Squad level firepower comparisons

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John T
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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by John T » 24 Mar 2018 18:40

yantaylor wrote:
So surly they kept the LMG teams down to two men or even just one gunner to allow for more soldiers to act in as standard infantry.
But that single gunner where depended on that rest of the squad carried the ammo.
And generally the German squad had a higher "sustained" rate of fire if ammo where available, like in prepared defense.
Otherwise it was a high momental firepower but not sustained.



One thing the Finns found out was SMG ammo expenditure compared between the Winter war and the defensive battles of summer 1944
Summer 1944 - 12 times as many SMG's used 4 times as much ammo as in the Winter war.
During Winter war the SMG where most of the time the squad's automatic weapon.
I have no statistics on loss rate of SMG gunner but I understands it most often was the Squad leader, and they had a appalling death rate.

In 1944 SMG's was also used by supporting troops, and the availability of LMG's much better.

Cheers
/John

Gary Kennedy
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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Gary Kennedy » 24 Mar 2018 19:03

This used to be my favourite subject way back when, partly because at the time it was one of the few areas you could find decent organisational information on. I still think the authorised strengths are the best place to start, as these demonstrate what various armies thought was needed to both function and absorb losses.

British and Canadian Rifle Section, 1943-45

Corporal (Sten); Rifle Group (6 men, each with rifle); Gun Group (3 men, Lance-corporal with rifle, No.1 with Bren gun and No.2 with rifle).

* The 1944 infantry manual also offers the basic load of ammunition for the Section. 5 magazines for the Sten, 50 rounds per rifle and 1000 rounds for the Bren. The latter was carried in 25 magazines (two per riflemen and four per Gun Group member, plus one in Bren) for 700 rounds, and 50 per man in the Rifle Group not in magazines.

US Rifle Squad, 1943-45

Sergeant (later Staff Sergeant) (M1 rifle); 7 riflemen (two designated as scout, all with M1 rifle); Corporal (later Sergeant) (M1 rifle); BAR group (Automatic rifleman with BAR, assistant AR man and ammunition bearer, both with M1 rifles).

* I've not got hold of the Equipment parts of the Tables of Organization and Equipment for the Infantry Battalion, but understand from those who have that three rifles were to be fitted with grenade launchers. Despite looking recently I've not seen a suggested personal ammunition load but the rifleman belt carried 80 rounds and bandoliers 48 each. BAR magazines pose some problems; the gunner was equipped with a belt that could hold 12 magazines, plus one in the BAR, but exactly how many the other two team members were anticipated as carrying I've never seen. As a comparison USMC manuals give 13 for their AR man and 12 for his assistant under the 1944-45 organisations.

German Gruppe/Squad, late 1943 to 1944

NCO (MP); 8 men equipped with 1 MP, 1 LMG ( plus pistol for the operator) and 6 rifles.

* The KStN do not identify who was to be armed with what weapon within the Squad other than its leader. Instead there is an overall summary for the Platoon, which you divide by three to get the Squad armament. Of the six rifles one was to be fitted with a telescopic sight, one was to be self-loading and one was to have a grenade launcher attachment. The previous Squad consisted of a three man team for the LMG (gunner and assistant both with pistols, ammunition bearer with rifle) and six riflemen, one of whom was the second to the Squad leader. When the Squad dropped to nine men it is generally assumed the LMG team was reduced to two, but I don't know if that is something that is officially stated somewhere.

As for ammunition, the MP40 belt carried six magazines, the rifleman belt could hold 60 rounds. The Squad manual for the 10-man Squad reckoned the LMG numbers carried between them 5 drums of 50 rounds each and three ammunition boxes of 300 rounds each, total 1150 rounds. There's a thread of mine somewhere on the small arms section as to whether these latter were loose or belted.

Red Army Squad, full strength version, 1943-45

Sergeant (rifle, later SMG), Junior Sergeant (LMG), assistant (Rifle), 6 riflemen (5 rifles and 1 SMG).

* There were two versions of Rifle Squad in the Rifle Platoon, the other was as above but deleted two riflemen and added a second LMG team. Also during 1943 the third Platoon in each Rifle Company was to exchange its rifles for SMGs. In theory all the rifles were supposed to be semi-automatic models, but it's generally accepted that bolt action rifles predominated.

