massive Panzerjäger if outgunned!

    What did the 76.2 face? A Panther or a Tiger, but with hordes of crude but reliable IS, SUs and 85mm T-34s around, it had very good company.

    What did the 6-pounder face? The least of its troubles by the time it should have been nothing more than a second line relic, would have been a Panzer IV equipped with Schürzen, not to mention Vs and VIs that out-everythinged it. And who could it rely on to get it out of trouble? A heavily armoured but slow and not-too-maneuverable Churchill? A lonely Firefly armed with the same 17-pounder whose merits we are discussing here?

    That is why the germans and russians weren't wrong in keeping the more mobile PaKs and 76.2s as their more numerous ATGs, and the Allies were with the 6-pounder, as with the 2-pounder a few years back. Other, better (or more numerous), weapons provided the balance.

    Armies are supposed to work as coordinated teams, equipped with the best hardware available to defeat their enemies, but not until very late in the war, did that apply to Commonwealth land forces fighting the Germans; it took a lot of Tommy blood for Old Boy brass to understand it, or at least allow junior officers, with minds capable of foreseeing and geared for winning the war, to take the right decisions. Unwillingness to change took a lot of lives with it.

    Besides, it seems like you are missing a fact that I made clear in my first post (no offense meant, I must point out ;)):

    I mentioned the old but heavily used thread about the 3.7 incher (or 32-pounder, if you like), and how this discussion was likely to become very similar to that one, not circumscribed to mere ciphers but with a wider view of the problem. Read a little of it and you will get the idea of what I'm talking about.

    Accordingly, I stay behind the idea that this was a matter of less mental starch, of thinking out-of-the-box, of breaking moulds - both military and civilian - and the resulting decision making away from the battlefield, which would have saved a lot of Allied lives. Mention of the 17-pounder vs 6-pounder controversy was just a way to test that conclusion under public scrutiny again.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  9. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    A couple of facts, also 6pdr could handle most of German AFVs and it was able to penetrate clearly thicker armour plate than the Soviet 76.2 mm ZiS 3.
    Soviet 85 mm tank or A/T gun didn't have practically better chances to knock out Panther frontally than the 75 mm gun of a standard Sherman. Only difference was the small areas of the turret front not protected by the mantlet and the horizontal centre line of the mantlet. These small areas 85 mm was able to penetrate but 75 mm wasn't
    Besides Fireflys there were Achilleses (M10Cs) and later Archers. Those two were A/T assets.
    On Soviet side they had heavy SU-100s and heavy IS-tanks, they were not that numerous when one looks how long the frontline was and SU-100 participated the conflict only in 1945. SU-152 and ISU-152 were SP artillery vehicles but Soviets found out that they could knock off the turret of a Tiger with their heavy HE shell. ISU-122 on the other hand was designed tobe utilized as SP gun and A/T vehicle. On the other hand British found that the indirect fire of their medium artillery was fairly effective way to discourage heavy German armour. British more flexible fire control methods suited better to this kind of use of medium artillery than the more rigid Soviet system.

    PS: I almost forget, the Soviets massproduced their 45 mm Model 1937 A/T gun up to 1943. It could penetrate clearly less armour than the British 2 pdr. The main reason was that it could be towed by one horse. Much better 57 mm ZiS 2 would have needed a lorry or a tracked vehicle to tow it so the Soviet leadership decided that it was better for infantry to have some ATGs than something much better which could not follow the infantry and so cancelled the production of ZiS 2 for 2 years. And when the appearence of Tigers and Panthers made it obvious that something better was needed they still produced in 1943-45 almost 11,000 45 mm Model 1942, which was only slightly less powerful than the 2 pdr. The production of heavier but much more powerful 57 mm ZiS 2 was during the same time period was c. 10.000.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  10. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Mate, comparisons between ATG's on their own, are just a show of numbers, intended at most to try and tip the balance in favour of the supposedly better gun. You just can't use them as the deciding factor in this overall picture.

    Say, have you considered that British and Soviet realities were very far apart? Variables like doctrine:

    Did the Commonwealth armies ever deploy something remotely similar to the Soviet AT fronts? In those walls of fire one of the 11K 45mm was very likely to be flanked by one of the 10K 57mm, and be rather close to one of the I-don't-know-how-many 76.2s; interlocking fields of fire did the rest most of the times.

