Sherman OP tanks on D-Day

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

  1. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Not knowing much on inner working of the British Army but is it possible that the RAC saw OP tanks with wooden gun superior to their purpose. After all it had significantly more room in its turret. In tank units there were plenty of real tanks around, so not so much need for a real gun for self defence than those OP tanks serving under AGRAs.
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I think we are talking about two different organisations/roles/equipments.

    If the Field Artillery Regiment was operating with an armoured brigade or a tank brigade it could draw on the pool of eight Observation Post tanks held at Brigade Headquarters. These were for the use of Commanding officers and observers as required. They were tanks of the type used by the brigade. Drivers were RAC and the main armament was retained although ammunition stowage was reduced to make more space for extra wireless sets, mapboards etc.

    Tank Observation Post
    serjeant or corporal, driver mechanic
    Carries 2 X wireless set No19, 2 X Wireless set No 38 and a Wireless set No18.

    The RA had developed their own observation tanks, some of which were for Command Posts rather than Forward Observers.

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  3. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Aren't the "Command Posts" what were known as "chargers"?

    My understanding is that these were not specially developed tanks, but what was available that had a chassis generally similar to the SP or towing equipment used e.g. Crusader AA tanks for units equipped with Crusader Gun Tractors, 75mm Valentine Mk.XI's for units equipped with Archers, old Sherman dummy gun OP tanks for units with Sextons.

    Otherwise my understanding is that the dedicated RA FOO OP tanks were the same as those given to the RAC.
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I had not intended to go into the complex matter of RA OP/Command Post etc. It was not intended that the RAC OP tanks should replace the RA vehicles. Normally in action the CO of a RA Regiment would be with the HQ of the Brigade and have communications to his own unit. Battery commanders would be with the RAC regiments. These would have vehicles provided by the RAC.

    RA communication nets could become very complicated.

  5. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member


    Do you have any photos of the Covenanter, Crusader or Cavalier tanks the Essex Yeomanry had before they switched over to Shemans?
  6. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Kevin. I cant make it out either - "Dagenham"? I have another picture of the same half-track but its equally blurred (attached). I don't have any evidence of the armoured vehicle names of "C", E" & "F" Troops I am afraid but I am in touch with the curator of the Essex Yeomanry Regimental Collection & he may have some photographs of vehicles that have not been widely circulated. Next time I meet with him I will check.

    Attached Files:

  7. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    I can only talk about the 147 Field Regiment (Essex Yeomanry) which had 6 Troops each with 4x SP 25 Pdr Sextons on D-Day and roughly the same number of Shermans, but I now know the FOOs and GPO Shermans had their breech block removed to fit in 3 wireless sets. So these tanks had no guns apart from a Browning machine gun? The OP crew I am most familiar with landed in the 1st wave to support 231 Infantry Brigade on Gold Beach, then the 8th Armoured Division for most of the rest of the War. I have no idea however whether this is typical. Ian
  8. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    I will have a look through my records but I don't think so. But as I said in my reply to Kevin T above I am in touch with the curator of the Essex Yeomanry Regimental Collection & he may have some photographs of vehicles that have not been widely circulated. Next time I meet with him I will check.
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  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much, Ian.
  10. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I understand your point about the RAC having the lead on OP tanks, and agree they'd probably be very un-chuffed to receive the gun less models they'd argued against. The addition of the OP tanks to Bde HQs always seemed a bit rushed and I wondered where the tanks suddenly appeared from.

    On the subject of the discussions re OP tanks, what were the primary arguments for them being gun tanks? Was it in the mind of the RAC that they could, if required, be quickly returned to their original state, presumably to alleviate any potential shortage, or was it for the defence of the tank itself if required?

    Recalling an earlier thread on stowage schemes I went searching for the below link;

    WikiAlbums: Stowage Diagrams

    The last five pages are the schemes for a Sherman V in the OP role. Looking at the list of packs available from Bovington I'd say this was the same as theirs, and couldn't see anything on those lists for OP tanks in general.

  11. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for that. I can actually make out DAGENHAM from this photo as you suggest. I have checked my name database but could not find any named Sextons that were not match to a regiment. I do however have loads of Sexton census numbers that are not yet matched to a specific regiment, so if your contact has census numbers i would appreciate those too.


  12. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The request was made by the Director, Royal Artillery (DRA), Major-General W.J. Eldridge, at the 38th AFV Liaison Meeting on 17th November 1943. The meeting minutes note that:

    Sherman OP.jpg

    At the subsequent meeting the number of conversions to gunless OP's to be made by the Ministry of Supply was reduced from 350 to 150, this output probably being to avoid disruption on the production lines. As for the justification, I think I have information elsewhere that it was "experience in Italy", but can't think where this is at the moment.
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  13. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    I have come across this picture from Hanover 1945 which has my Father's Sherman OP + personnel, but some sort of lorry in the background. I think its from 8th June 1945 when the 147 Regiment's ("Essex Yeomanry") tanks & SPs had been prepared for a “Goodbye to the Guns” ceremony in Hanover before being presented to General Dempsey. The Sherman was cleaned up and painted with Naval paint of Battleship Grey captured in the dockyards at Bremen and applied by German P-O-Ws! The lorry is only a fragment but I hope it can mean something to you (Note the picture is a screen capture from the Essex Yeomanry Association web site which I believe is inactive now - link below
    Welcome to the Essex Yeomanry Association

    ) upload_2019-6-20_0-24-52.png
  14. Expat Yeoman

    Expat Yeoman Member

    Hi Kevin,

    I have a similar list to you. A few snippets to add:

    - Ardleigh as A3, Brentwood B3 and Danbury D2 (presumably these are the allocated numbers within the Tp)
    - For Debden, I had an image somewhere showing the number ....745. Looking at the Sexton register I think this might be 233745.
    - I also had T261663 as a Sherman but have not been able to find which Troop it was allocated to, and a Sherman named Bramley in B Tp (don't have a serial no. tho)

  15. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    My conclusion to the Overlord supply issue is that:
    Priority was given to procurement/manufacture and issue of the latest types/models.
    Establishments were filled with no gaps. Reserves were established.
    If there were surplus vehicles*, lesser vehicles were upgraded (e.g. 15cwt trucks to Armoured - M3 SC or M14 half track). This included provision of new types to units not usually equipped if the supply situation allowed.
    Reserves priorities latest vehicles then older types.
    *Surplus = more of the current type or older variants not considered obsolete. E.g. Re-issue of Sherman 1 ARV to Infantry Divs. workshops.

