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

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

Post by gebhk » 02 Apr 2021 03:45

Actually theres a technique, or techniques. They can often be more productive than chasing the tank with the sight.
I'm sure that's true, however I'm fairly sure that does not change the primary premise which is that the barrel of the gun needs to be pointing at the tank (or just ahead of the tank if it is moving), when you fire it. And that means that unless the tank is heading straight at the gun or near as dammit, the gun will need to traverse.

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

Post by Sheldrake » 02 Apr 2021 10:13

gebhk wrote:
02 Apr 2021 03:45
Actually theres a technique, or techniques. They can often be more productive than chasing the tank with the sight.
I'm sure that's true, however I'm fairly sure that does not change the primary premise which is that the barrel of the gun needs to be pointing at the tank (or just ahead of the tank if it is moving), when you fire it. And that means that unless the tank is heading straight at the gun or near as dammit, the gun will need to traverse.

Sure, if you need to track a crossing target at close range the ability to traverse rapidly could be important. This might well happen in confusing conditions where armour might emerge from any direction at close-ish range. (Western desert Op crusader? and other cock ups) However, during WW2 many armies traded the ability for rapid traverse for higher calibre, lower silhouette and tactical mobility. The SP versions of the Pak40 had much less top traverse than the towed equipment and the Panzerjaeger IV mounting the L70 even less. The SU 76 and SU 85 had much less traverse than their towed equivalents and the British replaced the M10 with 360 degree traverse with the Archer with very little. (Few of the popular online articles about AFVs bother to include the traverse left and right - it is absent from wikipedia entries for many of the SP anti tank guns.)

The trick is to be pointing at the point where the target will be at the time of flight after you fire the gun. A skillful anti tank-plan would take account of likely armoured approaches, identify killing zones and position the guns to cover those places where you want to kill enemy vehicles, such as the exit from defiles, gaps in obstacles etc , at the range you can kill them and relay if necessary.

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

Post by gebhk » 03 Apr 2021 11:18

I don't think the SP argument works because the vehicle itself can traverse, and quite rapidly so, so there is stronger analogy with the 25pdr concept here (albeit the traverse is powered unlike in the 25pdr) than there is with, say, the basic soixante quinze. Interestingly, as I understand it, in perhaps the apotheosis of this concept, the Swedish S tank, the gun was fixed and all aiming was by moving the vehicle bodily under the control of the gunner.

I presume the stability issue also comes in here. There is only so far a gun with a box carriage can traverse before the recoil knocks the whole thing A over T on its side - hence the need for split trails in most weapons with significant traverse. A box trail on the other hand, no doubt, is lighter and more robust (much the same as a folding bicycle will have a heavier frame that a traditional one, all else being equal).

I don't think I entirely buy the argument that the approach of enemy armour could be that accurately predicted during WW2. If that were the case, why provide virtually all dedicated A/t weapons with an exceptionally wide range of traverse by whatever means?

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

Post by Sheldrake » 03 Apr 2021 13:32

gebhk wrote:
03 Apr 2021 11:18
I don't think the SP argument works because the vehicle itself can traverse, and quite rapidly so, so there is stronger analogy with the 25pdr concept here (albeit the traverse is powered unlike in the 25pdr) than there is with, say, the basic soixante quinze. Interestingly, as I understand it, in perhaps the apotheosis of this concept, the Swedish S tank, the gun was fixed and all aiming was by moving the vehicle bodily under the control of the gunner.
There is a difference between traversing a turret and tracking the whole vehicle. The S tank was designed for this purpose. Most WW2 era SP guns were based on tank chassis controlled by the driver, who needs to be directed to roughly align the AFV. The engine needs to be switched on creating noise and smoke. Not all tanks can make neutral turns, which involve a bit of clanking. It is usually a lot slower than picking up the trail on a 25 pounder and swinging it round.

I don't deny that a wide top traverse is desirable, just pointing out that it was often traded away.

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

Post by gebhk » 03 Apr 2021 15:09

Hi Sheldrake

Wholly agree with all of the above. However, I would suggest the main trade-off with the hull-mounted SP gun was that a bigger gun could be mounted on the same chassis. I can't think of many (or even any) chassis that were fitted with a hull-mounted gun that could be mounted in a turret on the same chassis. Thus, I would suggest the wide top traverse was not traded lightly or often in AFVs.

