What can tankcrew see ??

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by gpjeuken, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. gpjeuken

    gpjeuken Member

    What can the tankcrew see, in battle situation ?
    What is the size of sight opening ?
    The gunner can turn his turret, but the driver has to turn the tank .
    Are there radio informants outside ?

    Like to know about .
    Regards , Gerard Jeuken, Holland.
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Hi depends very much on the model of the tank, in a combat situation the commander basically tells the driver where to go via the crew intercom. Allied tanks had a tank-telephone attached to the turret so an infantryman could communicate with the crew without the tank having to unbutton the hatches. Each differing type of tank has blindspots in its optics which means that the opposing infantry would be unseen if approaching from that area.
    The optics could also be affected by cold/wet weather
  3. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Mostly the driver sits in the centre hull looking forward through his optics, with about 30 - 40 degrees either side, he concentrates on picking a "less bumpy" route, unless the commander directs his direction otherwise. When at the halt he tries to spot for the gunner and commander who are otherwise occupied, "fighting the tank" and could be looking or firing in a traversed turret in any 360 direction. The driver would also try to present the front of the vehicle to the enemy?

    The loader, usually on the left side of the breach, loads and tends the main armament and coax machine gun and sees nothing of what's going on outside!

    The gunner usually sits in front of and slightly lower than the commander, he is the one with the best sights and visual gear, to aquire and kill the target, however he can still only see forward.

    The commander sits highest in the turret and usually has a ring of optics around his cupola, although this means he can only see forward and 90 degrees left and right. He would have to traveres the turret to see more; this is why a lot of commanders stayed "head up" so they could see clearly and quickly. He who sees first usually gets to fire first, although this resulted in a lot of head wounds and a great expenditure of commanders.

    Blind spots are obviously to the rear and sides, whilst close in to the sides of the hull, @2m are, will also be hard to acquire "sneaky people". Modern MBTs still have the Infantry Tank Telephone (ITT), uasually at the rear, but several infanteers have been injured when trying to call the commander and the tank starts to "Jockey", that is to move position, usually preceeded by reversing!

    Combined with the smoke, heat, claustrophobia, bumping around on the move, noise of the vehicle, messages being sent and recieved on the radio, questions/information from the crew - oh and the enemy firing at you - vision was quite restricted. If the enemy got close to the hull no one would be able to see them from the tank, which is why close support infantry are required, or at least support from the other tanks in your troop, to "hose" you down, but that can be difficult when you are moving, fighting your tank and been shot at!

    At night you would rely on the commander, head up, to direct the tank and the driver would pull his sticks blind, under direct and instant command. Night fighting without modern imagaging equipment e.g. Thermal Optical Gunnery System (TOGS) must have been nerve wracking. I actually felt sorry for the Iraqi tanks in the first Gulf War as they had no night vision yet our Challengers commenced firing at 3000m - and hit everthing they fired at! Whilst they did not know what hit them or from where.

    But never mind the enemy, try a night time bridge crossing in the rain, then the old buttock button starts twitching!

    CL1 likes this.
  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    gpjeuken / Jedburgh
    The short answer to that question was - "not a heluva lot"
    the main reason we lost so many Tank Commanders was in order to see anything - he had to stick his head and shoulders above the turret and was then hit by snipers and any small arms firing around the tank - the main gunner had a two inch telescope and therefore could only see a target front of him when he was directed there by the Commander - the wireless operator was too busy loading the guns and checking the wireless - firing the smoke discharger to look out his 4 inch x 2 inch
    periscope - the co-driver also had a 4 inch by 2 inch to help him see a target in front of him - likewise the drivers sight was limited to his same size periscope - and had to be directed by the Commander with his head outside.
    It was late in the day - middle of 1944 when we had a telephone welded to the rear which was hooked into the inter com and we were kept in touch by the infantry who - before then - had to bang on the side of the Tank to be heard - then someone had to stick his head to find out what they wanted.
    The multi periscope revolving turret insert for Commanders - we didn't see in Italy until near the end - meanwhile the panzer faust troops had a field day in knocking out tanks from 20 yards away as we couldn't see them - then the 88mm's from two miles away - we couldn't see them either - and to top it all the heat inside the closed down Tank was over 140 Degrees - then at the end of the day - probably three hours sleep in the extremely cold nights - so your eyes weren't much good either....so it was lot of fun !
    Redetin, Pieter F and Peter Clare like this.
  5. 4/7 RDG

