50th RTR tanks roster in the battle of Mareth line

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Arkadiy, Jun 19, 2021.

  1. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    Have a very specific question regarding the tanks 50th RTR had used in that engagement. Multiple sources site that there were 8 tanks in the unit with 6-pdr guns. This for example: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Northwest_Africa/geZmAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=50th%20royal%20tank%20regiment%20(fifty
    Also Taylor in his "Into the Vally:" (which I unfortunately do not own) specifically says the eight 6-pounders are Valentine IX's

    Does anyone have access to the unit documents that would list the exact tanks modification (even 2-pounders could be II, III or three-men turreted V's)? Posting the actual doc would be just awesome, but beggars can't be choosers :)

    Thanks in advance for the help!

    It's frustrating that in this day and age there are still tons of public historical documents that aren't digitized... I suppose it's not likely that British archives would go the way of Alexandria library, but you never know...
  2. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Yes. The documents are open to the public.

    No certainty such a document even exists.

    Why is it frustrating?

    I have no idea who or where the Alexandria library is that you write of, nor its policy on digitizing records, access policy nor funding support, however, the TNA is currently working with a company who are indeed digitizing millions of pages from their vault.

    And that will not necessarily change because of digitization.

    Getting to an archive costs time and money. If somebody else goes to the archive it costs them time and money. Do you expect somebody else to absorb those costs so a begger gets a free handout? Nice if they will, but foolish of a begger to feel entitled to free handouts and frustrated when they are not forthcoming.
  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi Arkadiy,

    I have a copy of the book and am generally somewhat familiar with Valentines so I hope I can usefully contribute to this discussion. Taylor does say (p88) that on 20 March 1943 "50RTR mustered 51 Valentines, only one short of its full operational strength due to a gearbox problem with a Mk IX requiring workshop attention. Of the 51, 8 were 6 Pounder variants, the remainder 2 Pounder. Only two weeks later, on 3rd April 1943, the regiment was forced to restructure its remaining 22 tanks into two squadrons. C Sqn had an SHQ of 2 tanks with three troops of three, whilst B Sqn had just two trops and a solitary tank in SHQ. RHQ consisted of four tanks. Five of these tanks were Mk IXs with the 6 Pounder gun."

    This is fairly specific information but no, I don't have the source documents. (Incidentally, I think just about all the RTR war diaries have been transcribed by the Tank Museum, so someone might be able to help you out.)

    So, I don't know whether the sources actually state the marks in question or not. One thing that comes to mind, though, is timing - when was the Mk X approved? I was just the other day looking at a document discussing the Besa fitting in the turret but for the life of me I can't think where. If I find it again I will share it. I'm not sure exactly when the Mk X entered production and whether it would have been feasible for 50RTR to have any.
  4. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    Than you for the response! That may be an indication that some of these IX's were participating in action (with one knocked out) - that's where the diaries would help (I imagine it would list the reason for the changes in the total number).
    And you are probably right in using the logic of timing for determining whether 6-pdrs were IX or X. Not that I have reasons not to trust Taylor, but since I don't have the book - there is this Russian researcher who has a series of posts on Valentine, its development and use, and he states that IX is the only 6-pdr version of Valentine that was used in British army. Ironically, he also states Taylor as one of his sources:) Here the link Длинный ствол для пехотного танка (it's in Russian, but Google translate works OK). So I think the question of 6-pdrs is fairly "settled", but I am still curious about the remaining 43.
    It's good to know about the Tank Museum, I'll contact them, they worst that can happen is them not responding or saying no. I assume you mean Bovington one (would make sense when it comes to RTR)?

    Sorry, I was being sarcastic: Library of Alexandria - Wikipedia
    Good to know about digitizing efforts though. I'm not sure there should be any doubt about advantages of the digitized information over something tucked away somewhere physically even if we don't consider it going up in flames a possibility. Whether it's free to access or not is a separate matter.
    Nick the Noodle likes this.
  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Yes, I did mean the Bovington tank museum. Not sure if you will get a response at present.

    I wouldn't be surprised if SOMEONE here had the transcribed PDF...

    I have seen mention of Valentines in RA service in 1945 but I can't recall any identification more clear than "6-pounder" or "75mm" .
  6. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    Now that I am reading the article more carefully, the author may have been inconsistent (or perhaps specifically meant UK as opposed to Commonwealth?). He states that as of 1945 21st army group had 16 X and 14 XI attached to 2nd, 2rd, 5th and 51st Canadian infantry divisions. Those tanks were used as command vehicles (particularly in units with Archer spg).
  7. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    According to this topic: 23rd Armoured Brigade there is something called "annexes" that are intended to have the detailed information about unit's composition (and changes thereof), so there is still hope the documentation exists.
    Of course, not seeing one, whoever would be filling these out, may not have been concerned with listing a particular modification of a tank.
  8. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Yes, digitization and charges are indeed separate issues.

    Digitization is certainly the way forward for no other reason than to preserve the originals. Many of the more popular war diaries are now in a pretty shocking state due to the number of times they are being accessed and I am sure some documents are being lost on a regular basis either through theft, misfiling or damage.

    Problem is, who pays for it to be done...

    The level of information you are after would not be present in the documentation for the period 1939, 1940, 1941 nor even 1942. I have a good few files covering that period and it would be very much the exception if you come across that level of detail in them. Where "files" are the 'war diary' narrative, accompanying annexes and any other documents retained. I have no idea what level of detail is held in 1943 and onwards but there was a trend as the war progressed for more detail to have been kept at the time and subsequently retained. For example, not one of the 6 armoured regiments going to France in May 1940 recorded the total number of tanks they took let alone the types of tank or their armament! By 1941, there were occasional, sporadic notes on totals and types in some files but still nothing in others. And so on.
  9. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    Huh, I can definitely see that (not because it makes sense - I mean, if anything, tanks are THE thing to keep track of) - I was browsing German archives from Tunisia period (late 42/early 43), and their OOB's are very indicative in that respects, you see very detailed information on the caliber and number of cannons (arty), yet the tanks are represented as a single box per battalion with no other data (no totals, no types). There are obviously examples of the detailed tank info available too, but it shows that's it's not as much of a "must have" as you'd think it would be.

