Monday, February 28, 2005
Mechanization reached India in 1938. Duncan Crow has a picture showing a troop leader's Lt.Mk.VI between two Lt.Mk.IIB's, plus a Lt.Mk.VI next to an Indian Pattern Lt.Mk.IIB. This was the 17th/21st Lancers. The other two regiments in the brigade were the 15th Lancers and the famous Central Indian Horse (otherwise known as the 21st King George's Own Horse). The Lt.Mk.IIB's were tiny vehicles, even next to a Lt.Mk.VI, which was none too large, itself.
My copy of Duncan Crow's book, British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations (1919-46) (1971) used to belong to A. B. Lord, and has a bookplate that has a Rolls Royce armoured car picture, with the note "Royal Naval Air Service" and "Russian Armoured Car Division". This is the first Profile Publications Limited edition from 1972. It would be interesting to know the history of the book, but that is probably beyond reach. The Rolls Royce armoured car on the bookplate is very archaic-looking, probably just what it says, dating from something like 1919. Someone later scribbled in the upper right corner of that page with a black Pentel pen, or something like it.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
In the early 1930's, British tank policy produced the medium tanks, the light tanks, and the carriers. The light tanks and carriers were produced because they were cheap, and were an obvious improvement to the limited mobility of the medium tanks. The Medium Mk.III were an attempt to improve on that, but they were too expensive for the times, so the next phase was to follow the path that light tanks and carriers started. There were to be highly specialized vehicles, rather than general purpose armored fighting vehicles. Earlier policy was more like naval policy, in some ways, in that they produced heavy and light vehicles, with the idea that each had their own utility, and the smaller vehicles were faster and were useful in more of a cavalry role for scouting. They were equipped with machine guns, as that seems a suitable weapon for their size. The earlier medium tanks all had 3pdr guns (47mm) with a rather poor anti-armor performance. The new guns, with higher velocity but lighter shot were the 40mm 2pdr. That piece was to be used as the anti-tank gun and for the tank weapon. A very few tanks were equipped with 3in mortars or howitizers of low performance. They were produced because of the acknowledgement that tanks might need to fight something besides other tanks. So, the new policy produced "heavy" and "light"cruiser tanks for the tank fighting role. The slowest were only capable of infantry tanks speeds (the A.10 Cruiser Mk.II and IIA), namely 15 mph, maximum. The faster were the Christy-inspired A.13 Cruiser Mk.III, Mk.IV, and Mk.IVA, which were capable of a governed speed of 30 mph. Without a governor, they could make 40 mph. It was only after hard experience fighting the Panzer Mk.III and Mk.IV that the British began to realize that they had problems. Their savior was the more general purpose, American-built medium tanks, such as the Grant and Sherman. The Sherman became the almost universal Allied tank, because of its huge production run. The British made do with upgunning their existing tanks and spawning new generations of cruiser tanks, with larger guns and heavier armor, such as the Cromwell and Comet. Their best tank was too late for combat, the ultra-modern (for the times) Centurion, which set the pace for modern tanks, being vastly superior to the Sherman.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
The 4th Armoured Brigade was the unit in which Robert Crisp (author of Brazen Chariots) served during the Crusader Operation in November 1941. At that date, the brigade had the 8th Hussars, 3/RTR (Crisp's unit), 5/RTR, 2nd Scots Guards, and 2/RHA. During Crusader, the 3/RTR was equipped with American-built light tanks (Stuarts). During the battle to relieve Tobruk, Robert Crisp's Stuart was ambushed by a German 50mm PAK38, and disabled. I believe that his driver was killed. He had a head wound.
