From the Vault: Panther Shot to Pieces

dsc02279_exposureThis British Armour Branch report was recently linked to over at the Tanknet forum. We thought it was worth posting here. The document is from 1945 and details British comprehensive firing trials against a German Pz V Panther tank.  A variety of weapons were tested against the Panther, including small arms, mines, the PIAT, and the common tank and anti-tank guns in service with the UK at that time (6pdr, 75mm, 17pdr, 25pdr.)  The results are not particularly surprising, but may be of value for those looking for specific information about vulnerabilities of the Panther.

We have transcribed the conclusions of the report below:

  1. The vehicle is virtually immune to small arms fire from ground level.
  2. Small arms attack directed downward at about 30 degrees into the inlet louvres of the engine compartment causes severe damage to radiators.
  3. Even more severe damage to the radiators may result from 20mm attack from the air from from fragments of HE shell bursting in the air above the vehicle or against the turret above the engine compartment roof.
  4. Projectiles of calibre 6 pdr and upwards, whether AP or HE, which strike below the horizontal centre line of the gun mantlet, are likely to penetrate or blow in the roof of the driving compartment and may jam the turret traverse.
  5. Penetration through the sides of the vehicle will very probably cause cordite or petrol fires.
  6. The rolled armour proved brittle and flaky.
  7. The use of interlocked joints provides a structure which has considerable stability even when the main welds are fractured.
  8. The brittle nature of the roof plates makes these vulnerable to attack from HE grenades or shell which burst in contact with or within a few inches of the plate.
  9. Frontal attack with PIAT is unprofitable, flank attack against pannier (or turret) sides is effective.
  10. Mine with explosive charges between 4 and 15 lbs are likely to break the track if detonated at the centre of its width, but may not do so if detonated by its edge.  Detonations under any part of the track are unlikely to affect the floor plates or their joints with the hull side.
  11. It is probable that a combination of three No.75 grenade mines will have an effect on the track similar to that produced by a single Mk.V H.C. (standard) A.T. mine.  Either will break the track when detonated below the middle third of the track.

Further discussion of the above conclusion will be found in the various parts of this report.

The Trial has confirmed in general the assessment of vulnerability given in D.T.D. Report No. M.6815A/3 No.1, differences between certain predicted vulnerable ranges and actual results being due to the brittle nature of the armour.  Though evidence is available that many other Panther tanks damaged in battle have had armour which has shown similar defects, it should not be assumed that this form of weakness will always exist.

The design of the vehicle is such that its structural stability is considerable, the effective use of interlocking joints being chiefly responsible.

The Panther tank, judged on the results of this trail alone, remains a most formidable weapon with few weaknesses; and its value if used with adequate flank protection should not be underrated.

The full report can be viewed in this photo gallery.

From the Vault: Letter to Lima Tank Plant

P4190091Typically when one sees statements from WW2 veterans concerning the M4 Sherman tank on TV shows or in books, they often are critical of the armor or firepower of the vehicle.  These quotes typically come from the final year of the war when the Sherman was being compared to the much heavier German adversaries it faced in Western Europe.  While this narrative seems to have defined the Sherman in popular culture, it’s worth pointing out that when the vehicle was introduced in 1942, it was received with much praise by British forces in North Africa.  An example of this was recently provided to us by a friend of the site over in the UK who forwarded this letter that was found in the appendix of 7th Half-Yearly Progress Report of the Royal Armored Corps (1st January to 30th June 1943.)





Sgt. L Coller 7883700

“B” Squadron

5th Royal Tank Regt.

Middle East Forces.

1st February, 1943.

Dear Sir,

As the Commander of Tank No. 25734 (Serial No.), I would like to ask you, on behalf of my crew, to pass on to your employees, our sincere thanks for giving us the tanks for the victory over the Africka Korps and their Italian satellites.

The workers of your factory rightly share with the 8th Army the honour attendant to the capture of TRIPOLI.

