A couple of War Establishment questions

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Don Juan, Oct 19, 2020.

  1. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know exactly how many Infantry tanks were on the establishment of an Army Tank Brigade during 1940-1941? I think it is 156, but I would like confirmation of this if possible.

    Also, does anyone have the establishment for the Recovery Section of an armoured division during 1941?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
    Chris C likes this.
  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think it went up to 174 during 1941 (58 per Bn), plus some Bde HQ tanks. I'll have a look after work if it's not confirmed before then.

  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I remembered correctly, which is always a nice surprise!

    HQ, Army Tank Bde, ref III/1931/8A/3 (Oct 1939) - no tanks
    Army Tank Bn, ref III/1931/33A/3 (Mar 1940) - 50 'I' tanks, 7 light tanks

    HQ, Army Tank Bde, ref III/1931/8A/4 (Apr 1941) - 4 cruiser tanks
    Army Tank Bn, ref III/1931/33A/4 (Apr 1941) - 52 'I' tanks, 6 CS 'I' tanks

    I have WE I/1931/14E/1, an Armoured Brigade and Support Group Recovery Section, RAOC, 7th May 1941 if that's any use?

    ceolredmonger, Chris C and Don Juan like this.
  4. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much Gary!

    Yes I would like the WE for the Armoured Brigade recovery section, if possible - I'm looking at Operation Battleaxe at the moment, where there was a lot of recoverng going on.
  5. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Sorry, didn't get round to this last night. For Battleaxe you'll want something from our 'Middle East' range, sir.


    Attached Files:

    Rich Payne and Don Juan like this.
  6. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much Gary, you are truly a gent.

    Now the tricky bit, which is sorting through the various contraptions. I take it that the "Tractors, 6 wheeled, breakdown, heavy (Scammel)" are Scammell Pioneer recovery vehciles fitted with winches for recovering AFV's. I also take it that the "Lorries, 3-ton, 6-wheeled, breakdown" are (as described) merely tenders for the Sammell Pioneers.

    I then take it that the "Transporters, recovery 20-ton capacity" are Scammell Pioneer tank transporters with the standard 20 ton trailer, and that "Trailer, recovery, 30-ton capacity (Dyson)" was a tractorless trailer that could be connected to one of the Scammell Pioneer tank transporters in place of the standard 20 ton trailer.

    So effectively, for the recovery of its AFV's, and probably also its 'B' vehicles, each brigade had three Scammell Pioneer recovery vehicles and three Scammell Pioneer tank transporters.

    This does not seem like a lot.
  7. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    The 'Lorries, 3 ton, 6-wheeled, breakdown' would almost certainly be those whose bodywork is usually described as 'gantry'. They were built on a number of 3 ton 6 wheeled chassis such as Leyland Retriever, Guy FBAX, Crossley IGL8, and, later in the war, on Dodge WK60 and Austin K6. A shortened and reinforced body with a long beam (protruding at each end) and usable as a simple sort of crane.
    Don Juan likes this.
  8. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The original Armoured Div Workshop of Nov39 allowed for six 'tractors, 6-wheeled, breakdown' and six 'trailers, 4-wheeled' recovery' in the single Main Wksp, plus one more breakdown tractor in each of the three Light Repair Secs.

    1941 is a 'fuzzy' year as regards the Ordnance elements of Armd Divs. There are the trio of WEs for a Light Repair Sec, a Recovery Sec and an Ordnance Field Park Sec, issued in May 1941 (each of which was to serve an Armd Bde or a Support Gp), then just a few weeks later a WE for an Armd Div Ordnance Wksp and accompanying Armd Div OFP. The Ord Wksp had three Groups, one per Armd Bde and one for Sp Gp, each of which included a Recovery Sec, with three '3-ton, 6-wheeled, breakdown' lorries, four 'tractors, 6-wheeled, breakdown' and two '6-ton, 4-wheeled, light recovery' trailers.

    That set-up lasted all of six months, before the introduction of the separate Armd Bde and Sp Gp Ord Coys, which replaced the Ord Wksp/OFP organisation. These both had a Recovery Sec, which at a quick look appears to have been identical to that used in the Ord Wksp of a few months earlier.

