The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 16 Apr 2018 23:01

Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote: When war comes, military equipment is expendable. That includes tanks. Military equipment is often destroyed or 'lost' long before ETO - just look at all the British pantsers left in France in 1940!
Not really. Formations ideally have to spend a considerable mileage training before they go into action, and when tank numbers are limited low overhaul lives and restricted overhauls have an effect on training. I expect the fact that e.g. 5 RTR had pretty much redlined their tanks even before they had gone into action during Rommel's first offensive was due to them (or 3 RTR) expending the overhaul life of their vehicles during training.
Well no.

Off the top of my head...

5RTRs pantsers were "overhauled" (early at about 50% ETO - so probably better description would be a thoroughly serviced) before they left the UK. 3RTR had NOT overhauled their pantsers before departure - not because of training committments but because of the command structure they had been under the previous 3 months - but the majority of the pansers still had used up only about 50% time to ETO. In Egypt they swopped pansers so that 5RTR and became an all A13 regiment, 3RTR an all A10 regiment. The supposed "fact" is actually a falsehood. Then, ...

3RTR was sent to Greece with 2 squadrons of effectively zero hour A10s and 1 squadron at about 50% ETO. On arrival they were entrained to the forward area and then parked up just outside the town and didn't move. When hostilities commenced, the pantsers fell out at such a rate that they were utterly ineffective. All 52 lost long before the ETO had any relevance. There was also 7 A13s in Greece which were practically brand spanking new. Managed to last a bit longer than the A10s, but were broken and useless long, LOOOOONG before ETO.

5RTR was sent to Cyrenaica with 1 squadron of effectively zero hour A13s and 2 squadrons at about 50% ETO (ex 3RTR). They also took over the 7 A13s of HQ 3ArmdBde which were brand spanking new. The movement forward destroyed the ex 3RTR and ex HQ 2ArmdBde pantsers: about 10 out of 35 being useable on arrival at destination. Of the 'overhauled' ex 5RTR beasts, 13 out of 14 were useable on arrival as were 5 of the 6 A10CS.
Don Juan wrote: The more varied and extensive the training is (e.g. including a combined arms element) the more mileage that will be expended. That the British experienced multiple mass breakdown events in the desert indicates that overhauls were important.
Pantser life was not expended during training. It is falsehood that they arrived in Egypt so knackered as to be useless. They proved useless for other reasons which had little or nothing to do with ETO.
Don Juan wrote: The point I made about Hobart was that like seemingly all British armoured commanders, he had not foreseen this would happen, as he had barely thought about it.

Hobart was training his division to manouver in the Western Desert to defend Egypt. He was not training them to motor to Tunisia. Op COMPASS was designed to go as far as Tobruk only - less than 100 miles over the border. How can Hobart be criticised for this given the context?
Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote:And, to add to the almost irrelevance of the overhaul system in wartime, the early British pantsers could barely make a 50 mile march without needed major maintenance work.
This isn't true. After the initial battles on the Somme, ....
Why does your analysis discount the battles of the Somme?

1st Armoured Division's first task was to get to the Somme pronto, seize and secure 3 bridgeheads ASAP with a single armoured regiment - later amended to "Immediate advance of whatever elements of ... division as are ready is essential. Action at once may be decisive; tomorrow may be too late". That was issued as the Queen's Bays were unloading at Pacy! The enemy was described as "the mangled remains of six panzer divs". Of the 27 or 28 Cruiser Tanks the Queen's Bays unloaded at Pacy, about 3 made it forward to take part in the attack about 60 miles up the road! It was a similar story for 9L and 10H.

You said it wasn't true. I made a mistake. It was about 60 miles not 50 miles!
Don Juan wrote: I estimate that many of the surviving A13's of 1 AD racked up over 1000 miles before they were abandoned.
Really?

Interesting use of the word "surviving". Is that your way of saying your only counting the handful which hadn't broken down long before?
Don Juan wrote: There was at least one journey (down to Le Mans) that was over 200 miles in a single day, and another (from the Le Mans area to Cherbourg) that was 180 miles in a single day. These mileages were achieved despite a total lack of RAOC support,
The units had the RAOC support that they were supposed to have. I'll be the first to argue that the level of RAOC support at regimental level was absurd - a product of peacetime colonial policing thought not big war worries. It was one of the contributors to repeated mechanical failure. But again, nothing to do with the overhaul question.

