British/Commonwealth performance

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Gerry Chester
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Post by Gerry Chester » Mon Feb 09, 2004 10:14 pm

r. burns wrote:
"The following pre-D-day conversation was recorded by Andrew Wilson, himself a Churchill commander, and it sums up the balance of forces very succinctly:

"What do the Germans have most of?
'Panthers. The Panther can slice through a Churchill like butter from a mile away'
"And how does a Churchill get a Panther?"
'It creeps up on it. When is reaches close quarters, the gunner tries to bounce a shot off the
underside of the Panther's gun mantlet. If he's lucky, it goes through a piece of thin armour
above the driver's head.'

"Has anybody ever done it?"
'Yes. Davis in "C" Squadron. He's back with headquarters now trying to recover his nerve.'
"What's next on the list?"
'Tigers. The Tiger can get you from a mile and a half.'
"And how does a Churchill get a Tiger?"
'It's supposed to get within 200 yards and put a shot through the periscope'
"Has anyone ever done it?"
'No.'
This is complete and utter nonsense. How possibly can Wilson opine on battle conditions of the Churchill versus Panther/Tiger prior to June 6th?

To put the record straight. The first three Tigers lost to another tank were by Churchills and occurred in Tunisia. The first was knocked out at a range of 500/600 yards on 27.2.43 by a Churchill commanded by Lt. Hern of B Squadron, North Irish Horse. The second was put out of action the next day and abandoned by its crew. It was hit at a range of 800/900 yards and was subsequently blown up the Royal Engineers. The following month, a third Tiger was knocked out by a Churchill of 21 Tank Brigade at a range estimated to be 700 plus yards.

On 23 5.44 the first Panthers knocked by tanks of the Western Allies occurred during the breaking of the Hitler Line. These were also the work of the North Irish Horse, both at ranges approaching 1,000 yards. Major Griffith was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross for his part in their destruction et cetera. Note the date Mr Wilson - these were the first Panthers encountered by Churchills anywhere!

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Martin Schenkel
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Post by Martin Schenkel » Mon Feb 09, 2004 11:59 pm

Freiritter wrote:If I could ask another question: What was the difference between armored units and tank units in Brit/Commonwealth parlance?
Tank units were equiped with Infantry tanks, while Armoured units were equiped with cruiser tanks. Tank Brigades and Battalions would be used exclusively in the infantry support role, while Armoured Brigades and Battalions could be assigned either to an Armoured Division, or operate independantly by beefing-up infantry units in the AT and close support roles (similarly to the role of Tank Brigades). In the last few months of the war, the Armoured/Tank Brigade structure was standardized, with either infantry or cruiser tanks simply inserted into the organisation. The term 'Tank' was dropped in favour of all units being 'Armoured', except that there was now a type A and B, where type A retained the Motor Battalion and was assigned to an Armoured Division. Type B was essentially the old Tank Brigade, but with a basically the same organisation as the old Armoured Brigade (except with different tanks), and still no Motor Battalion.

Does that make sense? :D
"Subjugating the enemy's army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence" - Sun Tzu

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » Tue Feb 10, 2004 3:38 am

Gerry
Having read with great interest the many postings on the subject of gun size, it seems that a very important point is being overlooked. In World War Two, when tank guns were hand-loaded, size of the gun was of less importance than the ability to get shots off faster than ones opponent.
How do you make that work? It seems fairly obvious that it is better to get off one round that is virtually certain to penetrate the target if it hits than it is to get off three with little chance of penetrating the target if they hit. And how big can the variances in firing speed have been in practice, compared to the very great differences in penetration capability?

This is complete and utter nonsense. How possibly can Wilson opine on battle conditions of the Churchill versus Panther/Tiger prior to June 6th?


I don't think he does actually :) - this is out of Hastings' "Overlord", and I take it Burns committed a typo - it refers to a Post D-Day conversation between a newly arrived officer and one of his more experienced colleagues.

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue Feb 10, 2004 6:07 am

Hi Guys,

Surely, rate of fire only becomes a comparitive advantage once both tanks are within range to penetrate each other's armour?

Looking at Normandy, presumably the hedgerowed terrain greatly undermined the advantages of range and armour possessed by Panthers and Tigers as they allowed Allied tanks to get comparitively close to the German tanks before fire was exchanged?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » Tue Feb 10, 2004 6:24 am

Hi Sid
Looking at Normandy, presumably the hedgerowed terrain greatly undermined the advantages of range and armour possessed by Panthers and Tigers as they allowed Allied tanks to get comparitively close to the German tanks before fire was exchanged?
True, as far as it goes! On the other hand, a great deal of the fighting in the British/CW sector did not take place in Bocage terrain.


cheers

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue Feb 10, 2004 6:28 am

Hi Qvist,

Great! Another excuse for us Brits if anyone accuses us of not performing as well as the Yanks in Normandy!