    Meanwhile, the Middle East had its own variation of the Armd Bde Ord Coy, dated February 1942. The Recovery Sec of this included four 'tractors, 6-wheeled, breakdown' and two 'tractors, 4-wheeled, breakdown', plus two 'trailers, 6-ton, 4-wheeled, recovery'. There were also three 18/20-ton transporters and one 25/30-ton transporters.

    From memory there was a separate Tank Transporter Coy listed briefly as part of the Armd Div during 1941, before being kicked up towards Corps/Army troops. That may have only been for Home Forces.

    Don Juan likes this.
  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Well this was a period when the British suffered two incidents where they lost large numbers of tanks due to (amongst many other things) inadequate recovery facilities - Rommel's first offensive and Operation Battleaxe. It was argued at the time that the Germans were much better at recovery and I think the assets that they set aside for this task were greater.

    I'm in the early stages of trying to get my head around this, but I'm guessing that there must have been attempts to improve recovery by the British, but these were possibly constrained by the assets available. Certainly by 2nd Alamein recovery was good, but It would be interesting to see if this was a result of iterative improvement.

    One of the notable aspects of Battleaxe is that the lack of recovery facilities meant that when one tank became a crock another tank was immediately taken out of action in order to tow it. This was the very definition of a false economy. I think at one point 6 RTR had ten tanks out of action, with five crocks and five tanks towing them. 7th Armoured Brigade were notably under strength at this time, and still the recovery faciliteis were inadequate. But for a full armoured brigade, you would have three recovery vehicles and three tank transporters for 166 tanks, even before you get to the armoured cars and 'B' vehicles.
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Have we considered the LADs' recovery assets in the totals?

    Unfortunately, the REME staff history doesn't include historical WEs, only what was proposed c1946, but these mention Scammells and ARVs at unit level.
  11. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    No we haven't, and you're right we should. It doesn't add much though, just a 'lorry, 3-ton, 6-wheeled, breakdown' under the May41 LAD Type 'C'. I don't know offhand if there was an Army or Corps level recovery unit at this time, or whether that only appeared in late 1942 as part of REME.
  12. Aixman

    Aixman War Establishment addict Patron

    The Army Recovery Unit came far too late for Battleaxe, but about six months before R.E.M.E. were introduced:

    VI/492/1, An Army Recovery Unit, R.A., Middle East, 01.04.1942
  13. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    I have read somewhere that there was a great shortage of tank transporters and large orders for them had to be placed with the US truck manufacturers. Is this the case?
  14. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Yes, but iirc the transporters that utilised commercial trucks were for use with the transporter compaines and not the recovery sections, as they did not have the required cross-country performance. The transporter companies moved armoured regiments by road in order to save tank mileage. They may also have delivered new tanks to units, although I am not entirely sure about this, as this may have been solely the responsibility of the tank delivery squadrons.

    Incidentally, moving tanks by transporter was quite an in-depth process, with routes having to be carefully pre--planned, tractor vehicles having to be carefully ballasted etc., and was not just a case of driving the tank onto the trailer and setting off that most people would tend to assume.
  15. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for an informative answer. I have been also helped in my limited thinking on the subject by another thread on the import of Sherman tanks into Britain, which brought out some points on the inadequacy at the beginning of railway rolling stock to carry them in Britain, until the Warwell rolling stock was built.
  16. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Thought you might like this ...


    As regards formal establishments for the various formations, units and sub-units, they're not really much help in the desert during this period.

    Take the two Army Tank Battalions 4 and 7RTR as an example. They were both operating under 4th Armoured Brigade control not an Army Tank Brigade. HQ 4th Armoured Brigade was working to a locally written establishment not the WO establishment for either an Armoured or an Army Tank Brigade.

    For BATTLEAXE, 4RTR commenced with 2 A9 Cruisers tanks, 44 Mk.II Infantry tanks and 6 Mk.VIc Light tanks. 7RTR would have been similarly equipped. 4th Armoured Brigade also had A Sqn, 3rd Hussars under command with 15 or 16 Light tanks of Mk.VI/VIa/VIb flavour. HQ 4 Armoured Brigade had at least 4 A10 Cruiser tanks at the beginning and an unknown number of Mk.VI variant light tanks.

    Hope that helps!
    Chris C likes this.
  17. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    delete double post

Share This Page