It may be of some encouragement to them to know that 25734 was “in it” and gave much more than it took right from ALAMEIN to TRIPOLI.

ROMMEL, while in BERLIN stated that American tanks were of poor quality, badly made and of no consequence, but i guarantee that the surviving members of this Panzer Division think very differently!

Once again – thank you, and here’s wishing you all the best.  May you break all production records in 1943, and so help break Nazi tyranny.

Yours very sincerely

(Sgd) L. COLLER.

The Tank Production Manager,

Lima Locomotive Inc.



From the Vault: British/Israeli Assessment of T-55

001Today we present a report from the British Archives dating back to 1970 concerning the Soviet T-55 tank.  This particular report was conducted jointly by the British and the Israelis and documents “trials to assess the weapon system and fightability characteristics of the Soviet T-55 tank.”  We have uploaded the entire report onto a separate page which can be viewed here.  The report is quite lengthy and will be of interest for those interested in the T-55 tank, particularly those looking for information as to the crew ergonomics.  We have transcribed the report summary below:

The main points which emerged form the assessment are:

Ballistic dispersion of the 100mm gun – this was found to be comparable with western standards, ie intrinsic dispersion applicable to full bore projectiles – AP or HE.

The Weapon System – it is simple and has the basic components of any AFV system but without any sophistication or complexity.

The Gun Control System – it is crude.  The hand controls do not operate smoothly and in particular elevation and depression is of a low standard due mainly to excessive gun muzzle preponderance.  The power and stabilizer controls leave much to be desired, this applies particularly to attempts at engaging targets on the move with the 100mm gun.

Vision for the Driver and Gunner – it is adequate but, for the commander, the devices provided are, by British standards, inadequate and cupola arrangements are of poor quality.  They do not compare favorably with the equipment provided for the commander in Centurion of the 1958 period.

Fuel Stowage – this constitutes a fire hazard.  The forward or hull front tank surrounds 100mm ammunition and other fuel is carried in “Jerry Can” type containers which are plumbed into the system and situated on the right side track guard and are highly vulnerable to aircraft cannon fire.

Ammunition Stowage – other than the rounds stowed in the forward hull compartment, some rounds – about 6 – are stowed above the turret ring on the turret walls.  the rounds are secured by rather crudely designed clips.  The total carried is 43.  The rounds are heavy.

Armour Protection – for a weight of 6 tons the arrangement of armour is a point in favour of the T-55 tank although it is well known that considerable success against the armour was obtained from attacks with the British 105mm L28 APDS ammunition during the Six Day War.

Silhouette – this is similar to that of the FRG Leopard tank.  However, detection of the tank is enhanced by the external fittings on the turret roof.  It is, however, a compact vehicle.

Vehicle Generated Smoke – this is extremely effective and simple to operate.  A few tanks employed in creating a smoke screen can accomplish a screen of high density, lacking “windows”, in a very short time – a very good feature.

Fightability in General – the vehicle is rugged, the ammunition is heavy and awkward to handle in the cramped crew positions, the gun is loaded from the right side, ie left handed loading, and the result is a very low rate of fire which when combined with the low chance of hit with the first round of an engagement constitutes rather poor fightability characteristics.

Click here to see the entire report.




From the Vault: British Motion Studies on German Tanks

20131231_092550Today we present a British study from December of 1947 on ‘Motion Studies of German Tanks.”  This report examines the ergonomics of late WW2 German tanks Tiger, Tiger II an Panther.  The report focuses on crew comfort and efficiency, looking at each crew position and providing analysis.  Detailed charts of gun loading times are included in the report, as are diagrams of the ammo storage layout.  This report was photographed at a archive by a friend of the site.  We have put the report into a PDF and posted it on Internet Archive.  The quality of the photos varies, although the report is legible.  Due to the way it was photographed, many of the pages are at a bit of an angle.

Download the report here.

