State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
User avatar
sitalkes
Member
Posts: 469
Joined: 18 Feb 2013 00:23

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by sitalkes » 06 Sep 2017 05:12

Planned dispositions for Southern command 1940 The Dark Shaded areas are the GHQ Reserve formation and Corps troops (WO 166/56)
Southern Command dispositions WO 166-56.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
sitalkes
Member
Posts: 469
Joined: 18 Feb 2013 00:23

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by sitalkes » 25 Sep 2017 00:14

A Militarised Island

WE SHALL DEFEND OUR ISLAND’ – INVESTIGATING A FORGOTTEN MILITARISED LANDSCAPE
An archaeology Thesis By Philip Richard Rowe MA BA PCIfA, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Southampton University, December 2014

This 544 page document is full of fascinating details. Some are relatively minor. For instance, it explains the confusion about General Alan Brooke’s name - he is sometimes called General Brooke and General Alanbrooke at others – the reason is that near the end of the war, he was created Lord Alanbrooke, whereas before that time, he was just Mr Alan Brooke.

"Initially only 170 2- Pdr and 100 6- Pdr Hotchkiss AT guns were available in July 1940, and they were to be placed in pill boxes in defensive lines. It was predicated to take four months of uninterrupted production before weapons lost in the evacuation of the BEF could be replaced. Therefore, the British Government placed an urgent order with the (American) National Pneumatic Company for 500 37mm AT guns together with 2000 rounds of solid shot per gun (Alexander: 1998: 24). Although delivery for the 37mm AT guns was anticipated from September 1940 onwards, several delays in production resulted in the first shipment not being ready until March 1941. [A Miltarised Island p. 129]

To supplement the available guns further, 40mm Bofors LAA guns deployed in airfield defence, and mobile HAA batteries sited near the GHQ Line were issued with Armoured Piercing AT rounds (Ordnance QF 3.7-inch Mks I-III and VI: muzzle velocity 1044m/sec; 4.5in Mk 2: muzzle velocity 732m/sec and Ordnance QF 5.25in Mk II: muzzle velocity 853m/sec (Forty: 2002: 220). This allowed the gun crew to engage enemy tanks in the direct fire role, or bombard an area in the indirect role from a static HAA site should the need arise (TNA: WO 166 / 298).

Similarly, field artillery units armed with towable Ordnance QF 25-Pdr Mks I and II guns (muzzle velocity 520 m/sec and 532 m/sec respectively) were issued with AT rounds for engagement in the direct fire role (Figure 73) (Forty: 2002: 215). Designed in 1938 as a replacement to the 2-Pdr, the Ordnance QF 6-Pdr AT gun (muzzle velocity 732m/sec) was due to enter service in 1940, however, due to production issues its introduction did not take place until mid- 1941.”

In Martin Marix Evans’ book Invasion!: Operation Sea Lion, 1940 , it is the intervention of the 3.7” AA guns in the Anti-tank role that turns the tide of his fictional battle. Until reading the above passage I had always pooh-poohed this as being contrary to the very British concept of having certain tools for certain tasks and that’s the only way things should be done. The 3.7” (94mm) gun was similar to the famous German 88mm AA gun, and it has sometimes been asked (e.g. on this forum and the Alternative History forum) why it wasn’t used the same way. There seems to be very little evidence of it being used as an AT gun. The answer seems to be a lack of flexibility (“it’s an AA gun and that’s only what it will be used for”) added to inter-service rivalry (the AA guns in Britain were controlled by AA Command, which was part of Fighter Command). The 88mm guns were part of the Luftwaffe and there were instances of German army officers having to threaten the Luftwaffe crews of getting them to use their guns in a ground support role, but such cases were rare and it was in the ground support role that the “88” became famous.

I knew that the Germans used British maps to plan their invasion, and that this mitigated somewhat their lack of intelligence on the invasion areas. They even had geological maps showing soft sand and possible places to dig water wells. However, this passage describes it most clearly.

