The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

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Don Juan
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 15 Apr 2018 22:32

yantaylor wrote:Could some of the blame be down to how the British formed their armoured brigades?
Each armoured brigade circa 1940 had three armoured regiments and only one motorised Infantry battalion, which shows that these units where short on Infantry.

Yan.
Yes, there were definitely structural problems, but I think they derive from the British idea that tanks were for "battles" and not for "campaigns." This is also why the Cruiser tanks had comparatively short overhaul lives. The RAC seemed to have had an idea that tanks would be sent by train to the battle area, do their stuff, and then return to the rear area for refitting, continued training etc. No need for these star guests to trouble themselves too much with the other arms of service.

The Germans on the other hand, presumed that their tanks were for campaigns. Where they went wrong was that their concept of a campaign was comparatively short distance (up to 500 km max), which is why Barbarossa went tits up after only a month, and the Panzer Divisions were sat on the Dnepr for weeks on end with piles of clapped out tanks.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

Dili
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Dili » 16 Apr 2018 01:43

The majority of blame must be with Army establishment not with civilians. They choose what tanks to build, what unit configuration etc. I don't know of anyone that collected all resources employed by both sides in Med, I am trying to do that but i lack time but Allies had much more.

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Urmel » 16 Apr 2018 03:02

There's an interesting write-up in Martel's report from Jan 42. He blames 7th Armoured, and by implication Hobart I guess. I'll post it sometime.
The excellence of [German] forward repair and recovery organisation gives us a salutary lesson in this respect. 7 Armoured Division report, Sept. 1941

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle in the Desert 1941/42

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Don Juan
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 16 Apr 2018 09:29

I wouldn't trust Martel as far as I could throw him, tbh.

Hobart was simply typical of the period. He compiled a 100 page training report for the Mobile Division(Egypt) in 1939 which went into meticulous detail on every single aspect of armoured operations except that which was most important - overhaul. He blithely assumed that tanks would only need to be fully overhauled once every two or three years. The General Staff were even worse - there was actually a serious proposal in 1938 to locate the workshops for the Mobile Division (Egypt) in Kenya! If there was a single identifiable person flagging up overhauls and similar technical concerns, then it would be acceptable for them to apportion blame, but the fact is nobody was doing this - least of all Martel.

I don't blame anyone particular for this state of affairs - it was a complete failure of the British nation, from the very top to the very bottom. Nobody wanted to face up to the fact that they were heading for similar carnage as experienced between 1914 and 1918, and so everybody played make believe - both public and politicians. The only reason that the British tank forces had reached the primitive stage that they had by 1940 was because of a German hoax - the Dutch War Scare. Without that, the Chamberlain government would have carried on with "limited liability" even longer.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by ClintHardware » 16 Apr 2018 11:42

Until 1935 and the Abyssinian Crisis, under pinned by the Italian test on Alexandria with the burning civilian liner the British government chose to under fund in order to be popular with the voters. Then the politicians began panicking and throwing money at armament and other related industries which had no staff or other capacities to cope with sudden demand. If there is a singe British point of origin it seems to be in governments not telling the voters the truth about the consequences of disarmament. Today's example is Corbyn and his disarmament popularity. The others on both sides of politics in the UK today are not much better except for Nigel Farage and Rees-Mogg.
Imperialism and Re-Armament NOW !

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Urmel
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Urmel » 16 Apr 2018 12:16

Don Juan wrote:I wouldn't trust Martel as far as I could throw him, tbh.
Oh, neither would I. It is also clear that he was angling for a posting in the ME with that report, and had also wound up friends (I guess) in London to push that.
The excellence of [German] forward repair and recovery organisation gives us a salutary lesson in this respect. 7 Armoured Division report, Sept. 1941

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle in the Desert 1941/42

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Don Juan
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 16 Apr 2018 12:25

In the words of Brigadier H.J.B. Cracroft:

"What a shocker 'Q' Martel is - there is no truth in what he says".
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 16 Apr 2018 12:49

Don Juan wrote: Hobart was simply typical of the period. He compiled a 100 page training report for the Mobile Division(Egypt) in 1939 which went into meticulous detail on every single aspect of armoured operations except that which was most important - overhaul.
Whilst you believe that the overhaul was the "most important ... single aspect", I disagree entirely. I'd argue that to a large extent it was pretty irrelevant in wartime and with the equipment then available - as proven by the British forces time after time.
Don Juan wrote: He blithely assumed that tanks would only need to be fully overhauled once every two or three years. The General Staff were even worse - there was actually a serious proposal in 1938 to locate the workshops for the Mobile Division (Egypt) in Kenya! If there was a single identifiable person flagging up overhauls and similar technical concerns, then it would be acceptable for them to apportion blame, but the fact is nobody was doing this - least of all Martel.
All of which is a product of their inherent small-war colonial policing mentality.

