Italian tankettes in Ethiopia

Overlord’s blog has a post titled “Sticks and Stones” about the battle Dembeguina Pass during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.  The Italian forces in this particular encounter were armed with the CV-35 tankette.  The article has some interesting examples of how ineffective these little tanks could be:

FaD1LiPOne Ethiopian soldier whom had been one of the lead element was armed with nothing more than a sword. His name was Tashemm. His rank was Balambaras, which has no real equivalent that we might recognise. It essentially means he was a trusted person. Tashemm crawled out of the tankettes line of fire and moved round behind it. Sneaking closer he concocted his plan. He climbed up on the rear of the tank and hammered on the hatch with his sword pommel yelling in Italian “Open! Open!”. Immediately the crew of the CV-35 opened their hatches with fatal results.

You might ask why the Italians opened up their hatches. The answer is these simple machines lacked radio’s and so had to communicate by word of mouth. At another battle later in the war a large number of tankette crews were killed and wounded simply because they had to open their hatches to communicate.

Read the full blog post here.

Overlord’s Blog on Universal Carrier

mor12U0Overlord’s Blog is featuring a post about a heroic action taken by a group of British Bren Gun Carriers during the 1940 campaign in France.  The post describes the exploits of Lieutenant Christopher Furness who commanded a section of Bren Gun Carriers belonging to the 1st Welsh Guards.  Furness was part of a column which was retreating from the Arras area and in danger of being destroyed by advancing German forces.  WIth a group of three Bren Carriers and three Mk VI light tanks, Furness set out to attack the German forces so as to give the rest of the column a chance to escape.

The light tanks set up a base of fire and started shooting at the Germans, however they were all quickly set on fire by the German anti-tank guns. However the lighter, smaller and faster Carriers were able to evade the German anti-tank gun fire. Not so the colossal amount of small arms rounds the Germans fired at the Carriers. Such was the volume of fire Carrier #3 had the bi-pod shot off its Bren gun. Soon all the Carriers had wounded men on them. Lt Furness led his Carriers along until nearly on top of the German position then began to drive in a circle around the German hilltop all the while firing with every weapon they could. They managed several circuits inflicting very heavy casualties on the Germans. However the German return fire was beginning to take its own toll. In Carrier #1 Lt Furness was the only man alive, and when the driver had been killed the Carrier had halted. In Carrier #2, just behind Carrier #1, Guardsman David Williams had been killed and the other crew wounded.

Read the full story 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.

Overlord’s blog on Project Foil

Q5JFELlOverlord’s blog has posted an article and some diagrams from the archives describing the history of the failed British “Foil” multiple rocket launch system.

The project was to design a multiple rocket launch system for the British Army. This had become possible with recent advancements in rockets that had made them more accurate than the area weapons of the Second World War. So with this in mind the British started looking at large calibre unguided rockets. Phase one of the project was finished in 1969, with talks about a joint German and Italian collaboration the following year. It seems that the rocket chosen was the same one as used in Project JAWL, which ran from 1963 until 1968. Foil in turn lead to the RS-80 project of 1974, which got killed off by the United States MLRS system, which had a massively faster reload due to the rockets being loaded in pods.

Read the rest of the article at Overlord’s blog