"Logistical preparations for a possible invasion of the UK started pre-war with British Ordnance Survey maps, bought openly in London, overprinted in German to detail military objectives. Provided with extra data obtained from the 1937 AA Handbook, a series of 20 map-books entitled
Militärgeographische Angaben über England were subsequently printed by the German General Staff Department for War Maps and Surveying (Generalstab des Heeres. Abteilung für Kriegskarten und Vermessungswesen - Stadtplan Von Bristol representative..”

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 25 Sep 2017 20:35

While the calibre was similar at 94 mm the 3.7" HAA gun was nearly twice as heavy as the German 88 mm guns, at 9350 kg in action and well over ten tons in towing configuration, which means that it was not really a practical proposition as an AT gun (certainly not in the kind of terrain encountered in SE England - wooded and hilly, narrow winding roads). Nevertheless it was so used in emergencies, On the 23rd of May 1940 gunners of 4th/2nd HAA defending Boulogne engaged German tanks over open sights with their 3.7s and claimed two destroyed.

It would perhaps have been possible to set some up in positions where they would have a good field of fire and where German tanks might conceivably pass, say in the area between Ashford and Maidstone which was/is relatively flat and open terrain, but I don't see them being moved quickly around the battlefield to block an enemy advance, as in Marix Evans' book.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Leros87
Member
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Apr 2016 00:35
Location: Kent

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Leros87 » 29 Sep 2017 21:10

Knouterer wrote:While the calibre was similar at 94 mm the 3.7" HAA gun was nearly twice as heavy as the German 88 mm guns, at 9350 kg in action and well over ten tons in towing configuration, which means that it was not really a practical proposition as an AT gun (certainly not in the kind of terrain encountered in SE England - wooded and hilly, narrow winding roads). Nevertheless it was so used in emergencies, On the 23rd of May 1940 gunners of 4th/2nd HAA defending Boulogne engaged German tanks over open sights with their 3.7s and claimed two destroyed.

It would perhaps have been possible to set some up in positions where they would have a good field of fire and where German tanks might conceivably pass, say in the area between Ashford and Maidstone which was/is relatively flat and open terrain, but I don't see them being moved quickly around the battlefield to block an enemy advance, as in Marix Evans' book.
To put it into context, the AA Command had 782 3.7 inch guns, 357 in a mobile configuration, on 25 September 1940. However, of those only 72 were allocated to field operations upon invasion, 24 within XII Corps, 20 in Eastern Command, 16 in Southern Command (based in Portsmouth) and 12 in Northern Command. Their main role would have been to protect the counter offensive operations. The closest deployment on S Day would have been the 12 around Dover. It was a shame that Marix Evans' book descended into fantasy, with the 3.7 inch guns being one aspect.

The Command recognised the effectiveness of the 3.7 inch gun as an A/T weapon in the BEF campaign and also sought to increase the provision of A/T ammo to the 40mm guns. Those defending the radar sites at Rye, Fairlight, Pevensey and Beachy Head could have shocked the attacking Germans accordingly.

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 09 Oct 2017 09:49

sitalkes wrote:A Militarised Island

WE SHALL DEFEND OUR ISLAND’ – INVESTIGATING A FORGOTTEN MILITARISED LANDSCAPE
An archaeology Thesis By Philip Richard Rowe MA BA PCIfA, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Southampton University, December 2014

"Initially only 170 2- Pdr and 100 6- Pdr Hotchkiss AT guns were available in July 1940, and they were to be placed in pill boxes in defensive lines. It was predicated to take four months of uninterrupted production before weapons lost in the evacuation of the BEF could be replaced. Therefore, the British Government placed an urgent order with the (American) National Pneumatic Company for 500 37mm AT guns together with 2000 rounds of solid shot per gun (Alexander: 1998: 24). Although delivery for the 37mm AT guns was anticipated from September 1940 onwards, several delays in production resulted in the first shipment not being ready until March 1941. [A Miltarised Island p. 129]
I'm not aware that the British ever adopted the American 37 mm antitank gun, certainly not 500, so if such an order was ever placed it was apparently canceled later on. However the National Pneumatic Company did produce 37 mm tank guns which were fitted in the Stuart and Lee/Grant tanks supplied to the British from mid-1941 on, hence the confusion perhaps.

