Tank Numbers in India

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by Skoyen89, Sep 27, 2022.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I came across this interesting snippet when going through a Kew file WO203/2069 REME Personal Accounts this morning.

    The tank numbers are interesting but when it says 'in India' I was wondering whether it also included those on the front in the Arakan, Kabaw Valley etc which are technically in Burma. It seems that the Shermans arriving did not replace the Lee/Grants which served through the 1944 fighting in Imphal and Kohima and then in the push into Burma in 1945 when there were also Sherman units alongside them.

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  2. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    I believe those numbers would include units serving in Burma as it was all part of the same theatre.

    Here are the details of the Armoured units operating in India/Burma in WW2 and their equipment.

    Between Nov 1941 and May 1942 517 M3 Lee and 379 M3 Grant tanks were allocated to the Indian theatre from US production lines. More were later transferred from the Middle East as Sherman’s became available.

    In summer 1945 ahead of Operation Zipper there was a reorganisation of Indian Armoured units. One of the Armoured Brigades was scheduled to get Churchills.
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  3. Rob Crane

    Rob Crane Active Member

    My eye was immediately drawn to the presence of Valentine DDs in this list - I wonder if they were used for training purposes, as in the UK, or whether they were envisaged for use in operations. (It's not difficult to imagine them being potentially handy in the shallow chaungs in the Arakan.)
  4. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    AFAIK they were for training only.

    After the 25th Dragoons were withdrawn from the Arakan in April 1945 (or at least B & C squadrons) conversion to DD tanks ahead of Operation Zipper took place. But they received Sherman III DD at least some of which came from the Italian theatre.
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  5. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    RE: Valentine infantry tanks in India

    Between October 1941 and November 1942 a total of 245 Valentine infantry tanks arrived in India in the WS Convoy series. The first shipment of 35 Valentines arrived in India with Convoy WS.11 on 22nd October 1941.
    The tanks were used to begin equipping/training the Royal Armoured Corps regiments of 50th Indian Army Tank Brigade. These were infantry battalions that had arrived in the same convoy and converted to R.A.C. regiments:
    9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment - 146th Regiment, RAC
    7th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry - 149th Regiment, RAC
    10th Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment - 150th Regiment, RAC

    Further Valentines arrived in India from the U.K. allowing each regiment to be equipped with 42 Valentines by May 1942, with four in a Brigade Headquarters Troop. By July 1942 each regiment was equipped with 46 Valentines
    The regiments received six more Valentines in October 1942 bringing them up to War Establishment of 52 tanks each. The brigade had a total of 160 Valentines.
    The final batch of Valentines arrived in India in November 1942 and it was decided to equip a fourth regiment with this tank. The 25th Dragoons were chosen.

    25th Dragoons were formed in India in February 1941 and had been mobilised in May 1942. From 8th November to 11th December 1942 they received 40 Mk. V, 11 Mk. II and 2 MK. III Valentines (53 tanks in total). Of the total of 245 Valentines in India by mid-December 1942, 213 were issued to active regiments.

    In late December 1942, it was proposed to use a half-squadron of Valentine tanks in support of 6th British Brigade in the Arakan. Eight Valentines of "C" Squadron, 146th Regiment, RAC (HQ half-troop of 2 tanks and two troops of 3 tanks each) were detached to Chittagong in two parts on the 10th and 24th January 1943 and took part in the attack on Donbaik on 1st February. Subsquently, all these tanks were lost. The survivors returned to their regiment and the squadron rebuilt with drafts and 8 more Valentine tanks.
    A further four Valentine Mk. V tanks were issued to 25th Dragoons on 21st January 1943 (57 total) but because of the Valentines shortcomings in the Arakan, it was decided to replace them in the regiment. They were withdrawn in February 1943 and replaced with 52 Mk. I and Mk. III Stuart tanks in March 1943

    Meanwhile, in the U.K. in June 1942, permission was given by the Ministry of Supply for the manufacture of 450 Valentine DDs. A small number of these were allocated to India and arrived in mid-1943.
    150th Regiment, RAC was attached to 19th Indian Division in July 1942 and 2nd British Division from April 1943. From late June 1943 the regiment moved to Nira Camp, Poona where "C" Squadron re-equipped with Sherman tanks and the rest of the regiment with Grant tanks
    146th Regiment, RAC provided combined operations tank/infantry training with the battalions of 70th British Division from August-December 1942 and also in March 1943. In April 1943 the regiment was attached to 36th Indian Division, with "A" Squadron with 72nd Brigade, "B" Squadron with 29th Brigade and "C" Squadron with Div. HQ. "B" Squadron equipped with Valentine DD tanks for any amphibious operations. In December 1943 the regiment moved to Nira Camp, Poona where "B" Squadron re-equipped with Lee tanks. The Regimental HQ and "B" Squadron were attached to 36th Indian Division in the Arakan in February 1944 but returned in March. The Valentines were withdrawn from the regiment in May 1944 and Grant tanks issued to the regiment.
    149th Regiment, RAC also provided combined operations tank/infantry training with the battalions of 70th British Division from September 1942-March 1943. In May 1943 the regiment moved to Nira Camp, Poona and assigned to the Indian Expeditionary Force. It re-equipped with Lee tanks in late 1943.

