State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

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

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 15:24

As appears from the foregoing, this collection of civilian weapons was mostly a nice gesture and a morale booster. Also, most of this disparate weaponry arrived when the Wehrmacht was already fully occupied in the east and the threat of invasion had all but disappeared.
From a history of the 20th (Sevenoaks) Battalion of the Kent Home Guard:

"It is most interesting to record here that in April, 1941, the Battalion received from the "American Committee for the Defence of British Homes" a quantity of shotguns, pistols and binoculars collected from all over the United States - a most unexpected but welcome gesture. These weapons, etc., were exhibited under the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes at the Camouflage Net Centre in Sevenoaks High Street. A photograph of the exhibit with a view of the shop front, unchanged since the Napoleonic threat of invasion in 1810, was sent to every donor with a letter of thanks from the Home Guard using his weapon."

There were other private initiatives by US citizens in 1940/41. Americans living in London set up their own Home Guard unit and the father of one of them sent them a bunch of Winchester semi-auto carbines. Col. Colin Gubbins, who was organizing a stay-behind network to wage guerilla war in case of invasion, recalled in his memoirs that he received a box from an American well-wisher holding two Thompsons plus assorted handguns and ammunition. Reportedly, some US law enforcement agencies sent firearms confiscated from criminals. And here is an official document from October 1940 stating that the War Office raised no objection to the importation of 25 .45 Colt pistols to arm the HG unit of the Firestone factory in Middlesex. I assume that this was a gift from employees and/or management of the parent company in the US - even if British subjects had had the necessary dollars to buy guns in the USA, they would not have been allowed to spend them, there were very strict currency controls in place. Even government departments were not allowed to spend a single US dollar without authorization from a special committee at the Treasury.
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Knouterer
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 15:41

The US government sold vastly greater numbers of "surplus" military small arms to the British in June 1940. These included 750,000 .30 M1917 rifles, over 80,000 machine guns of various types (including 25,000 BARs), 20,000 M1917 revolvers, etc. A first convoy with 250,000 rifles arrived on July 9th, another 200,000 on July 31st. These were distributed to the Home Guard (and some army units) in a tearing hurry. In total, according to the Official History of the US Army, 1,135,000 “surplus” rifles were sold to Britain up to Feb. 1941 (Congress approved Lend-Lease in March). However, the available amount of .30 ammunition was limited. Canada sent 75,000 .303 Ross rifles (of which 5,000 were diverted to the Irish Republic).

In 1940, the British government also ordered large numbers of .45 Thompson M1928A1 submachine guns (about 55,000, at $ 225 apiece initially) from Auto-Ordnance, a private company, which had contracted out production to Savage Arms. However, only part of these (perhaps 15,000) had been delivered by the end of the year. In the end, the British acquired over half a million Thompsons.

Other American companies also provided small arms to the British government; Smith & Wesson faced bankruptcy in 1939 but was saved by the British, who bought up all available stock and placed several large orders, for example on 28 May 1940 for 65,000 revolvers. At about the same time Colt received an order for 20,000 more.

One final remark: it has been claimed that the private firearms collected by the abovementioned committee were "borrowed" and I have noticed Americans complaining on internet forums about those nasty cheating Brits not returning their grandfather's rifle. But in fact the ads placed by the committee in The American Rifleman and other publications (see above) made it fairly clear they were soliciting gifts, there was no mention of eventually returning anything. Such a promise would have been hard to keep if the Germans had invaded as expected. Apart from that, the cost of returning weapons to individual donors would in some cases - as with the cheap little .32 revolver pictured above - have exceeded the value of the item.
Last edited by Knouterer on 18 Mar 2018 18:07, edited 2 times in total.
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Richard Anderson
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Mar 2018 17:11

Knouterer wrote:One final remark: it has been claimed that the private firearms collected by the abovementioned committee were "borrowed" and I have noticed Americans complaining on internet forums about those nasty cheating Brits not returning their grandfather's rifle. But in fact the ads placed by the committee in The American Rifleman and other publications (see above) made it fairly clear they were soliciting gifts, there was no mention of eventually returning anything. Such a promise would have been hard to keep if the Germans had invaded as expected. Apart from that, the cost of returning weapons to individual donors would in some cases - as with the cheap little .32 revolver pictured above - have exceeded the value of the item.
You have to understand, you tricksy Limeys done violated their God-given 2d Amendment rights... :lol:
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Knouterer
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 21:48

Not me, I'm Dutch, I swear I'm not withholding any precious American heirlooms. One more bit of info, from S.P. Mackenzie, The Home Guard - A Military and Political History, p. 66, about this American Committee for the Defense of British Homes:

"This private US group had accumulated a quantity of donated revolvers and rifles and was looking for a way to get them into British hands. As the wheels of bureaucracy seemed to be moving too slowly, the committee was quite happy to accept private requests for shipment from the newspaper proprietor Edward Hulton, a great supporter of the Home Guard, and from another press baron, Lord Beaverbrook, who as Minister of Aircraft Production was quite happy to short-circuit normal channels in order to equip his MAP factory units.
Moreover, once Beaverbrook had received the weapons he refused to give any of them up to the War Office. "Nobody shall deprive me of the reward for well-doing", he sharply informed Eden in early October when the latter requested that at least some of the donated equipment be turned over to him."