The problem of comparing book strengths to actual is that the latter is so hard to quantify. Most Rifle Sections or Squads could continue to function if reduced to around six men, because they still have the ability to perform their own fire and movement to some extent. Once you lose anything from the trio of leadership, ability to project automatic fire and provide riflemen for close defence or close assault, a Squad is not truly capable of performing its intended role. As long as the LMG can be sustained it can certainly defend, but without riflemen it cannot cover much frontage. Sidney Jary noted in his 18 Platoon memoir that he felt most German Squads were indeed just keeping the LMGs firing.

Beating the same ground again to an extent I know, but regarding captured weapons I have come to wonder whether their significance and prevalence has been much over estimated. As a theoretical example, in a neat formation such as First Canadian Army, with two Infantry and one Armoured Divisions, you have over 750 Rifle Sections across 21 Infantry Battalions at full muster. If you want to write that figure down due to wastage to something closer to say 600, that's still a fair number. So how many of those Rifle Sections are actually going to incorporate a captured MG34 or MG42, or more exotic German Army weapon? I'd argue it has to be at least a quarter before it can be considered a common eventuality and I don't know how on earth it can be measured. All the problems common to bringing unsupported weapons into the supply and maintenance requirements of a Rifle Company would suggest it would be difficult to sustain trophy weapons for very long in the field, as you're having to scrounge ammunition, spares and possibly lubricants just to keep them running.

Gary

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by yantaylor » 24 Mar 2018 19:34

Great stuff Gary.
To elaborate on Garys work, I have tried to add a Italian and Japanese squad to the mix;

ITALIAN INFANTRY SQUAD:
LMG Section:
NCO/Section Leader (6.5mm M.91 Rifle)
2 x LMG Teams Each Containing;
NCO (Pistol)
Pvt/LMG Gunner (M30 LMG + Pistol)
2 x Pvts/Ammunition Bearers (6.5mm M.91 Rifles)
Rifle Section:
NCO/Assistant Leader (6.5mm M.91 Rifle)
8 x Privates (6.5mm M.91 Rifles)


JAPANESE RIFLE SQUAD:

NCO/Section Leader (Type 38 6.5mm Rifle)
Pvt/LMG Gunner (Type 11 6.5mm Light Machine Gun)
11 x Privates (Type 38 6.5mm Rifles)

Yan.

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Brady » 25 Mar 2018 01:48

I thought Japanese squads also typically included the knee mortar section as these were Typical distributed out from the weapons company to all the squads . The result was Japanese squads tended to be rather large in comparison to other squads from other nations .

Are you sure the Italians had two of those like machine guns per squad ?

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by ClintHardware » 25 Mar 2018 05:47

Dear All

You may find this Lee Enfield firepower demo and explanation of use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-EdQuAxAII
The design details are amazing.

I was reading a 1942 copy of the British Army's Application of Fire pamphlet. It included the expectation was that the Bren would not be fired fully automatic until the target or mission really needed it. That has several pluses including not giving away the position of the LMG initially.
Imperialism and Re-Armament NOW !

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by yantaylor » 25 Mar 2018 16:26

You are right Brady, I didn't include the Grenade Discharger section, but I would imagine that this would be broken and this would give the squad an extra three men giving the squad a total of sixteen;

NCO/Section Leader (Type 38 6.5mm Rifle)
Pvt/LMG Gunner (Type 11 6.5mm Light Machine Gun)
11 x Privates (Type 38 6.5mm Rifles)

NCO/Squad Leader (Type 14 8mm Pistol)
Pvt/Gunner (Type 14 8mm Pistol)
Pvt/Assistant Gunner (Type 38 6.5mm Rifle)
Type 89 Grenade Discharger

The Company as a whole would look something like this;
https://www.quartermastersection.com/ja ... TRYCOMPANY

Yan.

Gary Kennedy
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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Gary Kennedy » 25 Mar 2018 19:31

Brady wrote:I thought Japanese squads also typically included the knee mortar section as these were Typical distributed out from the weapons company to all the squads . The result was Japanese squads tended to be rather large in comparison to other squads from other nations .

Are you sure the Italians had two of those like machine guns per squad ?
Yes, Yan's description for the Italian Squad follows that given in the Italian Rifle manual (still my only first hand Italian organisational detail, kindly donated a long time ago). It doesn't have a contemporary in the other Allied or Axis nations as far as I'm aware. Full detail is given as;

Sergeant-major or Sergeant
Corporal-major or Corporal
3 Corporals (2 acting as gunners)
15 Privates (2 assistant gunners, 4 ammunition bearers and 2 scouts)

The Sergeant-major commanded the two gun teams (each Corporal gunner, assistant and two amn bearers) and the Corporal-major the ten riflemen (including one Corporal). It's another one of those odd manuals which doesn't recognise an SMG in the armament, giving a pistol and Breda LMG for each Corporal gunner, a carbine for the Squad commander and rifles for everyone else. Ammunition says 72 rounds per rifle/carbine and 1800 per LMG as carried, with an additional reserve on unit transport.