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Gooner1 » 16 Apr 2018 14:12

MarkN wrote: All of which is a product of their inherent small-war colonial policing mentality.
The Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Cyril Deverell, put forward a proposals for tanks in October 1936 to meet the army's requirements and including war reserves. They were:

Light Tanks: 600 - for the mechanized Cavalry Regiments

Cruiser Tanks: 350 - for the Tank Brigades

Medium Tanks: 400 - for the Tank Brigades

Infantry Tanks: 680 for the Army Tank Battalions.

Doesn't strike me as a 'product of their inherent small-war colonial policing mentality.'

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by yantaylor » 16 Apr 2018 16:11

Wow that is four types of tank, so I suppose we are looking at;

Vickers VIBs
A9 Cruisers
Mk.II Medium tanks
Mk. I Matilda's

Interesting enough, none of these AFVs lasted much past 1942, then we must have thought, just let us develop a good cruiser tank and be done with it.

I think that is how the Americans got it right as they watched developments over in Europe and made changes to their tank force accordingly.
They saw how effective the mark IIIs and IVs were and made a 75mm gun in a revolving turret their top priority.
We Brits soon found out the hard way and had to carry on using these sub-standard designs until new ones were made or the US sold us some Stuarts, Grants and Sherman's.
I guess to totally stop producing tanks all together and weight until we had new machinery to make these new tanks would be disastrous to our war effort and we had to keep producing bad tanks then have no tanks at all.

Yan.

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Don Juan
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 16 Apr 2018 16:40

MarkN wrote:
Don Juan wrote: Hobart was simply typical of the period. He compiled a 100 page training report for the Mobile Division(Egypt) in 1939 which went into meticulous detail on every single aspect of armoured operations except that which was most important - overhaul.
Whilst you believe that the overhaul was the "most important ... single aspect", I disagree entirely. I'd argue that to a large extent it was pretty irrelevant in wartime and with the equipment then available - as proven by the British forces time after time.
Well, you be you, Mark.
MarkN wrote:
Don Juan wrote: He blithely assumed that tanks would only need to be fully overhauled once every two or three years. The General Staff were even worse - there was actually a serious proposal in 1938 to locate the workshops for the Mobile Division (Egypt) in Kenya! If there was a single identifiable person flagging up overhauls and similar technical concerns, then it would be acceptable for them to apportion blame, but the fact is nobody was doing this - least of all Martel.
All of which is a product of their inherent small-war colonial policing mentality.
It was partly a product of the colonial policing mentality, but it was mainly a product of the "limited liability" doctrine in which the British Army would avoid being embroiled in a Continental war. I don't think it is widely enough appreciated just how cobbled together the British Army was in 1940/41. For example, the 1st Armoured Division hadn't undertaken a single Brigade or Division level exercise prior to embarking for France. 7th Armoured Division aside, British armoured formations had minimal experience in controlling themselves, let alone combining with the other arms of service. Even if the British had had a combined arms doctrine, I think they would have had great difficulty implementing it during this part of the war.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Don Juan
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 16 Apr 2018 16:42

yantaylor wrote:Wow that is four types of tank, so I suppose we are looking at;

Vickers VIBs
A9 Cruisers
Mk.II Medium tanks
Mk. I Matilda's

Interesting enough, none of these AFVs lasted much past 1942, then we must have thought, just let us develop a good cruiser tank and be done with it.

I think that is how the Americans got it right as they watched developments over in Europe and made changes to their tank force accordingly.
They saw how effective the mark IIIs and IVs were and made a 75mm gun in a revolving turret their top priority.
We Brits soon found out the hard way and had to carry on using these sub-standard designs until new ones were made or the US sold us some Stuarts, Grants and Sherman's.
I guess to totally stop producing tanks all together and weight until we had new machinery to make these new tanks would be disastrous to our war effort and we had to keep producing bad tanks then have no tanks at all.

Yan.
I think if the Crusader had been given the 6 pounder as soon as it was available, and had its engine air cleaners mounted internally, it would have been a better tank than the Panzer III. It would have been hard hitting, and good for around 3000 miles. Still not as good as the Sherman, though.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 16 Apr 2018 17:44

Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote:
Don Juan wrote: Hobart was simply typical of the period. He compiled a 100 page training report for the Mobile Division(Egypt) in 1939 which went into meticulous detail on every single aspect of armoured operations except that which was most important - overhaul.
Whilst you believe that the overhaul was the "most important ... single aspect", I disagree entirely. I'd argue that to a large extent it was pretty irrelevant in wartime and with the equipment then available - as proven by the British forces time after time.
Well, you be you, Mark.
What is the point of an overhaul? It is to extend the life of a piece of equipment beyond the manufacturer's original (useful) life expectancy.

An overhaul is a peacetime habit to save money by keeping expensive bits of kit alive for years and years and years without having to buy new. The British 'front-line' pantser at the beginning of 1939 was the Vickers Medium Mk.II built in the 1920s. Pantsers kept alive through the overhaul, but of no operational use when the time comes.

