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

    My sense on how "easy was it" for example to replace a lost Firefly made me wonder if they were able to keep enough of them in reserve? They could have sent a few more initially (and i.e. kept absolutely none in reserve) - but this would not have made sense?

    Given that they were "turning them out" - I wondered how "hot off the presses" these reserves were.

    One of the first reserves that the 24th L seems to have had to disembark seems to have been sunk immediately on arrival, and with the loss of all of its crew (5 or 4-1=4 or 3) bar one (cf. NHLp82) - albeit again whether they actually disembarked with "all crew" on board is another querulous point. The loss of these (potential) 3 or 4 crew in a regular Sherman or Firefly at the beach, might however have been "accounted" elsewhere, as it had me wondering if they would have been 24th L or as classed as reinforcements have been in a category of "unassigned". So a bit more detective work/head scratching required there, to work out a bit more detail on this.
  2. norton 407545

    norton 407545 Well-Known Member

    Also I'm sure someone already mentioned way back it was more common to give a tank a name starting with the letter of that tanks squadron at least B squadron 4th troops All started with a "B" except the Ram which was a replacement. And also Blimey Bill which was B Sqdn.
    But I guess as tanks got knocked out that tradition soon became lost.
    I can't remember what I was watching the other day regarding sherman tanks it may well have been one of Ramiles links to YouTube. I can't even remember which Regiment it was but one thing I do remember is the veteran they were talking to said to keep his Regiments tanks up to strength of 150 shermans during the war took about 1100 replacements that's a lot of new names and a few new fireflies as well
  3. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I think by the fall of 1944 all of the Shermans were being built with the T23 turret which wasn't suitable for mounting the 17 pounder. They might have been running out of donor tanks.
  4. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    To resort just to wiki here: Sherman Firefly - Wikipedia

    I could just cut-n-paste the whole section - "Production was limited by the availability of suitable tanks" down to "Sherman Firefly gives a number of 2002 conversions made between January 1944 and February 1945" - but the link above is probably "good enough" ;)

    Albeit it does say in there: "By February 1945, some 2,000 Sherman Fireflies had been built and British, Commonwealth and Polish armoured units were equipped with a 50/50 mix of 75 mm and 17-pounder-armed Shermans." - probably a "a 50/50 mix" re-phrasing of 2 per troop (assuming a troop of 4 and not 3 tanks there). So it would be nice for them just to admit that things might have often been a bit more complex than this :lol:

    Tactically, it seems (to me) like, what always seemed to work best was based on what experience and availability made necessary. It does make it rather hard though, after the event, to sift through it all. ;) Especially where everywhere (randomly quoted from elsewhere) keeps "saying" that they had "one-per-troop" and the Germans always took out the Firefly first so that they could have a field day with the remaining regular Sherman tanks.

    This relates perhaps to the 24th L's first engagement (after Brazenville, Putot-en-Bessin etc) in St.Pierre, circa 9-10th June 1944, as to whether they were predominantly (perhaps) losing their Fireflys first there. How soon did the Germans catch on that they had to "target" these? Pretty immediately - to Garai's cost - I guess?

    And was the 24th L Firefly 5th troop leading the advance in (rather than being "held" back), and were reports of German armour in the village a factor in any decisions there? If so did they lose more than one Firefly (i.e. more than Garai's Firefly tank) there.

    C Squadron = 5th Troop with TCs Garai, Hanson and Barnaby.

    I didn't see much mention of Hanson or Barnaby (for example) elsewhere, so I've been wondering if they were also perhaps among the WIA there?

    All deep FOW (fog of war) stuff for me still to shift through, in case some answers can potentially suddenly pop up there :)

    Maybe even in Garai's accounts that might appear in the Vanguard one day.

    Quoted here: "We have received from Bertram’s family some diary notes which Bertram made, contrary to Standing Orders, about training in 1943 for D-Day and of the landing and the aftermath. We hope to publish extracts from the notes in the next issue of Vanguard." (Rm - Presumably the summation of 2015 - which "Vanguard" should hopefully be available sometime this year)

    All the best,

    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  5. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There was a point towards last light on the night of Sunday 11th June 1944 ("Tiger Night" - for the 24th L) - when the Germans attacked Point 103 and apparently knocked out 6 tanks in about as many seconds according to some accounts. One troop leader of the 24th L, it is said had all 3 of his tanks knocked out.

