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British Anti Tank precautions


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#1 centurion

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 11:15 PM

Came across the following from a British gunners diary of Feb 2nd 1917

"We are firing on a place called Le Sars, at a range of 5,000 yards. Our Battery has what is known as a Tank Gun; it is one of our 18 pounders, but it is put just behind the lines, in case of Tanks (German) attacking us"

This seems very early to have been worrying about possible German tanks. I've come across a similar arrangement by the Canadians but in 1918 (whenthe Germans actually had some tanks). Anyone know why it was thought that the Germans might have tanks this early?



#2 Grantowi

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 11:53 PM

Could they have been captured British French ones ?

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#3 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 09:59 AM

Could they have been captured British French ones ?

Grant


No The Germans did not capture British tanks until Arras 3 months after the date of the quote and the first action in which French tanks were used was not until 2 months after. The Germans did not begin to use captured British tanks until 1918 when tanks taken at Cambrai had been refurbished. Whilst there are stories of German infantry using the odd St Chamond (again in 1918) there is no reliable proof that they used any French tanks.

#4 themonsstar

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:36 AM

Could there have been using armoured typecar or the like

#5 CROONAERT

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:57 AM

Came across the following from a British gunners diary of Feb 2nd 1917

"We are firing on a place called Le Sars, at a range of 5,000 yards.



I suppose another question could be why would British gunners actually be firing on Le Sars in February 1917 anyway?

#6 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:20 AM

Could there have been using armoured typecar or the like


Again no - the Germans made very little use of armoured cars and that mainly on the Eastern front





My question is why were the British guarding against a non existent threat?



#7 Ron Clifton

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:24 AM

The fact that the Germans did not have any tanks at the time may not have been known to the British (or French) at the time. The Germans had seen British tanks in Sept 1916 and it would have been imprudent, and possibly downright embarrassing, to be taken by surprise if the Germans actually did have them by Feb 1917.

There was of course a considerable "lead time" between developing the concept of the tank and manufacturing enough to use effectively in action. (Even so, the "penny packets" accusation was made.) There is no reason to suppose that the Germans might not have been carrying out similar R&D at the same time - as indeed the French did.

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#8 edwin astill

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:28 AM

Did the diarist get confused over the date? (ie are there other entries in sequence of the same period). And how long after the event did he write up the diary? Or perhaps he was adding to the diary at a later stage.

Other than that I suggest we resort to modern concepts of space/time to help us!

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#9 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:53 AM

The fact that the Germans did not have any tanks at the time may not have been known to the British (or French) at the time. The Germans had seen British tanks in Sept 1916 and it would have been imprudent, and possibly downright embarrassing, to be taken by surprise if the Germans actually did have them by Feb 1917.

There was of course a considerable "lead time" between developing the concept of the tank and manufacturing enough to use effectively in action. (Even so, the "penny packets" accusation was made.) There is no reason to suppose that the Germans might not have been carrying out similar R&D at the same time - as indeed the French did.



I would think that just over four months was hardly enough time to develop, put into production and train crews. It had taken Britain the best part of a year from the prototype's first run to deploying tanks

#10 Ron Clifton

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:31 PM

Granted, centurion, but it is easier to make a copy of an existing invention than to develop the original invention and, as I pointed out, we don't know if German tank development had already begun before Sept 1916. If they had already been considering the possibilities - and I don't know of any evidence that they had - then four months might not have been too short a time.

In any event, as soon as any new weapon is developed, the next step is normally to consider possible defence measures against it. Even if the Germas had developed some form of armoured car, defensive measures would still have been necessary.

Ron

#11 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 03:48 PM

Granted, centurion, but it is easier to make a copy of an existing invention than to develop the original invention and, as I pointed out, we don't know if German tank development had already begun before Sept 1916.

Yes we do, some ideas had been looked at and rejected. The High Command was less than luke warm.

When in Dec 1917 a plan was drawn up to build copies of the British Mk IV one reason for its rejection was that they wouldn't be ready until about June 1918 and the High Command expected to be victorious by then (the others were an engine and armour plate shortage and an unwilling to divert any from other projects).









#12 edwin astill

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 04:48 PM

Might not the "tank gun" have been an existing type of gun, not normally part of their gun complement, brought in as being better suited to knock out tanks should they appear? And called "the tank gun" for that reason

Edwin

#13 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 08:23 PM

I would think that just over four months was hardly enough time to develop, put into production and train crews. It had taken Britain the best part of a year from the prototype's first run to deploying tanks.

Britain did not know for sure that the Germans had not been developing tanks in parallel. The French had - it was possible that the Germans had too.

Robert

#14 centurion

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:41 PM

Might not the "tank gun" have been an existing type of gun, not normally part of their gun complement, brought in as being better suited to knock out tanks should they appear? And called "the tank gun" for that reason

Edwin


If you read the quote you would see that it was a standard 18 pounder

#15 Simon Mills

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:03 AM

When I was researching my grandfather's war service I came across an interesting defence plan in his unit's war diary. The plan was drawn up in August 1918 and it does perhaps give some indication as to how the British regarded the German tank threat at that time.

Rather than allocate entire RFA batteries to anti-tank duties, the reality seems to be that individual guns were specifically assigned to anti-tank duties -- in this case the gun in question was specifically referred to as "Billy." From the diary it would seem that this was usually an eighteen-pounder, although occasionally one of the older RHA thirteen-pounders may have been used. These designated guns could still be used in the event of an enemy attack developing without the assistance of tanks, in which case they could fire on the enemy infantry by direct laying, but in the event of an attack being launched which included tanks then those designated guns, regardless of the position of their own troops, had specific orders to fire only at the enemy's tanks until they were put out of action. The remaining guns in the other batteries would meanwhile continue to engage the hostile infantry, either by barrage fire or individual action.

The defence plan also specifies the British mindset of the time, noting that the tank itself did not always constitute the main danger, and that more often than not it was the facilities that a tank could afford for the enemy's infantry to break through the defence line which was the greatest perceived danger. As a result it was considered absolutely necessary that any guns designated for anti-tank purposes should deal solely with those tanks, while the remaining guns concentrated on destroying the enemy's concentrated infantry.

Hope this is of some use.

S.