Wireless Sets No 18 in British vehicles

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Chris C, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Does anyone know of the Wireless Set No 18 (yes, 18) being standard on any British vehicles during WW2?

    (It was standard on the Archer, and in that context turned out to be rubbish. e.g. the set would go off-net if the vehicle moved.)
  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    It does depend on how you define standard I'd say. No.18 sets were fitted in carriers for numerous specific roles, in 15-cwts, and we know from the epic thread on OP tanks on D-Day that they were found in RA OP tanks. I have tried to find as much info as I can on wireless set issue, which is no easy task; everyone knows which radios did what, but ask for details on how many were issued to unit X or HQ Y and you get static for the most part. I cannot recall seeing a No.18 set identified as the standard WT for any vehicle.

    This uses the definition of standard in the same way as it is fairly safe to say that the No.19 set was the standard wireless for British tanks and other AFVs. Some vehicles did have a different layout if you look hard enough, however the No.19 was the baseline.

    No.18 sets could be considered 'standard' in something like RA OPs, because of their need to communicate with Infantry, for whom the No.18 set was their standard. But I can't think of a vehicle that came with a No.18 set as standard.

  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Thanks Gary, that's very interesting! I assume the RA OPs had both an 18 and a 19 set? Or rather, what did they use to communicate back to their artillery regiment? (I assume the RA Ops could have used a second 19 set to communicate with infantry 18 sets but that would have been more than they needed?)

    I regret not copying everything from a file of Canadian Archer war establishments to see whether wireless sets were listed.

    FWIW, I checked my copy of Vicker's "Vehicle Data Schedule" for the proposed Archer design and it does have a line for Wireless, where it indicates No 18 set. (7/28/1942) And that is, from what I've read, what they came with.

    Here's a bit of a puzzler for me. Does the presence of an aerial base necessarily mean that a No. 19 set is in use? I've been getting excited about the presence of these in many Archer photographs but ... now I'm thinking that the No 18 set could be used with the base. This is from what I think was an official stowage photograph (at the Canadian War Museum archives) -

  4. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The Field Regt OPs showed a mix of No.19 sets and No.18 sets. The WEs don't list wireless set types for RA units as I recall, but the 1945 booklet on wireless diagrams does fill in the blanks. For a Tank OP (1943 WE) it was two No.19 sets and one No.18 set, while the Armd OP (carrier) had one each of No.19 and No.18 sets.

    For an Atk Regt in an Inf Div, the Tp HQ carrier had a No.18 set, while the Bty HQ carrier had No.19 and No.18. Sadly the booklet does not include the wireless diagram for an Archer equipped unit. Likewise, the 21 Army Group WEs do not include an 'organization table', which could sometimes indicate wireless issue. I have the Canadian WEs for Archer units and likewise they don't have the organization table included. I'm not sure if you've seen the same files or something different.

    The only other unit I could think of that had SP Atk and was in an Inf Div was the Assault Btys for Normandy. The WE lists the Tp HQ carrier as having two wireless sets, but not their type, while each M10 has an unnamed set. In the Armd Div M10 Btys the set was the No.19.

    Given the Archer was specific to Inf fmns, the No.18 set would make sense as it would have to net with the Inf Bns at some point. Does it get a mention in any stowage sketches at all, they could sometimes show where sets could be fitted if required? Offhand I'm not sure if you could fit No.19 set in the same space as an 18, as I think the former was much larger.

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  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Well, I have 22 pages from a Canadian file (I think RG24-C-2. Volume/box number: 9910. File number: 5/A TK 1/6 & 1/17 & 1/17SP/1). The problem is I don't remember if I actually photographed the whole file or only the parts that seemed relevant to me at the time. No 'organization tables' in any case.

    The sets had a standard location, in the forward right corner of the crew compartment, on top of an ammunition bin. You're right that the 19 set was larger. The 18 set was approx 8" x 10" x 17" and the 19 set 10" x 13.25" x 27". (From manuals I downloaded today.) So about 2.5x bigger, and the Archer did NOT have a lot of space either. It would not have fit with the same orientation - there is a stowage sketch in Into the Vally which shows maybe a few inches between the top of the 18 set and the overhang of the crew compartment.

    But I think that it was tried by some. Part of the entry in the WD of 20th AT Reg't on 14 January 1945 reads: "19 sets will be employed, reserve batteries w. be conserved at Bty HQs as before." Although on 28 January for an indirect shoot by one battery, "Communication by 18 set proved impracticable and the 19 set of a carrier at the OP was resorted to."

    I think, by the by, that any M10 would have had a No 19 set so that the commander and driver could communicate by intercom.
  6. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I don't think the aerial base meant anything. No.19 sets were used with captured German fold-down aerials by some armoured car regiments late in the war in order to make their vehicles less conspicuous.

    The No.18 Set in the Archer was a continuation of the policy with regard to towed 17 pounder detachments, as the Archer was not anticipated to be used in the same mobile role as the M10. It seems that the role of these radios was really just to allow individual guns to keep in contact with battery commanders. See the excerpt below from a report by the Senior Instructor of the Anti-tank School, on a visit to Normandy in July 1944:

    Towed 18.jpg

    This is from WO 171/155.
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  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    That's an interesting point. One potential complication was that in actual practice SP troops might actually get deployed separately from the rest of the battery! That was the case in Cesena for the Canadian regiment I mentioned.
  8. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Actually, reading the excerpt I posted again, the No.18 wasn't to keep in touch with the battery commander, but rather the line communication (i.e. physical wire) was. The value of this latter was doubted.

    So it seems that the use of the No.18 was a continuation of the policy used with towed 17 pounders, although the line communication to Archer detachments seems to have been abandoned. I think this may have been the Archer falling between two stools, not mobile enough to merit a No.19 Set as per the M10, but not static enough to merit a line being layed. Although it sounds as though line communication may have been abandoned for towed guns as well.
  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I'd not seen a reference to line being used by Atk Regts before so that's interesting to know. I had a quick scan through MTP59a on Anti-tank Tactics, which doesn't include it, however that predates Normandy experience by a year. It's the kind of detail that would show up on the mythical AFG1098 table.

    Chris, that ref (9910 5/A etc.) is one of the three that the Archer equipped Bty WE tables are in. Unfortunately the Cdn WEs adhere to the 21AG format, with no organization table (the section that suggests allocation of personnel to unit transport and gives some gems on vehicle loads). If you're at all short of the other two Bty variations (two 17-pr towed and one SP, and three 17-pr SP) do let me know.

    Was there anything in those RA Notes you chronicled a while ago on the subject of wireless sets in Archer Btys?

  10. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Hi Gary,

    I don't remember anything in those RA notes but I was looking for Archer/Valentine specifically. Maybe if I look again for wireless....


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