British tanks in Egypt - Spring-Autunn 1940

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by FrencioSchiavi, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. Hi guys! I'm interested in knowing what was the strength of british armoured forces in Egypt (1st, and 6th RTRs; 7th and 8th Hussars) in summer 1940 and of the 2dn and 7th RTRs when they arrived. More precisely, the type of tanks which were in used for instance (cruiserA9,A10, vickers and so on) and if you have the proportions (50 A9, 150 vickers .....) non for Compass, but in the previous period.

    Unfortunately i only found some detailed information on British armoured composition during Compass, but almost nothing on numbers and types of tanks when Italy declared war and the composition of the 2nd and 7th RTR when they arrived in Egypt in Autunn 1940 (I know that the 1st RTR had 58 Mk.VIb in September 1939 and that 6th RTR had 23 A9 Cruisers on 06/01/1940, according to the Regiment's diary).

    Someone can help me? Thaks!
  2. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    I have the following information for 10th June 1940...

    It's evolving, so very, but not necessarily 100% accurate.

    6 R/T/R. A & B Sqd. 12x A9 each. C Sqd. 15x Lt Mk VI b.
    1 R/T/R. 23x A9. 26x Lt MkVIa. 7x Lt MkVIb.


    2 R/T/R. @ 24/09/40. C Sqd. 16x A13, . B Sqd. 16x Lt MkVI. A Sqd. 14x A13MkII, 6x A9c/s.
    7 R/T/R. @ ??/10/40. A, D & B Squadrons. With in total 52 Matildas. & 4x Lt VIa or b. + 14 carriers.
    7 Huss. Egypt prior to June 1940. But not fit until 09/12/40. 7x A9, + 19x Lt MkVI + 19x Lt MkVI in three Sqds.
    8 Huss. Alexandria < 09/39. tanks by 09/12/40. A Sqd: 5x A9 + 9x A10. B Sqd: 18x Lt Mk VI. C Sqd: 17x Lt Mk VI.

    Kind Regards,
  3. Thank you my friend! very accurate!

  4. bitoque

    bitoque Junior Member

    Just to compliment David's info, 7th RTR had 50 matilda and 7 light tanks, as can be confirmed from the movement orders.
    By December 13th their status was:

    From Jentz "Tank Combat in North Africa" the models were:

  5. Gosh! I've always wanted Jent's book, but it's absolutely too expensive!
    However, thanks Nuno for your clarification!

  6. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    It's definitely worth investing in a copy, money well spent.

    You can always sell it on when you have gleaned all you can from it, and for about 90% of what you paid for it.
  7. DavidW you're right!

    Moreover, someone knows anything about 3rd Hussars?
  8. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    What do you want to know?

    I'll see if I can help.
  9. The same as above: tanks' models and proportion!


  10. bitoque

    bitoque Junior Member

    2nd RTR, 7th RTR and 3rd HUS arrived in the Apology convoys (AP1 & AP2) around 24 september 1940, see
    WS (Winston Special) Convoys in WW2 - 1940 Sailings

    From Jentz "Tank Combat in North Africa", page 23

    Shortly after arrival 2nd RTR and 3rd Hussars swapped their B squadrons till the end of the campaign, so 3rd Hus should have 2 A9CS,14 A10 and 36 light VI B, and 2nd RTR should have 4 A9CS, 14 A10, 18 A13 and 16 light VI B.


  11. Thank you so much Nuno! I only have a doubt. standing on your sentece:

    all the armoured units arrived in late August (24/08 for AP1 and 26/08 for AP2). However, in Robert Forczyk "We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion, 1940–41", I found that "the main convoy (AP3) left with the tanks and artillery [...] arrived in Suez on 22 October". Does anybody know in which convoy have these armoured units arrived?

    In this site 1940 - 1941 there's written that "The 7th (RTR) sailed from Liverpool on 21 August 1940 for Egypt, their new Matilda Mk 2s sailing at the same time in a fast merchant ship. The small convoy, escorted from Cape Town by the appropriately named Australian cruiser "Hobart", arrived at Port Said on 24 September". So we should suppose than that was the AP 1. What about the others?


    Attached Files:

  12. bitoque

    bitoque Junior Member

    Yes it is very confusing, there were several convoys, last minute changes, i have seen different dates and i cannot be very sure...but according to the war diary of 7 RTR:
    personnel on 24 september, tanks on 27 september.

    If the mention of "The 3 units from the Duchess of Bedford" are a reference to 2RTR, 7RTR and 3HUS, then the personnel arrived at the same time.
    For the tanks i lack the documents to confirm... Anyone? :)


  13. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Hello FrencioSchiavi,

    Not entirely sure what you are after and I'm also fairly sure that the information provided by DavidW for 10 June 1940 is not up to scratch.

    How many tanks is a tricky question at the best of times. In the Middle East, even more so.

    Are you looking for:
    a) The theoretical establishment on paper for 1940, or
    b) The theoretical establishment in practice for 1940, or
    c) The actual number of tanks held on a given day?

    The theoretical establishment on paper for 7H, 8H and 11H was 58 off Light Tanks Wheeled.
    The theoretical establishment on paper for 1RTR and 6RTR was 52 off Cruiser Tanks.
    The theoretical establishment on paper for HQ 7th Armd Div was 5 off Cruiser Tanks.
    The theoretical establishment on paper for HQ 4th and 7th Armd Bdes is unknown to me but probably 5-8 off Cruiser Tanks too.

    In reality, on 10 June 1940, the Middle East held 68 Cruiser Tanks and 172 Light Tanks (Tracked).
    The 68 Cruiser Tanks were all Vickers A9.
    The 172 Light Tanks were Vickers Mk.III, Mk.VI, Mk.VIA and MK.VIB
    Some Vickers Medium Tanks and Light Tanks Mk.II were still to be found in the Middle East - and were to be used operationally - but were not at that time counted by the WO.

