A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

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Sunbury
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A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Sunbury » 10 Jan 2011 13:50

I have just finished reading Correlli Barnett's book The Audit of War and he is damming in his condemnation of Britsh Tanks.

A sample selection of quotes (pp 161-164)
mechanical abortions that foreshadowed the disastrous car models launched into world markets by the Britisth Automobile Industrty in the post war era...................

over hasty, botched, piecemeal designs and testing, exactly the same calamitous pattern as with the new models of British cars after the war..............

Only a minority of British Tanks could be said to be battleworty while in contrast virtually all the Germam production consisted of first class combat vehicles, even if the Tiger did present some maintenance and transporting because of its size and complexity.......


Barnett seeks to find who is to blame for sending thousands of young men to their deaths in second rate death traps.
He apportions blame between British Industry and the War Office
the mechanical failings of British Tanks were largely the fault of commerical firms incompetent at design, development and manufacture. Batch production virtually by hand, utter want of standardization of parts and componets

The War Office held responsible for the failure to evolve clear design specifications to fit clearly concieved battle doctrine, a failure every bit as damaging and timewasting as those critical historians attribute to Nazi munition administration.


He goes onto discuss that two years after El Alamien, the only single advancement British tanks had done was to marry a 17pdr gun to some Shermans. In the same time the Germans brought out Panthers and the Tigesr to combat the T34.

He does raise a point of the 7th Armoured Divisons poor showing in Normanby, for to long those men had gone into battles in tanks they knew to be inferior. They could take no more.

It is an interesting book, later I will add his views of American tanks but it is bed time here for me
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Aber
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Aber » 11 Jan 2011 15:28

He was an Angry Young Man with an agenda, so should be read with some care.

On the other hand, add 3 months to his arbitrary date and you have the Comet in service and the Centurion in production.

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 11 Jan 2011 19:56

He was an Angry Young Man with an agenda...


mechanical abortions that foreshadowed the disastrous car models launched into world markets by the Britisth Automobile Industrty in the post war era...................


over hasty, botched, piecemeal designs and testing, exactly the same calamitous pattern as with the new models of British cars after the war..............


...and obviously a bad automotive history! :lol: Could have been worse - he could have owned a British motorcycle.... 8O Then he wouldn't have been able to write because of the nervous twitch...

On the other hand, add 3 months to his arbitrary date and you have the Comet in service and the Centurion in production.


Well...EXACTLY! And some considerable time before that - we had the Meteor engine that virtually doubled the motive power available to designers.

Only a minority of British Tanks could be said to be battleworty


The problem with that is - they were in battle and they DID occasionally win them. They got used up/attrited in the same way Shermans did in Europe, for example - they fought. It doesn't really matter how great they were or weren't - they were put in the hands of crews that fought them and died in them and didn't loose the war.

Somewhere in this section there's a thread about the Germans' use of technology; I argued in that that while the Allies didn't necessarily go in for "sexy" solutions anywhere near as much as the Germans did, they used applied technology - they used just as much of it as they needed and no more, and the rest of their resources went into quantity production to make up for that.
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby ChristopherPerrien » 11 Jan 2011 21:06

phylo_roadking wrote:[...and obviously a bad automotive history! :lol: Could have been worse - he could have owned a British motorcycle.... 8O Then he wouldn't have been able to write because of the nervous twitch...


Yes, T.E. Lawrence , developed quite a "nervous twitch", I guess he still suffers from it. :roll: :lol: 8O

Stay-off of motorcycles! British or whatever.

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 11 Jan 2011 21:14

LOL I was thinking more of the endless "tinker time", the bottomless drain on one's wallet caused by chocolate components, engines designed by "nice chaps" who honestly believed that the average mon-fri "ride to work" motorcyclist (pre-small, inexpensive boxes) REALLY lived for those weekly sunday morning lift the cylinder head and decoke/valve lap sessions...the Lucas "Prince of Darkness" electrics (or even.....Wipac... 8O)...rib-and-block tyres for riding over wet wood cobbles... :?
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby murx » 11 Jan 2011 23:05

Wasn't it for the same reason of having bad tanks to have excellent ships? The British was more a Navy-centred army, the German Wehrmacht was focussed on land warfare. Because tanks can't swim and ships don't drive on streets everybody did what he could do best.

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby ChristopherPerrien » 11 Jan 2011 23:53

murx wrote:Wasn't it for the same reason of having bad tanks to have excellent ships? The British was more a Navy-centred army, the German Wehrmacht was focussed on land warfare. Because tanks can't swim and ships don't drive on streets everybody did what he could do best.


Well Find me somebody who thought the Brits had good ships in WWII and your arguement might hold water. :P,
Generally British ships were rated behind German , US , and Japanese ships throughout the war, so what is your point?

