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Old December 2nd, 2012, 05:30 AM   #1

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British Tanks and Armaments


Hi all,
One thing regarding the armored forces that the UK and Allies deployed during especially 40 – 41, is why was everything so incoherent still in terms of tank designs. Ok, it is well known that Fuller and Liddell-Hart were advocates of tank heavy concentrated elements able to push on and through with mechanized support (latter may need citation). It is also well known that the upper class officer and political idiocy that pervaded the armed services, stifled tank developments and tactics.
Ok, now this is the bit that I have not been able to satisfy in my own mind as to why we did not go to Africa without at least a medium to heavy tank that was standardized on a chassis like the Matilda for example, it could have had a fixed shorter barreled seventy five, at least imo anyway.
The latter part of my thought train here would be when I think about Arras when Lord Gort and some unlucky tankers met the eighty eight, why then were there so many in the military hierarchy would countenance more cruiser and infantry designs, rather than design a seventy five that could incorporate AT and HE rounds into the mix. I know that the thirty seven was deemed to have been sufficient for current and future tank actions at the time, but we already had the fifty seven. Why it was not envisioned that despite being the Hotchkiss naval mod, that the 2pdr would suffice across all platforms. Maybe being naive here, but on a technical slant I do not understand the regression.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 05:48 AM   #2

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Good to see a newbie getting stuck in.

We didnt even begin to learn the lessons of tank warfare until the blitzkrieg of 1940, after which it was crisis management back home. It is important to remember that the majority of tanks used by the Germans at this time were Panzer 1, 11 and the pkw38t. None of these were heavily armoured or heavily armed. Our original foes in the dessert were the Italians, another nation who
went to war with inadequate designed armour.
With u boats patrolling the atlantic and Goerings boys popping over on a daily basis tank production wasnt a top priority. We were playing catch up and by the time we designed something half decent Pkw111 and IVs were arriving on the battlefield putting us behind again, in fact i am not sure we ever caught up.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 06:17 AM   #3
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Britain started and ended the war with, IMO, the best tanks in the world

At the start was the Matilda II and at the end (though it was too late for combat) was the Centurion (often credited with being the world's first MBT)

However in between Britain produced a lot of under powered, badly designed and under armed junk

The Comet was good and so were several specialist armored vehicles but most tanks were pretty bad
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 07:10 AM   #4

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Indeed. The Comet though was really just a generalist in terms of being a weapons platform. Very good tank, but nothing much out there to appose it if it came to war (well that being if you believe the History Channel, T34-85 would have caned it). Centurion MkIII I believe is when that particular tank series matured. Think it had the hundred and five, but would have to google.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 07:19 AM   #5

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The title says it all.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:55 AM   #6

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Sadly enough, but only if if there had a two year reverse. May have saved a few lives. I was glad though that my late RSM grandad chose the infantry, he at one point fancied the tanks.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 03:02 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Transk53 View Post
Hi all,
One thing regarding the armored forces that the UK and Allies deployed during especially 40 – 41, is why was everything so incoherent still in terms of tank designs. Ok, it is well known that Fuller and Liddell-Hart were advocates of tank heavy concentrated elements able to push on and through with mechanized support (latter may need citation). It is also well known that the upper class officer and political idiocy that pervaded the armed services, stifled tank developments and tactics.
Ok, now this is the bit that I have not been able to satisfy in my own mind as to why we did not go to Africa without at least a medium to heavy tank that was standardized on a chassis like the Matilda for example, it could have had a fixed shorter barreled seventy five, at least imo anyway.
The latter part of my thought train here would be when I think about Arras when Lord Gort and some unlucky tankers met the eighty eight, why then were there so many in the military hierarchy would countenance more cruiser and infantry designs, rather than design a seventy five that could incorporate AT and HE rounds into the mix. I know that the thirty seven was deemed to have been sufficient for current and future tank actions at the time, but we already had the fifty seven. Why it was not envisioned that despite being the Hotchkiss naval mod, that the 2pdr would suffice across all platforms. Maybe being naive here, but on a technical slant I do not understand the regression.
We were broke. Paying off WW1 and the the great depression meant the piggy bank was empty, so the theory wqas that small design runs would be given to a variety of companies, effectively keeping them in business and making sure the military got a few tanks when the government was trying to cut back on any penny it could.

