Weapon States: 1 (Brit) Inf. Div. & 4 Ind. Div.: Oct-Nov 1943

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Charley Fortnum, Feb 27, 2017.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    The following page is extracted from this file:
    WO 204-7981 4 Indian Division Organisation 1943 Nov-1944 Jun

    It looked like the kind of thing that while interesting to me may be useful to a somebody with a narrower focus. It also displays how the notional allocations of the War Establishments can get somewhat out of whack after a few years and half a continent (were 1st Div collecting .38 revolvers?). It seems also to bear out what I've read elsewhere: that there never seemed to be a PIAT nearly close enough when you needed one. Reflections and observations on these figures are very welcome.

    WO 204-7981 4 Indian Division Organisation 1943 Nov-1944 Jun_1.jpg~original.jpeg
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
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  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Seems odd that they would admit to all their spares. I was going to ask about the pencilled note, but I can now see it says 'Based on 2 Inf Bdes only'. That goes some way to explaining the lower WE figures for 4 Ind Div.

    A slight digression: is there any information on Indian unit WEs in the file?
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  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    No, I'm afraid not - it's a real miscellany.

    Those two infantry brigades were 5th & 7th, but the latter was over-strength with the lion's share of the divisional MG Battalion attached. The third battalion, the 11th, had not yet been reformed; indeed, a great deal of time seems to have been spent negotiating over how it would be constituted and how the division could avoid taking the Central Indian Horse as their Divisional Reconnaissance Regiment!

    Edit: Oh, and it seems that Abyssinian Mules are the divisional preference.
  4. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    That's a nice find. I can actually work out the figures for mortars and guns against the relevant WEs. One oddity is that 1st Div had a Support Bn at this date, hence the large number of 4.2-in mortars and 20-mm AA guns. 72 MMGs suggests that Inf Bns had an allocation as well.

    Indian Army WE have always eluded me!

  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    4th Indian Division didn't change over to employing a support battalion as far as I can see.

    There were 48 MGs in the four companies of the 6th Rajputana Rifles MG-Battalion, which then morphed into three companies of MGs and one of 4.2-inch mortars at around Christmas 1943 in Italy.
  6. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Just as a simple exercise this is how I reckon the WE column for 1st Div breaks down for the larger weapons;

    2-inch mortars, authorised 279 = 26 per Inf Bn (9) + 21 Recce Regt + 24 Atk Regt (1 per two guns)
    3-inch mortars, authorised 60 = 6 per Inf Bn (9) + 6 Recce Regt
    2-pr atk guns, authorised 12 = 12 with Recce Regt
    6-pr atk guns, authorised 86 = 6 per Inf Bn (9) + 8 per Bty of Atk Regt (4 Btys)
    17-pr atk guns = 4 per Bty of Atk Regt (4 Btys)
    25-pr guns, 72 authorised = 24 per Fd Regt (3)
    40-mm LAA guns, 54 authorised = 18 per Bty of LAA Regt (3 Btys)

    The interesting details, to me anyway, is re the MMG/4.2-in/20-mm issues. Support Battalions were slated to replace MG Battalions mid-war, and the Divs that went over from Home Forces to North Africa did not include either an MG or a Sp Bn. I've seen the suggestion that Inf Bns in these Divs were allotted a number of Vickers MMGs, which they had to find the crews for themselves (likewise for six 2-pr atk guns). The Sp Bn totalled 24 4.2-in mortars, 36 MMGs and 48 20-mm LAA guns, which almost resolves against the figures for Holdings of said weapons. Anyone know why the line for Vickers is split between two amn types?

    PIATs and Brens would take a little longer to work out, to say the least...

    Somewhere I have a similar broad outline for an Indian Div, prepared in 1945 re the possibility of sending a Light Div/Corps to the Far East or possibly Japan. I'll see if I can dig it out.