From the Vault: Robert Icks on Liddell Hart

Today we present an article from the November-December 1952 issue of ARMOR written by Colenel Robert J. Icks title “Lidell Hart: One View.” Icks was a pioneer in the writing and researching of tanks and armored warfare, writing numerous books on the topic starting in the 1920’s up through to the 1970’s. In “The Fighting Tanks 1916-1933“, which he co-authored with Ralph Jones and George Rarey, Icks is described as possessing “one of the most complete individual tank libraries in the world.” At the time of his death in 1985, his library was bequeathed to the Patton Museum. A list of his collection can be viewed here, it is listed as 70 linear feet of material!

In the course of his research on tanks, Icks carried on a correspondence with British journalist, historian and military theorist Basil Liddell Hart.  Widely credited as one of the prophets of modern mechanized warfare, Liddell Hart was one of the most prolific writers on military matters in the 20th century. A WW1 British Army captain, Liddell Hart retired from the army in 1927 to embark on a career as a journalist and historian. Following WW2, Liddell Hart continued to write, among his most well known works were his books based on interviews with surviving German Generals (The Other Side of the Hill, The German Generals Talk) , his editing of the Rommel Papers as well as his single volume history of the war.  Liddell Hart was no stranger to controversy, and his strong opinions on matters often have drawn strong replies from historians and military thinkers.  This article presents Colonel Icks view on Liddell Hart and his writings.

From the Vault: British Glossary of Tank terms

Today we present an article from issue 18 of the wartime publication “Tactical and Technical Trends.”  This particular article is a glossary of British terms used in relation to armor.  These are all technical terms, so unfortunately this article will be of little help to those wanting to learn the slang of the average WWII British tanker.  However, it may still prove of interest to those looking for a list of basic tank related terms.

From the Vault: German tanks of World War I

Today we present an article from the 1923 July-August edition of the Journal of the Army Ordnance Association on German Tanks.  Authored by R. Kruger, this six page article gives a fairly detailed technical description of the tanks designed by Imperial Germany during the war.  In particular, the heavy A7V is examined as well as the A7V -U and the Light LK I  and LK II tanks.  On the final page of the article is a short piece on “Who invented the tank?”  In this piece, it is pointed out that while the British were the first to use tanks in combat, the first patent issued for a tracked fighting machine was given to Gunther Burstyn of Austria in 1912.

From the Vault: Christie Motor Carriage

Today we present an article on “Christie Motor Carriages” from the March – April 1922 issue of Amy Ordnance magazine.  Written by H. E. Pengilly, the article looks at some of the early designs created by famous tank designer Walter J. Christie.  Christie is most well known for being the first designer to create armored vehicles with independently sprung suspensions, giving them very high mobility for their era.  Christie was also fixated with convertible tracks, vehicles that could operate both with and without tracks.  The motor carriages in this article are examples of some of his early “convertible” designs.

From the Vault: Ordnance article on Mark VIII tank

tank picToday we present an article from The 1920 July-August issue of Ordnance magazine on the “Manufacture of Mark VIII tanks at the Rock Island Arsenal” by Harry B. Jordan.  The article describes the construction of these vehicles, one of the very first tanks assembled in the United States.  For those interested in the technical details of these early tanks, this article should prove illuminating.  There is also a somewhat amusing photo in the article of a Mark VIII that flipped upside down during a loading accident.

From the Vault: US report on Japanese tank and antitank warfare

Japanese tank and antitank warfareToday we present a link to a PDF of the US report “Japanese tank and antitank warfare, Special Series no. 34.”  This document was released on August 1, 1945 and was intended to replace several earlier reports on Japanese tanks and antitank weapons and methods.  Unfortunately the reproduction of the document is not perfect, the text is easily readable but some of the pictures are a bit hard to see.  However, there is much in this report that will be of interest to those curious about Japanese armor.  Vehicle descriptions are provided, as well as descriptions of all the known guns which equipped Japanese tanks.  Japanese armored tactics and organization are also addressed in this report, as well as antitank equipment and tactics.

Download PDF here.