    Was there ever an I vs Cruiser tank controversy in the Soviet Army? All of the soviet armour followed the MBT line of thought, with the only concession being that of the light tank in the scout role. Red stars identified, as I said before, crude but very effective and reliable tanks, not exactly prone to track-throwing or vulnerable in their slowness to be flanked by a cartwheel.

    And production capabilities:

    How many of the Archer or Achilles tank hunters - both equipped with the 17-pounder, by the way - were deployed at a given moment with the Commonwealth forces? And how many SUs roamed the fields of Pomerania or Silesia at the same time?

    Back to the 45mm-57mm AT team, not even considering also huge amounts of 76.2s: Even if there were a lot of 45mm ATGs around, you had at hand almost the same amount of 57mm, and the difference between life and death for those on the receiving end of a Panzer charge with only a pop-gun to defend themselves, was very likely to be the close proximity of heavier stuff to back them up.

    Soviets relied on massed amounts of effectively oversized, battle-tested, multirole hardware, deployed in mutually supportive roles, whereas Commonwealth units had to do with lots of outdated stuff, victims of minds incapable of looking beyond the military and industrial Establishment.

    The sprinkling of groundbreaking weaponry that did reach the trenches in Western Europe, at least until the very last months of the war, was not remotely enough to give your everyday Tommy a draw in the score, much less the edge. Bloodbaths like Monty's charges around Caen, Wittmann's forays in the Bocage, or the desperate dash of XXX Corps towards Arnhem, bear sad testimony of the consequences of fighting a war with inadecuate weapons.
     
  11. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Warlord, Soviets produced almost five 45 mm ATGs to one 57 mm ZiS-2 ATG. Almost 37,500 Model 37s and almost 11,000 Model 42s. Of course Soviets also produced over 103,000 76.2 mm ZiS-3s but most of them were used as field artillery pieces, 2/3 of divisional field artillery was 76.2 mm cannon and 1/3 122 mm field howitzers.
     
  12. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Well, during the 43-45 period, when the 45mm was finally reduced to blowpipe status, production was very even, as the numbers you posted point out; before that, when it was still useful (a lot of the Panzerwaffe might during Barbarossa was made up of 38(t)s, IIs and IIIs), it was obviously the mainstay, both in the production line and in the battlefield.

    Besides, during '41, and even '42, the Motherland was still staggering as a result of the massive initial shock, trying to relocate everything useful beyond the Urals, and yet, at the first possible moment, it began to mass produce the adecuate stuff to wage the Great Patriotic War.

    Once again, we come down to doctrine and production: With so many ATGs around, 45, 57 and 76.2mm (remember that the 76.2, unlike say, the 25-pounder, was a DP ATG in the indirect-fire role, and not the other way around), Panzers were very likely to stumble into the field of fire of one, and with a 57 or 76.2 in front, evasive actions were going to put their sides (or even their ar**s!) within killing reach of a 45, with the end result of several cleanly perforated sheets of Krupp steel, and a lot of Nazi blood.

    Did Commonwealth forces ever enjoy that kind of advantage, at least on a consistent basis? And was it the fault of the frontline Tommy?
     
  13. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Sorry to say but 76.2 mm ZiS 3 was a field gun with almost as good or as good penetration power as the 25 pdr (depending the Mark of 25 pdr)
    The most produced AT-weapon in USSR was PTRD A/T rifle, some 190.000 were made.
    In fact late 38(t)s, Pz IIIs and StuG IIIs with 50 mm frontal armour were practically immune frontally to 45 Model 37 fire from the first day of the Operation Barbarossa onwards.

    Early spring 1943 British and Commonwealth troops stopped Rommel's panzers at Medenine before they even reached the first line of infantry trenches while in the same time the SS PzCorps and other German units destroyed Popov's Mobile Group (four tank corps) and the Soviet 6th Army and badly mauled the 3rd Tank Army during the 3rd Battle of Kharkov. It seems that Soviets had bigger problems with German AFVs at that time. Even during the Battle of Kursk German southern pincher break through a couple Soviet defensive lines and made a penetration of about 30 km deep before it was stopped. When something like that happened to the British and Commonwealth troops in 1943-45?
    Even during the Operation Epson the main German counter attacks (I and II SSPzCorps) achieved very little. British problem in Normandy was not defence, the terrain suited well for it but offensive capacity, partly because of the terrain.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
    Sheldrake likes this.
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    The 6 pdr remained in production because of its portability and size. With APDS it could penetrate most German tanks. The towed QF 17 Pdr equipment took 12 hours to dig in and was very vulnerable to fire until protected. After Normandy the SP variants (M10 and Archer) were preferred for supporting offensive moves as they provided instant anti-tank defence.