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 12 Jan 2011 00:24

Generally British ships were rated behind German , US , and Japanese ships throughout the war


British captial ships the RN began the war with were aging, often in need of major overhauls and recommissioning....but its CLs and CAs and destroyers were class leaders - as were its later battleships, ditto carriers. The RN suffered some major losses - but some amazing victories; just like British tanks, the attrition it suffered was on the way to eventual victory.

In comparison - the KM fielded destroyers that were basically slightly updated WWI designs with bad sea manners and problems shipping water; older light and heavy cruisers that were even more tired than what the RN started the war with - and a small handful of new capital ships that major pluses in their designs - but also major minuses and weaknesses.

And you should remember - the USN didn't spend anything like the time fighting the KM at sea that the RN did :wink: I'm not faulting them for that - but the KM was a shadow of itself by December 7th 1941, courtesy of the RN; just an accident of timing.
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 12 Jan 2011 01:34

But to return to British tanks - some things that can't be ignored....

1/ German tanks weren't THAT superior in France in 1940 - Arras? When a force made up of 2/3s Matilda Mk ONES severly embarassed Rommel? Or the 7th (IIRC) RTR Matilda IIs that made a 130-mile trip back to the start line for Arras....without servicing time in laager at any point in the trip; not bad for a tank that the manuals mandated service intervals of ten miles for! They lost only TWO tanks during the mad long-distance dash - neither of them to mechanical issues.

2/ British development and production was severely hampered by the need to recover from Dunkirk (it affected aircraft production too) No new designs could be introduced for a year; the Churchill as the sole exception...and the SAME moritorium on new designs delayed the introduction of the 6pdr when it would really have been useful.

Unfortunately - that one year hiatus carried forward; we always seemed to remain a year behind everyone until late 1944/early 1945.

3/British tanks suffer from a bad press as much as anything; the Valentine for instance is very much an unsung hero - the Soviets actually used them for hunting TIGERS on the Eastern front because they were so quiet! We also don;t get reminded very often that a lot of those "bad" midwar designs often matured and ended up being usefully upgunned; again, using the Valentine as a good example, we often forget it ended up mounting a 75mm gun in the MkXI!

4/ the Matilda is another example of bad press; an earlier poster noted a top speed of 6mph; this was its top cross country speed in soft/sandy going, it was actually rated at a 15 mph roadspeed.

5/ As I noted before - we were severely hampered by the lack of a decent engine for years; the Nuffield Liberty was tuned to higher and higher output time after time....resulting rather "fragile" examples in the Crusader. It's limited output also resulted in major compromises over armour thickness vs. speed/power; without the power to spare - we couldn't uprate armour enough rapidly enough.

When the Meteor came along - we almost doubled the armour of our next major design, the Cromwell AND added over ten miles an hour more top speed.
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Meyer » 12 Jan 2011 01:42

phylo_roadking wrote:
On the other hand, add 3 months to his arbitrary date and you have the Comet in service and the Centurion in production.


Well...EXACTLY! And some considerable time before that - we had the Meteor engine that virtually doubled the motive power available to designers.



What was so good about the Comet? It was clearly inferior to the Panther or a M26. As for the Centurion, yes the British finally managed to reach the Panther level... more than two years later.
The Meteor? yes it was a good engine, but there were other contemporary engines in other nations that were as or more powerful, and it did have a problem: big fuel consumption, resulting in that a 50-ton Centurion had a greater fuel consumption and a shorter range than a 70-ton Tiger B.

I haven't read that book, but Fletcher also had a pretty low opinion on British tank development in WW2, not much "applied technology" according to him....

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Meyer » 12 Jan 2011 01:57

phylo_roadking wrote:But to return to British tanks - some things that can't be ignored....

1/ German tanks weren't THAT superior in France in 1940 - Arras? When a force made up of 2/3s Matilda Mk ONES severly embarassed Rommel? Or the 7th (IIRC) RTR Matilda IIs that made a 130-mile trip back to the start line for Arras....without servicing time in laager at any point in the trip; not bad for a tank that the manuals mandated service intervals of ten miles for! They lost only TWO tanks during the mad long-distance dash - neither of them to mechanical issues.

.

Severly embarrassed? That's a ridiculous exaggeration.
And, lucky for them, the only tanks that the British fought in that battle were French.
130 miles? are you saying that the British tanks had to march 130 miles to attack?

Arras was a poorly executed attack, they didn't face German tanks, and ended in disaster for the British formations (they lost 68% of the tanks commited). I can't see how this support that the German tanks weren't superior.

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 12 Jan 2011 02:13

What was so good about the Comet? It was clearly inferior to the Panther or a M26


Let's see...the Panther's turret armour was 80mm...then 110...then 100mm...had a range of 160 miles...