    4/7 RDG Member

    Apparently the area immediately around a tank was not only difficult to see, but difficult to shoot at. In Clayton and Craig's "Finest Hour", Peter Vaux of 4th Royal Tank Regiment recalled a farcical scene he witnessed involving Vickers light tanks:

    Vaux found the adjutant with another tank trying to break the trails of some German anti-tank guns while shooting up their crews, who were trying to find shelter in a potato field. . . They couldn't break the guns and they couldn't get the elevation of the machine guns low enough to shoot the men, although Captain Cracroft picked one off with his pistol.
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    As others have already and rightly pointed out, vision from a "closed down" position was extremely limited.

    Unless you were in a Honey turretless tank, such as the one in which I saw action, in which case vision was 100% perfect, but so, equally, was the risk factor :(

  7. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Nice one Tom,

    It's great to hear from actual operators of the wartime equipments, I only knew Centurion, Chieftain, Challenger 1 & 2 and believe it or not Conqueror, what a monster!

    Obviously we have got tank design about right by now; except for the facts that Cent was a petrol (hmmmm Ronson I believe) Meteor (aka Merlin) engine, although well armoured (6") and gunned (105mm), Conk was so heavy (65tons and 120mm gun, but slowwwwww) and wide it was banned from German bridges and railways (now there's excellent planning, as it couldn't swim it would be looking for a bridge that would never have it's classification!) Chieftain (55 tons & 120mm gun) had a BL engine that couldn't push sh*t off a stick or the tank around Soltau, but knew how to push pistons through the side of it's engine. This might have something to do with the Rootes blower taking 100hp off the poor 650hp engine that was originally designed to provide electricity to trains!!! (more good planning there then!)

    Only CR2 seems to have got it right, at least it has a 1200hp RR engine and 120mm rifled gun (now Cummins and could be German in the future, like its gun could be as well 120mm smooth bore) which can push it's weight about at good X country and fast road speeds, although in very cold weather CR1s hyrogas suspension can get a little "saggy", no tight turns first thing on winter exercises or you'd be doing a bit of early morining track bashing!

    Which brings me to the crew thing, any less than four and the work load of fighting, guarding and maintaining tanks becomes knackering. My sympathy obviously goes to the driver who, after driving all day, would be up all night with the Sqn fitters fixing "what they'd broken" during the day. and then continues to drive the next day looking like that "Scream" painting!!!

    Maintenance on a tank is gruelling, sapping and extreamley tiring. However, you do get a warm bed, on the decks, if you have the time to get into yer maggot. Probably not an issue in the desert, Tom, although the nights are f**king cold.

    Anyway as G. S. Patton so poetically put it, "my men can chew on their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas" and there, my boys (and girls), lies the Achilles heel of armour.
    von Poop likes this.
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Old Hickory talked about some training he received prior to landing on the continent. Some of the techniques they were taught were how to hide from a tank and how to approach a tank, using it's blind spots. He was told to lay low and work from the sides and try to hit the tank in the treads and wheels.

    Fortunately, he never had to test that particular phase of training in combat.
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John Lawson -
    To-days Tanks appear to be Rolls Royces compared to the stuff we had although my Churchill was the best we came up with until after Rome - the D Day boys had the Cromwell with a 17 pounder - then the Comet - shhheeessh - we still had the six pounder all the way through from North Africa where the Brigade landed with 2 pounders - then around July '44 we had ONE per squadron of the MkCS5 with the 95mm bombard - that was fun as Jerry thought we were bombing them - but couldn't see the planes .... !
  10. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Hi Tom,

    Lovely place you live, B.C., I visited my relatives in Nanimo when I was on R&R from BATUS, and I was blown away by the beauty of the island, ahhhhhh, anyway enough of that!