The Japanese Squad info I've seen all comes from Allied intelligence summaries. These identified Standard and Strengthened versions, and later on Island Warfare models. They do all list the Grenade Launcher Squad as a separate body, I'm not sure but I think the principle was for them to deliver a barrage rather than being attached to the Rifle Squads, it's a while since I've looked at Japanese stuff.

Gary

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Gooner1 » 26 Mar 2018 16:40

yantaylor wrote:Not an expert myself but speaking to old British soldiers in the 1970s, none of them did any close up fight, instead they use to say that they heard the bullets and the shells but never really saw the enemy, except for dead, wounded and POWs of course, which makes sense as your enemy wouldn't want you to see him and would go to great lengths to conceal his position because if you did see him you would shoot at him.
So any firing would take place at any know enemy positions and soldiers would keep their distance so anything under 100m would be considered close enough.
Perhaps, like the Fighter pilots, the majority of the killing is done by just a few of the blokes?

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by dr_macdonell@yahoo.com » 30 Mar 2018 16:01

The MG42 is a fire suppression weapon, excellent for defense, but relatively immobile, cannot quickly change position or be fired from hip or shoulder with any degree of ease. It basically fights from where it is set up in the direction it is pointed in and if outflanked it is usually toast. The Bren is as mobile as a rifle, a good offensive maneuver weapon capable of providing good firepower from quickly changed positions. Magazine is a very fast change as is the barrel. The Bren is not a fire suppression MG, spreading bullets around, but is a very accurate MG. Compare the British SMLE to the Mauser 98k. The Lee Enfield has a 10 round magazine capacity vs 5 for the Mauser, and the Lee Enfield has a faster bolt action. The MP40 is better than a Sten but at close range this is not a factor.

At longer ranges where the MG42 can pin men down, the Germans have the advantage, but close up the British or Canadian attackers now have the advantage especially in close contact fighting. The British fragmentation grenade is a lot deadlier than the German concussion potato masher which usually only stuns. British and Canadian platoons usually won in their assaults on German positions in Normandy and I think their weapons vs the German weapons played a big part, especially the highly maneuverable Bren gun.

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Cult Icon » 30 Mar 2018 16:46

^
I have read materials that talk of the german MGs as being fired from the hip in close combat. Not really ideal, of course. Sounded like something rambo would do.

The Bren was quite heavy, and heavier than the BAR.

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Brady » 30 Mar 2018 17:52

The all up weight if the bren includes the full mag right ?

The all up weight of the MG34 plus’s 50 round mag is ?

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by yantaylor » 30 Mar 2018 19:54

Could you actually fire the MG34 or 42 by holding the barrel?, I know that 50 round drums were issued for these MGs but if you look for photos of these weapons in action, nine times out of ten you will find them belt-fed.

I have seen photos of German machine gunners using their loader as a mobile tri-pod and resting the weapon on his shoulder.

Yan.

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Gary Kennedy » 30 Mar 2018 20:22

Brady wrote:The all up weight if the bren includes the full mag right ?

The all up weight of the MG34 plus’s 50 round mag is ?
I pulled some figures together many years back, but I suspect there are more accurate ones available now from original manuals now online.

For the Bren I had 9kg empty and 10.2kg loaded; for the MG34 I had 12.1kg empty and 14.6kg loaded. I think at the time I was trying to calculate the weight of a loaded magazine, so empty meant no ammunition or mag/drum. There was a lot of disagreement among sources as I recall, I think for some weapons there were different figures given across three or four books.

Gary

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Cult Icon » 30 Mar 2018 20:57

yantaylor wrote:Could you actually fire the MG34 or 42 by holding the barrel?, I know that 50 round drums were issued for these MGs but if you look for photos of these weapons in action, nine times out of ten you will find them belt-fed.

I have seen photos of German machine gunners using their loader as a mobile tri-pod and resting the weapon on his shoulder.

Yan.
The German soldiers held the bipod when hipfiring.

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Re: Squad level firepower comparisons

Post by Sheldrake » 30 Mar 2018 21:02

Cult Icon wrote:^
I have read materials that talk of the german MGs as being fired from the hip in close combat. Not really ideal, of course. Sounded like something rambo would do.

The Bren was quite heavy, and heavier than the BAR.
You can definitely fire the Bren from the hip.

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