'Cede Nullis' Don Clark and 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by BrianM59, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Now, there are a few reasons I’m putting this up, hence the new thread and one of them is trying to find metaphors and examples to to illustrate the sheer chaos that was the 1940 Normandy campaign. I am also trying to further illuminate the debate about veteran’s accounts as that is a large part of what I am writing about.

    Can I say, I have never met Don Clark and I don’t know if he is still alive - he’d be 92 now, so bless you Don and many many thanks if you are. If forum members have read the book, you’ll know the story as Don has some pretty strange experiences after being detached from his unit, the 2/4th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry near Abbeville on 21st May. It’s a good read, but for illustrating the dilemma of a fact checker, which I am obliged to be of my own work - not of Don’s - it’s useful. There are several incidents Don recounts in the book but one which perplexed and amazed me was this, which occurred on Sunday 16th June at a depot near St Nazaire:

    “…I and a gunner came across a number of four-barrelled electrically controlled pom-poms in a hanger. They were equipped with small motor/ generator sets to power the movement of the multiple barrel AA units, moving in both elevation and direction with their 20mm magazines for each barrel. There was a central seat with a control panel in front of it and an electrically illuminated sighting system of concentric circles on a clear Perspex screen through which you saw the target quite clearly. It was American, a beautiful weapon and we itched to try it out somewhere.”

    And boy, they did - after having a pop at some trees, Ron and his gunner mate heard a ‘heavy tank’ coming up the road and opened fire on it.

    “ I had no hesitation in firing…I held the triggers down for several seconds and watched with some satisfaction as four streams of 20mm shells hit, exploded, made fire, smoke, ricocheted and whined off into the dark in a great blaze of sparks, light, flame and fumes…”
    “Then to our surprise, two teenagers, a boy and a girl jumped out of the cupola, hands above their heads and climbed down the side of the tank, which we could now see clearly was not German…How they missed being killed I don’t know - I suppose you could say they were joyriders, but it had not been much joy for them as they were trembling like aspen leaves from the shock of these few seconds of extreme violence. They seemed to be alright, the tank armour would have protected them really, so we left them to find their own way home, wherever that was and went back for our delayed supper, thankful that the tank had not been German and not the point tank of an advancing German column.”

    Can anyone shed any light on that - were there such weapons, American ones at that? It sounds like a Maxson Quad Fifty, with a British Mark IX naval gunsight, but these weren’t introduced until 1942. I’m not an armaments expert but the only reference I could find was this from a WW2 forum:

    Did some digging but haven't come up with a "hard" date. The Maxson M45 was preceded by the Maxson M33, which was basically the same system mounting only two M2 .50 MG's. The M33 mounted in a M3 halftrack (the M13 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage) was type classified in September 1942. I also know the M45 quad mounted in a M3 was type classified (M16 MGMC) two months later.

    As to a 20mm version, there were a few trial vehicles, but nothing more than that. What I've read is that the 20mm gun, originally procured as a Navy weapon, was initially plagued with reliability problems, and so not very popular with the Army.

    It also sounds like a Vickers naval pom-pom - the QF 2 pounder or ‘Chicago piano’ but there doesn’t seem to have been a land-based version apart from an experimental twin version - and all of these were British as far as I know.
    And what of the tank and the teenagers? I haven’t searched hard, but no references come up in English and French internet searches of such an incident. Part of the subject I’m covering is the enduring popularity of WW2 and its themes and material like this is very important. Very interested in people’s opinions.
     
  2. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    For some reason I thought of the Polsten, but then sanity prevailed and the Oerlikon seemed a better bet (although only a single barrel weapon), this from Wiki

    During the first half of 1939 a contract for 1,500 guns was placed in Switzerland. However, due to delays and then later the Fall of France in June 1940 only 109 guns reached the United Kingdom. All Oerlikon guns imported from Switzerland in 1940 were mounted on various gun carriages to serve as light AA-guns on land.
     
  3. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    For some reason I thought of the Polsten, but then sanity prevailed and the Oerlikon seemed a better bet (although only a single barrel weapon), this from Wiki

    During the first half of 1939 a contract for 1,500 guns was placed in Switzerland. However, due to delays and then later the Fall of France in June 1940 only 109 guns reached the United Kingdom. All Oerlikon guns imported from Switzerland in 1940 were mounted on various gun carriages to serve as light AA-guns on land.

    I did think about that but the sheer spectacle of someone blazing away at a tank with what is indubitably an anti-aircraft gun was what took my attention - and a tank hijacked by teenagers at that!
     

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