The 3.7" AA Gun was (eventually) used in the Anti tank role at Tobruck and El Alamein in June-July 1942. 103 HAA Regiment in Home Forces had a secondary role from July 1941 as Heavy Anti tank guns in the event the Germans landed heavy tanks in Britain. The Heavy AA guns defending the D day beaches all had a secondary anti tank role.Damper wrote: ↑09 Nov 2018 16:25I've read a number of different reasons why it was never employed in an anti tank role, the British preferring to use detached 25 pounders instead.
Are there any additional reasons people might be aware of? Or are some of the reasons above inaccurate?
- The inability of the mount to absorb the recoil when firing at low elevations
- Lack of an AP round (even though regular HE with the fuze deactivate was found to be effective)
- Lack of direct fire sights on the gun
- The large size of the making it difficult to emplace
- Heavy Anti Aircraft regiments being Army level assets
Also with regards firing at low elevations, my understanding is the gun could depress below 0 degrees unlike a gun such as the American 90 mm Gun M1, so perhaps the issue with the mount is overstated? perhaps it was only a factor with prolonged fire?
There were technical problems that had to be overcome - lack of AP ammunition and suitable anti tank telescopes. Semi mobile Heavy AA gunners would need additional vehicles and training to fight effectively as anti-tank troops. But all of those could have been overcome with determination , teamwork and co-operation. In the UK the C-in-C Home Forces, Brooke took a personal interest and thumped tables and demanded that Beaverbrook the minister for supply provide AP ammunition.
The real question is why didn't the British use the 3.7" AA Gun in the Western Desert 1941-42? (Or divert some some of the thousand surplus 3" 20cwt (76mm) AA guns).
Three main reasons:-
#1 Lack of senior interest determination to overcome the organisational issues.
At the start of WW2 the Royal Artillery was separated into the Field and AA Branches. There was no cross posting between branches. AA Branch had a priority of dealing with the Luftwaffe which posted a significant threat. There were plenty of AA guns defending Alexandria, Haifa and Suez, but no one below C-in-C middle east transfer resources from there to 8th Army. Neither Wavell nor Aukinleck was asked or took the trouble to get involved.
#2 Doctrinal blind spot(s).
The commanders in the field don't seem to have noticed the effect of German anti-tank guns on the outcome of battles.
British early war combined arms doctrine, such as it was, didn't have a place for anti-tanks working with tanks and infantry. No one in the infantry or armour was screaming for British 88s.
3# Technological/ procurement blind spots.
No one seems to have noticed that the 3" 20 CWT gun had pretty much the ideal characteristics of an anti-tank gun. It was within one mm of the main anti tank guns used by the German, British, Soviet and US Armies. The ministry of supply was focused on building as many 2 Pounders as possible and the Army with the introduction of the 6 Pdr. There was no one in a position to know of the disposal of the 3" guns with the interest or authority to direct them to the ME. Too many Colonel Blimps with thumbs up their bums. There were also organisational rivalries, The RAC and RA bickered over mounting 50 3" guns on Churchill tank chassis.
This was not the finest hour for the Royal Regiment, which is why so many of the excuses were raised post war.
The fame of the 88mm AA gun might also be a matter of luck. The Germans entered the war with tanks and anti tank guns too weak to penetrate heavy Allied tanks and happened to have under employed heavy AA guns. (Though they also had the foresight to train and equip their Heavy AA gunners for a dual role.