    The 24th L were however able to call up their remaining tanks and thereby catching the Germans "in the open" in the sights of a Firefly's gun, stopped the leading "Tiger", which smoked and then burst into flames, forcing the other German tanks back into cover there. German infantry continued to attack, supported by enemy artillery as slowly darkness fell. But the position on Point 103 was held.

    Accounts at the time I think seem to point to the actions of the Firefly's commander and crew, in stopping the "Tiger" and forcing the others to withdraw being pretty crucial there, but the other tanks having a hand in keeping off the German infantry that continued to attack after the Tigers had been forced to withdraw/run for cover etc.

    (I have been meaning to look into seeing if there are any similar accounts of "Tiger Night" and as to whether there are any versions of what occurred there from the German side?)

    "Tiger Night" - for the 24th L :

  6. norton 407545

    norton 407545 Well-Known Member

    I'll have a look in battle of tilly see if it has any accounts of this night. Although it's mainly about tilly it does mention point 103 and St Pierre so it may have something as there is a lot from the German perspective. Ill look over the weekend as ill have more time then.
  7. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Thanks Shaun,

    I've had a look at AHF (Axis Forum History) and there's a thread there from circa 2004 and 2006: re. Help on Point 103. 12th SS Panzer Lehr & Tigers and Point 103...

    Topic: Help on Point 103. 12th SS Panzer Lehr:

    Topic: Tiger 1 in Normandy:

    It's a bit hard to ref. to lots of posts in other threads on other sites however I'll give it a go for a bit as in "Tiger 1 in Normandy" (Nb. and worth reading the whole thing i.e. all 12 posts there)...

    With: "10. June 44:

    1./PzReg 6 was south of Tilly-sur-Seulles (Pz V) (or after 10th June)
    5./PzReg 130 and 6. /PzReg 130 were north (west of Chouain) and east of Tilly (Pz IV)

    Bataillon Uthe (I./901) + Pz.Jg.Lehr-Abt.130 were near St. Pierre and point 103

    The border between Pz Lehr - 12.SS was Cristot

    HKL (MLR) east of Tilly 10th June: Cristot - Les Hauts Vents (point 103) - CG172 - St. Pierre

    East of ponit 103 Oberst Luxenburger (Panzerartillerieregiment 130) was captured.

    Major Prinz Wilhelm von Schönburg-Waldenburg, commander of II./Panzer-Lehr-Regiment 130 was KIA at point 103.

    Source:from the book "Westfront 1944" by Helmut Ritgen, german edition.

    No Tigers from Panzer Lehr at this time, maybe Jagdpanzer IV from Pz.Jg.Lehr-Abt.130 "

    Next post: "More likely mis-identified Pz IV (or poss. mis-identified Pz V)"

    And next post replied: "Jaugitz (in Funklenkpanzer page 390) says:

    "On the same day (9th) British Units occupied St. Pierre, a suburb of Tilly-sur-Seulles. On 10 June the town was recaptured from the enemy.
    On 11 June the British launched a heavy attack into the area of operations of the Panzer-Lehr-Division. The remote control company played a succesful role in the subsequent counterattack."

    As I said earlier there in no information on the 3 Tiger I's in (fkl)316 other than they were listed as on strength in June."

    That was the last post to that thread (2006) which was almost 10 years ago ;)


    Nb. A bit later... I found in "The 12TH SS Volume One - By Hubert Meyer" In Chapter 2.1 a paragraph or so on the events on and nr. Point 103 - says the attack on St.Pierre triggered a counterattack by II./Panzer-Lehr-Regiment 130 in the late evening. Two Panzers were knocked out there, one of them was that commanded by Major Prinz (prince) Schonburg-Waldenburg. And that "a confused situation" developed on Hill 103. The attack had to be broken off and the Panzerabtilung pulled back into its starting positions.

