Anti tank artillery

Discussion in 'Artillery' started by Trux, Aug 29, 2010.

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  1. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Anti tank artillery was essentially defensive although self propelled guns could be used
    offensively. In any case the function of anti tank artillery was to destroy enemy tanks. As the
    campaign progressed more 17pdr guns became available and more anti tank artillery was
    self propelled.


    Headquarters of an AT Regiment in an Infantry Division. War Establishment II/181/2. January 1944
    Anti Tank Battery, Infantry Division. War Establishment II/186C/1. January 1944
    Anti Tank Battery, Assault Division. War Establishment II/190/2. January 1944
    Headquarters of an AT Regiment in an Armoured Division. War Establishment II/181/2. January 1944
    Anti Tank Battery Self Propelled. War Establishment II/188/2. January 1944
    Anti Tank Battery, Armoured Division. War Establishment II/186/1. April 1943
    Anti Tank Battery. War Establishment XIV/470/1. October 1944
    Headquarters of an AT Regiment in an Infantry Division. War Establishment XIV/473/1. March 1945.
    Anti Tank Battery. War Establishment XIV/471/1. January 1945
    Anti Tank Battery. War Establishment XIV/472/1. January 1945

    Headquarters of a Corps Anti Tank Regiment. War Establishment III/308/1. February 1944
    Anti Tank Battery, 3” M10 SP. War Establishment III/309/1. February 1944
    Anti Tank Battery, 17dr track towed. War Establishment III/310/1. February 1944


    Loyd Carrier, Tracked, Towing.
    This was not originally designed for the artillery tractor role, although large numbers were used to tow 6pdr guns It lacked power, reliability and space. The lack of space was made up for by providing extra limber vehicles to carry ammunition and one gun number. However some 14,000 were built for this role and the majority of 6pdr guns in 21 Army Group were towed by them.

    The tractor version had a driver’s position at front centre, with a crew seat on either side and one behind. Four boxes of 6pdr ammunition were stowed on the sides, giving 24 rounds. Gun equipment and crews kit filled the rest of the space. A spare gun wheel was carried on the front plate and a 2” mortar for use with smoke rounds was carried on the engine cover. The ammunition carrier was similar but carried five boxes of ammunition and could carry gun extension shields, although these were not used in NW Europe. It also carried a Bren gun and the section cooker. No spare gun wheel was carried. The ammunition carrier could tow the gun if necessary. A tilt frame and canvas tilt was fitted as standard.

    The Universal Carrier
    This was also never designed as an artillery tractor but was also used for towing 6pdr anti tank guns. It had some advantages but was if anything even more lacking in space than the Loyd. It had better traction, was more stable, had better protection and was generally more reliable. A special Stacey tow bar was designed and fitted to certain carriers. Carriers without this attachment could not tow 6pdr guns. Stowage was as for the Loyd. No tilt was fitted.

    Universal Carrier T16
    The Carrier T16 was built in the USA by Ford more or less to British Universal Carrier specifications. It differed in several ways, most of which were improvements. The T16 was longer and had an extra wheel which gave a longer length of track in contact with the ground. These changes made the carrier roomier, more stable and less prone to overloading. The T16 was also welded and had a larger engine, a Mercury GAU V8 engine delivering 100hp. Instead of the Universal Carriers steering system which curved the track and was operated via a steering wheel the T16 used steering brakes operating on the differential. This system wore badly and caused problems. It seems that 20,000 T16 were ordered but probably only a third were delivered. Very few saw service and all seem to have been used as 6 pdr tractors replacing Loyd and Universal Carriers.

    Carrier, Windsor.
    Ford Canada built a large number of Universal Carriers and in 1943 began producing the improved Windsor version. Like the T16 it was longer than the Universal and had an extra wheel each side. It was riveted and had a steering wheel. Engine was a Ford V8 95hp. The Windsor was intended as a replacement for Loyd Carriers as 6pdr tractors and 4.2 mortars. Mechanical problems delayed its entrance into service and few were in service by the end of the war, all as 6pdr tractors in infantry units.

    Note: The T16 can be recognised by the fact that its body sides were 4” higher than the Universal and Windsor and the wheel bogies were reversed while the Windsor’s all faced in the same direction. The Windsor named after the city of Windsor, just across the river from Detroit, where they were built.

    Morris C8AT 4 X 4
    The 17pdr in infantry divisions used a redundant and rebuilt Morris C8 2pdr portee. This was very similar to the Field Artillery Tractor and had sufficient power but only just. The 17pdr was a heavier equipment than the 25pdr. It lacked space but did manage to pack a lot into what space there was. It also lacked a winch which would have been useful when recovering the heavy 17pdr.