I do not see any journey over 200 miles down to Le Mans in a single day except those on flat trucks pulled by a steam loco. Crocker's 'success' in getting 15 Cruiser Tanks to Cherbourg is hardly something to crow about considering the majority of the other 170-175 Cruiser Tanks didn't make it having broken down long, long before. Nothing to do with overhaul.
Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote:The 1st Armoured Division was thrown away in France by the very highest ranking officers through utter incompetence. Officers who had not the slightest clue as to how the Division should be employed, what it was (and was not) capable of and who had more interest in saving face and the old-boy network than offering meaningful resistence to the German advance. What I'm saying is, you are quite correct in your appreciation of what didn't occur before it deployed, but even if it had been perfectly trained, it would have resulted in the very same outcome.
Well, this is a counterfactual, maybe correct, maybe not. When the 1st Armoured Division was ordered to France at the beginning of May, the assumption was that it was to travel to the dedicated RAC "AFV Area" at Pacy-sur-Eure and continue its training. Even at the beginning of embarkation it was not completely clear that the division would have to be plunged straight into action. The fate of the 1st Armoured Division was highly circumstantial e.g. if the French had held at Sedan, its deployment would have been completely different.
Whether it was sent to Pacy to train or not is irrelevant. It was thrown away by commanders at the very highest level with a series of incompetent decisions. It would have been lost in exactly the same way if it had had a perfect training run-in.

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3473
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by David W » 17 Apr 2018 06:37

Was there largely a single mechanical reason for the massive percentage of A10, A13 & A9 breakdowns, or were there a host of problems?

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4362
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Urmel » 17 Apr 2018 07:21

The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2024
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Gooner1 » 17 Apr 2018 10:18

MarkN wrote:Whether it was sent to Pacy to train or not is irrelevant. It was thrown away by commanders at the very highest level with a series of incompetent decisions. It would have been lost in exactly the same way if it had had a perfect training run-in.
Err.. they were under French command.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2024
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Gooner1 » 17 Apr 2018 10:33

Dili wrote:This all gets back to the lack of competent war simulation and exercises. Who was responsible for that?
The Government mainly, through its policy of 'Limited Liability'.

User avatar
Don Juan
Member
Posts: 600
Joined: 23 Sep 2013 10:12

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 17 Apr 2018 11:31

MarkN wrote: Why does your analysis discount the battles of the Somme?

1st Armoured Division's first task was to get to the Somme pronto, seize and secure 3 bridgeheads ASAP with a single armoured regiment - later amended to "Immediate advance of whatever elements of ... division as are ready is essential. Action at once may be decisive; tomorrow may be too late". That was issued as the Queen's Bays were unloading at Pacy! The enemy was described as "the mangled remains of six panzer divs". Of the 27 or 28 Cruiser Tanks the Queen's Bays unloaded at Pacy, about 3 made it forward to take part in the attack about 60 miles up the road! It was a similar story for 9L and 10H.

You said it wasn't true. I made a mistake. It was about 60 miles not 50 miles!
Pacy-sur-Eure to Camps-en-Amiénois appears to be about 80 miles, on the route given in the war diaries, according to Google maps. But I take your point.

As to the breakdown of the Cruisers up to the Somme and afterwards, what is interesting is that the composite units that were formed after the Somme battles seemed to have been much better at keeping their tanks going than the regiments proper did at the start of operations, despite the fact that they were often travelling much longer distances. There are two ways of looking at this - either the "bad" tanks were being whittled away, or the users were getting much better at keeping them operative.

I'm not at all sure that all the mechanical breakdowns were simply faults of the tanks. For example the 9th Lancers commented prior to embarking for France that they had had no experience whatsoever with the A9 and A10, and hoped to learn how to use them in France. 3 AB seem to have received a number of tanks direct from the manufacturers, and there is a likelihood that these had not been given a "shakedown" run to highlight any defects. Also the regiments appear to have received a number of rookie drafts prior to departure. Of the 50 that 9L received, it was commented that most had only driven a tank for an hour, others not at all.

It is notable that 3 AB did not seem to have disproportionate mechanical casualties with their A13's in comparison with their Light tanks, whereas 2 AB seem to have lost almost all of their Cruisers to breakdowns, but very few of their Light tanks, with which they had substantially more experience.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

User avatar
Don Juan
Member
Posts: 600
Joined: 23 Sep 2013 10:12

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 17 Apr 2018 11:50

MarkN wrote:5RTRs pantsers were "overhauled" (early at about 50% ETO - so probably better description would be a thoroughly serviced) before they left the UK. 3RTR had NOT overhauled their pantsers before departure - not because of training committments but because of the command structure they had been under the previous 3 months - but the majority of the pansers still had used up only about 50% time to ETO. In Egypt they swopped pansers so that 5RTR and became an all A13 regiment, 3RTR an all A10 regiment. The supposed "fact" is actually a falsehood. Then, ...
Have you got a reference to confirm the 5 RTR overhaul/service in the UK? I can't find it in their war diary.

