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.

Overlord’s Blog on “A Killa” Sherman tank

Overlord’s Blog has posted a piece by David Lister on the wartime career of WW2 British tank commander George Dring.  While the details are a bit unclear, George Dring and his tank, named “Akilla”, managed to destroy or damage several heavy German AFVs during the Normandy campaign.

Excerpt:

MBa47HyAs Sgt Dring approached a crossroads his habit of getting out for a shufti payed off. He sneaked through a cornfield and saw five tanks in a copse of trees below him, suddenly one started moving out. This is where some confusion comes in. By Sgt Drings words it appears he thought it might be a new tank that had recently been reported by intelligence, a Jagdtiger. However with hindsight we know it can’t have been. Sgt Dring does say it was a very large tank, which he’d ever seen before. However a later intelligence report simply calls it a “Panther”, but Sgt Dring was familiar with Panthers. So your guess is as good as mine as to what it could have been, a King Tiger? A Jagdpanther? Or a normal Panther? Either way it was bad news for a 75mm armed Sherman! Sgt Dring reversed his Sherman a little way up a side road and waited, the enemy tank moved out in front of him, and his first shot hit it in the drive sprocket shredding the track and immobilising the tank. The crew promptly bailed out.

Read the entire article at Overlord’s Blog.

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.

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.