However, returning to the original question, I think your comment regarding the ease with which the 25pdr could be swung round on its platform just confirms why in the early stages of WW2 it was a better direct fire tank killer than most comparable divisional artillery guns. When a gun such as a wz 97 (French Schneider 75mm) or wz 02 (Russian 3") or wz 02/26 (rechambered Russian 3") has to be swung round, the recoil spade has to be pulled out of the ground (without the benefit of even a trail spike in the case of the wz 97) and once realigned, even if a hole had been dug in preparation, it took one, two or more shots (which had a tendency to fly 'into God's window' as they say in Poland), before the gun settled and fired true. This is a massive delay when seconds count, much greater than that experienced by even a hull-mounted SP, I would suggest.

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

Post by EwenS » 04 Apr 2021 15:15

Sheldrake wrote:
02 Apr 2021 10:13
gebhk wrote:
02 Apr 2021 03:45
Actually theres a technique, or techniques. They can often be more productive than chasing the tank with the sight.
I'm sure that's true, however I'm fairly sure that does not change the primary premise which is that the barrel of the gun needs to be pointing at the tank (or just ahead of the tank if it is moving), when you fire it. And that means that unless the tank is heading straight at the gun or near as dammit, the gun will need to traverse.

Sure, if you need to track a crossing target at close range the ability to traverse rapidly could be important. This might well happen in confusing conditions where armour might emerge from any direction at close-ish range. (Western desert Op crusader? and other cock ups) However, during WW2 many armies traded the ability for rapid traverse for higher calibre, lower silhouette and tactical mobility. The SP versions of the Pak40 had much less top traverse than the towed equipment and the Panzerjaeger IV mounting the L70 even less. The SU 76 and SU 85 had much less traverse than their towed equivalents and the British replaced the M10 with 360 degree traverse with the Archer with very little. (Few of the popular online articles about AFVs bother to include the traverse left and right - it is absent from wikipedia entries for many of the SP anti tank guns.)

The trick is to be pointing at the point where the target will be at the time of flight after you fire the gun. A skillful anti tank-plan would take account of likely armoured approaches, identify killing zones and position the guns to cover those places where you want to kill enemy vehicles, such as the exit from defiles, gaps in obstacles etc , at the range you can kill them and relay if necessary.
The Archer did not replace the M10 in British service, at least during WW2.

From 1942 the British wanted to get the 17pdr into both a tank and a self propelled gun. The tank became the A30 Challenger of which 200 were produced in 1944/45.

The SP gun followed two paths. Firstly the Archer based on the Valentine chassis which appeared in prototype form in April 1943 and entered production in May 1944. The gun on the Archer traversed 22.5 degrees either side. An order for 800 was placed with 135 cancelled at the end of the war. During WW2 it was used to re-equip some of the Royal Artillery batteries in anti-tank gun regiments in infantry divisions from Oct/Nov 1944. The second path was to put the 17pdr into an extended Cromwell chassis as in the A30 Challenger tank. This however conflicted with the Challenger tank development so it was delayed. Although 500 A30 SP2 Avengers were ordered in 1943, the prototype didn't appear until Feb 1945 with production starting shortly thereafter. Eventually due to the end of the war only 80 were produced 1945/46. The SP2 Avenger had a turret with 360 degree traverse.

Meanwhile the M10 was supplied under Lend-lease, with 1,128 delivered in 1944 and another 520 in 1945. From May 1944 these began to be upgunned with the 17pdr, and eventually at least 1,017 were converted. The M10 and M10C 17pdr were generally issued to Royal Artillery batteries in anti-tank regiments in the armoured divisions or in independent regiments attached at corps level.

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

Post by Damper » 11 Apr 2021 21:30

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.

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.
Robert Forczyk in his book Case Red, mentions briefly that French 75 batteries were each supposed to have 2 guns modified for the Anti Tank role. He didn't really go into detail about what that invovled. I'm afraid I don't have access to the book anymore to get a reference.

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

Post by Urmel » 13 Apr 2021 13:40

Sheldrake wrote:
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.
Not sure Pemberton is addressing this fully right here:

1) The issue the gunners faced was that the gun shields would not withstand German MG fire at the range they needed to be effective (I think 600 yards is probably an overly cautious estimate for 1940, should have worked at longer ranges)
2) The 2-pdr was not inadequate through most of 1941 and there were very large numbers of them in 1941. It was inadequate in 1942, and there were limited numbers of 6-pdrs, so at that point the 25-pdr became a critical AT weapon due to lack of alternatives.

