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Sherman Firefly in Normandy.

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by Martin Bull, Nov 29, 2007.

  1. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Reading Buckley's 'British Armour In Normandy', far from changing my preconceptions about Allied tanks vs. German ones, is making me realise just how relatively weak - certainly in terms of gun power - the Allies were.

    I was actually quite amazed to see that only some 200 Sherman Fireflies were available during the Campaign. Now, I'm certainly not going to claim that the Firefly was a 'wonder-weapon'. It was a typical - although ingenious - British 'bodge-up' with compromised crew accomodation, poor optics, unsatisfactory muzzle-blast, etc.

    But it really does seem to be just about the only tracked weapon available to 21st Army Group which could give a truly impressive account of itself in armour-to-armour combat. True, the Germans could field only some 150 or less Tigers, but they also had 650 Panthers and over 600 SPGs, many of which had powerful 75mm guns.

    I'm starting to think that the British and Canadians would have been in a real pickle, in terms of both performance and morale, without those 200 Fireflies......:(
     
  2. Joe

    Joe Ace

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    But I think the Americans where far worse off by not having any Gun powerful enugh to takle the Panthers and Tigers. That 76mm was not up to the job.
     
  3. scarface

    scarface Member

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    Just in case there are any others out there that were playing hooky in the third grade and missed the lecture on WWII Tank Identification, I have gone ahead and done a quick GOOGLE and discovered that the Firefly is a Sherman tank that the Brits re-armed with the 17-pounder anti-tank gun. In so doing, they had to add a rear-extension of the turret to allow for the recoil of the larger gun, as well as eliminating the hull-mounted machine gun to allow for handling of the larger shells.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    ....now back to your regularly scheduled thread....

    -whatever

    -Lou
     
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  4. scarface

    scarface Member

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    So, do I understand correctly that the Americans couldn't kill a Tiger or a Panter? Not with any (currently available) tank armament, field gun or bazooka?

    Everything just bounced off???

    Man...... that would be REAL scary!

    -whtever

    -Lou
     
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Not at Normandy battlefield ranges - which are usually taken as being approximately 1000 yards or slightly less. It was possible for Tigers, Panthers and similarly-armed SPGs ( eg Jagdpanther, etc ) to eliminate their opponents at up to 2000 yards.
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    This (that current US equipment could not kill a Tiger or Panther) is incorrect, particularly for the Panther.

    In the Panther's case, its real weakness was that it had thin side and rear armor. Both are vulnerable to most US antitank weapons in 1944. The Sherman 75mm will easily penetrate the side or rear at typical combat ranges out to nearly 1000 yards.
    The Panther is also very vulnerable to the US 105 howitzer as mounted on a Sherman or M7 among other mountings. This weapon using the heavy wall HE round could penetrate a Panther from any direction up to about 600 yards. Against the front the round acting on the glacis would through a combination of impact and detonation usually smash a large hole in the plate. The same is true against the side and rear.
    The bazooka is more problematic. It could penetrate as much as 100 to 120mm of armor under ideal conditions. But, HEAT rounds of the era were more erratic in performance so realistically a side or rear hit was required. The same is true of the M9 HEAT rifle grenade.

    Against the Tiger I the Sherman had to close to well under 500 yards to get a side or rear penetration and could not penetrate the front at any range normally. However, a popular US tactic was to hit such a target first with a White Phosporous round followed by an HE or two. The WP round did two things: 1. It blinded the target. 2. It gassed the crew through drawing very acrid smoke into the vehicle through the ventilation system. This would be followed by repeated shelling in hopes of disabling the vehicle or causing the crew to panic.

    The US 76mm was better. The Panther was vulnerable to about 500 yards from the front and to well over 1500 yards from the side and rear. If HVAP (usually just tank destroyers had it) was available the gun was roughly equal to the German 75L70 in performance and capable of taking on a Panther from any angle to over 1000 yards.

    The Tiger I against the 76 is equally vulnerable to the Panther now.

    The US 90mm is almost on par with the 17pdr and better at ranges over about 1500 yards due to the heavier shot.

    The reasons the US really did not want or adopt the 17 pdr include:

    1. The "not invented here syndrome." The US Army ordinance bureau was very hidebound and did not want a British gun if they could avoid it.