    Also similar text here "The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division, Volume 1 - By Hubert Meyer: The 12th SS

    And ;) Yikes!!! : Avalanche Press

    Scenario Four
    Death of a Prince
    11 June 1944

    As part of their ongoing offensive the British continued to attack southward on a broad front. The Green Howards engaged the Hitler Youth Division at Cristot while the East Yorkshires advanced on Saint Pierre. As the latter directly threatened Tilly-sur-Seulles, 7th Army quickly assembled a combined arms battle group to counterattack. The lead company commander protested that the line of attack was too wooded and lacked enough infantry support to be successful; the commander of the Panzer IV Battalion soon arrived to lead them in person.
    Note: This scenario uses a board from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Beyond Normandy. Use British leaders from Beyond Normandy.
    Major Prince von Schonburg-Waldenburg led his battalion through the woods and into the British positions on Hill 103. After intensive fighting the Germans managed to break through to the thinly wooded northern slope. There an enemy antitank round found the turret of the commander’s tank killing the Prince and his radio operator. This took the heart out of the Germans who soon retreated.
    This is a small scenario, with a tank-heavy German force trying to eject a British infantry battalion from a strong hilltop position. There is some German infantry in support of the PzIV battalion – just not as much of it as the German player might wish.


    There is some fascinating detail here: Google Translate

    Which says at this point "Schoenburg fell with his crew"



    And there is a picture here: The Guild • View topic - The Panzer Lehr Project (updated: Now with Tanks!)

    Which says "Major Wilhelm Prinz von Schönburg-Waldenburg is standing on the extreme left. He was killed near Tilly on 11th June 1944. At that time Abteilungskommandeur of II.Panzer Abteilung I think."


    Nb. So as not to drift too far off of the topic of the "Sherman Firefly and how best to use it etc." I'll start a new thread (I think!) on "Major Wilhelm Prinz von Schönburg-Waldenburg" :önburg-waldenburg-kia-11d6m1944/
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Another "Firefly" account:

    The above in the vicinity of Tessel Woods, nr. Rauray in Normandy. To quote:

    According to None Had Lances "On 26th June 1944, Sgt Caulfield was commanding a 17-pdr Sherman at Tessel Wood. He was ordered to investigate and silence an anti-tank weapon which was firing at his Squadrons tanks and which could not be located. He found five Panthers and with the assistance of another tank he destroyed two of them and forced the rest to take cover. He was then ordered to assist a Troop of Sherman 75mms which could see some enemy tanks but was unable to engage them successfully. By moving from position to position he succeeded in destroying two Panthers and probably damaging others. By the bold and skillful handling of his tank this NCO inflicted a heavy loss upon the enemy" (reference page 218-219 Chapter 22 Citations None Had Lances).

    Also... "stumpled" across this thread:

    Which says:


    7. Digging-in of Tanks
    There have been many reports of the enemy in digging in his tanks. In many cases the tanks have moved out at night.

    8. Allotment of tanks.
    Tanks have been allotted to the infantry in 130 Panzer Lehr Division on the basis of four per Company.
    In defence one tank stays with the infantry battle outpost and the other three with the main body of the Company several hundred years (sic*) behind. Further back still medium machine gun posts were sited to give protective fire. The positions were gon(?) in woods and never vacated by day. At dusk however the tanks would move out.
    In attack the taks of the tanks were to protect the flanks of the infantry by firing down lanes and other approaches and to provide close support fire when the infantry were held up.

    9. Village Fighting
    In several battles for villages the enemy counter-attack has come after we have partially occupied the village. The main stay of the counter attack has been in converging movement from either side, supported by self-propelled guns.

    11. Tank-hunting tactics
    Paratroops have been equipped with a blinding device for use against tanks. It has consisted of a bottle. When thrown against a tank it has generated thick yellow smoke thus obscuring the vision of the driver and crew of the tank.

    12. Trip Wires
    A patrol in the neighbourhood of the River Mue met a trip wire which lit a dim light. A second and third trip wire was encountered and the latter set off a S mine after which the enemy MGs opened up on the patrol

    13. Fake Orders
    On several locations during the critical stage in an engagement the enemy have netted into Company and Platoon frequencies and given orders to cease fire or withdraw.

    * Rm: (sic) (with square-brackets usually) is an abbreviation of 'sic erat scriptum' which is Latin for 'thus it had been written', meaning that the quote prior was transcribed as it was found in the original source, complete with errors, coloquialisms etc.