    Thus, all formations and units were on an interim establishment which went a bit like this.

    HQ 7th Armd Div : 3 Light Tanks
    HQ 4th Armd Bde : 3 Light Tanks
    HQ 7th Armd Bde : 1 Cruiser Tank + 3 Light Tanks
    7H : 7 Cruiser Tanks + 42 Light Tanks
    8H : 7 Cruiser Tanks + 42 Light Tanks
    11H : 58 Armoured Cars
    1RTR : 23 Cruiser Tanks + 26 Light Tanks
    6RTR : 23 Cruiser Tanks + 26 Light Tanks
    Reserves : 7 Cruiser Tanks + 27 Light Tanks (This includes RAC School)

    What each formation and unit had on a given day changed every day. But consider about 20-30% of Cruiser Tanks would be in workshops at any given moment and a similar number of Light Tanks too.

    In September 1940, 52 Cruiser Tanks arrived with 2RTR (6 A9CS, 28 A10 and 18 A13), 52 Light Tank Mk.VIB arrived with 3H, 50 Infantry Tank Mk.II and 7 Light Tank Mk.VIB with 7RTR and 4 Light Tank Mk.VIB with 1RHA.

    In October 1940, 18 Cruiser Tanks A10 arrived and were distributed to formation HQs, 1RTR and 6RTR through November and into December.

    Please note:
    1) B/6RTR was sent to the East African front in September 1940 with a mix of A9 and Lt.VI.
    2) A squadron of Light Tank Mk.III was also sent to Kenya and incorporated into the South African forces for the East African campaign.
    3) In the Middle East, all three versions of the Light Tank Mk.VI were consider in one pool. Thus each unit would have a mix of VI, VIA and VIB and were not limited to just one type.
    4) Of the 145 Light Tanks noted in the 7th Armd Div interim establishment above, 143 can be identified as: 11 off Mk.III, 27 Mk.VI, 42 Mk.VIA and 63 Mk.VIB. The other two remain elusive for now but one of which was subsequently replaced by a Mk.IIB!
  14. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks Mark.
    I'm busy now, but when time allows, I'll look at your figures, and correct mine where necessary.
    No doubt prompting more discussion.
  15. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Absolutely not relevant to this thread but it occurs to me that it may be of passing interest to those reading this.

    The movement summaries for the BEF include details of the horsed cavalry units which transited France on their way to the Middle East. Presumably the MT went directly by sea but it was preferable for the horses to travel through France. With hindsight, it seems incredible that resources were being allocated to the movement of horsed cavalry in 1940.

    My main interest is in the organisation of the BEF and it amuses me how "Britain's Modern Army' could refer at the same time to 'Divisional Cavalry' and 1st 'Cavalry Division' , one of which was equipped with Vickers Mk VI and the other with horses (which at least had the advantage that they did not burst into flames when hit). P2090938 (2).JPG P2090960 (2).JPG P2090966 (2).JPG
    Richelieu likes this.
  16. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    Fascinating stuff Rich - can you remember where you found it?

    The following extract from chapter 2 of Maj-Gen Beddington’s “A HISTORY OF THE QUEEN'S BAYS (THE 2nd DRAGOON GUARDS) 1929 – 1945” may be of interest:

    When war and orders for mobilization came on the 3rd September, 1939, neither the Regiment nor any of the other armoured units in the division formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. The 12th Lancers and Royal Tank reservists, posted to the Regiment for training in July and by now well settled into their squadrons, were posted to their own regiments or to the divisional reconnaissance units that were being hurriedly formed by the cavalry regiments recently converted and partially trained at Aldershot.

    The main task of the Regiment during the first few days was the reception and organization into labour companies of some seven hundred cavalry reservists for immediate embarkation to the base ports in France.

    It was sad to see so many old friends drafted into rear services and away from their regiment under officers of the emergency reserve rushed into uniform with no military experience. Fortunately, however, the War Office agreed to the request that Major Macnaughtan and other reserve officers of the regiment, who knew them well, should take over command. These old cavalry-men did sterling work, as might be expected of them, and a number of them, were later sent to join the 1st Cavalry Division in the Middle East.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  17. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The extracts are from WO193/10 in the National Archives.
    Richelieu likes this.
  18. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The 1st Cavalry Division was a Territorial Army formation. It was sent out to Palestine for internal policing duties. There were already two regular horsed cavalry regiments there and experience suggested the work was suited to mounted personnel. Their arrival effectively free'd up about 6 infantry battalions for employment elsewhere.

    The support units, artillery and engineers were pretty quickly syphoned off to duties in the Western Desert and then Op COMPASS.

    The 'cavalry' regiments gradually mechanized and were instrumental in sorting out both Iraq and Syria (unlike their modern counterparts!!!!). Eventually, the whole division got rebadged as 10th Armoured Division.

    As far as I understand it, everything in the division went across France by rail; nothing was shipped directly. It was considered overall quicker and less demanding on shipping.

    Divisional Cavalry was a daft name for light tank/carrier units. But it kept the now-mechanized former-cavalry regiments happy. It was not long before it was dropped and each division got a recce battalion.

    And if you think that was a strange use of the word 'cavalry', look at the US Army today. They have 'cavalry' in MBTs, light recce vehicles and flying helicopters....
  19. bitoque

    bitoque Junior Member

    Trying to resuscitate this very interesting thread :)
    Does anybody know the distribution by convoy of these shipments?
    From Military Modelling Vol.41 No.6 2011:




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