Beaverbrook was the self-appointed "supreme commander" of the Home Guard units formed by his workers and was constantly trying to poach weapons, and armour plate for improvised armoured vehicles, to the irritation of (among others ...) general Alan Brooke, Commander Home Forces.
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by sitalkes » 16 Apr 2018 02:01

Interesting post by Sheldrake "At the end of 1940 there were over a thousand 3" 20 cwt (76.2mm) AA guns available after their replacement by the 3.7" AA Gun. These were eventually given to the merchant navy (with RM or RA detachemens) or to the USSR." I hadn't heard of this before, seems like it would have solved a lot of the AT gun shortage problems

https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic ... 7#p2131237

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

Post by Knouterer » 19 Apr 2018 08:39

There was some exchange of 3" 20 cwt guns between the Navy and the Army, but I really don't see where those thousand guns would have come from all of a sudden. The HAA situation was broadly satisfactory at the end of 1940 but still below requirements.

The table below, from Dobinson's history of AA command, shows gun holdings in 1940/41, including those in training units. Between May and June the number of 3" guns, both HAA and LAA, increases a little bit, not from of new production but because old guns were still being taken out of storage and reconditioned. In 1941 numbers go down a bit but certainly not by a thousand at once.

The Navy had 875 3" 20cwt guns (of four different marks) on the outbreak of war, plus 2,646 12pdrs, also of 3" caliber but at 12cwt a much lighter gun (and not much use for AA work).
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Knouterer
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 19 Apr 2018 10:25

Further to that, the Statistical Digest gives production numbers for the fourth quarter of 1940 as 357 light (40 mm) and 256 heavy (3.7in and 4.5in) guns, which also doesn't point to a sudden surplus of a thousand guns.
Those numbers are higher than the increase as reflected in the table above, but that can be explained by the numbers of guns sent overseas in that period to reinforce the AA defences of various threatened points, notably Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria.

Production of naval guns for the same period included 193 "long range" AA guns, mostly 4in guns in twin turrets I assume - these were the main armament of new Hunt class destroyers and some sloops, and of older V & W class destroyers as they were converted for escort work. 242 "short range" AA guns (40 mm Pom-Pom) and 470 .5 Vickers machine guns were also produced for the Navy in that quarter. The 40 mm naval Bofors and the 20 mm Oerlikon were not in production yet - only about a hundred Oerlikons had been acquired from Switzerland before the Germans cut off the supply.

HMS Kelly was reportedly the first RN destroyer to have Oerlikons, but probably not before she returned to service in Dec. 1940 after extensive repairs. The battleship Rodney had two Oerlikons (on top of “B” turret) by August, in addition to three octuple pom-poms, eight single pom-poms, and four quadruple .5 machine guns.
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 22 Jul 2018 10:14

An interesting graph from a recent book about the Royal Artillery in WWII (Gunfire! by Stig H. Moberg). It shows how the (personnel) strength of AA and coast defence artillery increased sharply in 1940, especially in the second half of the year, compared to a more gradual increase for the field formations (including field, medium, heavy, super heavy and anti-tank).

CD & AA numbered 9,536 officers and 285,860 other ranks as of 30 Sept., of which 8,771 off and 266,327 OR at home, according to the Official Return. The garrison of Gibraltar (for example) included about 2,400 CD & AA gunners.

Field artillery numbered 9,912 off 153,448 OR at this point, of which 7,108 off 136,064 OR at home. Of course, a large percentage of these men was still in (basic) training.

The graph shows how CD & AA strength declined later on in the war. Coast defence batteries were reduced in strength or disbanded, the Home Guard also (partially) manned some of the remaing guns. AA strength in guns and batteries remained about the same, but many jobs were taken over by women (70,000 in all) who were not part of the Royal Artillery, freeing gunners for the field army.

The number of field artillery regiments remained roughly constant after 1941, like the number of divisions they were supporting. The increase in field formations in 1942-45 is mainly due to increased numbers of medium and heavy regiments, which from late 1942 were often grouped in Army Groups Royal Artillery or AGRAs.
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Knouterer
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Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 22 Sep 2019 08:06

Knouterer wrote:
12 Oct 2017 11:01
As noted above, France was another source of AT guns. As far as I have been able to figure out 220 25 mm Model 1934 guns were ordered and delivered in 1939; of these 48 went to equip AT batteries of the Royal Artillery and the remainder, apart from guns for training and spares, to the anti-tank companies of infantry brigades of the BEF, with nine guns each, for which the infantry battalions of those brigades had to find personnel. Originally AT companies of four platoons with four guns each had been planned apparently. A further order of 180 was partially delivered in early 1940 but few if any had been issued to troops when the German offensive started. Only a handful of 25 mm guns were brought back and as no ammunition for them was produced in Britain their usefulness was limited.
A recent book by Dave Thurlow, Building the Gort Line. The BEF and its defences in France 1939-40, has some more info on this. Footnote 41 on page 90:

"By 11 October, the BEF had received 220 French anti-tank guns with another 280 promised. On 13 January, the French notified Ironside that 100 of these were to be released to Turkey leaving only 180 to be delivered. The French unofficially notified the British that the 180 guns could only be provided if they accepted 1937 pattern guns.(...) The 1937 pattern gun could not be towed behind a vehicle but could be carried on specially fitted trucks."

Actually that applied to the Model 1934 as well, even at the standard French army convoy speed of 25 km/h they suffered damage. 400+ of this model were reworked for high speed towing in 1939 and issued to the motorized/mechanized divisions.
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