Sherman OP tanks on D-Day

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by IanTurnbull, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    I have posted a picture of my Father's tank crew sometime after D-Day. The Gentleman on the left is the Troop Commander of "D" Troop of the Essex Yeomanry (147 Regiment) and they are shown leaning on their OP tank (The 147 Regiment itself had Sextons, and this particular OP tank spent most of its time with the 4/7th Dragoon Guards). Some (but certainly not all) OP/FOO tanks had dummy guns in order to make room for map desks and radio equipment in the tank. Does anybody know whether this tank's gun is real? (btw the tank was named "Doodle Oak"). Thank you Ian
    IMG_20180611_0001.jpg
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2019
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  2. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    This is a 'proper' Sherman OP showing the wooden dummy gun. I strongly suspect yours is a proper gun tank.

    The knocked-out Sherman belonged to a Sexton Battery Commander. It begs the questions which type of vehicle were the different command levels supposed to have, and what did they actually get?

    Sherman OP.jpg
     
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  3. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    "Proper" Sherman OP tanks should have had a working M3 75mm gun.

    As ever, there is a complex history behind this, but the original intention for the invasion of Europe was to use Cavalier tanks with dummy guns. The idea behind this was that removing the main armament from the Cavalier would reduce its weight and thus improve its durability sufficiently to make the Cavalier OP a viable proposition.

    However, testing at the FVPE during mid-1943 revealed that the proposed Cavalier OP was still unable to achieve the mileages required for active operations. This coincided with the US War Department concluding (erroneously, as it turned out) that they were over-producing Shermans, and so they were desperately trying to offload (what they believed were) surplus Shermans on the British. The War Office and Ministry of Supply therefore agreed to accept extra Shermans, around 350 of which they allocated as OP's, which among many modifications would have their guns replaced by wooden dummy guns. These tanks were all delivered and converted by early 1944, by which time experience in Italy meant that the Director Royal Artillery (DRA) would now stipulate that all OP tanks needed to keep their main armament.

    As such, all the Sherman OP's converted with dummy guns were now surplus to requirements, just like the Cavaliers, and new Sherman OP's were converted, these keeping their 75mm guns. These were the only tanks that should have been issued as OP tanks to formations for the invasion of Europe.

    As for the original Sherman OP's fitted with dummy guns, I don't know what happened to all of these, but some may have had their armament re-fitted. The one being used by the commander of a Sexton battery would have been classed as a "charger" rather than as an "OP", and this may have been an application for which many of the dummy-gun Shermans were allocated. It is likely that other uses were made of the remaining tanks fitted with dummy guns, but I'm not really interested in Shermans, so I can't be arsed to find out.

    But the basic rule is - all Sherman OP's have 75mm guns, while Shermans with dummy guns were allocated where opportunities arose.
     
  4. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    There were 2 Sherman 'FO' (5 RHA) with the 4 CLY Regimental HQ at Villers. One managed to make it back into the town and safety. 2 other 'FO' tanks were Cromwells. The photo starting this thread has a 'hole' in the centre of the tube so 99% certain to be a real gun.

    BBC - WW2 People's War - 5th Regiment RHA D-Day 1944
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  5. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    Thank you everybody for your responses. My father's Regimental FOOs were upgraded to Shermans in Feb 44 "... to replace their mixed array of Covenanters, Crusaders & Cavaliers" according to “A history of the Essex Yeomanry 1919 – 1949” edited by P W Gee, published in 1950. At the same time they started to take possession of the Canadian built Sextons. M Kenny's response mentions the "hole" in the centre of the Gun; what would the dummy guns have if they were supposed to fool the enemy? Ian
     
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  6. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    If the enemy are close enough to see the bore you are in a bad place!
     
  7. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    :)
    I take your point! But do I take it from your previous post that the "dummy" guns (when used) were solid? The Battery Commander's OP Tank or "Charger" from Villers-Bocage earlier in the thread is capped. Thanks Ian
     
  8. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    This from Gunner Coombes of 5 RHA in People at War.

    Andy Merrifield who now drove a G Battery OP tank

    managed to escape with his tank. K Battery CO's Sherman was in the

    main street of the town when the driver, Jock Rae, saw the Tiger. He

    alerted the Major who escaped through the turret while Jock went

    through the escape hatch in the floor, as the first 88 round, HE as it

    happened, blew the track off, and the second, armour piercing set the

    tank ablaze. Like all the command tanks in the regiment this one had a

    wooden gun. I wonder what the Germans made of that.
     
  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The Germans were the first to use command tanks with dummy guns (the British copied the idea from them in the desert), so they would have immediately realised that dummy gun = command tank.

    However, there is an interesting question here about what was a command tank and what was a charger. My understanding is that dedicated command tanks were provided to the RAC, while chargers (i.e. commander's tanks) were provided to the RA. The difference being that RAC command tanks were for a dedicated communications role, whereas chargers did not necessarily have any special wireless equipment, and were just an armoured vehicle that allowed the commander to move around the battlefield. My understanding would be that the dummy gun Shermans would have been provided to the RA as chargers, and the extra communications equipment within them would have been a bonus.
     
