AFV for Bocage country.

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by vinnye, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    With all the intelligence information aerial photography, local knowledge of the coutry, why did the Allies not prepare for the Bocage ?
    I know adhoc attempts were made by adding different sorts of attachments to the front of Shermans and Cromwells etc. But surely this should have been forseen and instead of being channeled down sunken lanes into pre-prepared killing zones, their should have been some "funnies" designed and built to tackle this situation?
     
  2. Jack_Hill

    Jack_Hill Member

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    Was the Allied plan to out-perform German tanks ?
    Guess no.
    Plan was to bring as much/as fast as possible available AFVs i guess, knowing that massive quantity would do the trick.
    From other side, German AFVs were not at ease at all in the small areas, intricated, short range engagement theatre of operation.
    I guess no miracle to expect out there, boccage was definitevly not an ideal playground for tanks.
    And one can imagine such a battle during a rainy spring/summer of 44.
     
  3. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I was thinking that several specialist tanks were adapted for the landings,swimming tanks, flail tanks, flame thrower, bridging, ditch crossing with bundles of wood, bulldozer tanks, tankers for bunker busting with large howitzers. An attempt to produce a spearhead tank was made by up-armouring a Sherman to become the Jumbo tank - the idea being that it would lead any advance and be more resiliant to anti-tanks guns etc.
    With all of these ideas it suprised me that given the Allies chose the ground to fight on, they did not design a tank specifically for the Bocage?
    I know that there was an argument that quantity was everything, and nothing that was going to interfere with production would be entertained.
    The "funnies" were still produced - so a tank with maybe a bulldozer type of arrangement and maybe a flamethrower to destroy the hedgerows could have been made in smallish numbers?
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #4 michaelmaltby, Feb 1, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
    The Bocage was brutal terrain for Allied infantry -- and a defender's dream. I am not sure any AFV would have made a difference but I am certain that if RAF Typhoons had started carrying napalm canisters instead of rockets the Germans would have been a little less resilient. I don't believe that napalm was used in this manner in Europe until 1945 -- it should have been if it saved Allied infantry lives. Ghastly weapon.

    MM
     
  5. Jack_Hill

    Jack_Hill Member

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    #5 Jack_Hill, Feb 1, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
    Bocage was brutal yes.
    And i think, no dream terrain for any opponent.
    Rocket Typhoons kicked panzers out from Normandie with countless efforts and efficiency.
    Ty RAF not to napalmed France.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The crux of the problem.

    Bocage and woods belong to infantry not tanks. Germany and Japan had the best trained infantry during WWII. Fixing the problem means U.S. Army and British Army must change infantry operational doctrine at least a year prior to the Normandy invasion.
     
  7. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I think that sums it up and of course they had the ideal infantry AT weapons
     
  8. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    If I'm getting this right - bocage was a hell for advancing (= allied) infantry, so let's deprive them from tank support?
     
  9. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I agree - the Bocage is infantry terrain rather than tanks. But if you are trying to take it on foot - you would prefer to have a decent tank preparing the way by making routes through that the enemy had not dialed in with their mortars, artillery and machine guns!
    Much better to make your own way than simlpy follow the road which you know has been in enemy hands for years!
     
  10. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    IMO that's the wrong solution. Putting tanks in the lead simply provides an ideal target for enemy light AT weapons and mines.

    Infantry lead the way in restricted terrain. Tanks or armored assault guns follow at a distance (i.e. outside Panzerschreck range) to provide direct fire support against enemy positions.

    With that said...
    Sherman tank with turret mounted 105mm howitzer would be my first choice for fire support. 105mm shell has about four times as much HE filler as 75mm shell.
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The D-day planners weren't familiar with what the Bocage actually was, they just thought it was hedges, like in someones front yard, maybe a little thicker, a little taller, but no problem.
    But those hedges had been there for generations, in some cases hundreds of years. But they had no ideal of the strength and resilance a century's old hedge can have, because they'd had no experience with them. It was a failure of intellegence that the Bocage was seen on aerial photos of country behind the landing beaches, but apparently nobody asked any questions about them.
     
  12. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... Ty RAF not to napalmed France..."

    Sorry Jack_Hill, what are you trying to say ..... don't use napalm in France ...?

    MM
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe that argument. But it makes a better Allied press release then admitting D-Day planners screwed up or that Allied infantry were poorly trained.



    British soldiers have been fighting in France since 1066. In fact William the Conquerer came from Normandy. Nobody noticed the bocage?