    The M10 was lease lend equipment, a major reason for introducing the indigenous Archer. The RA also preferred a fixed mount, not least because it prevented the anti tank gunners from playing at being tanks - and preserved the role within the Royal Regiment.

    The 1943 British Army had layers of anti-tank guns at battalion, division and corps level. The battle of Medennine demonstrated that British infantry formations were capable of stopping massed German armour.
     
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  15. idler

    idler GeneralList

    An aspect of Medenine that's relevant to the thrust of this thread is that the infantry's A/Tk guns were not used as in-house morale-boosters, they were absorbed and sited by the RA as an integral part of their A/Tk fireplan.
     
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  16. Trackfrower

    Trackfrower Member

    Pheasants on a 25 pounder carriage?
    I think the proper ones got torpedoed.

    L
     
  17. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IIRC the Pheasant (17 pdr on 25 pdr carriage) was an emergency measurement because at first the production of the proper 17 pdr carriages was very low and the War Office ordered an urgent shipment of 17 pdr guns to NA and so the first shipment to the NA consisted Pheasants.
     
  18. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Medenine was a very good use of the anti-tank front tactic, at a time when the new-to-the-battlefield 17-pounder was capable of dealing with all the Axis armour present, and the 6-pounder still had an edge over most of it; in fact, it was also a rather new weapon.

    All this time I have been referring to the 17-pounder vs 6-pounder controversy in the later years of the war, when the first one was a rather scarce commodity, and the second an omnipresent, still good, but by then underpowered weapon, an equation that led to unnecessary bloodshed. However, fortunately, the superiority of the second type had been definitively recognized, and its shortcomings addressed by deploying it in slowly increasing numbers as vehicle-mounted weaponry, capable of acting both defensively and offensively

    Finally, as the information in the following links shows (two tabs from the same website) there was a decrease in the amount of 6-pounders produced, in favour of the 17-pounder; it seems that, after all, decision-making caught up with the realities of the battlefield.

    6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun

    17 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun

    While here:

    The Chieftain's Hatch: US Guns, German Armour, Pt 1

    You see the results of field tests for ATGs; the first test at Isigny is the most revealing speaking of this thread, even though many of the final recommendations focus on ammo rather than on the guns themselves.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  19. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Good links but I have been familiar with the www.wwiiequipment.com almost a decade and Isigny test report had been floating around the net at least a decade.
    The RA didn't want its AT assets to be used offensively, (other than as extra fire support asset) that's why they were happy with the Archer. With its backward pointing 17 pdr, even the dummiest infantry officer saw that it wasn't a tank. Of course the layout also allowed fast movement out of a firing position, an important aspect in anti-tank warfare.
    US Tank Destroyer doctrine emphasied offensive use but it is usually seen as a flawed doctrine.
    The production figures show the normal life span of a weapon nothing more. And 6 pdr remained as the weapon of the A/T platoons of the infantry battalions up to early 1950s just because it could go where infantry went and it could be manhandled fairly easily. And as Sheldrake wrote small is beautiful at least when it come to digging in. Everyone who has had to participating digging in heavier equipment with shovels, pick-axes and entrencment tools knows that. The A/T protection of infantry beyond the range of RPGs was a problem before A/T missiles and because of the normal weapon anti-weapon cycle might be a problem again.
     
  20. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Well, with so few panzers remaining, respectable numbers of heavier ATG's and (finally!) capable 17-pounder armed tanks in the inventory, I guess it was a logical decision to keep the considerable surplus of 6-pounders as backup, be so for size, or portability, or sheer numbers.

    Post-war, the effects of quickly forgetting many hard-learned lessons (post-WW1 style), plus a heavily-depressed economy, led to little thought given to military foreseeing/spending all over the Western World (excluding research into captured Nazi technology, and that at a restricted pace, also); in such a scenario, sticking with what you had was also the only choice.

    However, the Korean War proved that it was not the best decision; T-34's just toyed around with the puny M1 57mm ATGs (same as the 6-pounder) that the ROKA deployed, and once again, the price was paid heavily in blood at places like Uijeongbu and Ongjin. Luckily for the Allies, heavier or newer stuff made it just in time to the peninsula, the NKPA ran out of tanks, and the CCF were for the most part infantry outfits; the rest is history...
     

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