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  10. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    I have discovered more on this! In the 2000 Essex Yeomanry journal "Dick Gosling" (Battery Commander 431 middle Battery, 147 Field Regiment) states that the Regiment had 25 Shermans for the FOOs and GPOs “…..which had their breach blocks removed to enable an extra R/T set to be installed”. Dummy Gun or not I presume this would render the gun "cosmetic"? Of course he may have been extrapolating his own tank's setup but does this make any sense? Thank you Ian
     
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  11. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    The gun certainly could not be fired like that.
     
  12. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    A Trp 413 Battery
    ARDLEIGH - Sexton S233813
    B Trp 413 Battery
    BRENTWOOD - Sexton S233752
    BRAMLEY - Sherman ( Battery CO )
    D Trp 431 Battery
    DEBDEN - Sexton
    DUNMOW - Sexton
    DOBB'S WEIR - Sherman ( Battery CO )
    DOODLE OAK - Sherman T211798
    E Trp 431 Battery
    EXTERMINATOR - Sexton S234019
    F Trp 511 Battery
    FAIRSTEAD - Sexton
    FALAISE - Sexton
    FONTENAY - Sexton

    If anyone can add anymore it would be appreciated.

    cheers

    Kevin
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019 at 10:21 AM
  13. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    Kevin. Thanks for this. "A" & "B" Troops were 413 Battery, "C" & "D" (My father's) were 431 ("Harlow") Battery, "E" & "F" were 511 Battery. Doodle Oak was D Troop Commander's (& my father's) OP Tank & it was T211978. I have a picture to verify this if that would be of interest? I will try and see what else I can find on the other 2 Batteries. Ian
     
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  14. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Ian,

    Great pictures, thanks for posting. Do you happen to have any pictures of transport vehicles belonging to 147 Regiment?

    Regards

    Tom
     
  15. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    Tom. I do but so far they have not been investigated - example attached. Is this what you mean? What is your particular interest? IMG_2675.JPG
     
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  16. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Member

    Kevin. I have a picture of another D Troop Sexton "Danbury". If I come across anything else I will let you have it IMG_2679.JPG Sexton
     
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  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Ian,

    Thanks - great photo. I’m particularly (and some rude people might say obsessively! :screwy:) interested in the issue of Austin K5 3-ton 4x4 lorries to units which were part of the Assault Force for Normandy. I think I might have the 147 Fed Regt war diary for 1944 but I don’t recall it mentioning what kind of transport vehicles it was issued with and was hoping you might have photographic evidence.

    Regards

    Tom
     
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  18. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Hi Ian,

    My apologies I have the battery's the wrong way around, I will correct that.
    Thanks for DANBURY and the census number I will add it to the database. I appears that A,B and D Troop all have names of towns and villages in Essex I wonder why the other Troops didn't?
    Can you read the name on the half track? I cannot quite make it out.

    Cheers

    Kevin
     

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  19. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I'm coming rather late to this, but reading Don Juan's post re the changing requirements of RA OP tanks made me wonder whether there were differences between RA and RAC OP tanks. I've certainly seen the description of OP tanks having dummy guns to make room for all sorts of stuff in the rather cramped confines of a turret in multiple books and I think probably some first hand accounts. The fragmentary AFV returns for 21AG in 1945 refer to RA OP tanks as either Sherman (75-mm) or Cromwell (no calibre), while all RAC OP tanks are under the headings Churchill, Cromwell and Sherman (no calibre attached to any).

    I wonder if it's possible that the Sherman OP tanks in the Armd Divs (less 7th) and non-Div SP Fd Regts retained their main gun armament, while the RA OP tanks in Armd and Tk Bdes were gun-less? If these were in some part the defanged OP tanks intended for the RA, it may be they were repurposed for the RAC, and could explain how they were able to add eight OP tanks to each Armd Bde HQ so shortly before Normandy.

    Gary
     
  20. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I think the answer to this would be "no" unless we can find specific evidence otherwise. The requirements for OP tanks were set at the AFV Liaison Meetings between the War Office and Ministry of Supply at which both the RAC and RA were represented (by the DRAC and DRA respectively), and the general impression I get is that the RA were the junior representatives at these meetings i.e. the RAC's requirements were prioritised over the RA's. So I think that the OP requirements were really set at what the RAC wanted in its allocated field regiments, and any equipment developed was thus available for the RA generally. What this meant in practice is that a lot of the RA's equipment was essentially the RAC's cast-offs, so I would be quite dubious of the idea that the RAC would have accepted RA units in independent armoured or tank brigades that had inferior equipment to the RA units that were allocated to AGRA's.

    But I'm happy to be proved wrong, of course.
     

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