The state of 5 RTR's tanks I got from Rimington's letter of 29th March to HQ 2 Armd Div, viz:

"This Regt. has no charge and with it the following Cruiser Tanks:-

Bde H.Q. Tanks A13 7.
5.R.Tanks 46
A.10 CS
Total A.13s 53. A.10s CS 6.

(a) A.13 Engines

They have only 2 A.13 Tanks which have had new engines and have done under 500 miles.

Of the remainder all have completed 1000 miles and many have nearly reached 2000 miles. It is an established fact that the Liberty Engine has a short life, and that at 1000 miles these vehicles require engine change. Our experience has shown that after 12 to 14 hundred miles, at any time, the engine is likely to collapse, and extensive damage usually resulting. These engines do not 'fade away' like car-type engines. More often a piston or other working part seizes and collapses."
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 17 Apr 2018 17:04

Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote: Why does your analysis discount the battles of the Somme?

1st Armoured Division's first task was to get to the Somme pronto, seize and secure 3 bridgeheads ASAP with a single armoured regiment - later amended to "Immediate advance of whatever elements of ... division as are ready is essential. Action at once may be decisive; tomorrow may be too late". That was issued as the Queen's Bays were unloading at Pacy! The enemy was described as "the mangled remains of six panzer divs". Of the 27 or 28 Cruiser Tanks the Queen's Bays unloaded at Pacy, about 3 made it forward to take part in the attack about 60 miles up the road! It was a similar story for 9L and 10H.

You said it wasn't true. I made a mistake. It was about 60 miles not 50 miles!
Pacy-sur-Eure to Camps-en-Amiénois appears to be about 80 miles, on the route given in the war diaries, according to Google maps. But I take your point.

As to the breakdown of the Cruisers up to the Somme and afterwards, what is interesting is that the composite units that were formed after the Somme battles seemed to have been much better at keeping their tanks going than the regiments proper did at the start of operations, despite the fact that they were often travelling much longer distances. There are two ways of looking at this - either the "bad" tanks were being whittled away, or the users were getting much better at keeping them operative.

I'm not at all sure that all the mechanical breakdowns were simply faults of the tanks. For example the 9th Lancers commented prior to embarking for France that they had had no experience whatsoever with the A9 and A10, and hoped to learn how to use them in France. 3 AB seem to have received a number of tanks direct from the manufacturers, and there is a likelihood that these had not been given a "shakedown" run to highlight any defects. Also the regiments appear to have received a number of rookie drafts prior to departure. Of the 50 that 9L received, it was commented that most had only driven a tank for an hour, others not at all.

It is notable that 3 AB did not seem to have disproportionate mechanical casualties with their A13's in comparison with their Light tanks, whereas 2 AB seem to have lost almost all of their Cruisers to breakdowns, but very few of their Light tanks, with which they had substantially more experience.
Having read the same documents, I've gone through the same thought process and come up with similar conclusions. However, there are a few other elements which also affect the picture. For example, QBays, 9L and 10H had the brand new Mk.VIc Light Tank whereas 2RTR, 3RTR and 5RTR were using the previous Mk.VIb model - some of which were 3 or so years old. That, I'm sure, had some impact on their relative reliability. Similarly, the A13 Mk.II Cruiser Tanks of QBays/9L/10H were newer than the predominantly A13 Mk.I Cruiser Tanks or 2/3/5RTR (who also had a handful of even newer A13 Mk.IIa).

There is clearly a large and instant fall out immediatly after arrival in France followed by a more gradual decrease until the end. But I'm not sure that the difference between the two is that great.

MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 17 Apr 2018 17:42

Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote:5RTRs pantsers were "overhauled" (early at about 50% ETO - so probably better description would be a thoroughly serviced) before they left the UK. 3RTR had NOT overhauled their pantsers before departure - not because of training committments but because of the command structure they had been under the previous 3 months - but the majority of the pansers still had used up only about 50% time to ETO. In Egypt they swopped pansers so that 5RTR and became an all A13 regiment, 3RTR an all A10 regiment. The supposed "fact" is actually a falsehood. Then, ...
Have you got a reference to confirm the 5 RTR overhaul/service in the UK? I can't find it in their war diary.

