January 1936: British army, you run the show

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by tomo pauk, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Simiar with current aviation-related threads - what should be the best, but historically plausible outfit to choose for the upcoming years for the British army? Thinking about tanks, artillery, small arm, AAA.
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    #2 Shortround6, Oct 30, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
    A lot of this comes down to money, MANY of the choices made at this time were due to the amount of money (or lack of it) the Army got from the defense budget. Without a major change in the funding many things were going to wind up the same.

    starting with small arms (and the British actually did pretty good here).

    Pistol; An Automatic would have been nice since the .380 Enfield wasn't exactly a stellar weapon but since pistols probable casue the fewest enemy casualties per weapon issued it doesn't make any difference except to special forces units.

    Rifle; a change from the Lee-Enfield SMLE would have been nice but a semi-auto was probably out of the question. Faster change over to the No. 4 might have been though and coupled with better training might have made a difference, although small.

    Sub-machinegun; the only real failing of the pre-war small arms. Earlier adoption of????? Most pre-war SMGs were of the costly/well machined/finished type. Money spent there isn't available for......?

    LMG; You aren't going to do much(if any) better than the Bren gun. British were also using the Bren as a bit of a GPMG at the time with a tripod mount and AA mounts.

    Medium MG; Vickers did OK, might not be ideal but only real alternatives might be the Browning or Besa. Vickers tooling, training manuals, expertise already exist.

    Heavy MG. The standard Vickers .5 and/or one of the high Velocity commercial guns? or the 15mm Besa? See; Untitled Document

    Earlier adoption of 20mm AA guns?

    Mortars;
    The 2in was pretty good, no need for change unless you change role/tactics.

    The 3in was somewhat behind world standards until it got a better barrel, baseplate and different firing charges around 1942/43 which improved things. Could have been done earlier.

    The 4.2in mortar was a bit late in coming (so were equivalent mortars in most other armies), a point of opportunity for the British??? But if you buy 4.2in mortars what aren't you buying?

    Light AA: See above Heavy MGs or 20mm cannon. Again you have the cost problem. British 'standard' for Light AA for the infantry battalion in 1940 was four .303 Bren guns, each mounted on it's own light truck.

    Will shift to heavier weapons in other post/s.
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Moving on to artillery.

    AT guns:
    The 2pdr was a world leader at the time. Main failing was the expensive and heavy 360 degree carriage. A smaller/lighter/cheaper split trail carriage might have paid dividends. And we can also start what is going to be a constant refrain or chorus in the 'song' about British artillery. Cheap ammo. The 2pdr started with plain AP shot, no cap, no ballistic cap, no HE bursting charge. Armor Piercing Capped Ballistic Capped ammunition with HE bursters dates back to WW I for naval ammunition. Nothing new has to be invented, made smaller perhaps. Now maybe you don't need all the features in one round. Getting APCBC shot before 1943 (when the 2pdr was going out of service as an AFV gun) might have helped, it had teh same penetration at 1000 yds as the plain shot did at 500yds. Getting a HE 2pdr round before late 1942 might have helped considerably too, for infantry support as well as tank/AFV use. Use 2pdr pom pom projectiles or 40mm Bofors projectiles, at least as staring points.

    6pdr was supposed to have been designed in 1938 and held back while building 2pdrs. Perhaps outside the scope of this thread? anyway the cheap ammo rears it's head again with ONLY plain shot being available in 1941, HE (in small numbers) joining in 1942 and APC and APCBC showing up in 1943.

    Field artillery, a real sore spot.
    The 13pdrs are few in number and obsolete. Can be disregarded even for "what if schemes". 18pdrs exist in two classes. Old barrels, recoil systems and carriages suitable for training and newer barrels, recoil systems and carriages which were being converted as much as possible to 25pdr MK Is or equipping existing units while the new/converted guns were being worked on. The 25pdr MK II carriage which we are all familiar with didn't go into production until 1940. Perhaps with more money it could have been speeded up a bit? Or do the Germans just capture better guns at Dunkirk? We also had the cheap ammo refrain. The 25pdr having about the lowest weight of explosive to shell weight of any major light field artillery piece of WW II.

    The 3.7in Mountain Howitzer was a decent enough gun. The Army was also soldiering on with an assortment of WW I odds and sods like the 4.5in howitzer (max range 7000yds), the 60pdr gun and the 6in 26cwt howitzer among others. The 5.5in gun was late in coming (design requirement 1939 and first production, not prototypes in 1941) and was limited by the cheap ammo.

    Who needs long range guns when you have airplanes?
    Who gets the money?

