Sherman Firefly - the tank and how best to use it etc

Discussion in 'Vehicle Names and Census Numbers' started by Ramiles, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I saw this a while ago: Myths of American Armor. TankFest Northwest 2015: An address on some of the common misconceptions about American armor in WW2

    (The Chieftain (Real name Nicholas Moran) is Wargaming America's resident tanker and amateur historian. In addition to doing research for the tanks in the game).



    And wasn't 100% sure about his assessment of the Firefly in there.

    Something that has stood out to me as being often repeated was the way that the British used their Fireflys - "issued in the way of one per troop" - to quote (at around 20secs in) from here:



    Whilst this was not actually so for the 24th Lancers as "there was much debate as to how best to use these new weapons" (cf. page 61 of None Had Lances - The Story of the 24th Lancers) and who instead opted to "group three 17-pdrs together in one troop", and using them together rather than putting them at one per troop might have benefited them in the situation where the Germans were first targeting the Firefly, as at least then you might still have 2 other Firefly's relatively nearby, to lend assistance should they be needed, whereas if you only have one Firefly per troop and that Firefly is the first to be taken out the other tanks in the troop might be vulnerable and faced with less options there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  2. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    There was lots of non-regulation groupings in Normandy. We can not even be sure of how many 'troops' were in a Squadron!
     
  3. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Was there an official "regulation grouping" there then, i.e. which actually specified (or just suggested?) one Firefly per troop?

    *For the 24th L, as well as the HQ Troop and an administrative troop comprised of A and B Echelons (i.e. of lorries and trucks) each squadron of the 24th L seemed to have had 5 "numbered" troops (So, HQ, Troops 1-5, and "Admin troop - A&B Etchelons"), and it was the 5th troop that was comprised of the Squadrons 3 Fireflys (Nb. however true for "C" sqd 24th L albeit see clarifying post #12 also below). In the HQ Troop of each squadron things were slightly different, (or more "standard" depending on how you look at it I guess) as for this troop of a 24th L squadron there were 3 Shermans (75mm) and 1 Sherman (17-pdr). So from this a 24th L squadron (A,B,C) had 4 Fireflys overall. By the looks of it, their RHQ Squadron did not have a Firefly (but only had 75mm Shermans). Not sure what losses etc. and any reorganisation after landing in Normandy might have done to all of the above though (!).

    One assumes that the decision to commit the "Firefly" troop to a given battle and at which point might depend on what opposition there was thought likely to be there. And there would have been some husbanding of these as some accounts I think I have seen say that they didn't tend to lead in, but were kept somewhat back so that they might be deployed as and when the need arose.

    ​* Edited a bit to add a bit of additional 24th L org. details here.
     
  4. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    I like Nick Moran but he occasionally overly simplifies matters and makes fairly elementary mistakes (happens to all of us) just problematic when the errors/misconceptions are filmed, put online and end up encouraging the factoid.

    Truth is a huge amount of 'doctrinal' variation was at play in the Normandy campaign and... no exact answer can be given. Well at least without analysing each unit and pulling a detailed study from that.

    Sort of regurgitating what has already been said but...
     
  5. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    The Firefly Teapot with Teeth: http://www.theshermantank.com/sherman/the-firefly-the-teapot-with-teeth/

    With a quote (about 60% down the page): "Demand for the Firefly dropped off late in the war. They had produced enough that just about all the commonwealth nations the British supported received them. The Brits were able to put two Fireflies into most of their tank platoons, just as German armor became so scarce they didn’t really need them. By the end months of the war, the Firefly may have been more of a liability, than useful."

    And... "I won’t go so far as to say the British should not have produced them. Since the Brits faced the majority of the German heavy armor in Normandy, a pure AT tank was more useful for them, and that’s why they built them. I’ve read in more than one place that the Germans always tried to kill off the fireflies first, and the firefly units used a cool paint scheme on the gun barrel to make it seem shorter to help hide the fireflies, but I’ve never seen it confirmed from the German side. These tanks were potent enough, killing the famous Nazi tank “Ace” Michael, the Nazi punk, Whittmann, when he foolishly trundled by himself into their guns."

    As well as talking generally about "the Firefly and how best to use it etc", I was looking (elsewhere) into how "successful" specifically the "C" squadron Fireflys of the 24th Lancers were and the 5th troop (Firefly) commander - Bertram Garai's tank was one of the first of the 24th L's tanks to be hit (I believe) on 9/6/1944 on their advance to St.Pierre from Point 103. They may have lost another C squadron tank there (i.e. on the 9th) and this was perhaps also a Firefly (potentially - especially if the Germans were actually targetting specifically the Fireflys there). The Troop commanders of the "C" squadron Fireflys circa "D" Day were Garai, Eric Hanson and Barnaby. So I'm trying to see what I can find out (a bit more) about them and their tanks etc. i.e. in:

    24th Lancers: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/60152-24th-lancers-roll-of-honour/

    24th Lancers Tank Losses: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/60248-tank-losses-of-the-24th-lancers-in-normandy-%E2%80%93-june-and-july-1944/
     
  6. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Nice article, no sources.