How many AT guns the British actually had in September is a bit unclear, the statistics sometimes fail to distinguish between tank and AT guns. The BEF lost a large number of 2-pounder AT guns in France, the number most often quoted is 509 (432 lost by AT regiments and 77 in reserve), with only 176 in the UK and 72 still in France with the "second BEF" by early June according to a report to the War Cabinet. Production, according to the Official History, was 126 in May, 169 in June, 200 in July, 148 in August and 150 in September. 498 were reportedly in the hands of troops in Britain by the end of August, during which month 48 had been sent to the Middle East. It follows that about 600, perhaps a few more, had been issued by the end of September. Assuming a fully equipped AT Regiment with 48 guns in four batteries per infantry division, that was enough for only 12 divisions, or less than half of requirements, taking independent brigades and training units into account.

As regards ammunition, on 16.7.1940 it was reported to the Defence Committee (Supply) that there were 103,000 2pdr rounds on hand. With an estimated 350 AT guns and 250 tank guns of that caliber in service at that time, that made say 100 rpg plus modest reserves; not very much but not a really desperate shortage either. The production forecast at that time was 90,000 rounds per month. For once, that last number agrees nicely with the Statistical Digest, which puts the number of “tank and anti-tank rounds” produced during the third quarter of 1940 at 278,000. Of course, part of that went to the Middle East, but we can assume about a quarter of a million rounds in Britain by the end of September.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 09 Oct 2017 10:42

On the subject of confusion, here's a source of it, a table from the (semi-official) history of the Royal Artillery, The Years of Defeat 1939-41 by M. Farndale (page 264).

Losses are neatly added up, and we see that the ten Anti-tank Regiments lost their full complement of 480 guns, plus 127 in reserve/storage.

Total losses of field, medium, heavy, super heavy and anti-tank guns come to 1954 ... but then, mysteriously, another 518 "guns destroyed in action or accidentally" are added, bringing the total to 2472.

So that would mean that another 25% or so, on average, must be added to the losses per type of gun? But I do not see how that would be possible if the anti-tank regiments, like the heavy regiments and other units, have already lost their full complement plus spares?

A number of authors have put the loss of 25 mm AT guns at 98 on the basis of this table, but overlooked that only the losses of the artillery are listed here, while many 25 mm guns were manned by the infantry, in the Brigade AT companies, for which each brigade's battalions had to find the necessary personnel.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 09 Oct 2017 11:20

Knouterer wrote:
I'm not aware that the British ever adopted the American 37 mm antitank gun, certainly not 500, so if such an order was ever placed it was apparently canceled later on. However the National Pneumatic Company did produce 37 mm tank guns which were fitted in the Stuart and Lee/Grant tanks supplied to the British from mid-1941 on, hence the confusion perhaps.
There is a reference to this order in the Official History, in the volume on Studies of Overseas Supply by H. Duncan Hall and C.C. Wrigley, p.26:

"Apart from one small stopgap order after Dunkirk for 37-mm anti-tank guns (which after long delays in manufacture proved to be useless), the only new guns which it was thought might possibly be obtained from America before the end of 1941 were 20-mm Oerlikon guns."

Assuming this was the standard M3 gun used by the US Army, "useless" seems rather harsh, performance was equal to the British 2-pounder at little more than half the gun weight. Perhaps "useless" in the sense that the British expected to have the 6-pounder available by the time the 37 mm could be delivered in quantity.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

User avatar
sitalkes
Member
Posts: 469
Joined: 18 Feb 2013 00:23

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by sitalkes » 09 Oct 2017 11:50

I think I remember reading somewhere that the 37mm guns were sent to Malaya or Burma or something like that.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1813
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 09 Oct 2017 14:25

Knouterer wrote:
Knouterer wrote:
I'm not aware that the British ever adopted the American 37 mm antitank gun, certainly not 500, so if such an order was ever placed it was apparently canceled later on. However the National Pneumatic Company did produce 37 mm tank guns which were fitted in the Stuart and Lee/Grant tanks supplied to the British from mid-1941 on, hence the confusion perhaps.
There is a reference to this order in the Official History, in the volume on Studies of Overseas Supply by H. Duncan Hall and C.C. Wrigley, p.26:

"Apart from one small stopgap order after Dunkirk for 37-mm anti-tank guns (which after long delays in manufacture proved to be useless), the only new guns which it was thought might possibly be obtained from America before the end of 1941 were 20-mm Oerlikon guns."