    In that same topic I sited, Andreas is giving me some hope by saying how the documentation improved (and you seem to imply that too). I can probably work with serial numbers too - that Russian guy has in his article series fairly detailed information on what those correspond to as far as the modification and even the factory it was built on.
  10. J Kubra

    J Kubra Member

    Reference requesting RTR information from the Bovington Tank Museum. I wrote to them in September 2020 seeking to purchase a copy of the transcribed version of the 2 RTR War Diary. They acknowledged my request and advised it had been sent to the Archive and Library, however, they pointed out that there was a large backlog due to staff being off on furlough.

    I live in NZ so I can fully understand the issues in the UK associated with Covid-19 and so I am prepared to wait.

    Just thought I would let you know there is likely to be a significant delay.
    Cheers, Jim
    Chris C likes this.
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    This may be of help

  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    The question is, however - were any Valentine Xs used in the British Army, or were they all sent to the USSR as lend-lease?

    I just checked the most detailed anti-tank regiment war diary I have when it comes to vehicles - 20th A/Tk Regiment. Their war diary still has some daily vehicle strength reports from Jan-Feb 1945. However, they did not go into any greater detail than "75mm" and "6-pounder" Valentines.
  13. Arkadiy

    Arkadiy Member

    Thanks for the warning, Jim!

    I actually received a response from them very fast, and the gentleman who got back to me was nice enough to take a quick look at what they have. Unfortunately, there is no breakdown by modification in the war diaries/war histories. Just like in Taylor's book all we get is 2 vs 6, but he did confirm that 6-pounders were mk IX's. So it appears, this particular question will remain unanswered.
    What I don't understand is - how would the logistics work if no one knew what tanks the unit had? I mean, there were different engines, different transmissions...
    Chris C and J Kubra like this.
  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    When I was working on the history of 50th Division years ago I took a look at 23rd Armoured Brigade at Mareth. Unfortunately I cannot cite chapter and verse for you (my notes were a mess and are buried in various places I can't get to now) but I recall distinctly from my sources that the 6-pdr Valentines used at Mareth did not have co-axial MGs, a deficiency which proved detrimental during the battle. I think one crew even resorted to firing a Bren down the 6-pdr barrel in sheer desperation. This would make the tanks in question Mark IXs or VIIIs, definitely not Mark Xs. Also as I recall from seeing some 21 Army Group tank states (Peter Brown of warwheels.net, I think, put these up) the 6-pdr Valentines used by 21 AG were Mark X's, not IXs or VIIIs.
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  15. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Checking Into the Valley, I think all the Valentines after the III (that is, Mk IV and onward) used the same GM diesel engine and the same transmission. Then again someone must have known in better detail - but that knowledge wasn't necessarily recorded in the war diary.
  16. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Infantry on Valentine tank of 23 Armd Bde on exercise 3-12-43.jpg Valentines in Sfax.jpg Valentine w fascines at Mareth Line.jpg 23rd Armd Bde meets 6th Armd Div at Bou Ficha.jpg Valentines with Black Watch 1.jpg Valentines with Black Watch 2.jpg Valentine in Gabes.jpg
    Here is a series of IWM photos showing Valentines in service with 8th Army in Tunisia, which is to say with 23rd Armoured Brigade. The two photos of the 6-pdr variants are definitely not Mark Xs, so must be VIIIs or IXs. All the 2-pdr tanks have the small turret, so are likely Mk IIs.
    Arkadiy likes this.
  17. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

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  18. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Don't expect that everything will be in the war diaries. Some are very full with lots of appendices, others aren't; it depends on the unit and the period. Also, just because you can't find a document in a WD, that doesn't mean that it didn't exist and it certainly doesn't mean that units didn't know what they had. Some people here have done a lot of digging into the tank strength of Western Desert Force around the time of Operation COMPASS and they have found a fair amount of detailed information about types with the units. Some stuff gets preserved, some doesn't. From the tank states for 15 and 21 Army Groups I've seen it's clear that units not only knew what they had but kept higher HQs properly informed as well. If you can't find what you want at the unit level, try the next levels higher up where reports were received.
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  19. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yeah, it was Hamilton's book where I got the story about the MG shooting down the 6-pdr barrel. It was a Browning and not a Bren, I misremembered.
  20. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Documentary evidence shows units in the ME were required to fill in regular tank and vehicle returns to be sent up to div HQ and back to HQ in Cairo. Weekly I think. That's from day 1. Units knew what they had. No question about it.

    However, the returns they sent in do not seem to have been kept by the unit themselves - which makes sense - but the ones sent up the chain seem to have been quickly binned too - which doesn't.

    In April/May 1941, Cairo was having a bit of a flap as Rommel pushed the British out of Cyrenaica. CGS demands info from everyone what they have left to keep Jerry out of Egypt. Nobody has a clue about what tanks and how many are available! General Creagh - who at the time was double-hatted as both GOC 7th Armoured Division and General AFV ME - made up numbers from a Q.Stats document from March which was itself about 3-4 months out of date. Included in Creagh's totals were tanks his units of 7th Armoured had left behind in Cyrenaica in February!

    It's no wonder researchers have difficulty pinning down details 80 years hence.
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