PIAT Questions

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by JDKR, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think the British/Canadian/US approach was largely to have the weapons available to rifle subunits, but not have them permanently manned. I wonder if the frequency of encounters between Allied infantry units and Panzers might have become a little overstated and make it seem that no Rifle Platoon would feel secure without its PIAT or Bazooka in hand. That contrasts with German and Red Army practice, who had specified personnel for their anti-tank rifles, continued by the Germans for their Panzerschrecks (Panzerfausts were treated pretty much like hand grenades).

    I'm just reading through G Company by Noel Bell, and I think there's only passing mention of their PIATs and I'm up to the Rhine crossing. Certainly the basic PIAT issue was one per Rifle Platoon, though they were distributed throughout units of Divisions and higher, and when they were used in anger it was best to have a gunner and loader assigned.

    There is the legend of the US 82nd Airborne Division making use of Panzerfausts; I say legend because having tried to trace the source it was a case of some saying the items were picked up in Sicily or Italy and others they were captured in the Bulge. Both could be true of course, but I recall it seemed a bit confused. I think there's more solid ground for the US 2nd Armored Division making a conscious effort to replace its Bazookas with captured Panzerschrecks, detailed in the report by the Div on the quality of US equipment versus German.

    Gary
     
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  2. BC610E

    BC610E Junior Member

    There's a fictitious reference to US forces using captured Panzerfauste(n) in Ernest Hemingway's short story "Black Ass At The Crossroads" where he mentions German booby traps being attached to abandoned PFs. Hemingway was in the post D-Day fighting as a war correspondent but there are claims he ran a bunch of irregulars ambushing German forces pulling out of France, so his story may have some foundation.

    Cheers,

    '610
     
  3. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Dad always said the PIAT was a "last resort" weapon and invariably left in a vehicle somewhere. He only ever saw it used, and used it himself, in Holland. They used it to blow a hole in the end wall of a row of terraced houses during house clearing. He remembered one officer ordering the PIAT up, at Hekkens corner, to take on a couple of tanks, but the sgt told the 3 men concerned to go forward and hide and wait for the anti-tank guns. Although it was supposed to be effective to 100 yards, they found it was more like 30 yards if you wanted to stop a tank.
     
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  4. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    How did they find it had to be fired at 30 yards to stop a tank, if they never, ever, used it to stop a tank?
     
  5. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    When training with it prior to D-Day.!!!
     
  6. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Here's some PIAT action from the Italian theatre:

    5CAB-1.jpg 5CAB-2.jpg

    (from: WO 204/1908 RAC Lessons from operations in Italy, May 1944 - Nov 1945)
     
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  7. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The History of the 58th 1939-1945: 2nd Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment includes an interesting Load Table for a company, undated but 1943-44-ish. I've had a look through the text and can't see a reference to the table; make of this what you will:
    The company has been detailed its own carrier to carry the company's reserve ammunition and 3 PIATs (PsIAT, if we're being pedantic) with 36 bombs.
    Pl (not Coy) HQ includes 2x PIAT numbers with the No.2 carrying 3 bombs.
    Notes are:
    Piats issued as required.
    Piat No.1's rifle could be carried on carrier to lighten his load to 57.13 [57lbs 13oz] when carrying Piat.
    [Platoon] Orderly could assist Piat to carry a further 3 bombs or the 3 already carried.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017
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  8. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Does it happen to identify who the two PIAT numbers were at all? I'd put a tuppence each on the clerk and storeman I think, as the remaining rank and file were either orderlies or responsible for a vehicle. I recall before being able to see contemporary descriptions pretty much all info came from war games enthusiasts, with a widespread notion that any spare riflemen at Coy/Pl HQs would be lumbered with anti-tank weapons rather than be something mundane, like a messenger or signaller!

    Gary
     
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Gary - apologies are in order, the PIAT numbers are in Platoon HQ (I have corrected the original). I hope you haven't been wrestling too hard with that. As penance:

    Coy HQ (15 excl Snipers)

    Coy Comd
    2i/c
    CSM
    2x Batmen (1 with 38 set)
    2x Orderlies
    Clerk
    Storeman
    4x Drivers
    Carrier driver
    CQMS
    3x Snipers (attached to Coy)

    Pl HQ (10)
    Pl Comd
    Pl Sgt
    Batman (with 38 set)
    Orderly
    3x Mortar numbers
    2x PIAT numbers
    Truck escort

    Sec (7)
    Sec Comd
    No.1 (LMG)
    No.2 (LMG)
    No.3 (Rifleman)
    No.4 (Runner)
    No.5 (Bomber)
    No.6 (2i/c)

    Some details are inconclusive. With references to the Stores and Cook's trucks, there are 5 trucks but only 4 identified truck drivers. The absence of a cook probably suggests the cook, his truck and driver were attached from HQ Coy.
     
  10. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    No worries, makes more sense for Platoon (though I'm keeping my four pence bet ;>).

    A seven strong rifle section looks remarkably small, I wonder if that's partly to get the extra posts at Pl HQ, and partly a result of the infamously hard to define Left Out of Battle?

    I've never seen reference to a truck escort either. Re the transport, for a long spell the various WEs for Inf Bns allowed for a 15-cwt with each Rifle Pl and two more at Coy HQ, so five overall. It was the Apr43 version that cut the trucks down from five to three, all with Coy HQ tpt, and added a Jeep and carrier. I wonder if this represented a halfway house between the earlier and later versions? There are a lot of details that certainly place it in 1943 at the earliest.

    Also interesting to see some specific roles for Rifle Sec members. I remember reading 'something, somewhere' once, probably cribbing from a book I never bought, that had a similar format, with references of sniper and bomber, but nothing in Infantry Training as you might expect. I think 2 Northants were in Sicily then Italy with 5 Inf Div during 1943/44 and wonder if it was an approach specific to their service there.

    Cheers,

    Gary
     
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The seven-strong section is particularly interesting as that is the optimum strength mentioned in earlier publications (ATM, from memory) on the basis that 6 men is the most that can be effectively commanded in action. The low number also has the advantage that it's more likely to be achieved in the field compared to the WE strength.

    I've still not seen anything official on LOB from the Second World War, but I have got a 1918 pamphlet that gives chapter and verse on who's in and who's out.
    http://ww2talk.com/index.php?posts/686575/

    My guess is that the escorts, orderlies etc. are a fudge to keep some of the difference between the optimum and WE section strength close at hand.

    Regarding section make-up, you're not thinking of this one?

    http://ww2talk.com/index.php?posts/715909/
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017

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