    In September 1944 the 25th Dragoons moved to Cocanada and was issued 25 Valentine DD tanks on 21st October to train with. From 1st November the regiment received Sherman tanks and the Valentines were withdrawn to Kirkee Arsenal.

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  6. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    Additional Valentines in India:

    "B" Special Services Squadron, R.A.C.
    Three tank squadrons were formed in the United Kingdom in 1941 for special operations overseas and designated “A”, “B” and “C” Special Service Squadrons, R.A.C. “A” Squadron was formed on 29th April with men and vehicles from 48th Royal Tank Regiment. “B” Squadron was formed on 6th July with men and vehicles from 47th Royal Tank Regiment. Both squadrons were each equipped with eight Valentine Mk. III tanks and six Vickers Mk. VIc light tanks with an authorised strength of 8 officers and 97 other ranks. “C” Squadron was formed on 13th July equipped with men and vehicles from 10th Royal Hussars and 16/5th Queens Royal Lancers equipped with twelve Tetrarch light tanks. Elements of “C” Squadron sailed for Freetown in West Africa in September 1941, returning in March 1942. “B” Squadron was assigned to 29th Independent British Infantry Brigade Group for the invasion of Madagascar in May 1942 with six Valentines from “B” Squadron and six Tetrarchs from “C” Squadron. The squadron was reorganised into a HQ Troop of three Valentine tanks and one Tetrarch tank, one troop of three Valentines and two troops with a total of five Tetrarch tanks. Eight tanks were knocked out in the campaign and 13 men killed or wounded. The squadron arrived in India with 29th British Infantry Brigade at the end of January 1943 with one Valentine tank, three Tetrarch tanks and 47 men. (NB: not sure if these tanks made it to India - needs further investigation). The personnel were absorbed by 146th Regiment, RAC in May 1943, joining "B" Squadron attached to 29th British Infantry Brigade Group and training with Valentine DD tanks.

    400th Independent Scorpion Squadron, R.A.C.
    After heavy losses at El Alamein in November 1942, the 41st Royal Tank Regiment was disbanded and reformed as 1st Scorpion Regiment R.A.C. equipped with Grant Scorpion Mk. III & IV flail tanks. After service in North Africa in early 1943, the Regiment withdrew into the Middle East and converted into the 400th and 401st Independent Scorpion Squadrons, R.A.C. in July 1943 each equipped with one armoured car, one scout car and two Valentine pilot/roller tanks in the Squadron Headquarters and twelve Grant Scorpion Mk. IV flail tanks in four Troops. The 400th Independent Scorpion Squadron shipped to India on 15th November 1943, arriving at Bombay on 26th November 1943 and moved to Nira Camp near Poona, where it came under command 50th Indian Tank Brigade. A troop of a further four Valentine pilot tanks was added to the squadron, one for each Grant Troop, from stocks held in India. A further six Grant Scorpion Mk IV flail tanks ex 401st Independent Scorpion Squadron, R.A.C. were sent to India as an initial reserve in April 1944. The squadron moved to Poona on 28th April 1944 but returned to Nira on 18th September 1944. It left the brigade and moved to the Manipur Road area under command 254th Indian Tank Brigade from 16th November 1944 to 21st May 1945, with at least one troop re-equipped with flame-throwers. Returned to the brigade at Poona in India and was to have converted to the armoured personnel carrier role with modified Lee/Grant tanks, a number of which were understood to be in storage at Kirkee.

