Mr Speaker, can I refer to the debate in this House on 2nd August 1944 on the War Situation in which my honourable and gallant friend the member for Ipswich raised the matter of the inadequacy of our tanks. (Columjns 1532-1535
https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1 ... 9cbbbf9e78
My experience as a soldier has been that I know how good and how bad my weapons are, and my grouse is that the House of Commons does not do more about it. I find that to be the point of view of almost every soldier I talk to. I spoke to a friend of mine, who is the commander of a squadron of a very famous regiment, about the relative merits of the Sherman tank, of which we have heard so much to-day, and the Tiger. He told me: "I know what happens, because it has happened to me twice. My squadron, goes over and bumps into one of these Tigers. There are four bangs and there are four of my tanks gone." So far as I know, we have nothing in production which is a complete answer to the Panther or the Tiger.
So here is a member of Parliament saying that in a fight between a Sherman squadron is that four Shermans are knocked out before the Squadron can do anything about it. The Gallant member for Ipswich was major Richard Stokes MC (Labour) and a critic of Churchill's national government. (he raised the Bombing of Dresden the morning afterwards. He was also from a family who had a major impact on military technology. His uncle invented the light portable 3" Stoke's Mortar widely copied as the 81mm Mortar). His informant was probably Major Bob Crisp DSO MC RTR.
The problems that the allies had is that that attributed too much significance to the physical component as opposed to the conc eptual and moral compoents of tank warfare. Here is another quote by Stokes from the same debate
I will repeat what a responsible general told me, after he had seen the Sherman tank and its 17-pounder gun, the American tank with the gun which was not built for it. Anybody who knows about tanks knows that you first decide about the gun, then about the armour, then about the speed. He said: "Relatively speaking, to-day, we are just as far behind the Germans as we were in 1940."
So there was a widespread belief that German success in 1940 was due to more numerous and better tanks - an untruth that may have hindered allied thinking in 1944. Had it been widely known that the Germans succeeded in 1940 despite having fewer and less well armed or armoured tanks then it might have been easier to persuade allied tank crews to rely on tactics.
Hansard also has some comments about tactics against Panthers. Note too the comment about the Germans having a five times advantage this time in range.
I want to read a letter I received, dated 7th July this year, from a fighting soldier in Normandy. He says this:
"The Panther is a terrific tank, and I have closely examined many of them, which is more than the Tank Board has done. It is impenetrable in front but curiously thin on the side."
That is not good enough. That is pretty well what the Prime Minister said. He said that the Panther is vulnerable on the side but you cannot get the devil—I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker—you cannot get this enemy tank always in the flank, when you have to face them hull down and especially when they are in defensive positions. It is preposterous we should try to palm off the issue by saying we have a tank which can shoot the other tank through the side.
That is what caused the failure to break through at Caen.
I have heard stories about a 6-pounder gun putting out Tigers. Of course if you put the shot through a window it will put out a tank, but a gunner does not expect to do that every time. This 75 mm. gun is no use as an anti-tank gun and not very much use as an anti-personnel gun because it is a 6-pounder gun bored out, with a muzzle velocity of 2,050 ft., which is far too low to penetrate any modern armour. It bounces off the outside of the Panther.
I would very much like to be allowed an hour of the time of this great Assembly to develop this issue of tanks. The last time we tried to do so we were put into Secret Session, and as I said on another occasion, that was only to defend the Government because I did not learn anything in that Debate which I did not know before. I do emphasise that responsible people, fighting soldiers—and I hope the Foreign Secretary will reassure us on this point—say that to-day we are as far behind as we were in 1940, relatively speaking. We have the A.22 called the Churchill, and the A.27 called the Cromwell, which has a 75 mm. bored-out gun which is no use against tanks, and we have the Sherman, which is a very good tank. But the other chaps have got 88 mm. guns firing a 24-1b. shot—dead killers at 2,000 yards. It is really no fun for a soldier, however gallant he may be—it really is pretty nerve-racking—going into action against somebody who has a range of something like five to one against him. I hope that the Government will re-assure us that something is to be done and done at once, not because the armament may be necessary—we all hope that with the events that are happening to-day the whole show will collapse before Christmas —but because this is not good enough for the fighting soldiers.