After CRUSADER, max engagement (precision) range for guns was thought to be:

1) 1,200 yards (25-pdr)
2) 800 yards (2-pdr)

Gun positions were to be sited accordingly.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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

Post by Sheldrake » 13 Apr 2021 23:46

Urmel wrote:
13 Apr 2021 13:40
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. "
Not sure Pemberton is addressing this fully right here:

1) The issue the gunners faced was that the gun shields would not withstand German MG fire at the range they needed to be effective (I think 600 yards is probably an overly cautious estimate for 1940, should have worked at longer ranges)
2) The 2-pdr was not inadequate through most of 1941 and there were very large numbers of them in 1941. It was inadequate in 1942, and there were limited numbers of 6-pdrs, so at that point the 25-pdr became a critical AT weapon due to lack of alternatives.

After CRUSADER, max engagement (precision) range for guns was thought to be:

1) 1,200 yards (25-pdr)
2) 800 yards (2-pdr)

Gun positions were to be sited accordingly.
I don't have the time to reproduce the narrative from Pemberton's in house history. However, the overall thread is that even in 1940 the British thought the 2 pounder would become quickly ineffective as the Germans were likely to up armour their tanks after testing the performance of captured 2 pounder. Hence the order for 6 pounder guns in 1940 - frustrated by the lack of production capacity.
In chapter Vi covering the siege of Tobruck, Bervity and Battleaxe he covers the adoption of the portee to provide mobility. "However, in the main battle...its performance no longer inspired universal confidence. Sometimes it did well as at Cupuzzo on 16th June..... On the other had reports were being received from some units that shot had bounced off enemy armour and of gun detachments shot up by 7.5cm guns of the MkiV at ranged beyond the effective reach of the 2 Pounder."
"It was evident that the time had arrived for the new 6 Pounder... In its absence the burden of anti tank defence would have to be borne by the 25 pounder."

Chapter VII is about Op Crusader. There is a discussion of the various actions including several where the 2 pounder portee "showed what it could do when conditions are favourable" But "in the main battle the 2 pounder was completely outclassed, as witness the action fought by the New Zealand Division at El Duda."

The root cause of the misuse of the 25 pounder as an anti tank gun was "the inadequacy of the 2 pounder in the face of modern tank armour. Effective up to only 600 yards, if as far as that, it was forced to open fire at 800 yards or more to minimise the effects of enemy machine gun fire. ....the Germans had the range of the 2 pounder and in open country like the desert could choose their own time to make an end of it. Under powered as it was, it might still have done its job if it had been available in sufficient quantities. Three regiments each of 48 or 64 guns to a division were required, according to the estimate of one CRA at that time.... But no such numbers were, or ever likely to be available".

Now maybe Pemberton, and perhaps the Gunners as a whole had a bias against the 2 pounder based on the conclusions drawn in 1940 about its impending obsolescence. Maybe the contemporary soldiers lacked detailed information available to modern scholars. However, this is an important source about the official views within the Royal Artillery about artillery development during the Second World War. Much of his material is referenced to various official reports and memoranda.

Have you ever read a copy? Quite a few copies were printed, but it was a Restricted publication. The IWM have one you can read.

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

Post by Urmel » 14 Apr 2021 10:44

Thanks for this.

Just for clarification, I am not taking issue with the fundamental points, but the timeline. I haven't read Pemberton, and my comments are based on primary sources, such as an Middle East HQ early 1942 memorandum on the use of armoured formations that includes the relevant instructions for guns as cited above and a memorandum by 2 Armoured Bde and 1 Armd Div CRA on weapons performance.

See:

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/2-pdr/

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... n-ed-duda/

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... ir-shop-2/

As for specific points:

1) The 75mm howitzer on the Panzer IV had an effective range of 7.5km or thereabouts and was employed from about 2km to suppress enemy positions while the Panzer III maneuvered. So this was out of range for both, the 2-pdr and the 25-pdr.
2) it is highly likely, based on the available evidence, that at the start of CRUSADER about 2/3rds of the German medium force (Panzer III and Panzer IV) did not have 'modern' armour. Only the Panzer III Ausf. H had this. There were four command tanks in PR5 of that variant. The rest was more weakly armoured than the Stuart or Crusader.
3) This brings us to Ed (not El) Duda and the Kiwis. At that point, most of the Ausf. G of PR5 had been lost, and the 2-pdrs did indeed struggle against the Ausf. H of PR8. But this wasn't the only reason. Critically, the fact that the Germans put together a competent all-arms attack made the difference, similar to what happened at Pt.204 two weeks later. The performance of the 2-pdr was just one element of the defeat.
4) It is quite critical to have these statements all dated and units identified so that they can be related to the specific engagement.