The Comet had 102mm frontal turret armour, the extremely accurate HV77mm gun....and APDS munitions. And the two tanks top speed was identical at around 29mph.

I'm sure if we could set ALL of both types' specs side by side we'd note a few percentage points' variation in many other things favouring one then the other...for example, the Comet could climb slightly higher vertical obstacles and cross slightly wider trenches...but the interesting thing is that the British managed this very near equivalence (and superiority in SOME areas) all from a tank weighing only 3/4s that of the Panther...and it didn't have the Panther's coupling gears :wink:

The Meteor? yes it was a good engine, but there were other contemporary engines in other nations that were as or more powerful


The Panther's Maybach produced 13.77 bhp perton...the Comet's Meteor 18.3 bhp per ton!

and it did have a problem: big fuel consumption


The Comet achieved 1.06 miles per gallon....the Panther 3.5 litres per km. I need to ply the calculator in the morning when I'm brighteyed and bushytailed, but I think that gives the Comet a slight advantage.
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 12 Jan 2011 02:50, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby phylo_roadking » 12 Jan 2011 02:33

Arras was a poorly executed attack, they didn't face German tanks


What about the shells of 7th Pz Div that bounced off British Matildas? Rommel's own account of the action notes contact around Wailly (Montefiore P.147) between tanks in the "righthand" column and his PzIIIs, specifically a Matilda II and couple of Is at Beumetz-les-Loges, 6 miles south-west of Arras.

There's also the famous dash of Major John King and Sergeant Doyle of 7th RTR in their Matilda IIs; King took out two PzIIIs that were engaging (and failing to destroy) two Matilda Is.

130 miles? are you saying that the British tanks had to march 130 miles to attack?


The Matilda MkIIs of 7th RTR had to drive 130+ miles to get into position for their attack, yes; the aforementioned Fletcher wrote an excellent article on this forced "march" back from Brussels in CMV about three years ago. They did this with zero mechanical losses; not bad for "mechanical abortions"...though that incredible trip without major services as per the manual and lack of preparation time did admittedly result subsequently in a quite high mechanical failure rate for 7 RTR's MkIIs during the battle.

(they lost 68% of the tanks commited). I can't see how this support that the German tanks weren't superior.


Because the majority of those losses were caused by Rommel's FlaK 18s and 105mm field guns, not 7th Pz Div's tanks!
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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Meyer » 12 Jan 2011 05:28

phylo_roadking wrote:Let's see...the Panther's turret armour was 80mm...then 110...then 100mm...had a range of 160 miles...

The Comet had 102mm frontal turret armour, the extremely accurate HV77mm gun....and APDS munitions. And the two tanks top speed was identical at around 29mph.

Panther front turret armor was always the same, 100mm @12º and 100mm for the round mantlet. But, yes is pretty similar to the Comet's turret. The hull front armor, in contrast was was much stronger in the Panther, only being vulnerable to the Comet's gun at close ranges, while the Panther's gun would penetrate the weak front armor of the British tank at any practical range.
Hull side armor was really weak in the Comet, and that was not an option for the Germans because of the wide use of AT rifles in the Red Army.
The Kwk 42 was a more powerful gun than the QF 77mm, the APDS ammunition make up for that deficiency, at the price of being highly innacurate. It's also worth mention the greater letality of the German rounds thanks to the HE filler.

but the interesting thing is that the British managed this very near equivalence (and superiority in SOME areas) all from a tank weighing only 3/4s that of the Panther...and it didn't have the Panther's coupling gears :wink

There's no equivalence, the Panther was much better protected, had a better suspension, clearly superior perfomance on soft ground (thanks to a lower MMP and a bigger clearance), and carried more rounds for the main gun.

The Panther's Maybach produced 13.77 bhp perton...the Comet's Meteor 18.3 bhp per ton!

The weight of a tank is irrelevant to the discussion of an engine's merits

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Re: A view on why Britsh tanks were so inferior.

Postby Michael Kenny » 12 Jan 2011 06:29

Meyer wrote:Severly embarrassed? That's a ridiculous exaggeration.


Depends how you look at it. In terms of armout then the A4 was frontaly impervious to all the standard German AT weapons. It seems to be a virtue when claimed by a German tank.



Meyer wrote:Arras was a poorly executed attack,


As was Norry-en-Bessin, Lingeveres, Mortain, Cintheux etc. , A poorly executed attack (by any nation) in no way reflects on the quality of the tank.

The Panther was a mechanical nightmare and a broken down 'superior' tank is always the inferior tank. The trick is to get it all to work together rather than picking out only the best aspects and ignoring all the faults.


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