    I hope this meant to say "yards" and not "years" - chances are they might have been a bit "rusty" by the time they were "needed" otherwise :) Time travelling German tanks though... ingenious... and yet we still won!!! :biggrin:
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  9. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Recent "Tank Chat" on the Sherman Firefly:

    "An inspired British modification. As an all-round, general purpose tank the Sherman was one of the best of World War II, but by 1943 it was getting past its prime. An officer at Lulworth Camp, near Bovington, came up with the idea of fitting a better gun, the British 76.2mm, known as the 17 pounder. The new design would be known as the Sherman Firefly."
    Dave55 likes this.
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    There are some misconceptions here.

    This is incorrect. The main cause of tank losses in Normandy was AP shot. The Germans were short of panzerfausts. Later, in 1945 they were a bigger problem. I also suspect that the lead tank was usually a 75mm.

    I think there was some variation with regiments about how Fireflies were grouped. One per troop, or a troop per squadron (24L). The Regiments equipped with DD Tanks may have grouped the Fireflies into a squadron. IIRC the DD tanks were all 75mm and the fireflies would have to be landed from landing craft.

    The SP M10 Anti tank guns equipped with 76mm or 17 Pdr manned by the RA need to be taken into account. Each tank regiment had 16 Fireflies. Each Anti tank Regiment in a Corps anti tank regiment, armoured division, or anti-tank regiment in a D Day Assault division had 24 SP anti tank guns.
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  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Another example I recently read about a varying use of Fireflies in action is in the book “By Tank into Normandy” by Stuart Hills (p183). This describes events while the SRY were on the way to Gheel (circa 11th September 1944)

    My own troop (Stuart Hills') that day consisted of myself, Sergeant Nesling and Corporal Burnett. Both of their tanks were Fireflies fitted with the 17-pounder gun, which was more suited to a tank-killing role, while my own tank’s 75-millimetre was an ideal weapon for infantry support because of its higher rate of fire. But the Fireflies lacked a second machine-gun and, as I did not have a co-driver/lap-gunner, my own tank was also effectively operating with just one machine-gun. So the firepower in my troop was more limited than would have seemed wise in the circumstances.

    Nonetheless we advanced beyond the infantry cowering in whatever holes they could scrape out of the ground, and we put down the heaviest fire we could with both our machine-guns and main guns. The Germans remained in their slit trenches firing back but lacked the capacity to do us much harm. At one stage I moved so close to their trenches that I had to reverse my tank in order to depress the gun sufficiently to fire high explosive point-blank. All this had the desired effect. The enemy simply could not cope with the weight of fire we put down and we just ran the trenches over so that the infantry following behind us could poke the Germans out at the point of a bayonet."

    I'm not sure (at the mo.) why this troop was operating, at that time, with two Fireflies and one 75mm Sherman (with an absent co-driver/lap-gunner)
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
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  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian layabout

    That is an interesting question. Three random thoughts that come to mind:

    - Occasionally it seems like units came up with their own organization regardless of the WE. (I know of one AT Regiment that received Archers on the basis of one troop/battery but instead decided to concentrate all their Archers in one battery)
    - Maybe due to the vagaries of losses and replacements they had an abnormally high number of Fireflies?
    - I think that eventually the British army tried to increase to 2 Fireflies/troop. And weren't troops 4 tanks normally? Maybe this was a 4-tank troop which had lost one 75mm Sherman.
    Ramiles likes this.
  13. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I had wondered. I think I have posted this (below) before somewhere, and I've looked for similar examples of WW2 tank troops / tank platoons discussed etc.

    Published on 11 Nov 2016
    "What is the basic unit for tanks? How big is it? How does it operate? How are orders conveyed? All this and a bit more."

    It shows varieties such as four tanks, or three tanks but mentions 3 - 4 or 5 as possibilities.

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  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian layabout

    I could be wrong about 4-tank troops. Now that you mention it, I remember watching something about the 2 up, 1 behind system (I think it was something like that?) wherein a troop would advance 2 tanks up, 1 behind, and a squadron would advance 2 troops up, 1 behind, and so on.
  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    At D-Day the SRY had 2 squadrons of DD's (with no Fireflies landing with these) and one squadron of "regular" 75mm Shermans with 1 Firefly per troop, I think. *

    Later on Fireflies crop-up in the squadron's which were originally only comprised of DD's.