    1st, 2nd & 3rd (Independent) Bridging Troops, R.A.C.
    Three bridging troops were formed at Poona on 15th November 1943 under command Southern Army, each equipped with six Valentine AVLB bridging tanks, converted from stock held in India. A small Troop H.Q. included one or two Bren carriers.
    3rd (Independent) Bridging Troop was allocated a section of three tanks taken from the 1st Troop making nine Valentines in total and assigned to the 25th Dragoons Group and arrived in the Arakan on 10th December 1943. It fought with the Group until withdrawn to India at the beginning of July 1944. It left the Group on 5th September 1944 and joined 255th Indian Tank Brigade at Manipur Road on 13th September, replacing the 888th Bridging Section, I.E. It remained with the Brigade until the end of the war.
    2nd (Independent) Bridging Troop moved to the Manipur Road under command 3rd Carabiniers on 25th February 1944 to join 254th Indian Tank Brigade. It remained with the Brigade until the end of the war, moving back to India in June 1945.
    1st (Independent) Bridging Troop moved to Galunche with only once section of three Valentines until the section attached to the 1st Troop returned to it in August 1944. The complete Troop then moved to Kirkee to join 50th Indian Tank Brigade on 29th October 1944 and moved to the Arakan with the Brigade on 5th November 1944. It remained with the Brigade until the end of the war, withdrawn to India in February 1945 and moving Ahmednagar in March. One or two Valentines may have remained behind with 19th King George V's Own Lancers in the Arakan and returned to the Brigade at Ahmednagar in June 1945.

  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi Rob,

    Great stuff!

    Re 400th Independent Scorpion Squadron, what exactly is meant by "one troop re-equipped with flamethrowers"? Flamethrower-equipped Valentines?

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  8. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Churchill Crocodiles (I think) were planned to be included with each Churchill re-equipped regiment of the 254th Tank Brigade from the summer of 1945. On a basis of nine per regiment.

    Last edited: Oct 6, 2022
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  9. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Hi Chris

    With 1st Lothian and Border Yeomanry during Feb/March 1944. From their War Diary.

    Valentine Scorpions
    T16162, T16165, T16166, T16178, T17348, T17378, T17386, T18080, T20469, T20491, T27214, T27221, T27224, T27229, T27287, T27289, T27334, T27461, T27478, T27597


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  10. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    One Churchill Mk V was tested in Burma with the 3rd Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) of the 254th Tank Brigade. It was never possible for the tank to be brought into action but the interim report of the trial indicated that the tank performed at least as well as the M3 Lee.

    The 254th Tank Brigade returned to India in around June 1945 to be re-equipped with Churchills. David Fletcher in “Mr Churchill's Tank: The British Infantry Tank Mark IV” gives two figures for Churchills in India in June 1945: 1) 85 tanks and three bridgelayers delivered to India by June 1945 2) 308 Churchills 'including Crocodile flamethrowers' were with SEAC by the end of June 1945.

    Having returned from Burma, during July 1945 the 254th Tank Brigade became established at Ahmednagar, in Maharashtra State and began preparing for conversion to the Churchill, with the aim of being ready for operations any time after 1st October 1945. The order of battle was for two infantry tank regiments - 3rd Dragoon Guards and 149th RAC. The 150th RAC was excluded as it was felt that the shortage of personnel and tanks would mean this regiment would not be ready before 1st January 1946. The 146th RAC was attached to the Brigade, replacing the 7th Light Cavalry, and was to be equipped with Shermans. In the absence of any information from higher headquarters, it was assumed that the Brigade would be sent to Malaya anytime from October onwards.

    Interestingly, the 149th RAC, when at Uruli in January 1945, was preparing to convert to Cromwell tanks - four being issued on 1st January. By the time the Regiment moved to Ahmednagar, it appears that it was to re-equip with the Churchill and not the Cromwell. Despite this, trials with the Cromwell continued.

    Churchill tanks were issued for training but in very small numbers, being Mk V (95mm) and Mk VI (75mm).

    RobG64 has already noted that 400 Scorpion Squadron might have been earmarked for conversion to the personnel carrier role using converted Lee/Grant tanks.

    It seems that Churchill Crocodiles were to be issued to each Regiment and held in a single troop. A report noted that training for the flamethrower troop of the 3rd Dragoon Guards was being held up by the lack of gas bottles for the 'Crocodile' trailers.

    The 2nd Independent Bridge Troop, R.A.C. was to be equipped with the Churchill Bridgelayer but by August 1945 was severely hampered in its efforts to begin training, not surprisingly, by the lack of any Churchill bridgelayers to train with. It was understood that the vehicles were at Kirkee but without the bridges.

    By 15th August 1945, it seems that the 254th Tank Brigade had received only 23 Churchill tanks.

    The 146th RAC held only 12 Sherman V tanks in August 1945. In the event, the Regiment, converted its 'A' Squadron to armoured cars which were then sent to Sumatra in December 1945. The balance of the regiment remained at Ahmednagar and later moved to Poona.