    I believe the Cromwell and Comet both had the same engine as the Cent' i.e. the RR Meteor, "that ud give you some poke".

    The tank I was brought up on was the Chieftain and this was developed because of what you guys had gone through. I take my hat off to you.

    Strange that the British, through B. L. Hart, Fuller and others concieved "Blitzkrieg" and then the Germans developed it, and then somehow, surprised us with it!!!!

    The unfortunate thing about tanks is they are built on three principles; Armour, Gun, Engine; just look at any WWII tank and you can see which of the principles takes precidence and therefore what that country saw as the operational use of their tanks was going to be.

    Most British tanks suffered a lack of mobility and weaponry, when the Americans allowed us to buy Grant's and Lee's the gun got better, the mobility improved but the skin got thinner, still when the Sheman came along, what it lacked in armour and gun, it made for with numbers, good ole uncle Sam could certainly pump out the goods!

    Churchill's, and you'll probaly know better than me Tom, were, for their size, extremely agile, coming into their own in the twisting and hilly terrain of Tunis and Italy.

    From these beginings the British never again wanted to be under gunned, or thinly armoured, hence the Cent' (a truly great tank) and then the Chieftain.

    Unfortunately, when they gave the Chiefie a socking great gun (120mm), that could cream any other tank in the world and armour to protect it (with the slope, equivalent to 12") (funny how most allied tanks had flat armour, not sloped, until the T-34 and then it was only Russian and the German Panther that adopted the slope), from almost any other tank gun in the world, they gave it an engine (650 hp to push 55tons of tank around 11.8hp/ton, minus the 100hp to dive the Rootes blower and you're down to 10hp/ton, pathetic!) that must have been a job lot from a British Leyland/Rail clearance sale. Not quite, but on the same principl as the Matilda I.

    However, along came the Challenger 1 & 2 and we all lived happliy ever after, oh! until successive governments started taking them off us to save money!

    Bottom line Tom is that tank men, old or new, are made from the same stuff and suffer the same technical, physical and emotional problems ('cept of course everything is a lot heavyier cos modern tanks are a lot bigger, perhaps plastic could be used in the future?). Hmm, just thought I'd better correct myself, perhaps we are a bit softer now as most AFVs are now fitted with a Boiling Vessel (BV), kettle to me and you Tom. It always amazed the Yanks how we could produce endless cups of tea (and coffee for them) out of our vehicles (cor something the Yanks didn't have).

    Some of the Tank books I have read are:
    By Tank Through Normandy - Stuart Hills
    Achtung Panzer - Heinz Guderian
    Tank - Patrick Wright
    Tank Men - Robert Kershaw

    Some of the problems of having RR vehicles now, is that they are heavyier, more protected; more powerful, 120mm stabalised and fire control computer aimed gun and more reliable and can be communicated with effectivley, oh and GPS map read, is that you get used more often and at a faster rate, which means less sleep and more maintenance! some things just don't change.

  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Cheiftain drivers didn't see my mate with a GPMG led on a village street corner in Germany, they got closer & closer until he went through the hedge next to him rather than be squished.
    I was on the other side of the road led down with a GPMG too, glad I was able to watch it & not be part of it.
  12. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Visibility In January 1945, only one tank of the South Alberta Regiment had a commander's cupola with vision blocks. Most Canadian Sherman crews in the Second World War were faced with the choice of restricted fields of vision using periscopes, or dangerous exposure to enemy fire through open or partially open hatches. Some maneuvers were particularly difficult - such as backing the Sherman up. Reversing out of trouble was often preferred as the armour of the Sherman was much thicker in the front than in the rear. Other times, tight terrain or other obstacles made reversing the only way to maneuver. As restrictive as vision was forward, it was non-existent in reverse and the driver had no rear view mirror to guide him. When his tank was on an icy dyke at Kapelsche Veer, Lieutenant Ken Little of the SAR found he couldn't turn around.
    As his driver's vision to the rear was extremely limited, Ken opened his hatch to guide the man through this tricky manoeuvre and was killed instantly when a German sniper shot him in the head.
  13. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    Has i have been researching my grandas war records which he drove a Churchill AVRE seeing some of the pictures of the tank and good grief it looked crammed it was probably a good job that he was only 5ft1" i always thought he was small but until i saw his size down on paper didn't think he was that small
  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    It's all in the past on Tank developement as Einstein claims that WW4 will be fought with sticks and stones....he could be right !
  15. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    I seem to have hit the mark with the B.C. thing, it appears we all have a soft spot for somewhere in Canada.