    More later.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The 2pdr was also a tank gun - maybe cancel it while it is in prototype stage, and use the existing 3pdr as a base for the new AT and tank gun? The MV was about the same, the shell weighted 50% more.
    How much there is a need for the heavy MG for the ground forces - perhaps go with twin belt-fed LMG and a 20 mm all the way?
     
  5. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The MV of the existing 3pdr was much lower than the 2pdr. So low that it was rated at about 25-27mm armor penetration at 500yds/30 degrees.

    A lot of machine gun use was doctrine and tactics. The "medium" gun (Vickers) was expected to fire at ranges between 1000 and 2000yds. It was the major support weapon of the infantry until the 3in-81mm mortars came along and with the British dropping the ball and accepting a max range of 1600yds for the 3in MK I mortar it meant the .303 Vickers gun could handily out range the battalion mortars. British also did not issue Vickers guns to the infantry battalion but held them at higher echelon to be 'attached' as needed to individual battalions or concentrated for certain tasks/missions.

    "In the pre-war period it had been planned that each Infantry Brigade would be supported by a Machine Gun Battalion. In the event however, Machine Gun Battalions were designated Corps Troops, and were allotted on the much reduced scale of one Battalion per Division. Each Machine Gun Battalion had forty eight Vickers medium machine guns, divided into four Companies, with three Platoons of four guns per Company." This for the 1939-40 period, things change. See this website for theoretical Paper) British organizations/scale of issue.

    http://www.bayonetstrength.me.uk/British/Infantry/The British Infantry Battalion.htm

    twin belt fed LMGs sound great for AA use but are pretty useless for most anything else and even LMGs start running into the the ammo supply problem. To keep them firing for very long requires good logistic support. For AA work Bren guns could be given 100 round drums and the 4 postition gas regulator opened up to the max setting to boost the rate of fire.

    Bren2520GunsmountedforAA.jpg

    Granted most armies (US and Russians excepted) didn't see much need for 0.5in/12.7-13mm machine guns for ground combat although the French and Japanese (and a few others) did use them for AA work.
    sr_001.jpg
    sr_002.jpg

    Timing is everything and the 20mm guns were still somewhat in development in the late 1930s. Depending on year and model of gun rates of fire could be rather low. With it taking several years to even acquire licences, set up a factory and issue enough guns to equip more than trials units selecting the 'right' one could be a bit of guessing game.
     
  6. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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  7. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    different gun than the 3pdr tank gun used in Medium MK II tanks and a few prototypes.

    OQF 3-pounder gun - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It appears the Naval gun weighed about 2 1/2 times what the tank gun did, or to put it another way, it weighed only a little bit less than a modern (not WW I) 6pdr tank gun or 75mm gun used the Cromwells and late Churchill's.

    Granted if you spent more money on developing a new barrel to fire the high pressure naval ammunition using modern (1930s) steel alloys and construction techniques instead of using old (1903) steel/construction could probably lighten it up quite a bit but then what would you have spent your money on? A soon to be obsolete 47mm gun?
     
  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    British heavy artillery park of the BEF in 1940

    12 8in Howitzers with 1 in reserve. 200lb shell, range 12,400yds
    8inchHowitzerBethune23April1940.jpg

    12 6in MK XIX guns with 1 in reserve. 100lb shell range 18,750yds
    Mark_XIX_1.jpg
    although updated with pneumatic tires like 8in howitzer

    176 6in 26cwt Howitzers with 45 in reserve. 100lb shell, 11,400yds.
    BL_6-inch_gun_in_action._Library_and_Archives_Canada_Photo_MIKAN_N._360756.jpg

    32 total 4.5in gun MK I on carriage 60pdr MK IVP, 55lb shell 20,500 or 21,000 yds.

    can't find photo on internet

    16 + 3 reserve 60pdr MK II. 60lb shell 15,100yd range.
    60_pdr.jpg
    Guns used in France would have pneumatic tires. the 4.5 in gun was on this carriage and would look very similar except for slightly longer skinnier barrel.

    4.5in howitzer at least 96 lost in France 35lb shell 7,000 yd range.
    7175719137_8cb1ccafec_z.jpg

    This last gun was used to fill in for missing 25pdrs and is not really part of the heavy artillery park.

    Please note that these were ALL modernized WW I left overs with limited traverse.
     
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  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The weight of the naval gun was with the mount - the naweaps.com lists 800 kg for the mount and some 300 kg for the gun alone, making together 1100 kg. A 300 kg gun should be within capabilities of any worthwhile tank or AFV, and can be available well before the 6pdr or 75mm.

    It would be less obsolete than the 2pdr, that we will not develop instead.
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Weight of the 2pdr barrel and Breech was 287lbs.

