Overlord’s Blog “Opening the Blue Coat”

Over at Overlord’s Blog, David Lister (aka Listy) has posted a two part article about Operation Blue Coat during the Battle for Normandy in 1944.  The article focuses on the Churchill tanks of the 6th Guards.

Excerpt:

jspXUabThere’s a famous quote by Bernard Montgomery that he wanted 1/3rd of the Churchill tanks armed with a six pounder gun. This may have had some impact on the 6th Guards Tank Brigade. In the run up to D-Day they rearmed all their tanks to the 75mm gun, including their Churchill MKIII’s, but they were never deployed. The Guardsmen preferred the 75mm over the six pounder. Despite this they started rearming the required one third of their tanks back. However this may not have been enough and they still weren’t ordered to cross the channel. Eventually the Brigade’s commander went to see the King, whom in turn went to see Prime Minister Churchill; Churchill then ordered the unit deployed. They landed on French soil on the 20th of July. Once in their marshalling area several officers visited tank graveyards to view the effects of German weaponry, their visits prompted a massive up armouring program across the brigade. Most of the time this was just spare track links welded all over the tank and turret but sometimes it was actual plate. There exists a few odd pictures of a Churchill MKIII*, a MKIII tank with extra armour on the front of the turret and armed with a 75mm gun.

Read the full article at Overlord’s Blog.

Overlord’s Blog on Chobham armor

Over at Overlord’s Blog, contributor David Lister has written a nice summary of the history of Chobham armor.  Here is a brief excerpt:

overlords blogFirst things first, Chobham armour isn’t an accurate term, it’s like a family name for modern composites. It’s often used by the Press to describe the concept if not the exact detail to its readers, nearly all of whom couldn’t tell a Tiger from a Sherman reliably. Composite armours are nothing new. In the 1930’s Vickers designed some of its tanks with thin layers of high quality armour plate over thicker layers of much softer quality armour. Or in World War One some British tanks were tested with oak planking as backing to their steel armour. If you push back as far as the medieval period, chain mail and the padded jacket was technically a composite armour. However the post war composites were generally designed to defeat warheads, such as siliceous-core armour, which was great against HEAT warheads but was pretty useless against kinetic energy rounds.

Read the entire article here.

Also, be sure to check out this article that Lister links to in the piece.  This is a rather amusing newspaper clip from 1980 showing how wildly inaccurate some of the criticisms of the XM-1 were at the time of it’s entry into service.  It should be noted that Robert Icks, the first person quoted in the article, was one of the most knowledgeable tank experts in the US at the time this article was written.

David Lister on last Sherman vs Pz IV battle

PWgV4UpOver at Overlord’s Blog, researcher David Lister has posted a short piece on the last battle involving M4 Sherman tanks and Pz IV tanks.  While many people might guess that 1945 was the last time these two vehicles faced off against each other, Lister points out that the final confrontation of these two metal warriors was far later than that, occurring during the 1967 “Six Day War” between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

After their defeat in the Israeli War of Independence and the following years the Syrians brought in advisers to help train their army. These were predominantly German ex-soldiers. These advisers convinced the Syrians they needed more armour. So the Syrians went shopping and from about 1959 they started to acquire Panzer IV’s, Stug IIIG’s, a handful of Jagdpanzer IV’s and even the odd Hummel. The tanks seem to have been sourced from both Czechoslovakia and France, although some may have come from Spain as well. They saw action on the Golan heights during the War over Water. However when the Israelis deployed Centurions the old German tanks were forced back. The Syrians then started to receive Russian support, such as T-34/85’s and T54’s. From then on the tanks remained in positions on the Golan heights.

Full article available at Overlord’s Blog.

Overlord’s Blog: Tigers for Breakfast

David Lister at Overlord’s blog has posted an article about an action involving Tiger tanks in North Africa called “Tigers for Breakfast“.

By January 1943 the war had turned against Germany. At this point the allies were pushing the Germans from two sides in North Africa, including in Tunisia. On the 31st two companies of infantry and two troops of six pounder guns were dug in covering the road leading to Robaa. They were on an area of rocky rough terrain on the side of the hill, with the German lines somewhere to their front. At about 0600, in the pitch darkness reports start to filter back from the infantry that they can hear tank movement to the front. Immediately the two troop commanders of the AT guns leapt out of the truck they’d been sleeping in and struggled up the hill. The Lieutenant for the 2nd Troop in his haste just threw on a greatcoat over his pyjamas before dashing to his troop. Lt Stanley Edwards of 1st Troop however had only to pull on his boots.

Read the full post here.

Overlord’s Blog on “The British 88”

Hyde_Park_Anti-aircraft_guns_H_993Researcher David Lister has posted an interesting article about British use of the 3.7 AA gun in the direct fire anti-tank role.

“A question I often see asked is “Why didn’t the British use the 3.7″ AA gun like the German 88?”. By that they mean why not crank its elevation down to 0 degrees and start knocking out tanks. This is partially supported by Wikipedia’s entry on the subject that reads:

“The 3.7″ was inherently unsuitable as an anti-tank gun. It was big and heavy, 2 tons heavier than the German 88, making it tactically unsuitable for use in forward areas. Additionally, heavy AA Regiments equipped with the 3.7″ gun were relatively few in number in the field army and controlled by Corps or Army HQ, or at even higher level HQs, and command of them was not often devolved to the commanders at Divisional level where the anti-tank role might be required.”

The implication is that the 3.7″ AA gun was only ever used in desperation before being overrun. As you might guess this isn’t entirely true. Certainly pre-war, up until some time in 1938, crews were trained in direct fire roles. However the rapid re-arming of the British forces meant that this training was dropped. The mounts also had a part to play. With the MKI being a complex piece of equipment, the gunners faced forward. In the MKII (the static mount) the gunners were facing in towards the gun mount, and finally in the much simplified and lightened MKIII mount the gunners were facing towards the rear of the gun.”

Full article here.