    Einstein could be right, Tom, but someone will always have a bigger stick and throw his bigger stone more accurately, and so evolution and development will grow again! Who said walk softly but carry a big stick? That sounds like two tank principals, mobility and firepower; just need a "Donkey" jacket on and you've got protection!

    After every tank war the poor beast gets put down, but always seems to rise again. It's not the tool but the user who puts it to best effect. Future moves have got to be with active susupension, ceramic engines, plastic and or re-active armour and rail guns, oh yes and better faster computers. The French (yes, I'm referencing the French) have a technical saying, "imagineering". Some smart guy imagines it and an engineer has to devise, develop and built it, but it will come.

    However, all this technology is wonderful, but one pot of paint thrown on the commanders or drivers periscopes and hey presto instant blind mans bluff!!

    I learnt a lot of stuff on how to overcome the fear of a tank and how to attack them, as an infanteer, on an anti-tank course in Vogelsang in '78, but I already knew how to screw up a tank as I was a REME tank (A) mechanic, (thought I'd better get that one in first).

    Anyway its good to talk to any old Ironsides (not an American Armoured Division but the radio code callsign for British Armour).

    "The only thing to fear is fear itself" - FEAR NAUGHT
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John - not too sure about the built in kettle to make endless cups of tea - we were away ahead of industry with our Bengazi kettle....this is where we really needed the REME to cut and drill ahole in the bottom of a seven pound chocolate tin - solder a used six pounder round up through the middle - cut the top lid - and replace half of the lid to stabilise the empty round - borrow a 105 round base - castelated - fill the chocolate tin with water- the base of the 105 with sand and petrol - light same - throw in some tea leaves - bingo - cups of tea within 90 seconds of halting the Tank-
    we were such thikkos that we had figured out that a normal kettle boils from the centre bottom to the top and down the sides and five minutes later you could a have a cup of tea - way too late as Jerry is coming in again - so with a brass insert the heat goes up and the brass insert circulates the heat - ergo boiling in seconds - civvy street finally caught on and now you have a boiler on the kitchen wall giving instant hot water - and we didn't patent the idea...
  17. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Ah things that get lost with the passage of time, Tom. We used to cut a 25ltr oil can in half, punch it with holes, fill it with soil, liberally douse with OMD 75 (petrol if we were the Cent' ARV crew; you could tell them, they didn't have eye brows!) and ignite; we seem to have lost the quick heating/boiling technology of our elders, still that's progress! Also with bag charge propellants we didn't have bases from the main armament (or even the artillery shells)......and where does anyone get 7 pounds of chocolate from these days (except my wife's handbag when we go out for the day!).

    Tank men will always find a way. We would strap our tins of food onto the exhaust pipes so that when we arrived at our leager we could eat and drink immediately after camming up so we could get on with repairs, and head down if possible cos you never knew when we would be up and off again.

    A big plus is that the smokegrenade dischargers are exactly the same diameter and height of a can of McKewans export therefore you could carry 20 ready round cans and as they were on the outside of the vehicle they acted like those desert water bags (shargal/chargles or something like that) and kept the beer cool on the move!

    Which was handy in Kuwait/Iraq (although it rained a lot at first!) as we were not allowed to drink in an arab country, whilst we were saving them, (ah ever the soldiers story, or is it "where there's a will there's a way"). Also there are over 300 bottle openers on a Chieftain ARV not including the buckle of the REME Corps belt (Arte et Marte - "opens any bottle" or as some have it "twist to open") we were always popular at "smokers".

    I served with Scots DG, 1 and 3 RTR, QRIH and QOH as well as 32 Armoured and 28 Amphibious Engr Regts not to mention 5 Armd Wksp, and 12 AD Regt RA.

    Anyway Tom, have great day in BC from GB

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