Friday, February 25, 2005
I am not surprised to see a good deal of information on the Internet about topics relating to WWII armoured fighting vehicles and military history. For example, there is a page on the South African armoured cars, which saw extensive use in North Africa by both South African and British units. Another page has production numbers as well as specifications. An interst of mine has been to prepare production lists for armoured fighting vehicles for use in large-scale campaign games where feeding new production into the fray would be important.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The 8th Armoured Division, with the "GO" symbol, was fated to never fight as a formation. Its brigades were the 23rd and 24th Armoured Brigades and its armoured car regiment was the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry. The division arrived in Egypt in 1942 at a bad time. The Battle of Gazala had gone badly, and had lead to the capture of Tobruk by the Axis forces. The British were in full retreat for Egypt. The Germans came close to being able to sweep into Egypt and capture the canal. Instead, Claude Auchinleck and Eric Dorman-Smith stopped the Germans at the First Battle of El-Alamein in July 1942. The 23rd Armoured Brigade was one of the forces deployed in the battle that saved Egypt. After the battle, the 8th Armoured Division was dissolved. The 23rd Armoured Brigade ended up being used for infantry support. The 24th Armoured Brigade was assigned to the 10th Armoured Division. After the 2nd Battle of El-Alamein, the 24th Armoured brigade was dissolved and its equipment and personnel were used as replacements for the units that were preserved.
I have portraits of German generals, such as Rommel, the obscure Freiherr van Liebenstein, Hasso von Manteuffel, and Hans Guderian. I need to get them scanned or photographed so that they can be posted, possibly at graphic-artist-2.com.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
In January 1940, the 1st Light Armoured Brigade was assigned to the 2nd Armoured Division. It was joined in September by the 3rd Armoured Brigade. They fought in France in the debacle in 1940, and the remnants escaped at Dunkirk. The units originally assigned to the 1st Armoured Brigade were the King's Dragoon Guards (later famous as an armoured car regiment), the 3rd Hussars, and the 4th Hussars. Abruptly in August 1940, the 3rd Hussars were shipped to Egypt, where they were assigned to the 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats). The 3/RTR was assigned in place of the 3rd Hussars. Robert Crisp, author of Brazen Chariots was with the 3/RTR. In November 1940, the 2nd Armoured Division was transported to Egypt. It was at the end of 1940 that the King's Dragoon Guards were converted to an armoured car regiment. In March, the 1st Armoured Brigade, with Robert Crisp, were in the force sent to Greece, to take part in yet another British disaster. When they returned, the 1st Armoured Brigade was given the 1/RTR and 6/RTR and were assigned to the 7th Armoured Brigade. When Rommel attacked in March and April 1941, the 2nd Armoured Division was beaten and eventually dissolved. The 1st Armoured Brigade's sister brigade, the 3rd, escaped into Tobruk. When the 1st Armoured Brigade arrived at the Battle of Gazala in May 1942, the brigade was dissolved and their equipment and troops used to reinforce the other units and was never reformed.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Basil Liddell Hart's book, The Rommel Papers, along with Correli Barnett's Desert Generals, Robert Crisp's Brazen Chariots, with the official histories, are all essential reading about the war in North Africa in 1940-1943. There is the PRO series about the War in the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Australian On to Benghazi, and the South African book Springboks in Armour. I recommend them all. There are many other related books, and I would add the SPI game Campaign for North Africa, designed by Richard Berg. It is not perfect, but it has the best game OOB published (at least that I have seen). Apparently, there are still copies floating around, for sale.