    Weight of the 3pdr L32 tank gun was 217lbs

    Weight of the 6pdr tank gun/AT gun varies but goes about 768lbs for the L 43 version.

    There was no secret technology that went into the 6pdr gun, just the willingness to shift to the larger gun and mount/s, larger turret rings.

    German troops using a French 47mm AT gun
    4114_rd.jpg
    MV 855m/s but the gun (total) weighed 1070kg.

    This was a more powerful gun than used in any production French tank.

    Using 40mm Bofors projectiles in the 2pdr cartridge could have provided the British with an HE shell with 2 1/2 times the explosive of the German 37mm tank/AT shell even if well below the 50mm shells.
     
  11. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #11 tomo pauk, Oct 30, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
    Thanks. The 3pdr L50 was at 650 lbs (barrel, breech, recoil system) - using the technology of 1930s we can expect the '3pdr Mk.2' to be at maybe 450-500 lbs?

    3pdr was an off-the-shelf design, unlike the 6pdr, even unlike the 2 pdr. It (3pdr) can be produced as such, from day one, until we take advantage of the technology of the day to have an lightened model in production.

    Thanks for the picture.

    Going with 3pdr instead of 2pdr gives the British ground forces a gun on par with Czech and French (ATG) 47mm, Soviet 45mm and German 5cm/L42, and, more importantly it can be built more expediently than 2pdr, let alone 6pdr.
     
  12. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Recoil system???
    We+don%u00252527t+need+no+stinkin+badges.jpg
    We don't need no stinkin recoil system.

    Many of those small naval guns depended on the weight of the gun, the mount and being bolted to the deck to control recoil. Or at least most of it and had rather minimal recoils systems.

    Off the shelf in the sense of digging into the archives and dusting off the prints. Likewise digging out whatever tooling there was and cleaning the rust and crud off of it. Most recent production of 47mm guns for the British service were the guns used in the Medium MK II tanks. Machinery exists for making ammo and shells though.

    This gets real tricky as the 2pdr used several different projectiles (as did a number of the competing guns) and it used two different velocities. "Normal" velocity of the 2pdr AP ammuntion was 2650fps (803 m/s) compared to the 775m/s for the Czech gun, 885m/s for the French gun (which despite it's model 37 designation was a pretty rare gun in 1940), 760m/s for the Russian gun and a mere 685m/s for the German tank gun.
    The 2pdr also wasn't a real 2pdr. it's AP shot was listed in some sources as 2.375lbs (1.07kg) which puts a bit closer to some of the competition like the Russian 1.43kg projectile (33% heavier not 50%). British also came out with a HV loading of 2800fps (848m/s) which boosted performance a bit.
    Finally when they stopped being so cheap and and went to an APCBC projectile it gained weight (2.69lbs / 1.22kg) and dropped back to 2650/803m/s. However penetration with the good projectiles does beat the German 5 cm KwK 38, they just issued the stuff about 1 to 2 years too late.
    Unless you can convince them to use good projectiles to begin with even the HV 3pdr could be in trouble.

    Issue good ammo from the start and a lot of the 2pdrs bad reputation goes away.
     
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  13. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The 3pdr can also use whatever better (and historical) projectile type we think of. It should offer not just better AP performance than 2 pdr with same ammo type, but it will provide a heavier HE shell needed to dislodge the pesky AT guns the Germans will throw in against the UK tank with the 3pdr. The 'cushion' against any problems the 6pdr might encounter, be it in design or production phase (or both) is far better than with the 2pdr.

    Now what about the artillery? After reading your fine overview - maybe license build the Czech K4 gun, bored out to receive 6in shells? Or the Bofors 15cm? Request the 5.5-6in howitzer from British manufacturers ASAP?
    Is it too late to re-think the 25pdr - maybe produce instead a 4.5in howitzer with a longer barrel, with muzzle brake and modern carriage?
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    #14 Shortround6, Oct 30, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
    First look at what was real broke and fix that, then worry about super weapons.

    British designers could come up with good weapons, they just needed the user (the army in this case) to come up with good requirements.

    Not crap like the Matilda I tank, or 900 Vickers light tanks armed with MGs. Or insisting the two bus engines on a common crank case would be a good tank engine or.............

    The 25pdr MK II carriage was a deliberate choice as they had 18pdrs on split trail carriages.

    http://nigelef.tripod.com/18-prMk5P.jpg
     
  15. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    My tone towards British engineers is rather mild, in want for a better phrase. Reason for suggesting the license production of a big gun is to buy more time.
     