This is a complex story, in which the timeline is critical. The salient points are right, the 2-pdr was approaching complete obsolescence by end 1941, and the writing had been on the wall for a while. But the timeline is important, and I don't think it is quite right in the way Pemberton sets it out, as it appears to me to be conflating various events in which consecutive lessons were learned but which would not have been clear at the time.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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

Post by Gooner1 » 14 Apr 2021 11:48

The 'black day' of the 25-pdr in the anti-tank role came on 6th June 1942 when the Afrika Korps broke out of the 'Cauldron'

From the OH:
"There now remained in the Cauldron near B 180 the 4/10th Baluch Regiment, 2/4th Gurkha Rifles, 3/9th Jat Regiment, 50th Reconnaissance Battalion, the 4th, 28th and 157th Field Regiments R.A. and the 107th Regiment R.H.A. On these the storm broke on 6th June. First the Baluchis were overrun, and then, during the afternoon, the Gurkhas. By evening the same fate had overtakken the 50th Reconnaissance Battalion and all the artillery. This day was both a splendid and a tragic episode in the history of the Royal Artillery, for the gunners fought their guns to the last and died where they stood."

Terence Cuneo the artist painted quite a famous scene from this battle

Image

Ray Ellis the last man standing of 107th RHA

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

Post by Sheldrake » 15 Apr 2021 00:02

Peter Hart wrote a book about the South Notts Hussars. I took the unit on its final exercise before disbandment - a Battlefield Study of the unit in Normandy with the theme of revenge for Knightsbridge.

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

Post by Sheldrake » 15 Apr 2021 00:17

Urmel wrote:
14 Apr 2021 10:44
Thanks for this.

Just for clarification, I am not taking issue with the fundamental points, but the timeline. I haven't read Pemberton, and my comments are based on primary sources, such as an Middle East HQ early 1942 memorandum on the use of armoured formations that includes the relevant instructions for guns as cited above and a memorandum by 2 Armoured Bde and 1 Armd Div CRA on weapons performance.

See:

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/2-pdr/

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... n-ed-duda/

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... ir-shop-2/

As for specific points:

1) The 75mm howitzer on the Panzer IV had an effective range of 7.5km or thereabouts and was employed from about 2km to suppress enemy positions while the Panzer III maneuvered. So this was out of range for both, the 2-pdr and the 25-pdr.
2) it is highly likely, based on the available evidence, that at the start of CRUSADER about 2/3rds of the German medium force (Panzer III and Panzer IV) did not have 'modern' armour. Only the Panzer III Ausf. H had this. There were four command tanks in PR5 of that variant. The rest was more weakly armoured than the Stuart or Crusader.
3) This brings us to Ed (not El) Duda and the Kiwis. At that point, most of the Ausf. G of PR5 had been lost, and the 2-pdrs did indeed struggle against the Ausf. H of PR8. But this wasn't the only reason. Critically, the fact that the Germans put together a competent all-arms attack made the difference, similar to what happened at Pt.204 two weeks later. The performance of the 2-pdr was just one element of the defeat.
4) It is quite critical to have these statements all dated and units identified so that they can be related to the specific engagement.

This is a complex story, in which the timeline is critical. The salient points are right, the 2-pdr was approaching complete obsolescence by end 1941, and the writing had been on the wall for a while. But the timeline is important, and I don't think it is quite right in the way Pemberton sets it out, as it appears to me to be conflating various events in which consecutive lessons were learned but which would not have been clear at the time.
If I can find the time and I buy a scanner I will send you the relevant chapters. There is a lot in there about the development of British anti tank and other artillery tactics too.

I would not quibble with the fine research and the narrative you have assembled about Op Crusader. The fact that by November 1941 the 2 pounder would go through the armour of most of the German tanks they faced is entirely consistent with the statement in Pemberton that soldiers had lost confidence in the 2 Pounder. There was a similar issue with the 75mm gun armament of most British tanks in Normandy. Good enough to penetrate the Pz IV and most common SP guns and the side armour of the Panther. So good enough for most purposes... Pemberton is merely stating the truism that soldiers have confidence in weapons guaranteed to work and lose confidence in weapons to which some of the enemy are invulnerable.

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

Post by Urmel » 15 Apr 2021 05:37

That's an absolutely fair observation. One of the key issues I face is to pinpoint when exactly this lack of trust happened, i.e. before or during/after CRUSADER.

I might be able to get my hands on a copy by other means, so no worries on the scanner, but the offer is much appreciated!
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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

Post by Urmel » 15 Apr 2021 05:38

Sheldrake wrote:
15 Apr 2021 00:02
Peter Hart wrote a book about the South Notts Hussars. I took the unit on its final exercise before disbandment - a Battlefield Study of the unit in Normandy with the theme of revenge for Knightsbridge.
Two books actually. Also a great series of Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/p ... 1497949409

Go through the list, they cover the whole history of the unit in WW2.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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