Sten gun allocation to SP (or tank) crews?

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Chris C, Nov 6, 2019.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Hi all,

    This is a rather minor point but I thought I'd ask in case anyone knows about this or maybe something similar.

    The official stowage list for the Archer aka Valentine SP included space for (a Bren and) two Sten guns. I think there were brackets for these on the inside of the fighting compartment. Haven't got the stowage list sheets to hand, but I think that was dated August 1944.

    However, in a report dated February 1945, but based on feedback from January, there is a complaint that there is no stowage arrangement for the third and fourth Sten guns, to which DTD replied "no requirement has been stated for this".

    Did tankies get a Sten gun each? I'm unclear on how the regiments would have been able to requisition additional Stens. Would this have been a detail in the full details of a War Establishment?
    CL1 likes this.
  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Ah, playing 'spot the Sten' RA units, I spent a lot of time on that...

    There was a different scale of personal weapons for RA and RAC units. In the RAC the principal weapon for crews of AFVs was the pistol, with one crewman instead having the Sten. In RA units there was no standard for gun crews, but rather a calculation, that was defined for a unit from mid 1943 as;

    Pistols - all officers
    Sten (machine carbines) - all warrant officers, drivers of motorcycles and vehicles and spare drivers, other ranks of LMG detachments
    Rifles - remainder, but not to exceed 200% of scales prior to 23rd June 1942, balance, if any, Stens (this latter reflects the fact that, at the outbreak of war, not all men of an RA unit carried a personal weapon).

    Because the SP atk gun was not used prior to June 1942 there was no way I could find to get an estimation. I ended up assuming Sten guns for the full crew, which at the time I may have thought was founded upon something solid but can't recall now.

    RA small arms would be listed on the mythical AFG1093 table for the appropriate unit, but ceased appearing on WEs during the later months of 1943. The RCA WE continued to show theirs, but not allocated directly to each man. I believe there's a Canadian equivalent of the British calculations but it's not something I've tracked down.

    My reconstruct for the first version of the RA Bty including the Valentine was for 7 pistols, 73 Stens and 67 rifles. This assumed all four crew in the SP having Sten guns. The Cdn WE for the same Bty type shows 7 pistols, 63 Stens and 77 rifles. So I've got four wrong, assuming they both used the same approach. I've not gotten round to figuring out the difference as yet...

    Chris C and canuck like this.
  3. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    In the bocage fighting in Normandy the M10's were used as virtual tanks because the 17 pounders were desperately needed forwards. I would guess that because of the relatively close fighting involved, the number of Stens allocated to each A/T SPG was increased accordngly. It may then have been that the same local convention was applied to the Archer when that arrived in the theatre.
    Chris C likes this.
  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Thanks guys! I must have skipped the pages in the Canadian War Establishment file at LAC which included the allocation of Stens because at the time it seemed like superfluous data. (Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!) Gary, do you have those pages?
  5. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member


    This is the page from WE ref Cdn II/186D/1 (effective 10 Dec 44) that details both the vehicles and weapons. There are similar for the associated II/186E/1 and II/186F/1 of Mar 45 if you need them.


    Attached Files:

    Chris C likes this.
  6. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Ahh, brilliant, thank you Gary! I don't think I need the other pages.
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    What is your evidence for this?

    M10s may have been used as assault guns, but it was not their official role. Nor did the RA formally agree that SP guns were virtual tanks. Reports on the M10 in June and July war diaries make no reference to the mix of personal weapons. Instead they asked for a co axial MG.

    RA units might be change their role from SP to towed. A personal weapon is a personal weapon and it is too much of a faff around to change personal weapons at the same time as changing equipment. As a point of continuity, the post WW2 Royal Artillery issued the majority of Gunners with rifles regardless of role on the same sort of scale as post #2.

