Overlord’s Blog: Spank the Tank

From Overlord’s Blog comes this post recounting an action from 1942 by some Royal Engineers versus Axis tanks in North Africa.

mhxwzevIn late November 1942 , twenty sappers of the 1st Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers were picking their way across the Tunisian landscape. Overhead a bright moon bore down, and the peaceful night sky was frosted with stars. Their mission was to emplace mines and set up an anti-armour ambush on a road. This road led to an harbour area with a large number of Axis forces, including tanks. Once these forces were in place two companies of Para’s, covered by a section of three inch mortars and supported by some ex Vichy Senegalese infantry whom had decided to join up with the Paras, would launch a frontal assault on the Axis position. The harbour was on the slopes of a place called Gue Hill.

It was similar to an ambush launched about a week earlier. They had convinced the German forces near Béja that the Paratroop force was actually three times its size, by the simple expedient of marching through the town three times, but switching headgear each time. The Para’s had moved to Mateur where they got word of a large German convoy protected by armoured cars that had moved past. So they mined the road and when the convoy returned they attacked with Gammon bombs and small arms. This resulted in several captured German armoured cars and quite a haul of POW’s.

Overlord’s Blog: Man against Machines

Overlord’s Blog has a new article about a WW2 US Army private in the pacific campaign that engaged and destroyed a platoon of Japanese tanks by himself.  For this action, PFC Dirk John Vlug was awarded a Medal of Honor.

Article excerpt:

09VSnUnIn the afternoon five Type 95 Ha-Go tanks approached the roadblock. The lead tank was spewing out smoke in an attempt to conceal the other four. As they approached the roadblock they began to rake the US positions with their machine guns and the 37mm main guns. PFC Vlug grabbed his M9 Bazooka and charged the Japanese tanks.

Halting a short distance away from the lead tank he fired his first round. The missile streaked into the tank and soon it began to spew out black smoke as it burnt. PFC Vlug must not have been taking concealment as both the Japanese and his own side could see him clearly. The crew of the second tank began to dismount to deal with this anti-tank threat. PFC Vlug ripped out his pistol and opened fire, killing the tank commander. The fact he was engaging with his pistol gives you an idea how close he was to the enemy. The remaining two tank crew remounted their vehicle, but before they could move PFC Vlug fired his second rocket, killing the crew.

Read the full story here.

Overlord’s Blog: Hilary Doyle Interview (2012)

mqdefaultBack in 2012 Overlord’s Blog published a several part interview with author and researcher Hilary Doyle on the topic of WW2 German armor.  Doyle is known for  the many books he co-authored with the late Thomas Jentz on German armor, including their long running Panzer Tracts series.  With four years having passed since this interview was published, we thought it was time to bring some attention to this interesting piece.  The interview is broken up into several pages, links to which we have provided below.  The questions posed to Doyle were submitted by readers, which explains why the quality of the questions sometimes varies.  It is also worth pointing out that the first page of the interview is somewhat confusingly labeled “Part 4”, parts 1 through 3 do not contain interview segments.

Overlord’s Blog Hilary Doyle interview Page 1

Overlord’s Blog Hilary Doyle interview Page 2

Overlord’s Blog Hilary Doyle interview Page 3

Overlord’s Blog Hilary Doyle interview Page 4

Overlord’s Blog Hilary Doyle interview Page 5

 

Overlord’s Blog on Arras

Overlord’s blog has posted a three part article on the battle of Arras, France in 1940.  This battle is well known to those interested in the history of armored warfare, remembered primarily as the time British Matilda tanks put a serious scare into Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division.

Excerpt:

Tank terror is that moment when the infantryman realises he can’t do anything to hurt the steel monster clanking towards him filled with malice and doom, and it’s heading right towards him. At that point he gets up and runs. The term was coined during the Blitzkrieg in 1940 that conquered France. But on one occasion the markings on the tanks weren’t German crosses, but the white squares of the BEF.

The Arras counter attack is one of the interesting battles from the summer of 1940, it points out the lesson that most commanders need to learn: the enemy can always surprise you. Rommel is reported to have suffered an attack of tank terror, and panicked reporting hundreds of tanks crushing his lines. It caused the Germans to halt their dash for the Channel, giving the Allies two days extra. This was time that would be very beneficial at Dunkirk.

As the Germans pushed their armoured spearhead into France the Allies laid plans for a large counter attack on the southern shoulder of the penetration. It was decided to try to support that attack with a push from the north with whatever forces could be spared. To this end the 5th Infantry and 50th Northumbrian Division along with the 1st Army Tank Brigade were dispatched to the Arras sector. When the units began to trickle into their staging area near Vimy Ridge, they found the area thinly held, with a French armoured unit to the east of Arras. Much of the infantry force were diverted to hold the line, this did however free up sixty S-35 tanks to take part in the attack. With these forces in place an attempt was made to plan the attack on the 20th of May, however things were hampered simply by not knowing what forces would be available.

Read the complete articles at these three links:

Part 1: Tank Terror

Part 2: Pushback

Part 3: Arras and After

Overlord’s Blog: Tank Terror

Overlord’s blog has posted a new article looking at the tank attack carried out by the British at Arras during the 1940 campaign in France.

Excerpt:

Tank terror is that moment when the infantryman realizes he can’t do anything to hurt the steel monster clanking towards him filled with malice and doom, and it’s heading right towards him. At that point he gets up and runs. The term was coined during the Blitzkrieg in 1940 that conquered France. But on one occasion the markings on the tanks weren’t German crosses, but the white squares of the BEF.

The Arras counter attack is one of the interesting battles from the summer of 1940, it points out the lesson that most commanders need to learn: the enemy can always surprise you. Rommel is reported to have suffered an attack of tank terror, and panicked reporting hundreds of tanks crushing his lines. It caused the Germans to halt their dash for the Channel, giving the Allies two days extra. This was time that would be very beneficial at Dunkirk.

Read the full article here.

Overlord’s Blog: Cuckoo the Panther Tank

Overlord’s Blog has posted a new article about the 4th Coldstreams Guards armored battalion during the campaign in Western Europe in WW2. In particular, the article looks at “Cuckoo”, a captured German Panther tank used by the unit for a time.

Excerpt:

eGl0UcSShe was named Cuckoo. All the vehicles of the command group in the Coldstreams were named after birds, for example the battalion commander’s tank was called “Eagle”, a armoured command vehicle was “Vulture”, and they had scout cars named “Pigeon”, “Wren” and “Owlet”, to name but a few. Keeping with this ornithological theme “Cuckoo” seemed to fit a German tank in a British unit.

Cuckoo’s wartime exploits are difficult to find, she first gets a mention in the reduction of the Geijsteren, a castle in Holland which was surrounded by a moat, flood water and mud, with its bridge blown and the causeway leading to it covered by German guns. The British after seeing the results of a similar attack decided it would be easier to just reduce it with fire-power, and set about this on the 27th of November. Here Cuckoo’s long gun is singled out for praise as it was able to smash shells with unerring accuracy through windows and loopholes. Despite the Coldstreams shooting at it nothing much was achieved, so on the 28th the Allies prepared for a shooting party.

Read the full article here

 

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.