Monday, February 21, 2005
The 4/RTR was an independent Army tank battalion. The original intent was that the 4/RTR would be a component unit of the 1st Army Tank Brigade, but the 7/RTR and 8/RTR didn't go to France until it was too late (1st week of May 1940). The 4/RTR had 50 Inf. Mk.I Matilda's in three companies. Each company had five sections. Each section had 3 tanks. The company headquarters had one Inf. Mk.I and one light tank. The battalion headquarters had two Inf. Mk.I and two light tanks (possibly Lt.Mk.VIA or B). The sister unit, the 7/RTR, when it arrived in France in May 1940 had 27 Inf. Mk.I's and 23 Inf. Mk.II's (a much more potent weapon). Together, they shook the Germans at Arras, and allowed the BEF to escape to Dunkirk.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Armoured car regiments were distinct from the infantry division's reconnaissance regiments. This is a mid-to-late war establishment, I suspect. The armoured car regiment had a headquarters with 3 armoured cars. There was also a headquarters squadron with three troops: anti-aircraft (5 armoured cars with 20mm AA guns), communications (13 scout cars), and administrative. There were also four armoured car squadrons. Each had a headquarters troop with four armored cars. There were five troops with two armoured cars and two scout cars. There was also a heavy troop with two armoured cars and a troop of riflemen in half tracks. The total armoured car inventory was 67, consisting of Daimlers, AEC in heavy troops, and American-built Staghounds as headquarters cars. There were also 67 Daimler and Humber scout cars. The troop strength was 55 officers and 680 men.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
The 3rd Armoured Brigade had fought in France in 1940 as part of the 1st Armoured Division. After being transported to Egypty, the brigade fought with the 2nd Armoured Division, ending up trapped in Tobruk, when the collapse had taken place in early 1941. The brigade was converted to an Army Tank Brigade, becoming the 32nd in October 1941. The unit ceased to exist after the Gazala collapse and the subsquent surrender at Tobruk on 21 June 1942. They seem to have been equipped with Matilda's for the actions in and around Tobruk.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The Infantry or "I" tank was born out of a mistaken idea that there should be a slow, specialized tank to work with infantry. Since the infantry would be marching, the Infantry tank could be slow. The idea, though, was that the Infantry tank should be "shell proof", much as the KV-I was. That armor protection was the saving grace of the Infantry tank. The first tank, the Infantry Mk.I Matilda I was not very useful. The follow-on Infantry Mk.II Matilda was a super-tank for its time, due to its armor protection. It's slow speed was an impediment, but the armor protection with 78mm maximum thickness largely made up for the lack of speed. It was only by 1942, when better tanks appeared that the Infantry Mk.II became obsolete, as its cast hull kept it from being upgunned with the 6pdr or 75mm guns.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
The 1st Armoured Division had fought in France in May and June 1940. They had to be reformed as a unit with new components. The new organization included the 2nd and 22nd Armoured Brigades. The 12th Lancers were now the armoured car regiment. They were dispatched to Egypt in 1941. The 22nd Armoured Brigade consisted of the 2nd Royal Gloucester Hussars and the 3rd and 4th County of London Yeomanry. The 22nd Armoured Brigade arrived in the Desert in October 1941, and were given to the 7th Armoured Division. By May 1943, the 22nd Armoured Brigade was back with the 1st Armoured Division, but was assigned to the 10th Armoured Division at Alam el Halfa. They were then moved back to the 7th Armoured Division for the remainder of the North African campaign. The 1st Armoured Division retained the 2nd Armoured Brigade for most of the war. By 1944, they had the 4th Hussars as their armoured car regiment.
Monday, February 14, 2005
When the British started to modernize their armoured forces, the built a prototype medium tank, the Mk.III, in small numbers. The Mk.III had one 3pdr gun and 3 machine guns. One Mk.III was modified as a command tank, and the famous Brigadier P.C.S Hobart used it as his command vehicle in Salisbury plain exercises in 1934. The rest of the 1st Tank Brigade were Medium Mk.II's in all their variants (such as the Mk.II*). Carden-Lloyd carriers filled in for light tanks, as they had not been built in any numbers at that date.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
The British infantry battalion, in May 1940, had the following establishment:
- 780 men in battalion headquarters, headquarters company, and four rifle companies
- They carried 734 Lee-Enfield Mk.III rifle with a short magazine and a 17in bayonet
- 50-light machine guns
- 2-3in mortars
- 12-2in mortars
- 22-anti-tank rifles
- 10-carriers (some variant of the basic Carden-Lloyd carrier)
Saturday, February 12, 2005
There is a good webpage for the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (for 1941) that lists their equipment, over time. I have not seen anything this detailed before. I need to capture this and see if there is more like it, as it is invaluable. There seems to be more, so it would be worth you time to check it out. This is the index for them, for all years. (This is a top level page). I would alwaus have liked to see more, but what is there is interesting.
