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Did the Brits make bad tanks and if so why

Discussion in 'The Tanks of World War 2' started by FNG phpbb3, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    That doesn't make any sense. In the early-war period the Germans put their emphasis on speed in order to have proper Blitzkrieg tanks; their tanks were therefore similar to the British cruiser types. These tanks had good speed but limited armour, and usually a reasonable gun. Only later did the Germans switch to building heavier tanks, mostly to fight the ever-growing number of Russian mediums and heavies that could only be effectively fought by fewer tanks if those fewer tanks were more powerful.

    When judging the British tank doctrine, at least do incorporate the two distinctly different basic tank types the British made, being fast gap-exploiting/tank killing tanks and slow, heavily armoured infantry support tanks.
     
  2. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    We built the original tank as an infantry support vehicle - to cross shell-churned battlefields and go over barbed wire, while defeating machine guns and infantry. Infantry tanks as fielded were singularly incapable of doing so effectively with no HE.
    Where or when did we lose sight of the fact that a tank should be able to kill infantry? Why did policy state that HE was not needed?
    As far as Beale and Fletcher, (Mechanised Force is another good one of his - a sort of prequel to the two we've mentioned most, and covers the inter-war period. The last paragraph is particularly sobering - I'll scan and post it later), is concerned Roel, it's not necessarily a disadvantage. My opinion has largely been informed by these two writers and is therefore somewhat tilted their way. I wonder if there are any books that take the opposite view? Does anyone know of any books with the general gist that Brit tanks were really good? Or even better than adequate?
     
  3. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    I can think of one or two war story comics which I read in my youth. :D

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  4. FNG phpbb3

    FNG phpbb3 New Member

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    Tanks deal with infantry via their MG's. The problem came with improved AT guns. For them you need HE rounds.

    An AT gun will often be dug in providing cover to it's users. It will usually also have an armoured plate to protect it's users against fragments and light incoming bullets.

    But the main problem is that AT guns would engage you at anywhere upto or even over 1000 yards. This was beyond the effective range of most tank mount MG's.

    I assume taking into account accuracy as well as power, most tank MG's are pretty poor at an AT target over 3 or 4 hundred yards away.

    FNG
     
  5. Canadian_Super_Patriot

    Canadian_Super_Patriot recruit

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    Germans had better tank designers OK. :wink:
     
  6. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    They had better designs, granted, designers, not so sure. What we had was a lack of policy to dictate what designs we should have.
    If our policy makers had got their collective fingers out during the thirties we would have had something worthwhile. Wasn't it Tony Williams that said something in another thread about the potential usefulness of the Birch gun? SP 18 pr on a Vickers Medium. If we'd followed that idea up, and the BEF had had some it might have been a different story...
     
  7. Tigger phpbb3

    Tigger phpbb3 New Member

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    As a fellow designer I must stick up for the engineers, the tank designs were determined by policy and cost during the 30's. The cruiser and infantry support tank concept did not prove succesful but I would not blame the designers for that, I also seem to remember that the tank design was hindered by the need to keep the width of the tank to a minimum to allow it to be transported on british railways which negated the possibility of upgunning the british tanks later in the war unlike thier German counterparts.
     
  8. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    Yeah, and eventually we relaxed that restriction. But it cost a lot of lives...
     
  9. son of piet

    son of piet New Member

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    To my surprise there is a book that does that. And it is from a very unlikely source: the diaries of Erwin Rommel. Time after time he states how impressed he is with just about every new tank his troops meet in the desert. Particularly the Valentine and even the Crusader!

    Of course, Rommel knew like no other how to battle these tanks. And he was aware that the battle is not won by technology, but by combining all arms in great tactics...
    it seems that the general consensus of today was not something that was agreed upon right then...
     
  10. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    Wow. Next stop my local library - I'm really surprised that Rommel was impressed by our tanks - Crusader especially. Unless he was just having a sarcastic phase :eek: . "They're really impressive tanks, I like the way they generally fail to arrive and those that do turn up get killed impressively before they're in engagement range..."
     