Assuming this was the standard M3 gun used by the US Army, "useless" seems rather harsh, performance was equal to the British 2-pounder at little more than half the gun weight. Perhaps "useless" in the sense that the British expected to have the 6-pounder available by the time the 37 mm could be delivered in quantity.
Must be a reference to the Bofors 37mm

Image

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 09 Oct 2017 15:30

The M/34 Bofors AT gun was not an American product. The British Army in North Africa acquired a small batch, maybe two or three dozen, which apparently were intended for Sudan, which was an Anglo-Egyptian condominium at the time, so it seems strange that they were allowed to procure non-British weapons, and that such a country needed and could afford modern AT weapons. Perhaps against a possible invasion from Italian East Africa.

Be that as it may, the British (3rd RHA and other units) already had these guns by mid-1940, so they clearly had nothing to do with any American guns delivered (or not) in 1941. Some were apparently kept in Britain as in the picture above. I assume they were requisitioned while in transit from Sweden.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 3045
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Oct 2017 18:51

Knouterer wrote:The M/34 Bofors AT gun was not an American product. The British Army in North Africa acquired a small batch, maybe two or three dozen, which apparently were intended for Sudan, which was an Anglo-Egyptian condominium at the time, so it seems strange that they were allowed to procure non-British weapons, and that such a country needed and could afford modern AT weapons. Perhaps against a possible invasion from Italian East Africa.
Quite true, however, prewar American Armaments Corporation offered a 37mm cannon for private sales. The design was that of the McClean Ordnance and Arms Company, which rights were acquired from the from Driggs Ordnance & Engineering Company. The National Pneumatic Tube Company, and affiliate of the Elevator Supplies Company, produced ammunition and gun tubes under contract to AAC. AAC sold it to the Netherlands and NPTC sold it to Britain. The gun was not the Ordnance-designed M3/M5 Antitank Gun or the Browning-designed M1 Antiaircraft or M4 Aircraft cannon. Since they were private sales they do not appear in War Department shipments or as Lend-lease.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 10 Oct 2017 08:40

Interesting thread about the products of the AAC. It appears they produced various types of 37 mm guns at the time, naval, AA, aircraft (P-39) and tank (Marmon-Herrington) guns.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/330333/t ... tic+cannon
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 10 Oct 2017 08:51

And a little video of the AAC M21 AT gun, which competed unsuccessfully against the M3 for adoption by the US Army. This (or something very much like it) may well be the gun the British found "useless". It doesn't look very powerful for its calibre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmrcuPja-Ws
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 10 Oct 2017 14:06

And a Pathé newsreel, allegedly from 1939, showing the 37 mm Bofors on a British firing range. Quite possibly the same occasion as the picture above. The low profile of the gun is shown to good advantage.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYlSqjEoMes
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 3045
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Richard Anderson » 10 Oct 2017 15:28

Knouterer wrote:Interesting thread about the products of the AAC. It appears they produced various types of 37 mm guns at the time, naval, AA, aircraft (P-39) and tank (Marmon-Herrington) guns.
Perhaps confusing the issue, AAC produced those, but they were not all AAC designs. If you get the distinction. :D Marmon-Herrington used the AAC design as the basis for the gun in its CTMS and MTLS tanks produced for a Dutch order in 1939-1941. They did also have a variant of that gun on a naval mounting and also a proposed AA variant, but it is unclear how many of such were ever actual produced and sold to various countries. However, the 37mm Aircraft Gun M4 in the P-39 was developed by Colt Firearms from the Browning-designed 37mm Gun T3, while the 37mm Antiaircraft Gun M1 was developed by Colt from the Browning-designed 37mm Gun T2. Neither were AAC designs, they were just contracted to build them.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”