Friday, February 11, 2005
A medium regiment had a headquarters and two batteries. Each battery had 8-6in howitzers or 8-60pdr guns (5in). New 4.5in guns were produced using the 60pdr carriage, on an interim basis. The regiment had about 650 men with 68-pistols, 117 rifles, 10-light machine guns, and 9-anti-tank rifles. All artillery was pulled by tractors at this stage.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
This is a quick summary of British Infantry and Cruiser Tank Production from the start of the war up to the end of 1941:
- Sept-Dec 1939: 71 Cruiser tanks and 63 Infantry tanks
- 1st Quarter 1940: 92 Cruiser tanks and 46 Infantry tanks
- 2nd Quarter 1940: 159 Cruiser tanks and 121 Infantry tanks
- 3rd Quarter 1940: 147 Cruiser tanks and 227 Infantry tanks
- 4th Quarter 1940: 78 Cruiser tanks and 354 Infantry tanks
- 1st Quarter 1941: 184 Cruiser tanks and 469 Infantry tanks
- 2nd Quarter 1941: 347 Cruiser tanks and 566 Infantry tanks
- 3rd Quarter 1941: 406 Cruiser tanks and 942 Infantry tanks
- 4th Quarter 1941: 479 Cruiser tanks and 1,375 Infantry tanks
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
On May 17, 1940, the Queen's Bays were equipped with 4-A9, 3-A10, and 22-A13 cruiser tanks and with 21 Lt.Mk.VIB light tanks. The first Armoured Division had gone to France with 134 light tanks and 150 cruiser tanks. Source:
- Duncan Crow, British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations (1919-1946), 1971.
British cavalry, in Europe, in 1940 consisted mainly of Cavaly Light Tank Regiments. They were organized with a headquarters and three squadrons with 58 light tanks and 5 scout carriers. The scout carrier was a variant of the basic Carden-Lloyd carrier, which included the later Bren carrier, the Scout Carrier, and Universal Carrier.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
On 17 September 1938, the "Cairo Cavalry Brigade" was sent to forward positions at Mersa Matruh. The unit consisted of the following units:
- Headquarters, Cairo Cavalry Brigade
- 3/RHA with 3.7in Howitzers towed by tracked Dragons
- 7th Hussars Armoured regiment with A squadron, B squadron, and HQ squadron with Lt. Mk.III, Lt.Mk.VIA, and Lt.Mk.VIB tanks
- 8th Hussars motorized regiment with Ford 15cwt trucks armed with Bethier MG's
- 11th Hussars reconnaissance regiment with 40 Rolls Royce Armoured Cars with a "few" Morris A.C.9's
- 1/RTR with 58 Lt.Mk.VIA and B tanks
- Engineer company, 5 RASC
- 2/3 Field Ambulance RAMC
- In Cairo: 6/RTR with Vickers Medium Mk.II and light tanks
- 108 squadron (Army Cooperation) with Audaxes
- 80 Squadron (Fighter) with Gladiators
- 45 Squadron (Bomber) with Harts
Monday, February 07, 2005
In August 1939, the 7th Armoured Division consisted of the divisional headquarters with a heavy and a light armoured brigade. The individual units included:
- 7th Hussars, complete with 3 squadrons of light tanks (Lt.Mk.VIb?)
- 8th Hussars, with some light tanks
- 3rd Royal Horse Artillery Regiment with 1/2 being 37mm Bofors ATG (perhaps 18 guns) and 1/2 being 25pdrs (or more likely, 12-18/25pdrs, the 25pdr barrel on an 18pdr carriage)
- On battery from the 4th/RHA with 12-18/25pdr
- 6th/RTR with 10-A.9 Cru.Mk.I tanks, plus a few others
- 11th Hussars with 20 Morris A.C.9 and 40 Rolls Royce Armoured Cars
Sunday, February 06, 2005
As of 16 February 1940, the British 7th Armoured Division was composed of the following units:
7th Armoured Division:
HQ 7th Armoured Division
7th Armoured Brigade:
7th Hussars (armored regiment)
8th Hussars (armored regiment)
4th Armoured Brigade:
2/RTR (armored battalion)
6/RTR (armored battalion)
7th Armoured Division Support Group:
1/King's Royal Rifle Corp (1/KRRC) (infantry battalion)
2/Rifle Brigade (2/RB) (infantry battalion)
3/Royal Horse Artillery (3/RHA) (anti-tank regiment)
4/Royal Horse Artillery (4/RHA) (field artillery regiment)
Saturday, February 05, 2005
I still have my paperback copy of Correlli Barnett's book The Desert Generals. I must admit that his book shaped my thought about the war in the desert. That and reading Liddell Hart's book The Rommel Papers. The Desert Generals edition, in paperback, has a picture of a speeding Cruiser Mk.4A (A.13) throwing up dust, with the tank commander wearing goggles and a breathing filter.