    2. There was a belief that the 76mm would perform as well as the 17pdr.

    3. The British Firefly installation was really a very makeshift, sloppy arrangement. The gun was shoehorned into the turret on its side. As the controls were on the wrong side for laying the gun a series of cams and shafts were installed to "fix" this with the attendent problems of back lash and slop in the system. The back of the turret was cut out and an armored box installed to partially offset the imbalance of the turret due to weight shifts but also to make room for the radio equipment and recoil of the gun. The assistant driver's position was eliminated and an ammunition box installed as the 17 pdr round was much longer than the 75mm round it replaced. This was the only way to store sufficent ammunition in the vehicle.

    4. An alternative was proposed by the US ordinance bureau to mount an M 26 turret on an M4 as an interm fix. This was dropped due to lack of demand from the field (pre-D-Day) and the prospect that the M 26 would be available soon.
     
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  7. Joe

    Joe Ace

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    Exactly. Though what is often overlooked how damn difficult it was to place the Sherman Facing the side and rear of the German tanks...MOST weapons where incapable of penetrating the frontal Armour of a Panther or Tiger, and the ones that could where quite rare. Fortunately, the Allies COULD overwhelm the Tiger/Panther and swarm all over it.

    On a side note, the 6pdr was actually better at Armour penetration than the 75mm OQF (The British one).

    PS-Shouldn't this be in the Weapons section?
     
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  8. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    But surely, one of the main points in Normandy was that the Allies more frequently attacked, the Germans defended...therefore it was exceedingly difficult to land a good flanking or ( especially ) rear shot on a Tiger or Panther.....
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    But if the worst of the casualties occurred during allied attacks and German counterattacks, narrow attack front or not there's still going to be as much confusion and potential opportunity for flank/rear strikes as in almost any other theatre (excepting the desert which was definitely mostly 'frontal to frontal').
    Perhaps particularly in the close terrain of that part of France?

    (I love the firefly but I've got to agree with TA on the conversion to some extent, look inside the turret of one and it's rather 'messy'. Did the job though.)
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    BTW, were the tank killers better in "tank hunting" than the tanks themselves for the allied?

    In Harry Yeide " Tank Killers " at least the towed at guns did not make many kills, only a couple, and even those by using a bazooka....or something like that. So the US really had to change their strategy during the war because the tank killers were outclassing the towed at guns.
     
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  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    No, I don't think so. The Firefly is closely associated with 21st Army Group in Normandy and was an important element in the fighting there.
     
  12. Joe

    Joe Ace

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    Do you actually do that stuff in America?
     
  13. Owen

    Owen O

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    Is that figure of 200 correct?
    If 1 per troop, how many Fireflies in an Armd Bde?
    How many Armd Bdes in Normandy?
    I could work it out but too late and brain not working.
    What about Challenger & Achilles, they had 17Pdrs too, are they included?
     
  14. FramerT

    FramerT Ace

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    From what I've been reading on the Panther,on the earlier models, a frontal shot on the turret could and did deflect into the driver's compartment. As was already mentioned, the sides were vunerable and track sections were still hung on them for extra protection.
     
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  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I was amazed, too...but I've taken the figure from Buckley's book. Basically, there were only slightly more Fireflies available to 21st Army Group than there were Tigers available to the Germans.
     
  16. Owen

    Owen O

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    I do wonder why we left 6th Armd Div in Italy when I'm sure they'd have been of more use in NW-Europe.
    Wonder why they never swapped one of the Churchill Armd Bdes for 6th Armd?
     
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  17. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I have a book about the 6th Armd. It is called 'Mailed Fist' (from the div. insignia) They aquitted themselves very well in my opinion.

    That is a very good question.

    Maybe Ron has someting to contribute to this?
     
  18. Owen

    Owen O

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    That's what I'm reading at the moment, hence my query.
     
  19. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    Hayward gives a total of 338 Firefly tanks on June 30th, 728 in December and 1118 by January 1945.
    The total of 200 appears to be the June 6th total of tanks with Units in 21st AG.
     
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  20. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Thanks for the clarification, mkenny...
     

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