    One interesting point to note is that 'Firefly' became a catch all term for *anything* with a 17 Pdr in Normandy and seemingly lingered to the end of the campaign in NWE. Thus one could legitimately question whether often enough the source material is discussing the Sherman Firefly for M10 17 Pdr etc. I've found quite a few examples of this and had to crack through piles of records to establish that it was M10 17 Pdr rather than Sherman Fireflies, and vice versa.
     
  7. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    There is the case of Lt Col Jim Eadie and the Staffordshire Yeomanry's Fireflies on D-Day; (it is best explained in Andrew Stewart's "The Caen Controversy". Eadie had anticipated German tactics and prepared on exercise in the UK (he had been 2 i/c of the regiment at El Alamein). With the advance to Caen stalled, it not being possible to ride the KSLI into Caen on the backs of his tanks (some of which were in the traffic jam off the Sword exits) he concentrated Fireflies into a gun line and shot the 21st Panzer advance to a standstill from enfilade, thus preventing them from reaching the junction of Sword and Juno.
     
  8. norton 407545

    norton 407545 Well-Known Member

    In the officers account in NHL Lt leathers 24th lancers B squadron 4th troop mentions only 3 tank names bloody Mary, butcher Cumberland, black Prince (and later the Ram as a replacement for bloody Mary) and I was in the thinking there would have been a fourth tank. In another old thread I have seen it said there was also another tank called "pin up girl"? This is the first time I have heard of this tank in B Sqdn so I don't know if it's correct. Name doesn't seem to sit in with the other three tanks it would have certainly made a more interesting coat of arms to be painted on the side of the tank like the other three had. Anyway he never mentions which one if any were a firefly. He does say he was engaging a German Panzer at about 1500 yrds I believe in the Ram which I'm thinking was quite a distance for a standard sherman to make a kill at?
    So maybe the Ram was A firefly?
    But to put doubt on this assumption he was ordered to give up the Ram because it was needed elsewhere. To which lt leathers decided to not give back his nice new Ram but instead send back the butcher Cumberland. So I'm guessing he sent back like for like as I would think if the Ram was the firefly they would really want that tank and not a short barreled sherman.
    So which one was the firefly?
    How would it have been decided which crew in a troop got the firefly? Would the troop c/o have had first dibs or would it have gone to the most experienced crew? The Black Prince was mentioned in NHL to of possibly had the best gunner in B Sqdn
    So would his crew had the firefly?
    Would they have argued who was getting the firefly.

    Pro's you have much more fire power

    Con's you will be the first tank the Germans try to take out

    I think I'd settle for the 75mm and look like all the others
     
  9. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Shaun,

    From the above post #3...

    "For the 24th L, as well as the HQ Troop and an administrative troop comprised of A and B Echelons (i.e. of lorries and trucks) each squadron of the 24th L seemed to have had 5 "numbered" troops (So, HQ, Troops 1-5, and "Admin troop - A&B Etchelons"), and it was the 5th troop that was comprised of the Squadrons 3 Fireflys (Nb. edit RM - however true for "C" sqd 24th L albeit see clarifying post #12 also below). In the HQ Troop of each squadron things were slightly different, (or more "standard" depending on how you look at it I guess) as for this troop of a 24th L squadron there were 3 Shermans (75mm) and 1 Sherman (17-pdr). So from this a 24th L squadron (A,B,C) had 4 Fireflys overall. By the looks of it, their RHQ Squadron did not have a Firefly (but only had 75mm Shermans). Not sure what losses etc. and any reorganisation after landing in Normandy might have done to all of the above though (!)."

    Since the 24th L used troops of Fireflys the 5th troop of B sqd of the 24th L would have been a troop of 3 fireflys. There would have been a Firefly in the HQ troop of the B squad though.

    There is some detail about tank names (some 24th L and SRY) in the Cropper Book (Dad's War) as Cropper went from a standard Sherman into commanding a Firefly in the SRY, and it mentions some of the tank names, including Armageddon, Pin Up Girl, and Blue Light Special, Campanula* in the back/appendices there.

    NHL also mentions some more simple tank call sign names like Able, Baker, Charlie (A,B,C etc.) as well as just actual numbers used for the names of some tanks "19" (But I am just quoting from memory at the mo. so a bit hazy on some detail here).