    The Morris C8AT tractor came in two slightly different versions. On was based on the 2pdr portee and the other on the C8P Predictor. Both were redundant, the portee because the 2pdr was redundant and the predictor because the Light AA predictor it carried proved ineffective. There were nearly 4000 portees and 500 predictors, many unissued, so there was no reason to develop another tractor.

    The C8s had new bodies fitted but kept the original cabs. The cab could accommodate the driver and three crew. Two more crew sat on each wheel arch thus giving seating for eight. The centre of the body was taken up with ammunition in boxes and two more ammunition boxes were stowed vertically at the front of the body. Total ammunition carried was 30 rounds. The body had a canvas tilt on a tubular frame. The frame also provided stowage. There were racks for the crew’s personal kit high up on either side. Lower down there was stage for tools and weapons. The body had a tailgate fitted.

    Morris C8 Field Artillery tractor with Body No 5
    Late in the campaign some of the new Morris C8 Field Artillery Tractors with body No5 were issued to towed 17pdr units. The No5 body had an open top and alternative stowage for 25pdr and 17pdr ammunition. The change from one to the other was simply a matter of moving partitions and took only minutes. These tractors had the advantage of a winch.

    M5 Halftrack
    In the armoured divisions the standard 17pdr tractor was the M5 halftrack with winch. In British service these US built halftracks were classed as 15 cwt but they had sufficient power to tow the heavy 17pdr guns. M5 tractors were the Lend Lease version built by International. Although there was an artillery tractor version, the M9, it seems that the M5 was preferred for this role. The M9 had internal ammunition stowage bins which would not take the 17pdr round, which was anyway usually carried in boxes. The M5 had sufficient space for the crew and the ammunition. Some photographs show the M5 and 17pdr being used with a 25pdr limber. Since this was not able to carry 17pdr ammunition presumably it was to assist with manoeuvring in difficult country. The winch was for self recovery of the tractor, which could find itself in some difficult situations when emplacing and recovering its gun.

    M5 halftracks were also used as ammunition vehicles in 17pdr troops, and some units had them at troop and battery headquarters as wireless vehicles.

    The Crusader Gun Tractor
    The Crusader Gun Tractor MkI was built to give the 17pdr greater mobility. It was a heavy gun and difficult to move across country. It was thought that a full tracked tractor would be ideal. The crusader was drastically modified by having everything forward of the engine compartment removed to provide a large open space. There was no overhead protection and only thin armoured sides. The armoured lower hull remained. The space was used to accommodate a crew of eight plus 30 rounds of 17pdr ammunition in boxes. A gun spare wheel and gun planks were carried on the engine deck. There were towing hooks front and rear. In the event the US halftracks proved adequate for the job and the Crusader was used by Corps anti tank regiments. Crusader tractors were powerful and fast, although governed to 28 mph. In fact they were too fast across country and unless drivers were very careful the guns were damaged by driving over obstacles or rough country at speed. The Crusader tractor was also popular as a battery commander’s reconnaissance and command vehicle.

    The Archer Self Propelled 17pdr.
    Many of the problems encountered with the 17pdr were overcome by the Archer self propelled 17pdr gun. This was based on the hull and running gear of the Valentine tank. It was reliable and well armoured since it had originally been designed as an infantry tank. It had a relatively low speed which made it unsuitable for operations with fast moving armoured units, and it lacked a rotating turret. However it was not intended for such a role. It was not a tank destroyer but just what its description said, a self propelled anti tank gun. It had a good cross country performance and could be emplaced readily under its own power. The gun faced to the rear which again made it unsuitable for mobile warfare but was ideal for the ‘shoot and scoot’ sort of tactics. It could fire and then drive off to an alternative position very rapidly indeed. It had a low silhouette which made it easy to conceal and its hull was fairly mine proof.

    The gun had a traverse of 11 degrees either side and a disadvantage was that if a greater traverse was required the gun had to be stowed so that the driver could reach his seat and traverse the whole vehicle. The gun could not be fired with the driver in his seat since it recoiled through the driving position. There was a crew of four. 39 rounds were carried on the vehicle. 665 vehicles were built by the end of the war and issues began in October 1944.

    The M10 3” Self Propelled Anti Tank gun
    The US built M10 3” self propelled gun was based on the lower hull, running gear and mechanicals of the Sherman M4A2 tank. This was diesel engined. Some Sherman M4A3 petrol engined chassis were also produced as the M10A1. Both of these were supplied to Britain under Lend Lease.