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Freiritter » Tue Feb 10, 2004 8:15 am

Got it, Martin. I-tanks were infantry support in Tank units and the Cruiser tanks were AT in Armored units. Cool. As for the Brit/CW sector of Normandy, what kind of terrain did they operate in? If I remember correctly, There was major city fighting in Caen and I'm not sure about the terrain in question beyond the city.

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Post by Reb » Tue Feb 10, 2004 8:17 am

Sid

While it may be fun to pick on the Brits I'd be more apt to kid you about the food or the weather than British performance in Normandy. One need only look to Hill 112 and any desire to be a smart aleck melts away!

best
reb

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Liam
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Post by Liam » Tue Feb 10, 2004 10:22 am

I actually tried wargaming (the proper old way - not with computers) the reversed scenario of Normandy many moons ago with a group of friends. British, Polish and Canadians to south. Americans to north. In each case the British did worse - mostly due to poor infantry/tank combinations in attack and inferior tanks (such as Cromwells) in units like 7th Armoured. However, the breakout to Falaise and German destruction was always the end result no matter what possible likely advantages the Germans had. Anyone else ever tried this?
Hitler...there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in ONE afternoon! TWO coats!! Mel Brooks, The Producers

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Post by Reb » Tue Feb 10, 2004 11:05 am

Liam

I don't see how it could have gone any other way really. The allies had one person on their side who virtually guaranteed they'd win: Hitler!

In the bocage I don't think the tanks would have mattered much - cromwell, sherman, even panther. The attacker always seemed to be at such a disadvantage and the range so close that high casualties were inevitable.

An interesting war game might be the Ardennes with Brit / US reversed.

reb

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Post by Gerry Chester » Tue Feb 10, 2004 11:57 am

Qvist wrote:Gerry
Having read with great interest the many postings on the subject of gun size, it seems that a very important point is being overlooked. In World War Two, when tank guns were hand-loaded, size of the gun was of less importance than the ability to get shots off faster than ones opponent.
How do you make that work? It seems fairly obvious that it is better to get off one round that is virtually certain to penetrate the target if it hits than it is to get off three with little chance of penetrating the target if they hit. And how big can the variances in firing speed have been in practice, compared to the very great differences in penetration capability
By stating "when tank guns were hand-loaded, size of the gun was of less importance than the ability to get shots off faster than ones opponent" is not to infer that penetration and punch of a gun didn't matter.

My Regiment (and no doubt all tank units) received a constant stream of paper containing penetration/range data on Allied and enemy weaponry. Problem was, the data was arrived at in non-combat tests, in battle the information, while relevant to the performance of A/T guns was less so for tank-mounted guns.

On the ground crews of A/T guns, the speed of reloading not being confined by being within a turret, knocked out more British tanks than did fire from Panzers, vide, "The comparative performance of German anti-tank weapons during WWII, dated 24 May 1950.")

Tigers were effectively put out of action in Tunisia principally due to their commanders' tendency fire too soon, thus enabling defending Churchills to get off two or three shots before the 88mm guns were reloaded. The report on early actions of Tigers in Tunisia by Lueder, commander Schwere sPzAbt.501 (Heavy Tank Battalion) included logical reasons why Tigers should not open fire too soon. Whether his recommendations were ignored and not acted upon by Schwere Panzer Abteilungen , or some higher authority, is a matter for conjecture, either way (at least in Italy) the Panzers invariably shot first. It is an imponderable, akin to the Germans being unable (or unwilling) to recognise the climbing ability of Churchills demonstrated, when fifteen of the twenty-seven that went ashore, were able to climb on to the promenade at Dieppe.

Post battle examination of the two Tigers, put out of action by Churchills of the North Irish Horse, found their 88-mm guns unloaded. I heard, but cannot confirm, that the Tiger later knocked out (now in Bovington) was also found with its gun unloaded.

Gunnery not being my thing, I cannot state for sure what Marks of 6-pdr ammo we used in action. I do know it was upgraded before leaving the UK which leads me to conclude that in Tunisia we probably had Mark 9 APCBC - later in Italy I know we had APDS and possibly APCR.

Lueder, in one of his reports, records that one of his Tigers, after missing a General Grant, was hit four or five times while the 88-mm was being reloaded. While the Grant's gun could not destroy a Tiger,
the 6-pdr certainly proved that it could. Whatever Mark of ammunition was used against the Tigers in Tunisia it was effective as acknowledged by the Schwere Panzer Abteilungen.

