What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Urmel » 21 Dec 2019 11:39

Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 01:44
I cannot find any account of 3.7in HAA engaging tanks in Normandy either. But that is the point. Even without any use of HAA the ONLY weapon mentioned specifically in the August notes is the "9.2 cm AA/Atk guns"
In Libya in 1941 the Germans referred to the Bofors as Pakflak (AA/AT). This isn’t the only reference to use that term.

It’s also in the context of what could kill a Tiger at long range, and may only have been mentioned because it was a possible new weapon to do so. We don’t know and can only speculate about what went through the mind of the man writing the report.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Sheldrake » 21 Dec 2019 14:50

MarkN wrote:
20 Dec 2019 23:07
On several occasions you have pointed to the 103 HAA Regt in 1941. What exactly was their intended role? Was it darting around the battlefield as a sort of fire brigade unit or was it a more static last line of defence type thing? Or something else? Are there any reports that describe lessons learned and recommendations of how it could / should be introduced into a more recognised dual role? The ME doesn't ever seem to have even experimented with putting HAA into manouver units and formations. Is that because of the 103 HAA Regt experience?
The short answer is that I don't know and havent seen much detail. A lot of the answers to this were not known at the date the unit was ordered to take on a dual role. As I have mentioned there was nothing in British contemporary written doctrine about deploying HAA within a divisional area in attack or defence. But British military doctrine was never hard and fast and the Empire was built and defended by soldiers who applied common sense.

There were drills for engaging tanks or other ground targets with AA guns. AA Command has a section on the preparations for the threatened German invasion in 1940, including ensuring gun pits offered a clear field of fire to local ground targets. "Lessons from the BEF" included a mention of the effectiveness of the 3.7 HAA as a tank killer. The history of 103 HAA says
11 AA Bde was not in existence and a mobile drill was evolved on Fd Arty principles. Courses for officers began in OCT 41 at Blandford and shortly afterwards the Blandford “bible” came out. Our trg had been largely on the same lines so there was very little to re-learn. Most officers went on courses in the Spring of 42.

In JUL 41 we became a “Bargain” regt on the special service roster with an anti-invasion role to proceed to Bedford and Bletchley and if required in an anti-tank role on the east coast in case a 90 ton tank invaded us. This never materialized. but the tiger tank KW VI appeared in Egypt in 1942. The Hun may have had. an experimental tank of that weight.

After a few staff exercises we made our debut on the road each battery in turn doing a 3 day exercise. Many will remember how the cooking arrangements started at nil of the first day. This was followed by a 3 day exercise of the whole regt in Shropshire under Brig Crewdson. A week later we did a 3 day exercise under our div comd Maj Gen Cadell in the North of Lancashire. On 25 SEP we went to Basingstoke and took part in BUMPER exercise in the Aylesbury-Fenny Stratford area until 5 OCT.
Deployment to Bletchley or Bedford in the event of a threat suggests that operationally the unit was envisaged as a mobile fire brigade.

They took part in the big Ex BUMPER. Maybe the exercise reports will have something to say

Home Forces Command seem to have learned a lot about dual role and extended the use even further.

11 AA Brigade ran a conversion training programme to re train AA Regiments for an expeditionary role from 1942-3. It would be surprising if its syllabus did not draw on the lessons learned by the Op Bargain units. The "Blandford Bible" must refer to the procedures for AA units in the field.

By 1944 the HAA units of the 21 st Army group were expected to have secondary roles as medium, anti tank and coastal defence artillery. HAA was given priority over medium artillery in loading tables because of its flexibility. The need never arose to test the anti tank defences of the D Day Beaches, but HAA had secondary anti tank positions covering armoured approaches. (Some units deployed captured 88mm Anti tank guns in these positions.) The early warning and gun laying radars in Heavy AA units gave them a serious coastal defence capability. Not only could they engage German craft but they could also plot where German aircraft had dropped mines beyond AA range. 103 HAA landed on D Day on Sword beach.