Friday, February 04, 2005
To throw infantry into they mix, they need to be mobile and to use the infiltration tactics that almost broke WWI open for the Germans. On the attack, infiltrate. Get into position so that you can take a defensive position in a spot that makes life difficult for your enemy, then reinforce and support. I prefer to then consolidate the breakthrough, although the Germans did well enough in 1940 and 1941 with open flanks. It is very risky, however. The goal is to make the enemy have to attack you directly, so you can cut them up in the process. You don't want to be put into the position of a direct assault, yourself.
I do not believe in fighting a dispersed battle with my strength spread over a large area. I want a force that is tank-heavy, with tanks that are mobile, with enough armor-piercing capability and protection to be competitive. I prefer fighting the 1940-1941 style battle where you don't know if your shot will penetrate or not, if it hits. I find the late war battle pretty boring: if you hit, you kill. I like to fight using the sword and shield. Armor is the sword and A/T guns are the shield. They need to be backed with mobile artillery, so that opposing artillery and A/T guns can be dispatched.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
I find it ironic that Montgomery's first success in the Desert used Auchinleck's and Dorman-Smith's plan. He executed the plan, and Rommel was repulsed at Alam el Halfa. I was interested to note that New Zealand is working on putting their official history online. This is a link to their combined Alam el Halfa/El Alamein front page. The folklore about the war in North Africa has it that dug in British tanks took out the Germans. It don't know that the truth is much different.
Bernard Montgomery hated fluid battles. He always strove to fight setpiece battles, preferably where he had overwhelming force. Claude Auchinleck, and his key advisor, Eric Dorman-Smith, were experts in the sort of fluid battle that Rommel fought. They were as at ease with it as Rommel. They wanted to fight in a rather modern way, with mobile, combined arms teams, with decentralized command. They were the opposite extreme to Montgomery. When the Axis front collapsed after El Alamein, Montgomery was uneasy with a war of rapid movement, so that the result was that the Axis forces were able to withdraw without particular difficulty, until they reached Libya. Auchinleck would have run them down, and ended the war in North Africa, right then, in late 1942.
I highly recommend Correlli Barnett's book Desert Generals for the high-level story about what happened in the war in North Africa from 1940 to 1943. He tells the story from the perspective of the British generals involved in the war, and their interactions with Churchill. Churchill's favorite was General Sir Claude Auchinleck ("The Auk"). He had been appointed theater commander after Churchill lost confidence in General Wavell. Auchinleck seems to not have been a good judge of men, although being a man of quality, himself. Finally, for political reasons, and Churchill decided he needed to replace Auchinleck, who had become field commander and theater commander. Harold Alexander took over the theater commander position while the ever controversial Bernard Law Montgomery became field commander. I want to write about the men in more detail, over time.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
More accurately, I ordered Duncan Crow's book, British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations (1919-46). I was pleased at the price, and I hope the book is in reasonable condition. I search using used.AddAll.com exclusively, although you purchase your book from whatever organization is offering the book. In this case, I interacted with Biblio.com. I have wanted this book for years, but only in the Internet age is it possible to find and purchase books easily.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
There is a page about the 11th Hussars, the reconnaissance unit for the 7th Armoured Division in 1940. There is a picture of their modified Rolls Royce armoured cars. There are classic photographs on the page. Such as the one of a camoflaged Morris AC 9 crossing into Libya from Egypt. There is another picture of a man standing on the turret of a Marmon-Herrington car, looking through binoculars. I did a painting from that photograph in about 1974.