How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

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Damper
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How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Damper » 04 Dec 2017 15:47

I know it was used extensively in North Africa in the Anti Tank role but I'm curious about the amount and quality of training the crews received, the quality of the anti tank ammunition, and just in general how it performed in the role.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Sheldrake » 04 Dec 2017 16:58

All field guns practiced anti tank drills. Field artillery have been shooting at tanks since 15 September 1916. Units might not live fire very often, but anti tank gunnery featured in the training of all field units. It was a popular item in field training as this is very much the No1's show and a great opportunity for team building and very competitive. It was often easier to find space on an anti tank range than an artillery range.

Pemberton 1951 says...

"The decision was taken before the start of the war to issue AP shot for the 25 Pdr (though time was wasted trying to meet a GS requirement for AP plugs for HE shell. This was really intended for self defence of the guns. However one unit in 1940 was consistently successful knocking out German medium and light tanks so long as they withheld their fire until the enemy was within 600 yds and conserved its AP shot.

In 1941 onwards the the field gun were seen as the heart of the anti tank defence, This was because of the inadequacies of the 2pdr and limited numbers of them, as well as the long visibility and engagement ranges in the desert. "

In August 1944 13 RHA drove off a Panther or tiger in an anti tank shoot.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Michael Kenny » 04 Dec 2017 20:48

HE airbust was pretty effective at wrecking the cooling system of any tank. Here the results of tests on a Tiger.



Tiger 334 Report (7)-vertnn jkl-veruit.jpg
Tiger 334 Report (9)-vertjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj.jpg
Tiger 334 Report (13).jpg
Tiger 334 Report (20).jpg
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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Michael Kenny » 04 Dec 2017 21:24

Air bursts on the Panther:
panther report 1945 (11) nn-vertjk.jpg
panther report 1945 (10).jpg
panther report 1945 (12).jpg
panther report 1945 (13).jpg
panther report 1945 (24)ggg-horzhj.jpg
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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Damper » 06 Dec 2017 11:25

What effect did the above report have on tactics and training for using the 25 pounder in the Anti Tank role?

Would a 25 pounder have fired regular HE at a tank? rather than use AP?

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Dec 2017 13:00

Is there any record of a 25pdr knocking out a Tiger or Panther?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Mar 2021 02:34

Damper wrote:
06 Dec 2017 11:25
What effect did the above report have on tactics and training for using the 25 pounder in the Anti Tank role?

Would a 25 pounder have fired regular HE at a tank? rather than use AP?
If the AP round was not available. There could be a third option, if like the US artillery the Brits had a "Concrete Piercing Fuze" on hand. They were for carrying a common HE round into concrete or thick masony. The fuze is a hardened item that acts as a penetrating cap. Ours had a built in delay setting. They were not part of our battery or battalion basic load, but were somewhere further back in the log train, to be sent up on order. Judging from the the penetration expectations for this fuze/HE combination & kinetic energy it would have been useful in creating a AP shot. Setting a regular PD fuze to 'delay' allows the kinetic energy effect, but the fuze is liable to crush affecting the real angle of impact & deflection. HE round detonating on impact & not penetrating can cause considerable damage. Spalling inside, loss of radio antennas & anything else strapped on the exterior, broken tracks and suspension, hatches knocked askew.

Given the relatively thin armored of the models of the German MkIII & MkIV tanks 1940 - 1941 the 25lbr would have made for a credible AT weapon.

Two items I saw back in 1988-1990. First was a photo of a M60 taken by chance as the exact moment a 203mm HE detonated off the deck between the turret read and engine cover. The radio antenna & clutter on the sides of the turret are starting to peel off in the photo. Post accident the crew were badly concussed and the tank was inoperable.

Second was a pair of M1 Abrams tested at FT Sill. In early 1990 the Army set up a maintenance site with fully functional equipment, including two M1 with fuel and a ammo load in each. They then fired a 'Soviet standard' for attacking such a target with 18 155mm howitzers, M107 HE ammo. We got a look at the pair when loaded a the railhead Ft Sill. Each tank had been hit 2-4 times. Results were hatches knocked off or damaged, one tank cannon out of battery, two broken tracks, armor compromised. I don't think the ammo stowed aboard either tank reacted. Somewhere in the archives at Ft Sill is a twenty minute video summarizing the report on this test.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Knouterer » 01 Apr 2021 06:55

The propellant charge in 25-pounder cartridges consisted of three bags, one or two of which could be removed for short-range work. An additional increment (supercharge) was used for extreme range (13,400 yards) and for AT fire. This was hard on the gun and for that reason from 1942 a muzzle brake was fitted. With supercharge and 20 lb steel shot (AP-T) the muzzle energy was about seven times that of the 2-pounder, so it was effective enough against German early war tanks if a hit could be scored.
But the 6-pounder, when it finally became available, was considered a better AT weapon overall, (among other things because it was less conspicuous) so the 25-pounders could return to their proper role.
A HEAT round for the 25-pounder was considered but never entered service.
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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Sheldrake » 01 Apr 2021 10:35

Sid Guttridge wrote:
06 Dec 2017 13:00
Is there any record of a 25pdr knocking out a Tiger or Panther?