  11. FNG phpbb3

    FNG phpbb3 New Member

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    Most of Rommels tanks until he got to Tunisia were Mark III's and short IV's. He got a few long IV specials and some mark II's as well.

    As such in 42 a valintine, matilda and grant would look fairly good in comparison.

    The infantry tanks in the early stages of North Africa came as quite a shock to the german troops who had little that could affect them. Certainly nothing on a tank.

    FNG
     
  12. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Ok, here we have a summary:

    1) British tanks were designed with rather suspect policies derived from a slightly odd analysis of WW1 in mind. Plus the silly height & width restrictions due to railways. Add in the fact that we never really became aware of how great a problem the new breed of AT guns (late 1930s) were.

    2) The Pacifism & economic constraints of the 1920s & 1930s meant there was little room for experimentation etc, or large production.

    3) What also killed our tanks in the desert at least was tactics. Being used in the wrong way.
    Under O'Conner, for example, British tanks were used in a classic flanking manouver and we flattened the Italians at Beda Fomm. However, O'Connor got captured. Most commanders reckoned that the best way to use tanks was to simply charge them at the enemy. Bad move if the enemy is aware of this and has an AT screen out.
     
  13. FNG phpbb3

    FNG phpbb3 New Member

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    Yep the Germans used to lull the tanks into preset traps. They would show their tanks to ours then retreat in the face of the enemy. The Brits would then sally forth to engage the fleeing hun who retreated back to their AT screen.

    Suckered them several times

    FNG
     
  14. lynn1212

    lynn1212 New Member

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    experence

    a major reason the brit tanks looked so bad was the almost total lack of realistic training and planning prior to combat. a lot of it was little better that kids pointing thier fingers and going bang bang. this is not to single out the brits as being that much worse that most others. before the advent of computers and things like the miles system it was almost impossible to reproduce combat in training. most countries failed because the umpires and trainers themselves lacked the understanding of the problems faced and had a poor grasp on the effectivness or lack thereof of the systems and tactics used. since most brit units going into combat were green and lacked realistic training they got their asses handed to them and the tank they were using had less impact on the outcome that it was credited with. of course the brit tanks were not up to standard but if used with a good understanding of their good and bad points and those of the enemy they could do better than they did. later in the war veteran crews did well with their less that modern tanks.

    lets face it. until the advent of realistic force on force programs and their computer tracking, miles systems, very good opp forces, and combat tempos such as those found at Ft. Irwin, Top Gun, and the new MOUT school it was almost impossible to avoid sending a lot men to die before they could learn enought to avoid doing something stupid.
     
  15. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Well, apparently, later on in the war the British army did have the 'combat schools' where veterans pased on their wisdom & green troops were put under shell & mg fire... but early on they had none of that.
     
  16. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    Many many years ago there was a magazine called, I think, Wargamers' Newsletter, which had a section on excuses for poor scratch-building (this was in the days when there were only about 4 different tanks available as kits for wargamers.
    If it's--------------------------Then you say it's
    got at least 5 guns-----------American
    underscale--------------------Japanese
    overscale----------------------German
    at least 2 different scales----British
    I always thought that last one rang true somehow :-?
     
  17. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    Didn't the hull of German tanks overhang the tracks - would this have helped British tanks if they had followed the same design??
     
  18. Zhukov_2005

    Zhukov_2005 New Member

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    I too disagree with the belief that British tanks were bad. As pointed out earlier, several different types could stand ground against the German panzers.

    The fact that Germany's tank warfare is easilier remembered as innovative and powerful sort of takes over much of the "awe inspiringness" of the other nations' mechanized forces.
     
  19. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    Could it be said that the the Bismarck, blowing the Hood up in the Denmark Strait did the same thing for the RN with regards to the Tirpitz? (see thread' was Bismarck a bad investment' in the sea battles section.
     
  20. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    Bismarck vs Hood is not a valid comparison - it was a one-off.
    UK AFVs were consistently undergunned and, barring Matilda/ Churchill consistently under-armoured in comparison (in a gun vs armour confrontation, not absolute relative measure).
    There was a lack of direction, lack of policy and lack of control over their use.
     

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