When war comes, military equipment is expendable. That includes tanks. Military equipment is often destroyed or 'lost' long before ETO - just look at all the British pantsers left in France in 1940!

Additionally, when big, industrial war is taking place, a tank is beyond it's sell by date before it reaches its ETO - if it hasn't already been 'lost'. The pantsers replacing the Vickers Mediums (Cruiser I, II, III and IV) were overmatched as soon as the German's up-armoured and up-gunned their pantsers post Fall Rot. How many of those 560 odd early Cruisers actually went through an overhaul and had a productive post-overhaul life?

Moreover, overhauls didn't solve the distance problem, transporters and tanks with longer initial lifespans did that.

And, to add to the almost irrelevance of the overhaul system in wartime, the early British pantsers could barely make a 50 mile march without needed major maintenance work.

Hobart can be accused of many things when it comes to armoured doctrine, but ignoring the 'overhaul' is not one that had any major significance or consequence.
Don Juan wrote: It was partly a product of the colonial policing mentality, but it was mainly a product of the "limited liability" doctrine in which the British Army would avoid being embroiled in a Continental war. I don't think it is widely enough appreciated just how cobbled together the British Army was in 1940/41. For example, the 1st Armoured Division hadn't undertaken a single Brigade or Division level exercise prior to embarking for France. 7th Armoured Division aside, British armoured formations had minimal experience in controlling themselves, let alone combining with the other arms of service. Even if the British had had a combined arms doctrine, I think they would have had great difficulty implementing it during this part of the war.
The 1st Armoured Division was thrown away in France by the very highest ranking officers through utter incompetence. Officers who had not the slightest clue as to how the Division should be employed, what it was (and was not) capable of and who had more interest in saving face and the old-boy network than offering meaningful resistence to the German advance. What I'm saying is, you are quite correct in your appreciation of what didn't occur before it deployed, but even if it had been perfectly trained, it would have resulted in the very same outcome.

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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 16 Apr 2018 20:04

MarkN wrote: When war comes, military equipment is expendable. That includes tanks. Military equipment is often destroyed or 'lost' long before ETO - just look at all the British pantsers left in France in 1940!
Not really. Formations ideally have to spend a considerable mileage training before they go into action, and when tank numbers are limited low overhaul lives and restricted overhauls have an effect on training. I expect the fact that e.g. 5 RTR had pretty much redlined their tanks even before they had gone into action during Rommel's first offensive was due to them (or 3 RTR) expending the overhaul life of their vehicles during training. The more varied and extensive the training is (e.g. including a combined arms element) the more mileage that will be expended. That the British experienced multiple mass breakdown events in the desert indicates that overhauls were important.
MarkN wrote:Moreover, overhauls didn't solve the distance problem, transporters and tanks with longer initial lifespans did that.
Well yes, the fact that the early British Cruisers had not been developed to a defined overhaul life meant that they (like the German Medium tanks) were not suitable for desert warfare, and led to British overhaul facilities becoming swamped. Ergo, the solution was as you say. The point I made about Hobart was that like seemingly all British armoured commanders, he had not foreseen this would happen, as he had barely thought about it. That the bulk of the German panzer divisions spent late July and August 1941 marooned on the Dnepr awaiting spares that did not exist indicates that the Germans had not foreseen this either.
MarkN wrote:And, to add to the almost irrelevance of the overhaul system in wartime, the early British pantsers could barely make a 50 mile march without needed major maintenance work.
This isn't true. After the initial battles on the Somme, I estimate that many of the surviving A13's of 1 AD racked up over 1000 miles before they were abandoned. There was at least one journey (down to Le Mans) that was over 200 miles in a single day, and another (from the Le Mans area to Cherbourg) that was 180 miles in a single day. These mileages were achieved despite a total lack of RAOC support,
MarkN wrote:The 1st Armoured Division was thrown away in France by the very highest ranking officers through utter incompetence. Officers who had not the slightest clue as to how the Division should be employed, what it was (and was not) capable of and who had more interest in saving face and the old-boy network than offering meaningful resistence to the German advance. What I'm saying is, you are quite correct in your appreciation of what didn't occur before it deployed, but even if it had been perfectly trained, it would have resulted in the very same outcome.
Well, this is a counterfactual, maybe correct, maybe not. When the 1st Armoured Division was ordered to France at the beginning of May, the assumption was that it was to travel to the dedicated RAC "AFV Area" at Pacy-sur-Eure and continue its training. Even at the beginning of embarkation it was not completely clear that the division would have to be plunged straight into action. The fate of the 1st Armoured Division was highly circumstantial e.g. if the French had held at Sedan, its deployment would have been completely different.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

Dili
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Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Dili » 16 Apr 2018 20:28

This all gets back to the lack of competent war simulation and exercises. Who was responsible for that?

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