The state of 5 RTR's tanks I got from Rimington's letter of 29th March to HQ 2 Armd Div, viz:

"This Regt. has no charge and with it the following Cruiser Tanks:-

Bde H.Q. Tanks A13 7.
5.R.Tanks 46
A.10 CS
Total A.13s 53. A.10s CS 6.

(a) A.13 Engines

They have only 2 A.13 Tanks which have had new engines and have done under 500 miles.

Of the remainder all have completed 1000 miles and many have nearly reached 2000 miles. It is an established fact that the Liberty Engine has a short life, and that at 1000 miles these vehicles require engine change. Our experience has shown that after 12 to 14 hundred miles, at any time, the engine is likely to collapse, and extensive damage usually resulting. These engines do not 'fade away' like car-type engines. More often a piston or other working part seizes and collapses."
I haven't obsessed over the precise maintenance situation so cannot speak with great authority on the matter. For example, I don't have the 'service manuals' for any of the pantsers we're discussing. Therefore it is impossible for me to be absolutely clear as to what the above by Rimington means.

It is clear that he is stating that the Liberty engine - based on previous experience - tends to conk out suddenly around the 1,200-1,400 mile mark. Should we assume that's under northern Europe conditions or Cyrenaica desert? It is also clear from his words that, based upon that previous experience, the RAOC/RTR plan is to replace engines around the 1,000 mile mark as a proactive precaution. Makes sense.

What is not clear from his words is whether the total mileages he mentions relate to the total tank mileage or the mileage completed by the engine in the tanks. What I mean is, different parts of the tank have different lifespans. It seems the Liberty engine was the major worry in the A13 but does it mean a 'complete' overhaul was planned every 1,000 miles or just an engine change and a bit of a service to the rest of the tank? I can imagine many of the tank hulls had completed over 1,000 miles, but the engine within may have been replaced at least once during that timeframe and have itself a far lower life used up. What was the ETO of other major components on the A13? I don't know. All I have to hand is the same Rimington note that you quote above relating to the Liberty engine.

Rimington wrote that - 29 March - after 3ArmdBde and 5RTR had moved forward to Mersa-el-Brega. In otherwords, they had put about 600 miles of desert bashing into the pantsers just getting forward from the railhead at Mersa Matruh. They also put miles into the pantsers in Egypt in January and then during February and early March training around el Adem. In otherwords, their 'life' in Egypt and Libya alone put at least 1,000 miles on the clock. If all the pantsers had arrived in Alexandria mint new with zero on the clock, they'd be up for an engine change on arrival at Mersa-el-Brega if not sooner. Whilst their combat usefulness was far from perfect at el Adem, it was the move forward from there - at the behest of Neame - that wrung out most of their combat usefulness as a pantser and as an armoured strike force.

Lt.Col. Drew CO 5RTR letter dated 3 August 1941 regarding the earlier state of the A13s. Remember, the loss of 2nd Armoured Division was a blame game in London and Cairo and the shit was being liberally shovelled downhill. This letter was his 'defence'.
Before embarkation [from the UK - MarkN] all tanks had been overhauled at Ordnance Workshops and two or three new engines had been fitted to A.13 tanks. The mileage of no A.13 tank [5RTR had 18 at the time - MarkN] exceeded 500 miles.
He also notes on exchange of 28 of his A.10 pantsers for 28 of 3RTRs A.13s...
The exchange of tanks was completed on the following day [after a month of training in Egypt - MarkN] when the O.C. 3rd Btn R.T.R. pointed out to me that all his tanks had exceeded a 1,000 miles and were due for engine overhaul.
Perhaps my comment yesterday that 3RTRs tanks were only 50% to ETO was inacurrate. Perhaps it was nearer 75-80% of ETO on the 1,000-mile engine line. Nevertheless, they were certainly not on their last legs and time was available to try to do something about it - but nothing had!

User avatar
Don Juan
Member
Posts: 600
Joined: 23 Sep 2013 10:12

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 17 Apr 2018 17:56

MarkN wrote:Having read the same documents, I've gone through the same thought process and come up with similar conclusions. However, there are a few other elements which also affect the picture. For example, QBays, 9L and 10H had the brand new Mk.VIc Light Tank whereas 2RTR, 3RTR and 5RTR were using the previous Mk.VIb model - some of which were 3 or so years old. That, I'm sure, had some impact on their relative reliability. Similarly, the A13 Mk.II Cruiser Tanks of QBays/9L/10H were newer than the predominantly A13 Mk.I Cruiser Tanks or 2/3/5RTR (who also had a handful of even newer A13 Mk.IIa).

