British Tank Development.

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by von Poop, Feb 21, 2022.

  1. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Theoretically, the more armoured the gun shield was the more vulnerable it should have been to 2 pounder AP shot, as the more likely it was to have caused the latter to shatter after impact. E.M.C. Clarke refused to put the 2 pounder APHE round back into production as he reckoned that its shatter effect was lower than that of the the AP round.

    There is an incorrect belief around that AP solid shot was supposed to penetrate a tank and then bounce around inside, but this was not the case. The purpose of AP shot was supposed to be that it shattered as it emerged from impact and then blasted the inside of the tank with shards, like a shotgun. When the Germans fitted face hardened armour this had the basic effect of pre-shattering the AP solid shot before it entered the tank. Regarding the 37mm HE round, it's also worth noting that the 5cm HE carried in the Panzer III held no fear for the British.

    The most readily available solution was to use the 3" Howitzer in the CS tanks against AT guns, but the British had hypnotised themselves into the belief that this was an occasion-specific smoke weapon, so we'll never know how effective it may or may not have been.
     
  2. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Can't stand the bloke.
     
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  3. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    Damn another book to buy!
     
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  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    A little later there is a bit of an oddity regarding Churchill Mark Is deployed to Tunisia/Italy. I know I've read of one unit (NIH ?) switching guns so the howitzer was in the turret, and in one case a tank with two howitzers. But I don't know what ammunition loadout these had.
     
  5. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    German AT guns of that season of the war were abysmally small targets though, so sniping them with 2-pdrs would have required considerable effort and training.

    Quite. The shell fragments, added to by those of the defeated armour, would have been very bad news for the crew, and likely ruined a number of crewmen's days. The only downside was that it wouldn't detonate inside, so the fire risk presumably lower, and I wonder if this is one element explaining why so many German tanks in the desert survived for so long?

    Yes, and this was masked for a long time by the Germans fielding a mixed force of G and H variants in the desert, with the latter having face-hardened armour, and the former not. So PR5 (mostly G) suffered accordingly when they went up against 2-pdrs, while PR8 (mostly H) had comparatively more protection. This isn't well understood at all.

    The impact of CRUSADER then was to basically retire the remaining Gs forcibly, meaning that when the Germans emerged from the Marada - Mersa el Brega position on 21 January, all their Panzer III came with face-hardened armour, with a number of them uparmoured to early J built, and the 2-pdr was obsolete overnight. I am not sure how many people have clocked this, as it was a real shift in the tank/AT gun balance in the desert.

    Given the small numbers and the way they were allocated, I doubt it would have made much of a difference. In the immortal ways of stone-paper-scissors that is war, the Germans would probably have recognised the threat eventually and found a way to defeat it. Given it's range the 3" wasn't exactly a wonderweapon.

    But it's instructive to look at the German arrangement (which used the 75mm in the Panzer IV in this way). They allocated 20 Panzer IV to a regiment, and concentrated them in two companies (4. and 8.) with ten each. The RAC allocated 18 CS tanks to a Brigade, so quite similar, but dispersed them across squadron HQs at 2 each, where they could not do very much as concentration was lacking.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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  6. JeremyC

    JeremyC Active Member

    Don't blame me! I didn't want to go to Singapore . . .
     
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  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Well, the AP fragments were supposed to ignite the ammunition or any inflammable liquids if they were present. As far as I'm aware the bursting charges in APHE rounds weren't supposed to be destructive in themselves, but were to ensure the dispersion of the shell fragments. So a bursting charge was kind of a back-up in case you were uncertain whether your shell would fragment on entry e.g. if the armour was too thin or the shell material was too hard. The reason against using a detonating charge was that by definition it reduced the amount of shell material available to fragment. The British thought that the Germans were wrong to use bursting charges in their ammunition, as they would have had no problem fragmenting within the rolled homogenous armour the British employed. Also worth noting that Ordnance Board tests on 5cm APCHE in 1944 showed that the bursting charges only worked 20% of the time.

    Obsolete is a bit strong, as the 2 pounder could still penetrate the sides of the Panzer III and IV from 1500 yards. Note that the Panzer III could not penetrate the sides of the Valentine or Matilda unless it got very close, let alone the front. The face hardened armour presented the British with a tactical problem, but the British didn't do tactical problems - they did whining.

    Yes the 3" Howitzer was limited, but given that German tank gun crews were taught to fire at the last minute, and British tank units tended to stumble upon AT positions rather than spot them from a distance, then I don't see the limited range as an insurmountable problem. And if the AT guns were spotted at long range, then 25 pounder fire could have been employed, if the British were operating with combined arms. The problem with the stone-paper-scissors analogy is that the British tended to choose "stone" and stick with it even when the Germans could totally predict it.

    18 CS tanks concentrated in two companies would have produced quite the smoke screen!
     
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  8. JeremyC

    JeremyC Active Member

    Couldn't agree more - especially the sentence about grenades.