In the anti tank role the HAA in Normandy were part of the beachhead defences whose infantry was from the Battalion assigned to each beach.As medium artillery they were usually assigned as batteries or troops under the command of a medium or heavy regiment.

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Sheldrake » 21 Dec 2019 15:29

MarkN wrote:
20 Dec 2019 23:54
Your point is premised upon the "complication" being significant; that the problem was significant enough to make a profound change to the German/Italian tactics to the benefit of the British. How about looking at how the British adapted their tactics to the presence of the 88mm, to what extent, and the consequences of doing so.
A good question.

The deployment of 88mm guns from spring 1941 was a mile stone that marked the end of a happy time for British Armour in the Middle east. Until Op Brevity armour could over-run (mostly Italian) infantry with impunity. After this point no armoured attack could succeed without suppressing enemy anti tank guns.

Before WW2 tanks were one of the big ideas that soldiers thought would would avoid the attrition and stalemate of WW1. Bold use of massed tanks would cut rough foot soldiers and destroy their C2. (A second was that bombers would strike at the enemy industrial heartlands and defeat the enemy without the need for heavy ground casualties.)

Tanks seemed to be working well for the Germans in Poland, France and Russia and against British South African, Indian and New Zealand infantry at various times in the Desert. Tanks also worked well for the British against the Italians. Most armies entered WW2 with too few anti tank guns, and to small a calibre to deal with heavier tanks at all engagement ranges. But the writing was already on the wall.

The Germans had more practise defending against massed tank attacks than any army in the world - from their WW1 experience. The Germans entered Ww2 with a higher proportion of anti tank guns and field and AA artillery trained and equipped to engage tanks. The Arras counter attack of May 1940 failed with the loss of most of the armour to field guns and HAA from the 7th Panzer Division. Rommel already knew how to defeat British Armour.

There was no simple solution to a combination of good anti tank defences within a balanced all arms force. Montgomery won the October El Alamein battle after grinding the Germans down through attrition. Rommel;'s offensive magic failed once the British were properly equipped and organised with anti-tank weapons. There were no more Blitzkriegs.

The development of effectiove hand held anti tank weapons made the situation worse. Sure artillery and aircraft could suppress anti tank guns once they had been found. But the depth of their defences could also be increased until in Op Goodwood they stretched beyond artillery range, From Op Goodwood onwards major allied attacks would be supported by heavy bombers dropping a tonnage of bombs comparable to tactical nuclear weapons.

By 1942-3 warfare looked a lot more like WW1. WW2 would only end after a monstrous battle of attrition.

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Urmel » 23 Dec 2019 16:02

Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 15:29
The deployment of 88mm guns from spring 1941 was a mile stone that marked the end of a happy time for British Armour in the Middle east. Until Op Brevity armour could over-run (mostly Italian) infantry with impunity. After this point no armoured attack could succeed without suppressing enemy anti tank guns.
Not really, no. Italian AT was perfectly good enough to teach 22 Armoured Brigade a thing or two at Bir el Gubi. I-Tanks yes, cruisers, definitely not. Rubbish tactics were punished. The fact that they even attempted this at Bir el Gubi as well as numerous lessons learnt docs show that the British did not get the message.
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 15:29
Tanks seemed to be working well for the Germans in Poland, France and Russia and against British South African, Indian and New Zealand infantry at various times in the Desert.
Not really, no. Sidi Omar on 25 November is an object lesson in this regard. When they went in again three weeks later at Pt.204 that lesson had been learned, and the Buffs had their rear handed to them by KG Menny. Here is its OOB, so you can see it wasn't tanks what did the Buffs in, but a well balanced force.

https://rommelsriposte.com/2014/01/22/b ... rikakorps/
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 15:29
Tanks also worked well for the British against the Italians.
See above.
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 15:29
The Arras counter attack of May 1940 failed with the loss of most of the armour to field guns and HAA from the 7th Panzer Division. Rommel already knew how to defeat British Armour.