    In the field it was possible to acquire small arms surplus to establishment from friend or foe, so if someone really cared they could have had a Sten rather than a rifle or trophy hunt an MP40.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
  8. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    From "Extracts from a Report by SI A/Tk School of Arty written after a visit to Normandy in July 1944", which is in the 21 AG RA war diary WO 171/155:

    SI ATk School.jpg

    My comment on the issue of extra Stens was speculative, which anyone capable of basic reading comprehension would have recognised by the use of the phrases "I would guess that" and "It may be". However, if the specification sheets issued by the Department of Tank Design for the Archer stated stowage for two Sten Guns, and the regiments were complaining about no stowage arrangements for their additional two Sten guns, this appears to me to indicate that there was some official, or semi-official, allocation of extra Stens in the theatre, regardless of what may or may not have been mentoned in reports or war diaries.
  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Interesting report given that there were similar complaints about tanks being used inappropriately as SPGs
  10. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    It helps to look at intended use. SP ATk crew like tank crew needed personal weapons for close defence. Offensive capability was via the gun without the gun/vehicle the crew withdrew. They were though still part of the front line so all threats were a possibility. Thus an emplaced gun may need cover against infantry infiltration, the commander may need a personal weapon to recce targets, a forward movement or position on foot also the vehicle and crew would need cover in a laager.

    From my work with veterans, albeit a lot of them tank crew, they fall into two camps :-
    Possessive; "I carried my Sten in case of snipers", "I drew my revolver" implying personal issue, this is usually a holstered pistol, occasionally a Sten or Thompson (btw. don't get them started on that...) stowed in a specific place.
    Acquisitive; "I got a Sten from somewhere", "I happened to be carrying a Rifle" which implies weapons were around as vehicle kit or available (in transport?) if deemed necessary.

    A former Sherman tank commander (Sergeant) told me he was on nigh time stag at the 'safe' end of a village - As he was about to bum cigarettes off a marching infantry section he recognised the helmets and boots "I know it was them or me but I already had the Sten in my hand. It didn't jam, I never realised it could be so efficient". He handed the Sten to the crew member on next watch.
    Chris C likes this.
  11. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    My understanding is that small arms that were specified as part of the stowage of an AFV belonged to the AFV and not to individual crew members. For example, if a tank's stowage list included a Bren gun and two SMG's (Sten or Thompson), then the vehicle was delivered from Chilwell with these items included. If the vehicle was handed over to another unit then these items should have been included, in their alloted stowage positions, with the vehicle, and if they were absent then this was counted as a shortage. If crew members adopted these weapons as "personal" then that was up to them, but that was not how I think the system was supposed to work.
    ceolredmonger and Chris C like this.
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    It's easy to envisage cases where such a system might not work as intended. For example if a crew had to abandon a vehicle they would presumably take the small arms with them and then might be allocated a replacement that already contained a set of weapons
  13. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    For what it's worth, I think the practice may have changed over time. I'm only basing this on what's seen in WEs as opposed to quoting an authoritative contemporary source.

    The Nov40 WE for an Armd Car Regt gives a total of 524 pistols and 90 rifles for 569 all ranks (incl att). That gives an excess of 45 weapons, and because there's a helpful recapitulation elsewhere in the WE it's evident that the 45 are rifles, all held by the Regtl and Sqn Admin elements. It's noted the Regt could be equipped with Daimler, Humber or Guy armd cars, and there's a list of the weapons and ammunition to be carried for each type. This shows the fixed veh armament by car type (2-pr, 15-mm, 7.92-mm Besa) and for each also includes a Thompson SMG and an AA Bren. That would seem to indicate a differentiation between weapons carried 'on man' and carried on AFV.

    Fast forward to Aug41 and the new WE for an Armd Car Regt shows some developments. The Regt is 860 all ranks, with 396 pistols, 305 rifles, 60 Thompsons (for pers in armd cars) and 99 Thompsons (for motorcyclists). That gives the same total of individual weapons as there are men. There is then a note regarding allotment of personal weapons, which states for 'armoured car crews...1 man armed with machine carbine; remainder with pistols'. The Aug42 and Sep42 WEs both show the same approach, with the number of pistols, machine carbines and rifles being the same as the all ranks strength. Those last two WEs are also in that brief, halcyon period, when the organization part of the table showed individual weapons allocation, and shows armd car drivers with Stens.