As translated from the German.
Referencing the Battle for Hunt's Gap:

" .....for the Operation Eilbote II" Eleven Tiger and 14 Pzk III are available. The minefields and a severe defense anti-tank devices stops the attack. Two Tiger succeed in penetrating the lines but are destroyed (bored frontal shielding!), the remainder is withdrawn."
Referencing the battle for control of the Medjerda Valley:

" .....the crew of Tiger "131" panics under the blows of Churchill and gives up his Tiger. Tiger "712" (ex n°112 of the s.Pz.Abt 501) is touched with the turret by Churchill and is given up by its crew after having destroyed Churchill of 4 Troop Leader, 48th RTR. "

It would seem that the Germans had more respect for the Churchill and its capabilities than did/does Andrew Wilson. Does anyone know in which unit he served?

Cheers reciprocated.

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Post by Darrin » Wed Feb 11, 2004 7:15 am

Gerry Chester wrote:
On the ground crews of A/T guns, the speed of reloading not being confined by being within a turret, knocked out more British tanks than did fire from Panzers, vide, "The comparative performance of German anti-tank weapons during WWII, dated 24 May 1950.")

Well on p69 of the following web site the report in question says you should add togeather the SP guns and Tanks. Because the data taken from british battle reports said thier was uncertinty about describing each and every attacker. It also seems fair to add them togeather since a german stug III was more similar to a panzer IV then a mere ATG. Then the numbers come out to 38.8% for the tank/sp to 29.4% for the ATGs.

The reports here are what the allied crews thoght knocked them out. The crews often were wrong claiming 88mm in normandy in large number but when they measured the holes in the allied tanks it told a different story. The allies also overclaimed the numbers of tanks they des by somthing link 5 times . Another possible source that might be useful would be the ger claims of tanks des which were more accurte in terms of numbers at least. Here the tank/sp guns are even more eff it seems and the ATG even less but the one or two cases I´ve seen may not be aplicable to all WWII.


http://www.britwar.co.uk/files/phatfile ... 4May02.PDF

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Post by Rich » Wed Feb 11, 2004 8:06 am

michael kenny wrote: A self evident truth but I was under the impresion we were talking about a later date, Normandy to be precise.
I was being flippant - and of course forgot the damned Fireflies in 7 AD.

:D

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Post by Rich » Wed Feb 11, 2004 8:29 am

Gerry Chester wrote:On 23 5.44 the first Panthers knocked by tanks of the Western Allies occurred during the breaking of the Hitler Line. These were also the work of the North Irish Horse, both at ranges approaching 1,000 yards. Major Griffith was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross for his part in their destruction et cetera. Note the date Mr Wilson - these were the first Panthers encountered by Churchills anywhere!
Gerry, this fits in well with my understanding of the movements of I./Pz.Regt.4. as leaned from the daily reports of 14 Armee. As part of 14 Armee at Anzio and attached to 26.Pz.Div. on the morning of 19 May the regiment (minus one company) with 48 operational Panthers was ordered with that division to the zone of XIV Pz.K. of 10 Armee facing the US Fifth Army (II Corps and FEC). Then on the afternoon of 19 May the detached company with 14 operational Panthers was sent to the zone of LI Geb.K. facing Eighth Army. I suspect the tank knocked out by Major Griffith was one of those. And quite definitely they had to be the first encountered by Churchills.

But my original question stands. How was Major Griffiths' Panther the first to be knocked out when others had been knocked out in late February and early March at Anzio, although not be Churchills? Specifically, the technical intelligence bulletin of 6 June issued by SHAEF regarding the Panther refers to the vehical tested at Bovington as being "one" of "several" recovered from the battlefied at Anzio and sent to England. I cannot imagine in any case that they could gain detailed intelligence from tanks encountered in late May at such an early date, nor could they possibly get them to England.

Do you see my problem? The only thing I can suppose is that the Panthers lost by I./Pz.Regt.4. in February-March were not actually "knocked out"? Can anybody help resolve this?

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Pantehrs

Post by Gerry Chester » Wed Feb 11, 2004 9:30 am

Rich wrote: But my original question stands. How was Major Griffiths' Panther the first to be knocked out when others had been knocked out in late February and early March at Anzio, although not be Churchills? Specifically, the technical intelligence bulletin of 6 June issued by SHAEF regarding the Panther refers to the vehical tested at Bovington as being "one" of "several" recovered from the battlefied at Anzio and sent to England. I cannot imagine in any case that they could gain detailed intelligence from tanks encountered in late May at such an early date, nor could they possibly get them to England.

Do you see my problem? The only thing I can suppose is that the Panthers lost by I./Pz.Regt.4. in February-March were not actually "knocked out"? Can anybody help resolve this?

Hello Rich,

Although Panthers were knocked out prior to 23rd May, both on the Eastern Front and at Anzio, those at the latter location were by means other than fire from a tank. It is on record that the two destroyed during the Hitler Line battle were the first by an Western Allies tank. See North Irish Horse Battle Report, Page 33:
http://www.geocities.com/vqpvqp/nih/add ... rts/33.gif

Gerry

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