    Over a million American soldiers fought in France during WWI. Nobody noticed the bocage?

    Thousands of French soldiers worked for Britain and/or USA as so called "Free French". None of them have been to Normandy?

    Thousands of English tourists go to Normandy for vacation. None of them noticed 8 foot high hedges lining the road?

    1926. Ike (i.e. future SHAEF commander) assigned to American Battle Monuments Commission. The job included a year of field work in France.
    1927. Ike writes "A Guide to the American Battlefields in Europe" as part of his ABMC assignment.
    .....Apparently the SHAEF commander didn't notice 8 foot high hedges either during his year touring France. :)
     
  14. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #14 tyrodtom, Feb 1, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
    Believe the argument or not. Who knows what Normandy was like in 1066 ?
    American troops in Normandy in WW1 ???
    How many WW1 battles took place in Normandy?
    The French bocage doesn't extend up into the area of the WW1 battlefields.
    Nobody apparently asked the natives, do Americans or British ever ask advice from the natives?
    Like I said a failure of intellegence.
     
  15. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Wasn't there any effort by England to try and deploy the little known "King's own Hedge Clippers Tree Pruners" corp? A tragic waste of resources if you ask me. War (and sometimes gardening) is hell.
     
  16. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    'Bocage' in Normandy is 'Cornish Hedging' in the south west of Britain, so there was no shortage of examples to experiment with. So, note to anyone driving in Cornwall, the 'hedges' are actually solid inside the visible hedging.

    I was going to give a tongue in cheek suggestion of TOG IIs but thought it through further. Crashing through the dense fieldwork behind the initial beachhead was a necessary and painful drudge but the aim was to break out and range across France at speed. For this you need your speedy ordinary bridge capable medium tanks. You can't use slow heavies for a fortnight then suddenly change to lighter mediums. You use Cromwells to exploit but Churchills for defended positions if you can but the beach head initially had a limited capacity for tank numbers. They should have done more trials yes but the decision to equip armoured regiments with the normal medium tanks was correct.

    It is one of those decisions that should make us grateful we are not Generals who have to decide that tank crew must do without heavy armour and die horribly in order to be able to go on to defeat the enemy in the medium term. Had I been a General I would have decided to use Churchills if possible but I would have been wrong.
     
  17. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Whilst finding out about the mods made to the tanks to try to breach the bocage, I came across this -
    Bocage Busting pt. 2
    I like the concept of One Tank, One Squad, One Field.
    Better still two tanks.

    The reason why I would advocate using armour in this situation is to try to reduce the casualties that the infantry would suffer.
    I would not want to be a squaddie creeping along the base of a hedgerow that had a core of solid stone and a virtually impenetrable lattice of foliage, whilst knowing that the enemy has had a long time to prepare the ground for their defense.
    It was common to have the hedgerows booby trapped, concealed machine gun postions were virtually impossible to locate, sometimes tunnels under the road gave access to alternate firing positions without revealing the troops positions. Also because the German artillery had the high ground, they could fire in support of their troops on pre dialled in target areas.
    I am aware that using tanks in this way would mean losses - thats inevitable, but quite a lot of tank crew did mange to bail out - sometimes quite a few times! I still think that there could have been, and should have been, more done by way oy preparing for this terrain.
     
  18. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #18 michaelmaltby, Feb 2, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
    As an aside to fighting in the bocage ..... Colonel Denis Whitaker commanded the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and wrote a series of excellent books about his experiences from Dieppe to the taking of the Scheldt, in Holland .... Denis Whitaker - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In his book on Normandy, he notes that June, 1944 was an exceptional year for wasps ... their nests were everywhere in the bocage. Canadian soldiers when severely wounded were instructed to try and press a sulfa pad bandage on the wound and administer a morphine ampule before passing out. With the long June days and the nature of the bocage, often these wounded couldn't be rescued until dusk. The medics found that the wounds had become infested with wasps and soon learned to loosely bandage the wasps into the wound before transferring the patient back to the nearest aid station. The wasps did no harm and quite possibly prevented infection from gangrene. After reading that, I can never think about the bocage and not envision wasps. :)

    Check out Whitaker's list of published books ... all of them are very insightful.

    MM
    Proud Canadian
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Battle of Tanga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Germany must have the most proficient beekeepers in the world. Stinging insects were drafted into the Heer during both world wars. :lol:
     
  20. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Very interesting about the wasps! I know that maggots were used in the past to eat dead flesh and prevent infection - but never heard of wasps doing a similar job.
     
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