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Allied/British Tanks

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by GunSlinger86, Mar 26, 2019.

  1. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    After the British saw what they were up against with both the 88 anti-aircraft gun used as a tank gun, and the superior German tanks until the M4 arrived and could match the main German tank in late 1942, and later on in Italy and France, why did the British not develop a better quality tank for both offense and defense? Was it allocation of resources and they were more focused on air power?

    Secondly, if America was right behind the front line like Germany and Russia, in which they could make new tanks and get them to the front rapidly, instead of having to transport tanks across the oceans and worry about cargo space, would America have used its industrial power to develop better tanks faster if they had factories right in the fighting territory, knowing what they were up against?
     
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Because there is no magic wand.
    Development takes time.
    Ironically, the long-range experience in the deserts encouraged allied designers to concentrate rather heavily on frontal armour, which proved far less relevant in the confused, flanking, mostly short-range fights in Western Europe. An arena where even the thickest armour was easily cut by HV guns.
    The desert experience can also be partly 'blamed' (if blame is required) for 75mm guns with a useful HE compromise gaining popularity. Very handy for popping into desert emplacements, but arguably a rather risky exchange for dedicated HV AP shots in Normandy.

    Also maybe a tad unfair to say no response was forthcoming to German gear.
    That time factor again, exacerbated by any larger machines requiring impossible changes to landing craft (cannot overstate the landing craft issue) & a variety of other systems before the biggest seaborne invasions in history. The Centurion & M26 were in the field within a very short timescale really. Maybe late, but realistically so, and the fruits of serious people's labour.

    To go from Matilda 1, to one of the most successful & upgradable tanks of the C20th, from the back foot, while at war, was not half bad really...

    300px-IWM-KID-68-Matilda.jpg

    284px-Cent1HG2.jpg
     
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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    As for the UK they did have other concerns (Strategic Bombing, keeping the sea lanes open, another war in the Pacific) to keep them occupied. They also had to quickly rebuild their army after the debacle in France, using that which was available at hand. More to the point German tanks were not in themselves superior to Allied types, but rather it was superior training and organization that made German armor more effective.

    It should be remembered that the 88mm gun as a tank weapon did not present itself until late 1942-early 1943 by which time the US had entered the war and was supplying the M4 which equal to or superior the primary German types (pz III,IV, 38t) then deployed. The Allies also tried to divide the production pie where possible.

    Lastly if compared fairly the lag time between German designs and US counters were nearly identical but as the Germans always started first the US had to counter and transport halfway around the world.
     
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  4. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Despite all the dedicated armour development stuff I've consumed over the years, the one book that finally clarified just how hard this world war/production business is was Alanbrooke's diaries.

    He gives the most remarkable 'macro' view of the sheer complexities Belasar alludes to.
    It's so easy to focus on the minutiae of design & counter-design, but Brooke's notes bring home the issues of alliances, materials, politics, theatre priorities etc. etc., Wider things that are rightly prioritised over (and it hurts me to say this) 'mere' weapon design.

    They did Ok with what they had, while improving where they could, and that's impressive in its own right, I think.


    There's also the infrastructure thing.
    People always talk of tanks & guns.
    What about bulldozers, and refueling, and recovery, and transporters, heavy & light lorries, specialised armour like the funnies, bath or workshop trucks - & so on down an endless list of modern allied military equipment that Germany frankly neglected, while Adolf patted competing Herr Doktors on the head for any impressively destructive (if potentially unsupported) machine.
    The sinews of war is a cliche, but often remains a lead factor in success or failure.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Given that the British didn't see a tank using the 88 until 1 Dec 1942 and they probably didn't realize that's what it was at the time how soon could they have developed a better tank? The Centurian looks pretty good to me and was fielded a bit over 2 years later.

    As for the US not sure it would have made much difference. The constraints on the Sherman were things like the width of the bridges the engineers used and the decision to go with an aircraft engine for at least the initial power plant of the M4. Being on the same continent might have allowed for a bit heavier tank but as Stalin famously said "Quantity has a quality". The Sherman was close to ideal for the type of war the US waged. The biggest reasonable improvement I can think of would have been a turret that mounted a 90mm gun. At first thought combining that with Jumbo armor would seem to make sense but I suspect the weight would have done bad things to the mobility and reliability.
     
  6. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Putting aside the debate on the merits of larger guns such as the 76mm Gun M1 which had been ongoing for some time among various Army leaders, the Ordnance Department did seriously evaluate placing the 90mm Gun M3 on the Sherman. This went so far as to mate the turret of the T26 tank to the hull of an M4. I need to consult my copy of Honeycutt, but if I recall correctly this was not put into production as the 90mm Gun M3 was just entering formal service in mid 1944, and it was projected to have been early 1945 by the time that a 90mm Sherman would enter service in Europe. This was the approximately same time as when the T26 (later to become the M26 Pershing) was expected to enter service in Europe. The 90mm Sherman would have competed for resources with the T26 program, and the T26 was a far superior platform for the 90mm Gun M3 (including improved mobility, ground pressure, ammo storage, lower profile, etc). As a result development of the 90mm Sherman ceased in favor of the T26 program.