    Purely on the RAC side of things then, my interpretation of the progression is that Thompsons may have been regarded as a vehicular weapon until some point in 1941, when they became an individual weapon. If each armd car or tanks turns up with a stowed Tommy or Sten gun, and the veh driver is already authorised one, that seems an unnecessary duplication; certainly everything I've seen refers to one such weapon per AFV crew. He will need somewhere to stow it safely while's he's doing his proper job, so this still needs to be shown on the stowage chart.

    It is the type of point that an AFG.1098 would resolve, as this should show vehicle armament as well as personal.

    ceolredmonger and Don Juan like this.
  14. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Well, the service instruction books tend to indicate that small arms are part of the AFV equipment. Below is an extract from the instruction book for the Comet:

    There were three stowage lists for an AFV - 'A', 'B' and 'C', and these would be a good place to check. I'm sure I've got a set of these lists somewhere for one of the late war AFV's - I just can't remember where at the moment.
  15. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    I think that part of the official complement of crew weapons would mean that there was some sort of stowage arrangement (hooks?) by which the Sten could be hung on the inside of the fighting compartment. ack, you know that already.
  16. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The small arms to be stowed with an AFV would be included in the General Staff specification, so that the design would incorporate the requisite stowage facilities, whether these were racks or hooks or whatever. I dunno if you have a copy of the specification for the Archer, but I assume it would have called for two SMG's, and this is why the DTD would have provided stowage facilities for two such guns, and when asked why there wasn't provison for four SMG's they replied that "no requirement has been stated for this".

    So to an extent this is a conflict between the GS specification and the unit War Establishment. My own assumption would be that AFV's were (supposed to be) delivered with their attendent small arms, and then the unit would pool these into their WE. However, the reality would have been much more messy due to the inevitable shortages, pilfering etc. The way that AFV's were issued in the real world was frequently very poor, with vehicles being left out in the rain for weeks on end, knocked about by delivery personnel, stripped of all their equipment etc., so I don't think any unit could rely on receiving anything like the full stowage on all new AFV's.
    ceolredmonger and Chris C like this.
  17. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    To my understanding delivery sqns checked AFVs they received and if something was missing/not in working order put a replacement in before delivering it to an unit.
  18. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Going back to the beginning in a previous war. When Mk IV tanks were collected by their crews at Plateau in France said crews were responsible for drawing and stowing detachable items such as small arms and ammunition. For the Mk IV crew in 1917 this included a spare Lewis gun and bipod, (kept in the cab), and a single SMLE rifle kept in the rear of the compartment plus two flare pistols.. The commander and driver would also have personal side arms - officially Webley revolvers but these often got swopped for automatics as the revolvers tended to snag if a rapid exit from the vehicle was necessary. AFAIK whilst the specific allocations changed this was how it was done in the inter war years. Weapons were allocated to the crew rather than the tank. I suspect that this changed more than once during the process of WW2
    Chris C likes this.
  19. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    That might well be correct. Certainly in the desert it was normal for units to receive tanks with only a fraction of their stowage, but this was probably improved by the time of the return to NWE. Also, a lot of new vehicles went straight in to Advance Ordnance Workshops to repair any damage caused during the delivery process.
  20. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Here's part of a memo dated 6th January 1943 on a change to personal weapons in Home Forces, from the 42nd Armoured Division's war diary for 1943:


    Sten 2.jpg

    Note that this seems to indicate that the personal weapon for tank crewmen was considered to be the pistol, while the SMG belonged to the AFV. i.e. that the crew would carry their pistols on their persons, whereas the SMG would always remain in the vehicle. However, a table later in the war diary indicates that one tank crewman went without a pistol, the inference being that he was allocated the SMG. I would also guess that the Sten is there for close defence of the vehicle rather than for dismounted action, which is why only one is allocated.

    On a tangential note, there is confirmation in the last paragraph of iffy Sten ammo, which I think corroborates with some of the info in the main Sten thread.

Share This Page