Cheers,

Sid.
Not that I am aware of.

The RA Training Notes from WW2 confluded that By and large HE concentrations from light artillery did not KO tanks. If a column of tanks could be trapped in a defile medium artillery 130mm and above could KO tanks. This happened in Tunisia once and repeated in the Falaise pocket area.

In 1980 I took part in a 1 BR Corps firepower demonstration at Bergan Hohne Ranges Germany. VIP Visitors and their escorts including me were mounted in Chieftain and Centurion tanks. The 105mm rounds were pretty close to the tanks. One was hit by a round. Shell splinters caused a lot of damage to anything on the outside of the tank including vision blocks, radio aerials storage bins and anything foolishly left in them.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by gebhk » 01 Apr 2021 11:25

It is probably worth mentioning in this context, that unlike many field guns of the day, the 25pdr was designed from the off as a dual purpose weapon - and quite presciently too in the event. This was, I presume the point of the baseplate, recoil spade cover and dual sights. With this equipment, the 25pdr was in a much better position to engage rapidly moving targets compared with more traditional weapons which had very limited traverse and in some cases, - such as the French 75, did not even have a recoil spade lever (for the life of me I can't think of the proper British term for this) to help pull the recoil spade out of the ground and physically move the gun round. Conscious that it was likely that in any future war the artillery too must be prepared to fight off tanks, it had more or less been decided remedy these deficiencies by retrofitting the entire stock of French 75s with A/T gun sights and recoil spade levers. Unfortunately the war put paid to those plans. The 25 pdr had none of these drawbacks.

HE could be very effective against virtually all early war tanks, as a number of examples from the Polish campaign can show. I direct hit with a 75mm gun would gut even a Pz 4 (as the extensive photographic documentation of the aftermath of the fighting in Mszczonow shows) while a 100 mm shell would shatter most tanks (gruesome testimony comes to mind of barely recognisable remains of tank crew festooned on nearby trees). Even a close explosion of a 100mm shell would penetrate the thin armour of most tanks with shell fragments. The decisive intervention of the Smialy armoured train, with its 2 75mm cannon and 2 100mm howitzers in the Mokra battle is just one but well known example of just how effective HE artillery fire could be against tanks at this time.

The real issue was, of course, hitting a fast-moving target and here the 25 pdr would be in a much better position than most. So I see no reason why it would not be an effective tank killer in the early part of the war. As the man said, 'there is no problem in the world that cant be solved by the judicious application of HE. It's just that the quantity of HE required for the job outgrew the ability of the 25pdr to supply it - a gun ca 150mm was later required to do that (and to be fair even modern AFVs don't do well when belaboured by a few salvoes of those) while a smaller dedicated AT weapon could do the job just as well or better than both. So the field artillery went back to its primary role.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Sheldrake » 01 Apr 2021 12:45

gebhk wrote:
01 Apr 2021 11:25
With this equipment, the 25pdr was in a much better position to engage rapidly moving targets compared with more traditional weapons which had very limited traverse and in some cases, - such as the French 75, did not even have a recoil spade lever (for the life of me I can't think of the proper British term for this) to help pull the recoil spade out of the ground and physically move the gun round. Conscious that it was likely that in any future war the artillery too must be prepared to fight off tanks, it had more or less been decided remedy these deficiencies by retrofitting the entire stock of French 75s with A/T gun sights and recoil spade levers. Unfortunately the war put paid to those plans.
I think the word you are looking for is "Handspike."
Image
Image
Image
No turntable here as 7 RHA are firing blanks
Image
You can see the turntable in this image of 29 Commando from the Falklands war. Not much of an armour threat though. (29 Commando Light regiment was the renumbered 25 Field Regiment that served in NW Europe in 1944-45. One of its batteries 8 Alma had been the battery that fought the action at Snipers wood in Op Epsom, mopping up an SS company position as infantrymen supported by tanks.)

The handspike lets the gun No 1 pick up the trail and move it. The M897 might have been well enough balanced not to need a hand spike. IRRC the trails of a 9 tonne FH 70 could be moved by one man - I can't remember if he needed a handspike, but I am sure there was one issued as you might need the leverage if the gun was on a slope.

The French M1897 was a good anti tank gun. According to our own Searay's book on the M1897, the French Army were trying to find ways to improve the speed at which extreme switches could be made. The British liked the turntable used on the 25 pounder enough to include one on the 1970s era Light gun. I don't think this was an option for the M1897 because I think the wheels were held in some sort of cradle as part of the recoil system. Prior to WW2 the French did develop a new carriage with split trails offering greater traverse, but there were a lot of 75mm guns on pole trails.

