PIAT Questions

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by JDKR, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I would very grateful for help in answering these PIAT questions:

    1. Was there an established post in the rifle platoon for a PIAT 'gunner'? (it doesn't appear in the Nov 44 establishment)
    2. If there was no established post was a rifleman 'misemployed' to be the platoon PIAT gunner?
    3. Were all infantrymen trained in its use? (as we were with the 84mm Carl Gustav)
    4. Was the scale of issue 3 per rifle company (i.e. one per rifle platoon)?
    5. How many bombs were routinely carried in the platoon?

    Best wishes

  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I've only ever seen two WEs as I recall where a PIAT operator is specified; one is for the Commando (1943) and the other is for a RA unit serving as an Inf Bn Type "C" from April 1945, on occupation duties. There's no indication in Inf Trng or the like as to who might be best employed in the role. Wargamers have I think over the years concluded that orderlies and batmen were so tasked, but I think they both had other things to do. Oddly enough it's exactly the same for US units and bazookas, loads of the things slopping about but no one taking responsibility...

    The scale of issue did differ dependent on the type of unit, but the standard Rifle Coy had three Boys atk rifles pre-war and that scale carried over with the PIAT; officially they were kept at Coy HQ and allocated out as required. I've always assumed everyone was shown how to use the weapon, but I think it favoured those of a robust build. Re ammn I've not seen an official figure, I've tended to think of it as six (two triple containers).

  3. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    In Canadian infantry units, the platoon headquarters contained the support weapons of the platoon; including the two-inch mortar and PIAT, along with a radio (with the platoon commander's batman often acting as the radioman). Officially, it was issued on the scale of one to every platoon of infantry (36 men).
    Also one per Carrier Sec, 3-in Mortar Sec, and a few more with the HQ Coy in Inf and Motor Battalions. Some Anti-tank Regiments show one listed per Troop HQ.
  4. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    Hello John,

    I am reading "Breaking the Panzers" by Kevin Baverstock at the moment. This book tells the story of the 1st July 1944 when the Tyneside Scottish defended Rauray against the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions. On page Page 16 Cpl G Cowie a Section Commander relates how when training for Normandy in early 1944 the whole Battalion was introduced to the PIAT and everybody learnt to us it, but with an effective range of no more that 100 yards it was regarded as a suicide job to use it. Consequently each platoon "appointed" (loose term meaning pressganged) two men as PIAT men just the same process as for the 2" mortar. Like modern day these "specialists" were probably attached to the Pl. Sgt for deployment as required. "Bring up the PIAT".
    The Carrier Platoon also had a PIAT per Section which also makes sense as they often acted as flank protection and as a fire brigade if the enemy broke through.

    Kind regards,

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  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    On Chindit 1, each column had a PIAT, usually contained within the Support Platoon. With the absence of tanks in the operational area, this weapon was used to stop enemy river craft on the Irrawaddy and other waterways.
  6. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Not adding much to this particular discussion but I was just reading an excerpt of a personal diary of one of my Dad's mates who wrote the below while he was a trench on Stuka Ridge north of Bou Arada:

    Sunday Feb 21st 1943.

    "72 guns moved up and some Churchill tanks. Think the 11th Armoured are relieving us soon. Went for information on the PIAT. Earmarked as instructor for NCO’s cadre when Batt. comes out of front line..."

    I think the Brigade diary called it a "Jeffreys Projector"

    I'm seeing the gentleman in question in a couple of weeks and shall ask him more.. I know he wasn't a fan...
  7. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Many thanks to you all. My suspicion is that there was no established post and that hapless members of a rifle section were appointed to be the PIAT gunner and his No2 (or was there are a No 2?). I wish I could remember how it was with the 84mm 'Charly G' but it's all too long ago!


  8. hoolig

    hoolig Member WW2 Veteran

    I was 15 and in the Home Guard in WW2 I had the opportunity to fire two rounds from a PIAT.
    But when I joined the Army in 1944 I never saw any PIATs.
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Perhaps it was considered a 'store' that was dished out to the most relevant section at the time, be it the one nearest the road in defence, the reserve section in an attack, or whatever?
  10. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Not directly related but more conversation on the PIAT here:

    Battle Experience Questionnaire

    From the Battle Experience Questionnaire responses, very highly regarded by Canadian infantry officers:
    "Not every officer noted a particular weapon as being especially effective or ineffective in battle; those who did illustrate the great variety of experiences, as there were many disparate views on weapon effectiveness. A few particularly prevalent patterns of weapons use stand out, however. The PIAT was listed as being “outstandingly effective” far more than any other weapon (it was listed as such in 74 surveys). This was due not only to its tank-killing power, but also owing to the fact that its high-explosive bomb could also be put to good use against “soft” infantry targets., Furthermore, only three officers listed the PIAT as being an “ineffective” weapon."
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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  11. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    For the sake of brevity... Wessex Warrior's answer certainly marries up with the most common approach I've seen.