    * In my memory, gd planted some of these blue flowers (Campanulas) in his garden and this was in memory of this tank. But I haven't tracked down yet any further details on this as there isn't much other than the name in the Cropper book. I sort of assumed with a name beginning with a "C" it might however have been a C squadron tank, and was perhaps one of the ones that went with the 24th L to the SRY.

    For some of the others also this...

    “Pin Up Girl” Sherman M4A2 ( ex 24th Lancers??? Hence ex. "B" sqd 24th L presumably???) - Commanded by Cpl Cropper, Troopers Tutin, Richardson, Gasson and Cornish"

    “Blue Light Special” Sherman M4A1 Firefly hybrid T269979 - Cpl Cropper, Troopers Snedker, Milner, Jackson and possibly Baker
     
  10. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I was looking at this last night: http://forum.worldoftanks.eu/index.php?/topic/217703-sherman-firefly-an-iconic-beauty/

    Particularly this quote (about 40% of the way down the page) "Indeed the firefly’s primary weakness was against German infantry in the Normandy countryside, with most knocked out Fireflies put down to the tenacious German infantryman and his Panzerfaust or AT grenades with hidden Pak’s classed as a major threat.
    The reason behind these soft targets being more dangerous to the Firefly than other tanks was down to the 17pdr and its lack of effective HE shell. (it’s worth noting the early British tank guns had good AP and poor HE and 3-4 years later they had done a full roundhouse and come back to having a great tank gun, with poor HE rounds) while later HE shells were made, they were in limited number as the Firefly was only ever to be used as a stop gap on the way to the Universal tank and therefore starting a HE shell production line was not marked up as important. The fact they were missing a MG to the fore; allowed infantry to assault from the front if the turret was facing away. As a result of this and mounting losses Each firefly was attached to a troop of M4’s or Cromwell’s to form a small platoon; able to deal with any threat be it armored or soft. The HE shell on the Sherman was very effective against softer targets and the AP shell from the firefly would put heed to any sneaky plans Jerry had about utilizing armor."

    Where it seems (?) perhaps to suggest that the decision to have mixed tank troops of more standard Shermans and Fireflys was partly as a result of the Fireflys vulnerability if without an attached troop of M4's etc. for support. (Not sure of the sourcing of this though) - or if both types of troop were trialed initially, purposefully to see which was thought to actually work best?
     
  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    This site: http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/vehicles/tanks/shermantank.htm

    Also says: " Firefly - In Northwest Europe, the Firefly was a standard issue in armoured regiments, 1 per troop, though the 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (South Alberta Regiment) did not receive Sherman Fireflies until September 1944, about a month after landing in Normandy with the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division. "By the spring of 1945 there were enough of these AFVs to provide each troop with two 17-pounder gun tanks."29"

    And quotes a potential "source" - 29 Graves, Ibid (which

    ibid.

    ˈɪbɪd/

    adverb





    1. in the same source (used to save space in textual references to a quoted work which has been mentioned in a previous reference).
      "(ibid. p. 57)"






    Hence: Graves, Donald E. South Albertas: A Canadian Regiment at War (Robin Brass Studios, Toronto, ON, 1998). ISBN 1896941060 p.260

    Nice picture of a "well-decorated" Firefly there:

    [​IMG]
    17-pounder Sherman of Lord Strathcona's Horse in the Netherlands, April 1945, showing the extent to which extra tracks were often applied to tanks in Canadian service. LAC Photo.
     
  12. SDP

    SDP Senior Member Patron

    Shaun and Rob

    Just to clarify, in 24L during the Normandy campaign, the three fighting squadrons, A, B and C each included an HQ Troop of four tanks (one of which I believe was a Firefly) plus five troops of three tanks, one troop of which was a Firefly troop.

    24L put their Fireflys into dedicated troops as follows:
    A Squadron = 4th Troop with TCs Hart, Caulfield and Jones
    B Squadron = 2nd Troop with TCs Webb, Farmer and Robinson
    C Squadron = 5th Troop with TCs Garai, Hanson and Barnaby.

    Incidentally, the original name was Mayfly and the first recorded use of a Mayfly/Firefly was in March 1944 by none other than the 24L.
     
    Ramiles likes this.
  13. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Ah! I had seen elsewhere that Caulfield M.M. (and his Firefly) was in "A Squadron = 4th Troop" and was mulling this over with the other detail that seemed to say that the 24th L "C" sqd were calling their 5th troop, their Firefly troop. I noticed that the nice Structure of an Armoured Regiment diagram on p236 of NHL doesn't say anything other than Four Troops with Sherman 75mm and One troop with Sherman 17-pdr, so that talleys perfectly.