    [​IMG]

    Of course, this ignores the M36B1/B2 tank destroyers which were a kludge of a M36 turret (mounting a 90mm Gun M3) and a Sherman M4A3 and M4A2 hulls. This was done in response to a shortage of M36 hulls.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It also turned out that the M26 wasn't fielded on schedule and had some significant issues in regards to reliability and I think mobility as well. Since the turrets were I believe interchangeable it might have proved useful to pursue both courses a bit longer. I read an article a while back that actually suggested McNair getting killed may have adversely affected such programs (usually the opposite is proposed).
     
  8. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Yes. I believe the expected deployment date of the T26 was January 1945 but that the first tanks didn't reach the front until mid to late March 1945. The engine was underpowered and the drivetrain was overstressed due to the bulk of the vehicle -- I'm not sure how the Sherman with a T26 turret would have faired in terms of reliability under those circumstances either. I believe both turrets used the same size ring (69"?).

    I would be interested to read that article about McNair.
     
  9. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It's a pretty complex subject. That photo was actually taken at the Detroit Tank Arsenal sometime after 6 July 1944, probably between 7 and 15 July. It is of the hull of a Medium Tank M4 (105mm) mated to one of the production T26E3 turrets. Note this was not done as an "evaluation", but rather as a practical "demonstration". It was done when BG Joseph Holly, Chief of the AFV&W Section ETOUSA was in the States. He had flown to Washington on 6 July to deliver a personal letter from Eisenhower to Marshall regarding the disturbing findings that had come to light regarding projectile and fusing problems in the 75mm, 76mm, and 90mm guns when encountering the heavy German armor. After delivering the letter, Holly flew to Detroit where this demonstration was made.

    It was never considered as a practical solution and the tank was switched back to its standard 105mm-guise immediately afterwards...the production turret is in the right foreground. The problem was completing T26E3 turret production was not really quicker than hull production, so the combination would not have saved any time.

    BTW, there never really was an "M36 hull"...initial production were conversions utilizing M10 (M36B2) or M10A1 (M36) hulls with the M36 turret.
     
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  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    The part that McNair played has been drastically overstated for years, mostly because his death meant that Ordnance was able to steer the narrative of what happened postwar.
     
  11. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Of course -- I was just being sloppy with nomenclature when refering to the slightly modified M10 hulls as "M36 hulls". I was, however, mistaken when I referred to the TDs built on M4A3 hulls as M36B2. Thank you for the correction. Were M4A2 hulls used for M36 conversions? I recall reading that they were but when I attempted to search it now I couldn't find any information. Another question I've wondered -- why wasn't an "A" suffix used to designate subvariants of the M36 (like M36A1, M36A2, etc) as was done with other armored vehicles?
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Okay... :D

    M36 = M10A1 conversion
    M36B1 - M4A3 conversion
    M36B2 = M10 conversion

    No M4A2 hulls were used for the conversion...sort of :D As to why they weren't M36A1 and M36A2? It's because each used a different basic vehicle for the conversion. The M10 was a modified M4A2, but the M10A1 was the M4A3 hull. So the M36 was a modified M4A2 hull, but the M36B1 and M36B2 were both M4A3 hulls, but from different sources. If they had all been based on the M4A3, then it would have been M36, M36A1, and M36A2.

    The U.S. Army Ordnance Department was always interesting when it came to designations...
     
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  13. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Ok, now you have me confused. Perhaps it it simply the use of "hull". When this term is used I think of drivetrain + chassis + superstructure (everything less the turret), whereas it seems the " proper" designation for hull is drivetrain + chassis? The M10 had the same drivetrain and (I believe) chassis as the M4A2 (including those beautiful twin 6-71s -- which I'm not biased towards at all) but of course had a different superstructure.

    If this isn't a questions of nomenclature, it's past due time to crack open a book and educate myself on this topic! American TDs have never been a serious topic of study for me.... You smartass :D
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In regards to McNair from what I recall of the article it suggested that McNair was actually quite receptive to suggestions from the field. He did have his theories on how things would work but was not wedded to them. His death meant that there was a period when his department was in a bit of flux as the new leadership figured out what was going on and what they needed to do. The fact that he was well respected and died in combat also made people careful about changing things he had put in place an inhibition he would not have had. It all sounded reasonable to me although I don't know enough to be certain how accurate it really was. Rich probably has a much better handle on it.
     
  15. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    'Hull' to me means just the actual substructure/body. No attachments at all.