  16. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The problem wasn't time, it was money. Too much of the armies equipment (and the lack of it) was 'built to a price'. The Army didn't want WW I leftovers and re-barrels. It is what they could afford after the RAF and the Navy got their money. The Army wanted large numbers of tanks. The only way to get numbers (like many other countries) was to buy cheap tanks. A few 'luxury' items got through, like the 2pdr (the carriage, not so much the gun) but the cost of each item was a very real factor. For some of the companies building equipment in the 1930s the production runs were often short so costs had to be controlled by cheap design to begin with and by borrowing/sharing as many parts/components as possible with previous models. When the big rush started too many weapons (aircraft included) were ordered "off the drawing board" and put into service (because there was nothing else) before enough testing/debugging was done.

    As far as the Czeck K4 Howitzer goes, it was a very good weapon but might be a bit late for the British. While it has a '37' in it's designation it didn't go into production until 1938 or 39 (about the time the rest of Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany. Not much time to test even the protoypes and get the drawings/licence. The Germans sure weren't going to agree to give the British any help getting heavy artillery :)
     
  17. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    My bad, it should be the K1, that was produced several years before the K4.

    What about the tanks?
     
  18. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Engines used on tanks that saw combat early in the ww2:
    - AEC 179 6-cylinder petrol 150 hp (110 kW), a commercial engine, used on Cruiser I, a 12 ton tank, and in Cruiser II, a 14 ton tank, max speeds were 25 and 16 mph respectively
    - Nuffiled Liberty, 340 HP, a V-12 engine - derivative of ww1 aircraft engine, used on Cruiser III of 14 tons with max speed of 30 mph; less reliability issues than on Crusader tanks?
    -doubled diesel engine, as used eg. in buses, 2 x 95 HP, powering Matilda II, a 27 ton tank, up to 16 mph
    -AEC petrol and diesels engines used on Valentine, from 130-210 HP, plus the GMC 6004 diesel; a 16-17 ton tank up to 16 mph

    The RR Kestrel modified for the tank use is the SR6's proposal I like very much, say 450 HP for a tank weighting 25-30 tons. The non-supercharger Kestrel X was good for 560 HP at sea level, weighting 409 kg. It will not use the 87 oct fuel while in tank, but 77 oct, or whatever it was the case for tanks,
    Another engine that might be used is the Napier Lion; the Sea Lion, used on high speed launches was rated at 500 and 600 HP.
    There was quite few air cooled aircraft engines that can be used on tanks, like the De Havilland in-lines, or Armstrong-Siddely radials, though I guess that readial engine in a tank will present a significant departure from British interwar tank design.

    Granted, commercial engines are bound to be used on under-20 ton tanks?
     
  19. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Tanks were sort of the same situation. Not enough money soon enough.

    Too much money was spent on light tanks, but then so did most other countries so it wasn't quite as apparent a mistake at the time.

    With production contracts small and with the constant emphasis on price, there was little incentive to design/build specialty power-plants.

    As a for instance the Matilda I

    matilda-i_1.jpg

    was built to the tune of 140 tanks BUT the contracts were 1 + 60 + 60 + 19 instead of 1 (prototype) + 139. This makes it difficult to invest in special engines or even special facilities for large scale production.

    Due to a lack of experience, last type of tank produced in numbers was designed in 1922/23, which meant that the Army didn't really know what it wanted, you had two types of cruiser tanks let alone the light tanks and the Infantry tanks.

    The two cruisers (A9/10 and the A13) managed to get the basic layout right after the A9.
    Engine in the back.
    Transmission/steering gear in the back, leaving crew/fighting compartment clear.
    3 man turret with cupola for commander.
    Radio in turret.
    The A13 even managed to ditch the hull mg ;)

    Of course then the British managed to muck it up with the A13 MK III Covenanter,
    new-photo-11.jpg
    a13IIIa.JPG

    their first try at purpose built tank engine being a flat 12 so they could reduce the height of the hull. The also reduced the height of the turret and got rid of the Cupola, which rather limited outward vision while closed down and that big hatch offered a little too much opening when open. Putting the radiators in the front wasn't the best idea either (except in the winter). A host of other problems also kept the tank from ever seeing service use except as a bridge carrier.

    It is here that major changes could have been made that would have impacted the British war effort.

    Nuffield had supplied the Turret design for the Covenanter and used the same one on the Crusader but nearly everything else was different, unfortunately they brought back not just the bow MG but in little turret form. The transmission and steering gear were a major step forward though.
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    #20 Shortround6, Nov 1, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
    BTW a major restriction in British tank design was the British railroad loading gauge. The max height and width a of a railroad car and it's load.

    gauge3a.gif

    This is governed by tunnels, bridges, platforms and railside obstructions.

    Only at the end of the war were British tank designers freed of this restriction, of course it then meant that all long distance moves inside Great Britain had to be done by truck on selected routes.
     
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