    Thus it is more likely that older vehicles will appear towards the end of the Normandy Campaign than on D-Day where it's the shiny and new stuff. The Normandy OP Sherman with wooden barrel is, as has been said, more likely a re-use of a displaced vehicle - as a charger or, more likely, as a command vehicle in a non tank formation working with tanks. There is a chance it is an example of someone with sufficient rank to successfully object to new replacing an 'Old Faithful' bit of kit, it was not unknown.
  16. 'BRAMLEY' T212620 is Sherman 'RB', thus the normal mount of 'B' Troop Commander (413th Battery), i.e. W/Lt (T/Capt) George William CULLEY (64507) on D Day:
    Sherman 'BRAMLEY' RB 213 Bty T212620.jpg

    There's also 'BOATES' B1 S233712. See Sexton Units in NW Europe question

  17. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    Here is my 2p.

    The spare tanks held by armoured and tank brigade HQs, with a basic RAC crew were for artillery observers from units which were not equipped with their own tanks. These included OP parties from field and medium regiments from AGRA, or occasionally from the field regiments of infantry divisions. The organisation of armoured divisions had six artillery batteries which could provide the BCs and FOOs for six out of the eight units in the division. They would need to have additional artillery attached to provide their units with the same level of OP and LO support enjoyed by infantry divisions. The artillerymen sitting in the turrets of these vehicles will have had little familiarity with tank gunnery. It did not matter whether the guns worked or not, the turret crew would be unlikely to have known how to use the main armament.

    Field Regiments equipped with self propelled guns had four tanks in each battery and a half track for the BC. Each Troop commander FOO had a tank and an Armoured OP (universal carrier) Field Battery - Self Propelled
    The field regiments landing on D Day conformed to this establishment. The gunners manning these tanks would have had some familiarity with their AFV.

    SP Regiments seem to have been issued with a mixture of command (gunless) and gun variants. There were several occasions where GPO's Shermans engaged enemy with main armament, e.g. 153 regiment when attacked by tanks 4th August Maison celles. So some of these tanks had a main armament. But not all. In his book Robert Kiln a BK in 86 field Regiment wrote about calling forwards a spare tank from the gun position commanded by Lt Makie/mackay who then takes a wrong turning and is killed by 12 SS. This tank seems to have been a command variant without a main armament because the history of 12 SS mentions it.

    Seven of the ten which landed on D Day were normally integral parts of infantry divisions. 3,33 & 76th Field - 3rd British Division; 12, 13, &14th Cdn Field, part of 3rd Canadian Division and 90th Field part of 50th Division. Most of the time the OPs would be working with infantry and the tanks and carriers were used for radio rebroadcast as they would stick out in a company area where every
    one else was in a slit trench. The BC's half track would be near Bn HQ.

    The other three SP regiments landing on D Day (19 Cdn, 86 & 147) were all "Army" assets, typically, but not always, providing the direct support (FOOs and BCs) for armoured brigades. Three more SP regiments in armoured divisions provided the Direct Support (CO, BC and FOOs) for the British Armoured divisions' armoured brigades. 5RHA - 7 Armd; 13 RHA -11 Armd, and 153 Fd - Guards Armd.

    The FOOs and BC needed to operate with the armoured regiments and be mounted in tanks alongside the RAC subunit and unit commander. FOOs were established for tanks, but the BC wasn't. This is addressed in the 1945 SP Regiment establishment which has only ten tanks, for the CO, BCs and FOOs and the GPOs got a sexton minus gun. Until then the BCs needed to scrounge a tank from somewhere.

    The problem may have been addressed at HQRA level and a standard set for the division. Or agreed by the artillery CO with the Brigade commander. Or some unofficial route taken. The BC could pull rank and rob the gun position of a tank. He could scrounge a spare from the replacement system. (Get the QM to write one off or hold onto a replacement for a repaired vehicle. He could talk to the supported arm and acquire one with a driver - one of the RA OP Pool at Brigade HQ or get them to loan his unit a tank permanently, freeing up the RAC driver.

    The most famous OP tank photographed in Normandy is BC of K Battery get his X-ray Sherman, snapped barrel less and KO'ed in Villers Bocage. Where did it come from? On whose establishment was it? If it was one of the RAC provided RA OP tanks on the Brigade HQ established and driven by an RAC driver why was it in the markings of K Battery?
  18. Expat Yeoman

    Expat Yeoman Member

    Michel, thank you, that's really helpful, I'll add that to my notes :)

    One thought, I think 'Boates' might actually be 'Boxted' (a village north of Colchester), which would also tie in with 413 and 431 Btys naming them after places in the County.

  19. Michael,

    I think you are right on with 'BOXTED'. This fits perfectly with its 413th (Colchester) Battery. However hard I tried I could not make much sense out of 'BOATES'. Thanks for the correction.

    I'll correct my post in the other forum accordingly.

    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019

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