Understanding British Army Organization

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thethreefates
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Understanding British Army Organization

Postby thethreefates » 12 May 2018 03:22

I'm curious about the British armored fighting units particularly in North Africa. Would units have all the same kind of tank, or would they use a mix of tanks? For example, would a regiment be running Crusaders along side Honeys, or would each regiment have its own dedicated kind of tank that it would run? If they each how their own kind of tank, how far up the organizational structure would they go? Would a division have all the same kind of tank? Thanks in advance for any info!

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Kingfish
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Re: Understanding British Army Organization

Postby Kingfish » 12 May 2018 04:00

thethreefates wrote:I'm curious about the British armored fighting units particularly in North Africa. Would units have all the same kind of tank, or would they use a mix of tanks? For example, would a regiment be running Crusaders along side Honeys, or would each regiment have its own dedicated kind of tank that it would run? If they each how their own kind of tank, how far up the organizational structure would they go? Would a division have all the same kind of tank? Thanks in advance for any info!


At the regimental level the types would be the same but above that it would almost always be a mixed bag.

During the North African theater they went from the pre-war 'A' series Cruisers and Matildas to Valentines, Grants and eventually Shermans. Throw in a scattering of Honeys, CS types and a few Churchills.

Even in the last year of the war it was not uncommon to see Shermans (of various models) alongside Fireflies, Comets, Challengers and Cromwells.

I think the 4th Canadian armored was the one formation that came closest to having the same kind of tank. All 4 regiments were equipped with Shermans, which was in contrast to the British with Sherman/Cromwell mixes.
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Sheldrake
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Re: Understanding British Army Organization

Postby Sheldrake » 12 May 2018 11:01

Kingfish wrote:
thethreefates wrote:I'm curious about the British armored fighting units particularly in North Africa. Would units have all the same kind of tank, or would they use a mix of tanks? For example, would a regiment be running Crusaders along side Honeys, or would each regiment have its own dedicated kind of tank that it would run? If they each how their own kind of tank, how far up the organizational structure would they go? Would a division have all the same kind of tank? Thanks in advance for any info!


At the regimental level the types would be the same but above that it would almost always be a mixed bag.

During the North African theater they went from the pre-war 'A' series Cruisers and Matildas to Valentines, Grants and eventually Shermans. Throw in a scattering of Honeys, CS types and a few Churchills.

Even in the last year of the war it was not uncommon to see Shermans (of various models) alongside Fireflies, Comets, Challengers and Cromwells.

I think the 4th Canadian armored was the one formation that came closest to having the same kind of tank. All 4 regiments were equipped with Shermans, which was in contrast to the British with Sherman/Cromwell mixes.


That is a bit of a simplification.

It made administrative and logistic sense to have the same type of tanks in the same organisation. It was desirable also to avoid mixing AFVs with very different speeds. A unit move is at the pace of the slowest vehicle.

During the North African campaign there were occasions when regiments deployed with a mix of main battle tanks. This was far from desirable and usually as a result of necessity.

Given choice the British deployed regiments with the same type of fighting tank. From 1943 the M5 Stuarts were purely recce vehicles. Armoured regiments would ideally be issued tanks based on the same chassis, either US lease lend M4 Shermans or British Cromwells. A mix of 75mm and 17 Pdr (Firefly) Shermans made sense. There was no 17pdr variant of the Cromwell by D Day and Cromwell equipped armoured regiments received 25% Sherman Firefly.

The armoured recce regiments of the armoured divisions were assigned Cromwell tanks, but no Fireflies. The armoured recce regiment was not supposed be just a fourth tank regiment, but a heavy recce unit. It needed support from the M10s of the divisional anti-tank regiment to take on tanks.

In 1945 British armoured divisions were being re-equipped with the British 77mm Comet.

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Re: Understanding British Army Organization

Postby Gary Kennedy » 12 May 2018 14:37

If you're looking particularly at North Africa, Armd Regts frequently had a mix of tank types from 1942 onwards. AFV returns never go into Regtl detail, they normally focus on a Brigade or Division. There are a couple of books which give an indication of the mix of armour found in 1942. "Divisions of the British Army, 2nd Edition" by Malcolm Bellis and "Orders of Battle" by Joslen.

For Gazala in May-June 1942 Bellis shows;

1st Armd Bde - two Regts each with 1 Sqn Stuarts and 2 Sqns Grants, one Regt only 2 Sqns, both Grants
2nd Armd Bde - three Regts each 2 Sqns Crusader and 1 Sqn Grants
4th Armd Bde - three Regts each 2 Sqns Grants and 1 Sqn Stuarts
22nd Armd Bde - three Regts each 2 Sqns Crusader and 1 Sqn Grants
1st Army Tk Bde - three Regts, all Valentines
32nd Army Tk Bde - three Regts, all Matildas

For Second Alamein Bellis shows;

2nd Armd Bde - three Regts each 2 Sqns Shermans and 1 Sqn Crusader
4th Armd Bde - one Regt, all Stuarts, one Regt with 1 Sqn each of Stuarts and Grants
8th Armd Bde - one Regt with 1 Sqn Crusaders and 2 Sqns Grants, two Regts each with 1 Sqn each of Grants, Crusaders and Shermans
9th Armd Bde - two Regts each with 1 Sqn each of Grants, Crusaders and Shermans, one Regt with 1 Sqn Crusaders and 2 Sqns mixed Grants/Shermans
22nd Armd Bde - one Regt 1 Sqn Stuarts and 2 Sqns Grants, one Regt 1 Sqn Crusaders and 2 Sqns Grants, one Regt 1 Sqn Grants and 2 Sqns Crusaders
23rd Armd Bde - three Regts, all Valentines
24th Armd Bde - three Regts, each 1 Sqn Crusaders and 2 Sqn Grants

I think the latter is largely backed up by Joslen, but that doesn't drill down to Sqn level as I recall. I suspect Bellis put his together through war diaries. 8th Army issued a war establishment table for an Armd Regt in August 1942 which allowed for seven different combinations of tanks;

A - 30 Grant, 16 Crusader (2 pdr), 6 Crusader (CS)
B - 30 Grant, 22 Crusader (MkIII)
C - 30 Sherman, 16 Crusader (2 pdr), 6 Crusader (CS)
D - 30 Sherman, 22 Crusader (MkIII)
E - 14 Sherman, 32 Crusader (2 pdr), 6 Crusader (CS)
F - 30 Grant, 22 Stuart
G - 14 Grant, 38 Stuart

By November 1942 this was superseded with the following;

A - 30 Grant, 22 Crusader (MkII)
B - 30 Grant, 22 Crusader (MkIII)
C - 30 Sherman, 22 Crusader (MkII)
D - 30 Sherman, 22 Crusader (MkIII)
E - 30 Sherman, 22 Stuart
F - 30 Grant, 22 Stuart
G - 30 Grant, 14 Crusader (MkII), 8 Crusader (MkIII)
H - 30 Sherman, 14 Crusader (MkII), 8 Crusader (MkIII)
J - 52 Grant
K - 52 Sherman

I don't know there was ever an all Grant Regt fielded, but the all Sherman model was that used in Sicily and initially in Italy.

Gary

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Re: Understanding British Army Organization

Postby thethreefates » 12 May 2018 15:02

Wow, thank you! This info is really helpful!

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Re: Understanding British Army Organization

Postby Dili » 14 May 2018 00:47

Thanks Gary.


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