There is clearly a large and instant fall out immediatly after arrival in France followed by a more gradual decrease until the end. But I'm not sure that the difference between the two is that great.
Another oddity of this immediate period is that none of the war diaries for QB, 9L, 10H, 2AB or 1AD make any mention of the vast bulk of the Cruisers breaking down on the way to the Somme. The only evidence that I've seen of breakdowns is from Raymond Briggs's personal diary for 24th May, where he notes 5 x A13's and 1 x A9 of the QB broken down en route, and 1 x A9 of the QB having been left at Pacy. Other than that, it seems to be assumed by historians in retrospect that all the other (70 or 80 odd?) 2AB Cruisers had broken down - but one would think this was sufficiently catastrophic to be mentioned in at least one of the main war diaries.

There are also no excuses made that the failure to capture the Somme bridges was due to the faulty Cruisers (which would have been the ideal excuse) or any "if only" pleas lamenting their absence. This is deeply strange, as usually equipment is the first thing that the British tend to blame. It is almost as though 2AB were aware that it was their own fault that these tanks didn't reach the objective, and didn't want to broadcast the reason too loudly.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

User avatar
Don Juan
Member
Posts: 600
Joined: 23 Sep 2013 10:12

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 17 Apr 2018 18:13

MarkN wrote:It is clear that he is stating that the Liberty engine - based on previous experience - tends to conk out suddenly around the 1,200-1,400 mile mark. Should we assume that's under northern Europe conditions or Cyrenaica desert? It is also clear from his words that, based upon that previous experience, the RAOC/RTR plan is to replace engines around the 1,000 mile mark as a proactive precaution. Makes sense.

What is not clear from his words is whether the total mileages he mentions relate to the total tank mileage or the mileage completed by the engine in the tanks. What I mean is, different parts of the tank have different lifespans. It seems the Liberty engine was the major worry in the A13 but does it mean a 'complete' overhaul was planned every 1,000 miles or just an engine change and a bit of a service to the rest of the tank? I can imagine many of the tank hulls had completed over 1,000 miles, but the engine within may have been replaced at least once during that timeframe and have itself a far lower life used up. What was the ETO of other major components on the A13? I don't know. All I have to hand is the same Rimington note that you quote above relating to the Liberty engine.
I thought it was clear that Rimington was referring to engine mileages. In the UK, the defined overhaul life of the A13 was 1500 miles, and the Liberty engine was at that limit. The desert tended to take 300 miles off this, which is why Crusaders were set at 1200 miles. As for replacement Liberty engines, I suspect that there were hardly any available, as the emphasis was on building new tanks, and it wasn't until April 1941 that the Ministry of Supply started taking spares seriously. i.e. you can't perform a proper overhaul if you haven't got the spares. This also impacts on 1AD in France, as many of the A13's there would have had pretty old engines, even if they had been nominally "overhauled".
MarkN wrote:Rimington wrote that - 29 March - after 3ArmdBde and 5RTR had moved forward to Mersa-el-Brega. In otherwords, they had put about 600 miles of desert bashing into the pantsers just getting forward from the railhead at Mersa Matruh. They also put miles into the pantsers in Egypt in January and then during February and early March training around el Adem. In otherwords, their 'life' in Egypt and Libya alone put at least 1,000 miles on the clock. If all the pantsers had arrived in Alexandria mint new with zero on the clock, they'd be up for an engine change on arrival at Mersa-el-Brega if not sooner. Whilst their combat usefulness was far from perfect at el Adem, it was the move forward from there - at the behest of Neame - that wrung out most of their combat usefulness as a pantser and as an armoured strike force.
Yes, they should have sat still and let PR5 conk out first.
MarkN wrote:Perhaps my comment yesterday that 3RTRs tanks were only 50% to ETO was inacurrate. Perhaps it was nearer 75-80% of ETO on the 1,000-mile engine line. Nevertheless, they were certainly not on their last legs and time was available to try to do something about it - but nothing had!
Agree with this - they really needed a small overhaul facility in Tobruk. But again, new Liberty engines were at a premium.
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 17 Apr 2018 18:14