    But I don't think - yet - that I have actually seen a note or document saying something like how many Fireflies were delivered to the SRY or what the basis of their allocations to the SRY squadrons was.

    On p106 of Hill's book "By Tank into Normandy" - he says:

    "The advantages of the M4 (75mm Sherman) were that it had two machine-guns (there was just one on the Firefly) and a quicker general rate of fire, and that it was faster over the ground, therefore more effective in support of infantry. But if a German Panther or Tiger tank turned up, we just had to whistle up a Firefly."

    And on p121 - Rauray June 26th 1944 - there's - for instance - this:

    "A Squadron squeezed past the Tiger and into a field on the right where they deployed. During the next two hours they systematically shot up every hedgerow as they advanced. Some of John Semken's tanks were Sherman Fireflies, and they started knocking out one German tank after another. Sergeant Dring claimed no less than four himself, and a Panther was shot up by the whole squadron as it drove across our front, its crew baling out as it was still moving. The German infantry started to surrender, leaping out of the ground under the noses of the tanks, while our own infantry came up to finish things off. It had been a great day. Thirteen Panzer Mark IVs had been knocked out, along with a Tiger and a Panther. The enemy tank force defending Rauray had been eliminated and their infantry overrun. Aggressive tactics had paid off and at relatively small cost to ourselves. C squadron had lost two tanks, with two dead and two wounded."

    * Edit: At D-Day Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers / SRY)
    (A Sq. Sherman III & Firefly VC, B & C Sq. Sherman II DD)
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
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  16. Tim H.

    Tim H. Junior Member

    My father was a gunner in A squadron 24th Lancers and told me that in the three weeks before he was wounded and evacuated on 26th June his troop never had a Sherman Firefly, though he saw them around of course.
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Troop number and size varied: The Squadrons of the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards had 5 Troops of three tanks each in June 1944 (as is stated in their Regt History : "The First and the Last"). Only "A" Squadron had 5 Fireflies (or 17-pounder tank), according to the Regt.History: "They were treasured … like the most priceless stones".
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
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  18. Tim H.

    Tim H. Junior Member

    Interesting stuff about the radio net there. My father told me that the radio net gave them a distinct advantage over the Germans as although the Sherman 75mm was undergunned it enable them to direct and concentrate fire from a number of tanks very effectively in a short space of time, and also change channel if the commander feared they were being eavesdropped by the Germans. He told me they were also very surprised to see the Germans using runners taking messages between tanks which suggested a much less sophisticated control system or unreliability in their radio systems.
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  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Re. post #36 above, the Firefly troop of "A" Squadron of the 24th L was, around the D-Day landing itself, the 4th Troop with Tank Commanders Lt. Hart*, Sgt. Caulfield and Cpl. Jones

    Incidentally there's a ref here: Who has the advantage? A comparison of the British rifle battalion and German Panzergrenadier battalion |

    That: "Even though 24th Lancers were the last to incorporate their fireflies into the standard 3 and 1 (3 Shermans to 1 Firefly) configuration, they had almost certainly done so by the time of the Martlet battles gamed here."

    Though the basis of this assertion that the 24th L had "almost certainly" - incorporated "their fireflies into the standard 3 and 1 (3 Shermans to 1 Firefly) configuration" - "by the time of the Martlet battles" I haven't yet tied down.

    It may be that the 24th L maintained their exclusively Firefly troops until they were disbanded, or had mainly lost their Fireflies to enemy actions etc. Hence too, it being of some interest as to whether (and to what extent) they were able to replace any losses, and to which troops etc. these were then allocated by the 24th L.

    Edit: * Re. Lt. (later Captain) Hart there is a citation ref. on p217-218 of NHL for his MC - 25th June 1944 at Fontenay-Le-Pesnel:

    "This officers troop, inspired by his leadership and skill, has destroyed eight Panthers and although all three tanks in his Troop have been hit none has been out of action for more than half a day"

    Nb. Captain Robert (Bob) H. Hart M.C. - "A" Squadron 24th L - was KIA 18/8/1944 with the 23rd Hussars.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018

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