    Training with the Churchill Mk VI continued but in September, the Brigade was notified of an impending transfer to the Northern frontier. The RAC regiments were replaced by Indian cavalry regiments and appears to have begun leaving for Risalpur at the end of September 1945. The 3rd Dragoon Guards, having received a few Churchills, handed these over.

    Although training with the Churchill continued during September and October, when it became apparent that the RAC regiments were to be disbanded, they began to return the tanks to the ordnance depot at Kirkee. The 149th RAC returned two Cromwell VI and 27 Churchill VI tanks during December, to be left with no tanks. The 149th and 150th RAC were disbanded at Ahmednagar in February 1946.

    For more details, please see my article Churchill Tanks in Burma and India

    A planned order of battle for the 254th Tank Brigade can be seen here: 254th Indian Tank Brigade – Vehicle Markings

    Last edited: Oct 6, 2022
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  11. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    Hi Chris, my notes came from a source that did not name the make up re-equipped troop of flame-throwers!

    As Rothy points out it was more likely to be Churchill tanks, but it could have been Wasps (Bren carrier with flame-thrower).
    I don't think Valentines, Grants and Lees were converted to flame in India, but am always open to being proved wrong!!

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  12. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Rob, some extra data on this part in case its of interest:

    146th Regt RAC sent a total of sixteen Valentines to support the 1943 operation in the Arakan - one detachment to 6 Bde Gp, one to 55 Ind Bde. Two separate half-squadron detachments left Ratu in January 1943 (mostly from C Sqn, but the second seems to have included a troop from A Sqn).

    The first detachment of eight Valentines was headed by C Squadron's Commander. It set out for Chittagong on 10th Jan to join 6 Bde Group for the proposed amphibious assault on Akyab ('Nibble'). At Chittagong it carried out LCM landing exercises with 6 Bde's infantry and improvised rudimentary waterproofing for hull plating and escape hatches. Through February small groups of C Sqn men travelled to the front at Donbaik by 3-tonner for battle inoculation. The detachment was repeatedly warned to be ready for amphibious deployment with 6 Bde on Ops Nibble/Oscar/Oscar-Wild, but all were cancelled and none of these tanks saw action. 6 Bde ultimately went in to the Arakan overland, but plans for the tank detachment to move forward to Zawmadat in support were dropped and it remained at Chittagong.

    The second detachment of eight Valentines was headed by C Squadron's 2 i/c. Rather than join their comrades at Chittagong, they sailed direct to the Mayu Peninsula to assist 55 Indian Bde's breakthrough attempt at Donbaik (a prerequisite for the Akyab landings). The detachment was offloaded to shore north of Donbaik by LCMs on the night of 29th January. These eight Valentines lead 55 Bde's attack on the morning of 1st Feb. One troop ditched while crossing the enemy FDLs and was swarmed by Japanese infantry - all three tanks lost, all personnel missing presumed killed. Of the others, one was hit repeatedly by a captured 2-pounder (survived still mobile with turret traverse disabled, gunner KIA, commander wounded) and one was put out of action by mortar and MMG fire (engine seized but tank recovered, towed out by detachment commander).

    The remaining three fit tanks took part in a further action that afternoon but were again driven off by AT and mortar fire. They remained at Indin as a mobile reserve for 55 Bde until 24th Feb, when they were withdrawn to Zawmadat.

    In early March all naval craft were being withdrawn from the Teknaf area, so both detachments of 146th RAC were evacuated. The five surviving Valentines from the second detachment (one still under tow) were picked up from the beach near Cox's Bazaar by Z Craft at on 10th March. All eight Valentines from the first detachment embarked from Chittagong in LCMs on 11th March. One Valentine of the first detachment was lost on this date when an LCM overturned at sea; all three crewmen drowned.

    The detachments rejoined 146th Regt. RAC at Ratu on 18th March, less the two damaged tanks which were sent to Dhanbad.

    Loss of Valentines from 146th RAC in Jan-March 1943 seems to be:
    3 ditched in Donbaik FDLs 1st Feb 1943 (all three tanks found still in situ when Donbaik when was finally taken in 1945); 9 men KIA
    2 severely damaged 1st Feb 1943 but recovered same day; 1 man KIA, 1 man wounded
    1 lost at sea 11th March 1943; 3 men KIA
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  13. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

  14. Rob Crane

    Rob Crane Active Member

    The canvas issue hadn't even occurred to me but is "obvious as soon as it's pointed out".

    The various canoe-using units all experienced extra challenges when maintaining canvas canoes in SEAC environments.

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