Don Juan wrote:Another oddity of this immediate period is that none of the war diaries for QB, 9L, 10H, 2AB or 1AD make any mention of the vast bulk of the Cruisers breaking down on the way to the Somme. The only evidence that I've seen of breakdowns is from Raymond Briggs's personal diary for 24th May, where he notes 5 x A13's and 1 x A9 of the QB broken down en route, and 1 x A9 of the QB having been left at Pacy. Other than that, it seems to be assumed by historians in retrospect that all the other (70 or 80 odd?) 2AB Cruisers had broken down - but one would think this was sufficiently catastrophic to be mentioned in at least one of the main war diaries.
That passage you mention from Briggs does not refer to the breakdowns in the Queen's Bays Regiment, it refers to the state in a single squadron of QBays!!!! The other two squadrons suffered similarly. The next day, when the Regiment launched their 'attack' on the Somme bridges, that same squadron managed to put zero Cruiser Tanks into the field.
Don Juan wrote: There are also no excuses made that the failure to capture the Somme bridges was due to the faulty Cruisers (which would have been the ideal excuse) or any "if only" pleas lamenting their absence. This is deeply strange, as usually equipment is the first thing that the British tend to blame. It is almost as though 2AB were aware that it was their own fault that these tanks didn't reach the objective, and didn't want to broadcast the reason too loudly.
The failure was entirely one of senior officer incompetence. I have yet to make up my mind whether those senior officers were deliberately and knowingly sacrificing the 1st Armoured Division to relieve pressure on the BEF by diverting German attention, or were so utterly incompetent as to think the 1st Armoured Division - as it was without its infantry and artillery - could actually break through 10 panzer divisions with no additional support the moment they crossed the Somme!

User avatar
Don Juan
Member
Posts: 600
Joined: 23 Sep 2013 10:12

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by Don Juan » 17 Apr 2018 18:25

MarkN wrote:The failure was entirely one of senior officer incompetence. I have yet to make up my mind whether those senior officers were deliberately and knowingly sacrificing the 1st Armoured Division to relieve pressure on the BEF by diverting German attention, or were so utterly incompetent as to think the 1st Armoured Division - as it was without its infantry and artillery - could actually break through 10 panzer divisions with no additional support the moment they crossed the Somme!
Well, you can't be sacrificed if your tank has broken down...
"The demonstration, as a demonstration, was a failure. The sunshield would not fit the tank. Altogether it was rather typically Middle Easty."
- 7th Armoured Brigade War Diary, 30th August 1941

MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by MarkN » 17 Apr 2018 18:28

Don Juan wrote:
MarkN wrote:Perhaps my comment yesterday that 3RTRs tanks were only 50% to ETO was inacurrate. Perhaps it was nearer 75-80% of ETO on the 1,000-mile engine line. Nevertheless, they were certainly not on their last legs and time was available to try to do something about it - but nothing had!
Agree with this - they really needed a small overhaul facility in Tobruk. But again, new Liberty engines were at a premium.
RAOC has set up an AOW in Tobruk once it had been captured by WDF. It was they who got a good few pantsers back to life for the Tobruk garrison.

6 spare (new) Liberty engines came out with 2nd Armoured Division. They sat in stores during January when they could have been the first replacements in a rolling overhaul programme. When 5RTR was sent forward at the end of January, LRS 3rd Armd Bde went with them and were given 3 of those spare engines to take with them. The other three were hoarded by RAOC in the Delta. All three of those engines with LRS were needed to replace crocks falling out between Mersa Matruh and el Adem. When 5RTR arrived at el Adem, they were under direct GHQ command and thus had no support from above and thus Drew and his TO were left to their own devices. Drew sent the TO back to Cairo to demand that any and all spare engines (and other spares) be rushed forward to AOW Tobruk. That seems to have eventually occured about 6 weeks later at which point AOW Tobruk seems to have started a rolling replacement programme - with a backlog of far more crocks than 'spare' engines to work with.

I don't know how long it took a team to pull an engine out of a pantser, overhaul it and them place it back into another crock - thus starting the process again. But, given that the state of the tanks were well known, its seems daft that they didn't start that process at the beginning of January rather than mid-March as happened. It seems RAOC, or somebody above them, would rather see new spare engines sitting on the shelf until they 'had to be used' rather than to initiate a pro-active programme in advance. Small war colonial policing mentality rather than big war thinking for combat effect.

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3473
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Re: The German 50 mm. Tank Gun and the Crusader Problems

Post by David W » 17 Apr 2018 18:45

Thanks Urmel

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”