    Also there were some details about some of the replacements (Fireflies) that arrived and mentions of them serving in some troops with apparently standard Shermans or in various actions where it looks like just a single Firefly (not a whole troop of 3) was "called-up" so it gets terrifically confusing, quite quickly, how they were actually organised there.

    Something else that occurred to me re. the "naming" of tanks etc. and whether they had names (often only known to their crews) was that the names "Black Prince etc) matched some specific work putting on the crests onto those particular tanks, and I had presumed that this was non-standard - i.e. for show (pictures etc) and few of the other tanks had this done. By the looks of it they didn't all have such "nice fancy" names. There is mention that the Normandy mud and dust was perfect for camouflaging these, which was a benefit - as otherwise they would have been a bit risky to have the "bright crests" there. ;)
     
  14. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Looking into the case of the SRY's Normandy landings a while ago, I had briefly wondered if the question of whether to adapt Fireflies also as DD's arose - as the SRY DD sqaudrons "had Fireflys" - albeit these "went in" afterwards on the LSTs. The weight distribution of the larger gun etc. presumably made this impracticable though.

    The "tactic" for the LSTs seems to have been to load them so that the Fireflys were at the front i.e. to be first out onto the beach. Presumably so that they could be utilised as quickly as possible. And AP was what was first needed rather than HE?
     
  15. SDP

    SDP Senior Member Patron

    Apart from one guy (who served in Regimental HQ with his tank named Death: HQ tanks were all named after the Riders of the Apocalypse), and another who remembered the Census Number and name (Buccaneer), I've never spoken to a single 24th Lancer who can remember the name of his tank! The usual reply has been "can't remember. Had more important things to do". NHL and the occasional photograph (Armageddon is shown on an IWM photo) appears to be the only information source available. Hopefully I'm proven wrong one day!
     
  16. SDP

    SDP Senior Member Patron

    Rob

    Fireflys couldn't be transformed into DD tanks because the gun barrel was too long.
     
  17. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The Unit Entitlements for 17-pr Shermans in 21AG at least changed three times. In June 1944 the scale was 36 per British Armd Div and 36 per British Armd Bde. By December 1944 the UE had changed to 90 per Br Armd Div (except 7th, which had 45) and 90 per Armd Bde. By this point there were also 15 Challengers per Armd Div UEs. By May 1945 UEs had altered to 72 17-pr Shermans and 15 Challengers for 7th and Gds Armd Div, and each Br Armd Bde.

    Gary
     
  18. SDP

    SDP Senior Member Patron

    Gary

    ....that equates to 12 per Regiment in June 1944. Also makes sense in the 24L context where each fighting squadron had a troop of three plus one in each squadrons HQ troop.

    Squadron = (1x3)+1= 4
    Three Squadrons therefore 3x4 = 12
    Three Regiments per Brigade therefore 3x12 = 36
     
  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There was a book I had a few years ago on the British Armoured Regiments - I think it was published in the 70's or 80's perhaps - that had loads of great details about the use and often re-use of many and various tank names. But I don't think it was ever to the extent that 100% of all tanks "had a name" - Often though they do seem to be quite carte-blanche, but also a part of a given Regiments traditions etc. Sometimes it seemed a tank even had to "earn" its name, and as well to match the sentiments and the characters of their particular crew(s). The SRY's use of the Sherwood (Robin hood names etc). Even going so far as "Maid Marion" - British Tank Names. BT White.

    See: http://mmpbooks.biz/mmp/tables/Vehicle_Names_V1.pdf

    Def. a bit of a homage to WW2 girlpower there? :)

    I did wonder if a given tank could be distinguished by its name as a Firefly (for example) - but the reuse of names made this a tougher call.

    i.e. “Blue Light Special” Sherman M4A1 Firefly hybrid T269979 - Cpl Cropper, Troopers Snedker, Milner, Jackson and possibly Baker

    (Albeit ribald comment re. "Blue Lights" etc. notwithstanding) - muzzle flash etc. Firefly (blue light) etc.

    Rm
     
  20. norton 407545

    norton 407545 Well-Known Member

    Rn
    It does say in NHL that they promptly covered up the brightly coloured crests on their tanks because it would make them an easier target.

    Steve

    that explains the lack of any mention of 4th troops fourth tank then it didn't exist.
    Funny you should mention "armageddon" as I noticed earlier someone is selling on eBay an "original" photograph of a 24th lancers A squadron tank on gold beach called Armageddon however I've seen this picture before online. Also a copy of NHL for about £42 which is reasonable
     

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