Valentine 17 pdr SPG [Archer]

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Orwell1984, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    I posted this on another forum and still haven't got a definitive answer, just some more food for thought. Thought I'd get some input from the armour experts here as well.

    When discussing the Valentine 17 pdr SP Gun (Archer), one of the things that almost inevitably gets trotted out in the discussion is one of its purported “major design flaws”. To wit, the driver of the vehicle must vacate his seat at the time of firing due to the gun’s recoil. Given what I know of the vehicle’s planned usage, this seems an odd oversight.
    As usual the Internet has a variety of pages referencing this claim, mostly unsourced. Looking through my collection, these are the references I have found to the issue.
    From Allied Tank Destroyers by Bryan Perrett

    From British Infantry Tank Mk III Valentine Part 2 by Dick Taylor

    From Into the Vally The Valentine Tank and Derivatives 1938-1960 also by Dick Taylor

    The English text of Ledwoch’s Bishop/Archer (Tankpower 363) contains no reference to the issue at all.
    IIRC Chamberlain and Ellis are of the ‘driver must vacate his seat school”
    The most recent book I have that mentions the subject is the Osprey New Vanguard on the Valentine Tank by Bruce Newsome published in 2016. On page 32 is the following:
    Sounds logical and in line with how the SPG was intended to be used.
    So, before I venture sending an email off to Bovington to try and determine which version is accurate, do any of the armour experts on here have any further information that may help clarify things?
    All help much appreciated!
  2. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Looks a little tight.
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  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    It seems possible for contemporary gen you may need:
    'SP 17PdR Valentine - Service Instruction Book'
    AFV handbooks will sell you a scan that I think includes it, though there may be more open source copies uploaded somewhere:
    Valentine X Service Instruction Handbook | Military Tank Handbooks on CD from army documents of the Tank Museum | AFV Handbooks

    Or, quite possibly someone will potter along who already has it.
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  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Recoil might have been stopped at 14.5", but there's also the case! The drawing shows some sort of recoil guard that probably caught the case as well. Even if the driver had the good sense to get out of the way, filling/destroying his station with brass would have been rather an inconvenience.
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  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Taylor is normally very good. Question of course then flips to where this originally came from, and if its a sort of partial factoid. Given the Valentine 17 Pdr SP was quite literally a self-propelled anti-tank gun, I suspect the Driver would have been around to operate the Bren rather than crew the gun itself in action.

    The answer is somewhere... out there.
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  6. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    If you see it as intended, and used, as a 17pdr Anti-tank gun conveniently mounted on a tracked chassis with some armour protection. It doesn't need the driver in place when properly sited. Like the carrier - it was intended to get a conventional weapons system safely and effectively to where it was needed - not to be used as an AFV. Just because it looks like a tank doesn't make it a tank! M10 commanders often record they were constantly being asked by Infantry commanders to behave like assault tanks rather than do their job of anti-tank oversight.

    The misunderstanding was universal. Post war 4/7RDG had some issued in lieu of tanks and they were not impressed - "a Valentine with a 17pdr sticking out of it's arse" is one reaction.
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  7. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

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  8. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I couldn't find an answer either, but a post on another forum reminded me that 102 Atk Regt were in the unusual position of swapping M10s for Valentine SPs. There's a transcription of their war diary over on the RA units in the Netherlands site. They have numerous gripes with the weapon, and the associated reorganisation, but don't specifically state that in the M10 the driver did not have to dismount whereas in the SP 17-pr he does, which might be considered an important issue;

    102 Anti Tank Regt

    They do cite the absence of intercommunication for the crew though. The M10 carried a wireless but I don't know what type; a No.19 would seem appropriate, and if so would have an intercom, so might that mean the Valentine had no set, or a different type?

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  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    It's interesting that they considered the 17-pr to be worse than the 3-in and 6-pr and begs the question 'why?' - perhaps I'm reading it wrong.
    Very interesting references to training in indirect fire on the Valentines (!) and to the 'reduced charge HE'.
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  11. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    The Archer (extracted from The Valentine in North Africa 1942-1943, by Bryan Perrett)

    By 1942, most armies had in service a number of tank destroyers or self-propelled anti-tank guns. The British army lagged behind in this field, but by the end of 1941 had developed the 17-pdr high velocity anti-tank gun, which was designed as the British answer to the German 88 mm. The problem was to find a suitable mount for this long weapon from amongst the existing tank chassis. Both the Bishop SP gun and the Crusader tank were considered and found unsuitable. At length it was decided to utilise the Valentine chassis, but to point the weapon over the vehicle’s rear.

    The fighting compartment consisted of a fixed armour plate superstructure, incorporating both the original turret space and the driving compartment. Within this was the gun-mounting, which permitted traverse of weapon 11° either side of the centre line, depression of 7 1/2° , and elevation of 15° . One of the problems experienced with this mounting was that the gun recoiled over the driver’s seat, and consequently the driver had to be removed as soon as he had reversed the vehicle into a firing position. 39 rounds of ammunition were stowed.

    In spite of its long gun, Archer was little longer than the Valentine chassis on which it was based. It was a low, compact vehicle, which performed well, on the whole, although its crews were critical of the lack of protection. It served in North West Europe and in Italy, and was employed by the British army for many years after the end of the war.

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  12. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IMHO there was no need for the driver leave his seat during firing because there was the recoil guard. Probably not the nicest place to be when a case hit the back of the recoil guard just behind one's head but still safe. Maybe the claim that the drive had to leave his seat orginated from the fact that the towed version of the 17 pdr had fairly long recoil.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
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  13. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

    interesting discussion this pic shows the driver compartment well below the recoil travel plus the gun shield behind the drivers station IMO the driver would not be required to leave the station when the gun was in action. However I would want to..
    from this source The Archer | For the Record
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  14. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Not sure they were complaining about the 17-pr as such, I read it more as them not wanting towed 17-prs, which they hadn't had to contend with during the campaign in 1944. Also opposition to the shift to a three-gun Tp. I was never able to find RA returns but did get a report from early 1945 showing them with the higher number of towed 6-prs found on their old Assault WE, which I think ties in with the comments on 'delaying' the adoption of the new organisation.

    Looking again at the line drawing posted by Canuck, it doesn't really look like the driver had very far to go if he left his seat, and would probably have been better employed as a gun number while stationary. There seem to be a lot of Canadian war diaries online now, perhaps there's a comment in one of those on the subject?

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  15. idler

    idler GeneralList

    It's perhaps better illustrated by the line drawing above - from the front and rear views, the barrel is shown at the same height as the driver's visor. It might have been mechanically safe, but I bet it didn't feel safe to have a 17-pr recoiling and ejecting just behind your head!
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  16. DannyM

    DannyM Member

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  17. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    It is my impression, not that I know that for sure, that the recoil guard is a safety feature inside which the breech recoils. So IMHO the recoil guard itself doesn't move during the firing cycle and its function is to prevent anyone's arms or body being in the way of the recoiling breech. And also to prevent the ejected shell case to bounce around the fighting space/turret.

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  18. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Thanks for the input everyone. Some good food for
  19. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

  20. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    I hate to say we are effectively just circling the topic now, which isn't helped by an awful lot of nice blog articles with no citations or bibliographies which seem to be helpful, but frankly aren't.

    Indeed I suspect its because of the availability of such articles online (with differing interpretations), rehashing, re-circulation etc, which started this all to start with!

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