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  7. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    This is the info for the Indian Army Div (identified as 'standard'), which is very slight, and all I've ever found on the subject;

    Rifles - 12,727
    Carbine - 4413 (ie Sten)
    LMG - 663
    MMG - 48
    2-in mortar - 62
    3-in mortar - 102
    PIAT - 33 (seems to be a note re atk rifle pending issue of M9A1?)
    Atk gun - 36 (calibre not noted)
    25-pr - 48
    3.7-in how - 12

    Carriers - 42
    M/Cs - 192
    Cars - 1010 (note says 1008 are to be Jeeps, with 2 or 4 seater cars in lieu)
    Trucks 15-cwt - 45
    Lorries 3-ton or more - 357
    Ambulances - 18
    Tractors - 94 (includes Fd Arty)
    Trailers - 1149

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  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    The British Army was experimenting with 20mm oerlikons for the point defence against very low level air raids. This was an attack profile increasingly used by the Luftwaffe for the FW190 with SD 2 and SD10 (?) cluster munitions.

    The distribution of 20mm cannon among to non AA units was viewed with some skepticism by the AA Gunners. Unlike the Germans 2 cm flak, the Oerlikon did not have a self destruct round which made the weapon a menace to friendly troops within 4km!
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  9. Richard Fisher

    Richard Fisher Machine Gunner

    The VIIIz was the boat-tailed ammunition for overhead fire. It gave a different wear profile on the barrels and was not safe to use with the Mk VII ammunition through the same barrel. It screwed up the limits of safety for firing near own troops if different types of ammunition were used.

    The supply chain differs with not just the ammunition: The Mk VIIIz guns would have been equipped with dial sights and full indirect fire equipment rather than just the 'expected' direct fire capability to be used with Mk VII guns by this point in their use. The G1098 for the Vickers MMG actually provides for additional barrels and ancillaries if Mk VIIIz is used. It's possible that only certain companies had the indirect fire capability. This was certainly the case earlier in the war so may have carried on to this period as well.

    The fact that confuses me is actually the reference to the Vickers 'Mk I - III': The Mk. II and Mk. III guns were aircraft guns and would not be found in a ground role at all.

    Hope that adds value.


  10. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    I just found a relevant message in 56 Infantry Division's war diary for August 1943 which mentions this issue and explains the fact that 100 Lt AA Regt was providing courses to officers of 201 Guards Brigade at that time. (WO169/8810).

    5 August 1943 - 2200 [TOR] 10 Corps O 210 – 20 mm Oerlikon Guns now being issued to inf have considerable proportion non self destroying shell. Enquiries being made number of proper fuzes available North Africa meanwhile GRAZE fuzes should only be fired over enemy lines.

    I'm not sure whether the infantry took these 20 mm into Salerno but will look out for mentions in the relevant war diaries.


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  11. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    A couple more snippets that show further evidence of the issue of 20 mm Oerlikons to 56 Infantry Division in the summer of 1943:

    Both from the Div HQ "IN AND OUT LOG" for 6 August 1943:

    1115 [TOO] 56 Div ACV1 – To G Ops 10 Corps. Asked for permission to do practice firing of 20 mm Oerlikons using GRAZE fuses. G ops state OK if all firing with a/m fuses directed out to sea.


    56 Div 2070G – Oerlikon guns being issued to inf. [To: Bdes, Bns, 100 Lt AA Regt]


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  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    As time begins to tick down towards the invasion of Italy at Salerno, 56 Div are becoming increasingly concerned that they have been issued with weapons without either the necessary information or training to maximise their effectiveness:

    16 August 1943
    1200 [TOO] 56 Div O.658 – To DMT MEF. Personal for Brig. Matthews from Maj. Sheils. We require some pamphlet on the Oerlikon Most Urgently. Most grateful if you could send by air. 6 copies would suffice.

    1400 [TOO] 56 Div O.660 – In reply to number WA 7/2 of 14. Consider absolutely essential that Bdes have practice with OERLIKON against a towed target. Any date up to and incl 20 suitable for Bdes any subsequent date uncertain. Please approach trg school again notify result this HQ. [To 100 Lt AA]


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