    Does anyone know WHY the British took this approach? An earlier post by DJ names EMC Clarke as the person responsible for not pursuing the 2-pdr AP-HE round, but doesn't give his argument for doing (or rather, not doing) that. The British tested everything else - did no-one ever consider that an HE round would be a good idea for the 2-pdr and run some tests? After all, someone realised the need for an HE round for the Bofors, when that appeared on the scene at about the same time. According to David Boyd's website, some 800-odd thousand rounds of 2-pdr HE were manufactured in 1942-44 - so SOMEONE realised the value of such a thing . . .

    And who decided to equip tanks with a 3-inch howitzer and then decided it wasn't a good idea to issue HE ammunition (in any significant quantity)?
     
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  9. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Also worth considering that from a physics perspective, the shell would weigh less, and have less structural integrity, so it would make it easier for armour to defeat it.

    Whining, and purposely rewriting history to bury unpalatable facts. Worked (and continues to work) to this day. I mean, we all know the 2-pdr was no good against German tanks, right? (waves hands)

    It's amazing how a seemingly simple change suddenly creates an avalanche of consequential changes that would also have to happen to make the seemingly simple one impactful.

    Miaouw.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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  10. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Hey, that was actually an educational detour and you should consider yourself lucky not to be charged for it.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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  11. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I've not seen an official communique from EMC Clarke about why he refused to revive 2 pounder APHE, but fortunately I have the justification he gave to his sidekick George MacLeod Ross:

    emcc.jpg

    Unfortunately it means I also have to walk back part of what I said to Andreas about APHE not being more internally destructive - it evidently was, but had innately less penetrating power. There was actually a 2 pounder HE shell all through the war - the Navy used them - but it was only mated to the cartridge for the tank gun around mid-1943, and that was at the request of the South Africans and Australians, although some were suppled to 21 AG in 1944.

    The story of the genesis of the CS tanks is in the J.P. Harris book. Basically the RTC pioneers realised that their envisaged tank-only force would need to deal with enemy artillery, so they posited some kind of HE weapon that could be fitted to tanks. As at this time they anticipated much firing on the move, they realised that firing HE on the move would be insufficiently accurate, so chose smoke instead as a means of nullifying enemy artillery. This seems to have subsequently hardened into a dogma. But check out the Harris book on this to confirm, as I'm going from memory here.
     
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  12. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    The consequential changes needed to happen anyway. I mean the armoured regiments that pursued the Germans after Alamein were mini combined arms formations: they had a 6 pounder AT troop, a 25 pounder troop, a company of motorised infantry, and a reconnaissance company. Although I haven't seen it stated anywhere official, this was clearly indicative that the armoured regiments were now tasked with seizing and holding ground, as the panzer divisions had been from the start.
     
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  13. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The RTC saw CS as a solution to the odd unexpected A/Tk gun, so it makes more sense (despite the arguable senselessness of the doctrine that got us there) to decentralise them so they're more likely to be available when needed. It's the same as the 'Firefly per troop' v 'Firefly troop per squadron' dilemma - convenience or concentration, speed or strength.

    Were the PzIVs habitually committed as companies, or parcelled out as troops of 3 to each PzIII company in practice? British CS tanks were [supposed to be] the same vehicle as the gun tanks, so there were no admin headaches aside from ammo. Was the reason for the concentration of Pz IVs more mechanical than tactical?
     
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  14. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    So why bother with the small technical change anyway and not go straight to the major consequential changes?

    Yes, I set this discussion up in a way to get here, because I detest What-Ifs centered on technical improvements.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  15. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I'm not a guru on German tank tactics, but prior to 1943 I believe the maneuver unit was the Panzerbatallion, not the company. Concentration of firepower would then be at the company level for the Panzer IV company rather than the troop.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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  16. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Less weight, less structural integrity = less penetrating power.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  17. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Actually I'm now going to backtrack once again, as I'm pretty sure that Clarke's justification for turning down Middle East's requests for 6 pounder APHE was that the fragmentation from the 6 pounder AP rendered a bursting charge superfluous. Just need to remember where he said it...
     
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  18. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Using the CS tanks more aggressively is not a small technical change. It is a tactical change to get more out of a technical component that you have anyway. The Soviets obviously used the CS tanks differently to the British because they prioritised the supply of HE, so it's not like this is a wildly speculative what-if.
     
  19. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Mr. Picky, who has temporarily taken over this keyboard, would like to note that i) equipping CS tanks with HE and ii) using CS tanks in a different way, are not the same thing, whereby i) is the small technical change, and ii) the rather more significant consequential change, which is required for i) to have any impact whatsoever. Of course, ii) could come before i) with i) being a consequence, but that doesn't actually change the fundamental point, namely that i) on its own is irrelevant.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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  20. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Mr. Picky (see above), would like to note that the 6-pdr wasn't marginal in the way the 2-pdr was at that point in the war. AP or APHE would have done the job just fine on 50mm armour, it was neither here nor there and other considerations could prevail. For the 2-pdr, it made a difference.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
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