That meant that many of these designs were built according to car companies and military theorists views not according to military experience.

Then you add in the fact that lack of funding meant that the experimental armoured division had been cut back, finding funding for full scale exercises was limited and while the Germans were getting front line combat experience in Spain the British were still arguing with classroom theorists and authors getting stuck in but having no chance to do it for real.

Thats where the theory of heavy infantry support tanks, light cruiser tanks and heavy gun support tanks came from. In many ways the Germans weren't doing any better, they only had a limited number of medium combat vehicles like the Pz3 and Pz4, the rest were the Pz1 and Pz2 which were training vehicles that had been pressed into frontline service to make up numbers, the difference was that the Germans had learned how to use them properly.

Once the war started we didnt have time to change designs, we had to go with what we had and then build more of them, thats why we ended up with some of the mechanised junk.It was mid42 and 43 before the analysis of what had gone wrong in the early war and the chance to retool and produce new designs really kicked in.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 03:57 PM   #8
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As Nemowork implies, financial restrictions played a big part in what military assets Britain had, and on what could be spent on armaments and improvements. The Royal Navy and the RAF were getting (AFAIK) preference in expenditures.

IIRC, the obsolescent artillery of WW I was another case. Due to inadequate funds for the army, one modern weapon had to suffice to replace the 18 pounder, and also the 4.5 inch howitzer. That turned out to be the 25 pounder gun/howitzer. It had a number of drawbacks and was rushed into production - but it turned out to be a pretty good compromise. It was a terrific gun.

Tanks...artillery...whatever was insufficient, the navy was not going to be denied what it needed, and the aircraft that came from the development programs of the 1930s were very, very impressive.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:30 PM   #9
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Britain also had the army as the lowest priority in the defence spending, the Navy (senior and for Island/world empire a huge priority ) and Air Force (new, important but also seen as a cheaper way of imperial policing ) competing for what funding there was, thus the Army tended to be last.

The Amy also had large organisational problems. The Army was dismantled almost straight after ww1. There was no real tradition of CHQ/Staff college/General Staff, and almost all of the wartime organisational infrastructure was removed. In Germany with a strong general staff tradition there were organisational infrastructure to support careful analysis and development of new weapons and lessons from the last war. In Britain that organisation was torn down, the organisational memory banks purged. The focus of British army life was "the regiment" (this focus gave great small unit élan and cadre, promoted Individual initiative with a bit of overconfident derring do as they went beating up colonials mostly) , there was no Division, let alone Corps or higher organisation (there was some on paper but generally didnt train and work together so it was all just paper). British officers were not paid enough to keep the sort of social lifestyle expected of Officers. Thus only people with private income could really follow the Career, being concearned with theory wasnt the done thing. (Guards officer were forbidden to carry books (or bags) ). Polo was important, which meant getting the horses of the cavalry was hard work, (as it was in most armies) This meant any real development was the result of individuals and mavericks with any real support. SUre funds were short, but without the organisational infrastructure there was no real conceptual space for the debate about tanks to take place (even if the culture had encouraged it)

Money was tight, but the Army lacked real organisational infrastructure to provide the space and focus of developing new weapons, and the Officer career
structure was such that it didnt attract or really support theorists and had no real place for them.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 01:26 AM   #10

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True but the mass army of 1918 was something of an abberation for the British military system, we mostly used small units to bolster native colonial forces as an international policeman.

Losing all of the higher command wasnt seen as a fault at the time but as a return to normality. The Germans retained their high comman and with it all the innflexibility and miliotary dogma that had helped them lose the war.

We can see in hindsight, and they could probably see at the time that such drastic cutbacks of the military was a mistake but the politicians wanted to save money, the temporary wartime officers wanted to go home and the economy wanted men back in their jobs.
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