I suspect that for any anti tank gun a need to rapidly switch arcs suggests poor tactical siting! Neither the 6 pounder nor the 17 Pounder used a turntable.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by gebhk » 01 Apr 2021 13:28

I
suspect that for any anti tank gun a need to rapidly switch arcs suggests poor tactical siting! Neither the 6 pounder nor the 17 Pounder used a turntable.
No, but look at the traverse. On the 6 pdr 90 degrees; on the 25 pdr 4! (6 for the French 75) That means that unless an enemy tank obligingly drives straight at the 25 pdr or M1897, more or less, the gun will have to be shifted bodily to follow the tank in its sights. No such problem for the 6 pdr.

I am merely speculating and the gunners will no doubt tell me if I am talking cobblers, but this may be because the A/T gun can have a much longer recoil (it doesn't need to fire at high angles) and so less of the recoil is transferred to the carriage. This in turn means that a structurally weaker axle joint can be utilised on a dedicated A/T weapon which would not last too long on a field gun (plus a field gun will do a lot more 'work' than an A/T gun in its lifetime).

I think trail-spike is the right term - though on weapons such as the Russian M1902 it was a permanent fixture that also served as a lever for adjusting the recoil spade between the travelling and firing positions.

You are quite right, the 25pdr could also be fired without the turntable - this involved removing the recoil spade guard to allow the spade to 'dig into' the ground. I will have to check, but I think the turntable-less 'baby' version of the 25 pdr did have a trail spike.

You are also quite right that the M1897 had a complex set of interconnected hinged tubing on each side which, in the 'down' position, applied a brake and ground spur to the wheel and supported the gunners' seats in the correct position for firing. All this made for a very stable platform for firing al long range against relatively immobile targets but a deadly handicap when enemy armour started buzzing around and attacking from the flanks and whatnot - especially as there was no trail spike. However, there was no real reason that i can see that this whole brake/spur system could not be removed and replaced with a turntable and, indeed, I believe the French were experimenting with some sort of turntable for this weapon.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Richard Anderson » 01 Apr 2021 16:59

gebhk wrote:
01 Apr 2021 13:28
You are also quite right that the M1897 ...
To be pedantic, that is the M1897 Gun (and variants) on the M1897 Carriage (and variants). The M1897 Gun (and variants) on the M2 Carriage (and variants) was quite a different kettle of fish. Such that in fact, it was employed early war as the 75mm Antitank Gun M2A2 and M2A3, albeit only in training in the Z/I.
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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Sheldrake » 01 Apr 2021 18:32

gebhk wrote:
01 Apr 2021 13:28
I
suspect that for any anti tank gun a need to rapidly switch arcs suggests poor tactical siting! Neither the 6 pounder nor the 17 Pounder used a turntable.
No, but look at the traverse. On the 6 pdr 90 degrees; on the 25 pdr 4! (6 for the French 75) That means that unless an enemy tank obligingly drives straight at the 25 pdr or M1897, more or less, the gun will have to be shifted bodily to follow the tank in its sights. No such problem for the 6 pdr. (1)

I am merely speculating and the gunners will no doubt tell me if I am talking cobblers, but this may be because the A/T gun can have a much longer recoil (it doesn't need to fire at high angles) and so less of the recoil is transferred to the carriage. This in turn means that a structurally weaker axle joint can be utilised on a dedicated A/T weapon which would not last too long on a field gun (plus a field gun will do a lot more 'work' than an A/T gun in its lifetime). (2)

I think trail-spike is the right term. (3)
Re 1. This is why the US developed a split trail carriage. This allowed for around 40 degrees left and right. On checking Searay's book says that the French manufactured turntables the Arbel Platform that allowed the gun to be traversed rapidly and roughly layed with a hand spike.

Re 2. I think it is probably the latter - the craftsmen who use lasts. Guns firing high charges at low angles typically cause more problems for carriages. A higher trajectory means that more of the force can be absorbed by the ground. Low angles produce a turning moment. Field guns fire a lot more rounds and the carriage needs to be designed to absorb recoil over wider angles of elevation.

Re3 I think its hand spike. The name dates from an era before elevation gear when spikes were use to lever up the breech so wedges could be inserted to elevate the cannon. It is also useful to lever a wheel out of a rut. The hand spike on the 25 pounder and Light Gun could also be inserted crossways in the trail so the gunners could man handle the gun. The Navy makes a gun run look all gung ho, but we used to do this too.

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Re: How well did the 25 Pounder field gun perform in the Anti Tank role?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 02 Apr 2021 01:04

gebhk wrote:
01 Apr 2021 13:28
I
suspect that for any anti tank gun a need to rapidly switch arcs suggests poor tactical siting! Neither the 6 pounder nor the 17 Pounder used a turntable.
No, but look at the traverse. On the 6 pdr 90 degrees; on the 25 pdr 4! (6 for the French 75) That means that unless an enemy tank obligingly drives straight at the 25 pdr or M1897, more or less, the gun will have to be shifted bodily to follow the tank in its sights. No such problem for the 6 pdr. ...
Actually theres a technique, or techniques. They can often be more productive than chasing the tank with the sight.

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