    Since this was designed from the start as Tank Destroyer it had a lower hull than the Sherman, helped by the fact that none were built with the radial engine which largely dictated the height of the early Shermans. It also had sloped hull armour and a sloped turret, although it did have thinner armour. The 3” anti tank gun was a development of the 3” anti aircraft gun and while its performance was better than that of the 75mm gun as fitted in the Sherman it was not as powerful as the 17pdr.

    The Achilles 17pdr Self propelled Anti tank Gun
    It was found that the 17pdr could be fitted into the M10 and the conversion was carried out to become the Achilles. Some regiments had at least some of these in time for the Normandy landings and they continued to be issued as replacements for the M10 throughout the campaign. M10 converted to Achilles were designated as 17pdr SP Achilles MkIC while M10A1 converted to Achilles were designated as 17pdr SP Achilles MkIIC. The suffix C indicated a 17pdr.

    The concept of the Tank Destroyer was developed in the USA as part of the Armoured Force. Having seen the effect of German armour in the Blitzkrieg it was decided that the US should form an Armoured Force composed of tanks, armoured infantry and self propelled artillery. These would form Armoured Divisions and Armoured Corps. The role of the tank was to keep moving deep into the enemy rear and create havoc. It was not the business of the tank to fight enemy tanks. Tank Destroyers would seek and destroy enemy armour while the US tanks kept moving forward. In defence the mobile Tank Destroyer would similarly seek and destroy any enemy armour which penetrated the front lines. By 1943 it was realised that tanks would have to form part of all arm battle groups prepared to assault enemy positions and combat enemy tanks. By the 1945 the Tank destroyer concept was abandoned as it was realised that the most effective anti tank weapon was another tank.

    In the British Army the self propelled anti tank units remained in service for some years after the war, but more out of necessity than choice. They were however transferred from the Royal Artillery to the Royal Armoured Corps.

    In NW Europe a steel roof was designed and fitted to protect the crew from shrapnel, particularly from mortars. This allowed the crew to have all round vision, and easy access through the hinged rear section of the roof. However some crews felt that a means of speedy exit was desirable.

    Command and Observation Post vehicles (SP Anti Tank Units)
    Crusader OP
    Initially units used the Armoured Observation Post Carrier for troop and battery commanders. These did go to NW Europe but were soon found inadequate and replacements were sought. Since Crusader AA tanks were being removed from armoured regiments for lack of targets these seemed a convenient, if not ideal, alternative to the AOP carrier. Some sources state that the guns and ammunition stowage were removed and units fitted them out to taste. Others maintain that the armament was retained and occasionally used to good effect against ground targets. At first they were issued to commanders of self propelled anti tank batteries, but were later issued to troops as well. First issues were as early as July 1944.

    M10 and Achilles OP
    Although the Crusader was an improvement on the AOP Carrier it was seen as a temporary measure. Various types were suggested as replacements but ideally a diesel engined Sherman was needed. This would have the same engine and fuel as the M10 thus simplifying supply and maintenance. Diesel Shermans existed but were rare birds at this time, most being earmarked for Russia. Some units used M10 as command tanks. Usually these were Achilles as used by the unit but redundant M10 3” are also mentioned. In most cases however the Crusader continued in use to the end of the campaign. An armoured roof was designed and constructed by REME workshops to protect the observer/commanding officer from shrapnel. Mortars were a particular hazard to all open topped vehicles.

    Valentine OP
    The Valentine tank was also a contender for use as a command tank. These were diesel but tended to be cramped. However they were issued to units operating the Valentine based Archer SP 17pdr. Some were also issued to Corps or GHQ anti tank units operating M10 Achilles but there is no record of them being used in the armoured divisions.

    Locust OP
    There is evidence that 75th Anti tank regiment in 11 Armoured Division had a Locust Light Tank as an Armoured Observation Post for the Rhine Crossing in 1945. This was a US built light tank intended for airborne use. Very few were used in their intended role, a handful were used in the Rhine Crossing, so there would be some available for other roles. They would be low profile, reasonably fast, have good cross country ability, and have good over head protection. On the other hand they were rather cramped.

    Electo OP
    It was suggested that another vehicle based on the Tetrarch Light Tank should be used as an OP. This was the Electo OP, based on the Electo self propelled 95mm howitzer. It was very useful although open topped but the war ended before it could be used.
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