    Hulls, & parts thereof:
    ghk38rft6z211.jpg

    Churchill hull.JPG

    Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-635-3965-34,_Panzerfabrik_in_Deutschland.jpg

    Grizzly_30.JPG


    What fun.
     
  16. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Okay, then think of it this way. The Medium Tank M4-series was distinguished by different engines and slight hull differences - none were conversions from existing types. Thus, each was given a different "A" number. But the M36 subtypes were derived as conversions from two different M4-series types, both were conversions, but from two different M4-series types.
     
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  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Again, it's complicated. Ordnance designed an built tanks (and other vehicles, weapons, and equipment), based upon requirements of the various service branches. The Ordnance Department, after March 1942, was part of Services of Supply (later Army Service Forces). Army Ground Forces was created in March 1942 under the War Department as a co-equal with ASF (and USAAF). ASF was responsible for the various technical services, and for procurement and supply of all the service branches. The AGF was responsible for organizing and training the ground forces and for coordinating the doctrine developed by the service branches. The Armored Force was initially a semi-separate entity organized "for purposes of service test", before the creation of Army Service Forces and Army Ground Forces.

    However, the final say on various matters related to development and acceptance of weapons and equipment was through the Ordnance Committee, which was made up of representatives from all the services. Acceptance of a new tank, such as the T26E3, required the agreement of the OC and could be prevented by the non-concurrence of AGF, ASF, the Armored Force, or Ordnance. Once accepted though, there had to be a request from one of the active military theaters for such a weapon, which actually was the main impetus for the T26...ETOUSA requested 500 of them as "assault tanks" in November 1943, but before the first pilot was even completed. The order was then confirmed in February 1944, but after testing the first ten pilots in June and July, the Armored Force declared it was not service ready and asked for various detailed design changes, which were not completed and in production until 31 October 1944, with ten completed by the end of November. Without an end-user requirement there would be no deployment. A case in point was the T23, which were built as limited procurement, but when offered to the ETOUSA were turned down (while they wanted 76mm-armed tanks they did not see it as useful to deploy two battalions of a different type of them with the associated complications of supply and maintenance of a new type).

    By that time, McNair was long dead. He was re-assigned by Marshall to his role in the ETOUSA commanding FUSAG and departed CONUS for England on 9 July. However, even before that he had been on convalescent leave after he was wounded in Tunisia in April 1943 (Ben Lear took temporary command of AGF while he was in Tunisia and during his convalescence). Altogether, he was out of command of AGF from about mid-March until August 1943, when many of the decisions on the early development of the T25 and T26 were made. His objection to the initial production approval of the 500 requested by ETOUSA in November 1943 was based on the reasonable observation that it was approving a pig in a poke - there was no pilot, no ordnance or service test...and the track record of Ordnance to date had not been very good.
     
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  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    For the saga of British tank development read the official histories
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Tank-Scandal-British-Armour/dp/0112904602

    9780112905349: The Universal Tank: British Armour in the Second World War Pt.2 - AbeBooks - David Fletcher: 011290534X

    The short answer is that:-

    1. After Dunkirk the British needed to catch up with whatever they had.

    2. The British had problems with tank designs and tank engines. The aircraft industry had priority. The motor industry became the shadow air industry. The best British engine was the Rolls Royce Merlin,. It wasn't until mid war that Rolls Royce was allowed to build a tank engine variant - the Meteor. None of the Covenenter, Cavalier and Centaur ever saw combat. Turret rings were kept small to enable tanks to fit British rail flats, which had a narrower gauge than on the continent.

    3. By the end of 1942 the British had learned that the best way to win a tank battle, was not to fight tank v tank. Instead, with the aid of Ultra it was possible to work out where the Germans would attack and deploy an anti tank defence, as at Alam Halfa , Meddeninne pass and in the "Epson" operation June/July 1944. British ORv worked out that the secret was to have a good enough gun to hit and knock out any MBT it would meet. The 1945 Centurion was a very good tank.

    For a discussion about the Sherman and US Tank design policy see
     
  19. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    It forever mildly bugs me that people don't tend to include what I see as the real 'Volume 1' of that splendid series from the blessed Fletcher.

    21571411206.jpg

    The groundwork for the story is in there.

    Once again: Some publisher, maybe even the Tank Museum, needs to get them reprinted, perhaps even in one volume.
    And maybe a few of the others in the HMSO series, though few are up to the above three's standard.
    (Imagine a revised combined edition, if Mr F could be persuaded... I'd possibly buy two.)

    Quite nice to see prices have got a tad less silly lately.
    Took a long while to get them for reasonable figures in the past.

    Some very interesting British armour books in the pipeline.
    Really beginning to look like the over-saturated German coverage might be getting a published counterpoint.
     
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  20. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    While David gave a magisterial explanation of what happened with British design problems, the why is better explained by Benjamin Coombs in British Tank Production and the War Economy, 1934-1945. I highly recommend it.
     

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