    There is a degree of variation even within a Division. For example PIATs were kept well up by most of 53rd Division's Bns but 1 East Lancs (and seemingly units in 71 Brigade) did not. Prefering to keep them on the Company Jeep and bring them forward as needed, however after *the incident* at Bois-Halbout where they very nearly became horribly unstuck, this was quickly rescinded and they manhandled them forward in each Platoon.

    Broadly each Infantry Platoon had one and each Carrier Section had one.

    As for who carried them, again varies unit to unit. Proficiency is required to effectively use one, something that many people lacked (or simply didn't believe - hence another marmite rep.) Officers occasionally would assemble tank hunting parties as well, so a flexible asset held at Platoon Headquarters and sent forward when needed.

    Number of bombs etc... often varies, one notable quick action in Falaise has the Sergeant carry forward two containers (so six rounds) with the weapon into action.
  12. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    The rocket launcher then CG teams moved with platoon hq.not part of O group but stayed with plt sgt .when 66 introduced it went down to section level.
  13. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I remember my late father saying that he and a colleague tested a PIAT against an already knocked out Panzer in Italy, not sure but likely to be a Panther or Tiger I.
    He was not impressed as a the round just bounced off the armour. This did not help with confidence!
    He also said it was extremely hard to re-cock whilst in a prone position.
    This was with the 4th Reconnaissance Corps.
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just been looking for something in Monty's Ironsides and noticed:

    This is in the section re Operation Mitten - Mitten | Operations & Codenames of WWII
    "Len Beevers was 13 Platoon 'C' Company PIAT man"

    "Lens PIAT team was sent to help 'B' Company, which had lost its PIAT gunners and was in trouble with a tank"

    From reading these it would seem to me that soldiers were designated as a small team

  15. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    From your replies and my own research it appears, so far, that:

    1. The PIAT had a No1 (the firer) and a No 2 (ammo carrier).
    2. The weapon and its ammo was permanently allocated to these two men but they were not in established posts, meaning that the platoon was short two riflemen.
    3. Each rifle platoon had a PIAT.
    4. The probability is that all members of the rifle platoon were trained to a rough and ready standard in its use.
    5. The first line ammunition scale was six bombs carried in two containers.

    There are good references to the PIAT's use in Peter White's 'With the Jocks'. From this book it is clear that the PIAT was operated by a named team and that they were more than ready to have a go at Tigers with the weapon. Rather them than me.

    Many thanks again for all the contributions.

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017
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  16. hoolig

    hoolig Member WW2 Veteran

    There was no Piat in the platoon that I was in, 1944--1948
  17. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Hmmm. Interesting. Presumably you had to rely on the anti-tank platoon's 6 pdrs. For all the PIAT's drawbacks I think I would rather have had one than not. Assuming you served with the Somerset Light Infantry then perhaps it depended on the theatre of operations in which your battalion served. Maybe the battalions serving in the Far East and Italy were not issued with PIAT as the armour threat was not as great as in NW Europe. Many thanks for your reply.



    PS I served for 2 years with the Australian Army at Canungra, which is not far (at least not in Australian terms!) from Deception Bay.
  18. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Ernie Wills told me he was the PIAT chap in his part of the 12th Kings Royal Rifle Corps when they fought at Tessel Wood in Normandy. Several accounts about the battle in the article linked to below, including mention of Ernie. No mention of PIAT but there are other documents referenced in the various articles and they might give clues??

    The Creully Club - Newsletter
  19. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    There is obviously a wide range of opinions as to the utility of the Piat and clearly very different philosophies as how to deploy them. Given that not everyone was enamoured with it, I am curious if any Allied infantry units made use of captured Panzerfauste or Panzerschreck weapons. I don't recall seeing any references to that practice but as they were arguably a superior anti-tank device I see it a distinct possibility.
  20. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think the British/Canadian/US approach was largely to have the weapons available to rifle subunits, but not have them permanently manned. I wonder if the frequency of encounters between Allied infantry units and Panzers might have become a little overstated and make it seem that no Rifle Platoon would feel secure without its PIAT or Bazooka in hand. That contrasts with German and Red Army practice, who had specified personnel for their anti-tank rifles, continued by the Germans for their Panzerschrecks (Panzerfausts were treated pretty much like hand grenades).

    I'm just reading through G Company by Noel Bell, and I think there's only passing mention of their PIATs and I'm up to the Rhine crossing. Certainly the basic PIAT issue was one per Rifle Platoon, though they were distributed throughout units of Divisions and higher, and when they were used in anger it was best to have a gunner and loader assigned.

    There is the legend of the US 82nd Airborne Division making use of Panzerfausts; I say legend because having tried to trace the source it was a case of some saying the items were picked up in Sicily or Italy and others they were captured in the Bulge. Both could be true of course, but I recall it seemed a bit confused. I think there's more solid ground for the US 2nd Armored Division making a conscious effort to replace its Bazookas with captured Panzerschrecks, detailed in the report by the Div on the quality of US equipment versus German.

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