It would be interesting to look at who came up with the Flaechenmarsch tactic. My understanding is that it was 15.PD and not Rommel.
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2019 15:29
There was no simple solution to a combination of good anti tank defences within a balanced all arms force. Montgomery won the October El Alamein battle after grinding the Germans down through attrition. Rommel;'s offensive magic failed once the British were properly equipped and organised with anti-tank weapons. There were no more Blitzkriegs.
I'm of the view that the AT defense issue here is one of co-incidence and not correlation.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Dec 2019 18:30

No one can prove how much better, if at all, British would have done a lot better in the Western Desert if they had redeployed a portion of the available HAA to operate as anti tank weapons.

However, retaining all of the HAA against the air threat in the middle east violated one of the principles of war - concentration of force.

The main effort from June 1941 was the defeat of Rommel in North Africa. That isn't a hindsight view. Failure against Rommel cost Wavell, Auchinleck, Cunningham, Ritchie, Creagh their careers and Gott his life. No one would have been sacked if they had stopped Rommel at the cost of bombs on Haifa.

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Urmel » 23 Dec 2019 20:10

That's too simplistic IMO. The allocation of AA barrels reduced the need for fighter cover in a pretty constantly constrained situation. This was made explicit before CRUSADER, where based on the experience in BATTLEAXE the army was told that the fighters would not be their umbrella, and they were being given guns to make up for it. Similar with airfield defense, where rather than having wasteful standing patrols they relied on AA. So the effect of allocating guns was to free up planes, which ultimately were more useful to the operations.

All of this before we get into the question of doctrine and training. I still don't get how people blithely assume that the same tank force that was incapable of integrating guns allocated to it in 1941 would magically have done so if those guns had been 3.7" guns.

PSA: I'm not going to respond to anything from Gooner1 posted in reaction to this post.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Urmel » 25 Dec 2019 18:46

Here's some more info on German tanks against 25 pdrs, and the use of 88mm guns. My observations as follows:

1) German tanks seem to have had no issue getting hull down, and spotting may have been done on this occasion by another vehicle (and nothing would technically prevent this). So no problem going turret down either in a typical tactical situation if enemy AT assets require that.

2) The 88s clearly worked closely integrated with the tanks, working under command of the tank regiment. This requires practice and an agreed doctrine. This didn't exist in 7 Armoured Division in 1941. You can't just magically get the same effect by adding the guns.
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The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Jan 2020 22:34

Here is my final thought on this topic.

Tanks were one of the big ideas that some thought might revolutionise warfare, enabling armies to avoid the bloody stalemate of the Western Front. No one knew whether tanks would deliver these results. Most armies invested in too few anti tank guns and of too small a calibre.

Every combatant had heavy AA guns roughly comparable to the 3.7” gun, and by the end of WW2 almost all armed their tanks and anti-tank artillery with guns based on their Heavy AA Guns. The German 88, Tiger, Jagdpanther & Hornisse; the Russian 85 mm in the SU 85 & T34/85,and the US 90 mm in the M 36 tank destroyer and T26 Pershing tanks. Except for the British, who neither used their excellent 3.7” AA Gun nor the 3 inch 20 cwt gun it replaced as an anti-tank gun in North Africa.

Most of the explanations as to why this happened are weak excuses for that failure. If we treat this as a case study in innovation the important matters are what might have hampered the British in drawing obvious conclusions. http://www.theobservationpost.com/blog/?p=2194

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 10 Jan 2020 21:08

Sheldrake wrote:
09 Jan 2020 22:34
Most of the explanations as to why this happened are weak excuses for that failure.
Except all of the ones that aren't weak and that have been discussed in this thread.

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 Jan 2020 12:37

An interesting perspective on the need for robust AA defence of RAF advanced landing grounds during Op CRUSADER can be found at this link:

https://rommelsriposte.com/2013/11/25/t ... mber-1941/

Regards

Tom

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Re: What prevented the QF 3.7-inch AA gun being used in the Anti Tank role.

Post by Dili » 26 Jan 2020 01:12

Nice one, had missed that.

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