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RattlesnakeBob

Sat night tank questions time! ...open a bottle and sit.......

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OK....I'm fascinated by tanks ..always have been and over the years a nagging question has always been in the back of my mind which I thought it'd be good to throw onto the forum then sit back and see what folks ideas are on the subject....For one reason I know there are a lot of people on here that not only love tanks but have also accumulated an incredible knowledge on there manufacture/design and use especially during WW2.......

so.here we go.........

Why oh why, did it take the British and the US so long to come up with a first class product during WW2?

allow me to clarify what to some folk may appear to be a rather 'broadscreen' view ....

we, the Allies encountered the Tiger relatively early in the war in North Africa.it was very quickly realised that even with it's faults we were dealing with a new class of armour....should it not have been very evidant at that point (late 1941 early 42) the way the wind was blowing with (German) tank design in general???.

Both the Panther and the Tiger were conceived, designed and manufactured all within the war...from a scratch idea on a draughtmans table to the working item in the field.........yes I know..both had some terrible teething problems and in the Tigers case some faults were never properly solved.....BUT!.....it still has to be said the Germans (even with having their home factories bombed witless) still managed to come up with those tanks...and get them built to a very useable standard...which was I think we'd all agree... was a standard way way above where we were with our own designs?..........

so....here we are faced in 1942 with the Tiger and then the following year with the Panther and what do we do?.....we faff about with various cruiser designs and various Churchills and Valentines and blah blah blah ....none of which were anywhere near the same league as the German contenders....

..and the Yanks ???..well.....they do no more than stick a better turret on the Grant , call it a Sherman and 'set to' producing thousands of them. .....even though the crews went through hell with them..(still a gorgeous tank though and my absolute favourite ! )..

....... the Russians to be fair to them, did the business and came up with the T34 but....

.what did we have?....

well............our tank crews in France in 1944 must have been pretty balled off I reckon.............

....it wasn't until 1945 that we had the Centurion and the Pershing (both I presume we're agreed on were way above either the Panther or the Tiger?)...but both were delivered way to late to be of any use.....(did either the Centurion or the Pershing actually see any combat in WW2??? Please excuse my ignorance of this...)

SO.......

.in a nutshell we return to the question....

.why oh why did it take so long for either us or the Yanks to get with the programme??????

Possible excuses/reasons:

Did the UK stick so doggedly to the idea that 'tank on tank' combat should be avoided therefore 'battle tanks' simply weren't needed?............if so why did we finally change our minds and come up with the Centurion?.......did this also apply to the US?.......

...........or here's another possiblity.......

Was tank design so 'isolated' not only in the UK (between various factions and factories) but also between the UK and the US that ideas weren't 'put on the table' and developed unilaterally?.........

or ...an even worse case scenario...

were tank crew expiriences and reports from the front so absurdly ignored and discounted that 'commitees' and 'high ranking officials' simply carried on with their own particular and arrogant idea of 'what was needed'?

ok!....

so I'm off out to work for the night and I'll be back around 2am ish so I'll look forward to seeing what your thoughts are!..

........Many thanks!

PS: This honestly is not intended as 'criticism' of how we or the US operated in the war regarding tank development ...I am honestly just very intrigued and mystified as to exactly 'why' did we get it so wrong for so long?................

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I thought it was the combo of the turret rings on the Allies tank were too small to be upgunned (with the 76mm & 17prd exceptions ) & most German tanks in the ETO (European theatre of operations) were taken out by anti-tank guns,but the Allies tanks during WWII were “questionable”.With the allies it was a numbers game,the Germans built a small number of good tanks,I think they worked on (I think) 6-4 Shermans per Tiger (pity being in the first Shermans!)

RE the Russians,the Panther was a German take on the T34!Plus the engineering went the other way,I think the AK47 was influenced by the MP44 & the RPG (rocket propelled Grenade) was influenced by the German Panzerfaust & US bazooka.

But I stand to be corrected.

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Undoubtedly (in my mind) the best British Tank to appear during the war (just) was A41 Later Centurion, and to answer the question, it never saw combat.

 

For years British tank design had been restricted by requirement that it had to be rail transportable and fit within the British loading gauge. Once this restriction had been removed it was possible to design a tank with sufficient Armour, track width etc to take on the German heavy Tanks. Europe had a larger loading Gauge, and could rail transport these heavy tanks. Once we saw the light and abandoned rail transport in Britain the door was open.

Edited by antarmike

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yer quite right sorry!.. I forgot the Panther was copied from the T34..

..but and so..

If the Germans 'stooped' to 'copying' ...why didn't we do the same??.....

....we must have captured a few Tigers in North Africa by the end of 1942 and probably a few Panthers in Italy by the end of 1943......... .so....

..... why didn't we just admit we weren't getting it 'right' and just build a British copy of a Panther or a Tiger or a T34 come to that ????....

......I can see the daft issue of 'rail loading' was probably a big problem but surely.....the US didn't have that problem as well?.....

US railroads were built on a huge scale..so....

..why did it take them so long to come up with the Pershing?.......

...questions! questions! heheheh!

I absolutely agree on the cost in tank crews .

...although I love the Sherman I wouldn't have given you much for being a crewman in one when up against Tigers and Panthers with the 88mm .....(nor the Mk4s with their long barrell 75mm come to that!)...

It seems like an horrific way to use mens lives.......put 4 Shermans or Churchills in against a Tiger or a Panther and expect to lose 3 I think it was?..... not much of a deal was it?....no thanks..!!!.

.I think I'd rather take my chance as Infantry with a PIAT or a Bazooka.......

good thoughts though people .....please keep it coming !........

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I seem to recall reading that the Americans took the decision to concentrate on quantity.

 

They knew the shermans were not up to the job of one on one battles but could be used to swamp the enemy.

 

Brutal for the crews and a cold calculated decision by the policy makers.

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I seem to recall reading that the Americans took the decision to concentrate on quantity.

 

They knew the shermans were not up to the job of one on one battles but could be used to swamp the enemy.

 

Brutal for the crews and a cold calculated decision by the policy makers.

 

By the time Patton and others realized that The Sherman was'nt going to br successful on the battlefield it was a bit late to change things , They agreed that the next tank should be a diesel but the logistics of handling two fuels to the battle area would be too difficult they felt so they were stuck with a gasoline powered tank for the duration of the war , yes they had built a small number of Stuarts and Shermans with diesel engines but kept them for training purposes state side only .

Your right in that they felt numbers ,training ,battle field recovery and repair would make up for the tank design flaws.

imo.

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yes they had built a small number of Stuarts and Shermans with diesel engines but kept them for training purposes state side only.

 

Diesel shermans (M4A2?) were used in the Pacific theatre of the war.

 

Lucas,

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Diesel shermans (M4A2?) were used in the Pacific theatre of the war.

 

Lucas,

 

Yes, and most (all?) Lend Lease Shermans to Russia were M4A2 diesel engines.

 

jch

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Part of the problem was that the British and French National strategies in the 30s was that the 'next' war would repeat the static trench warfare of WW1, hence the Maginot Line and the development of very heavy multi-turreted tanks 'breakthrough' and slow moving 'infantry' tanks.

 

There was also a severe lack of funds in the UK, hence the attempts to develop cheaper tanks, which were so light as to be useless.

 

The Germans went for the 'Blitzkreig' tactic, which integrated armour, infantry and close air support, though British theorists J.F.C. Fuller and Captain B. H. Liddell Hart have often been associated with the development of blitzkrieg, though this is a matter of controversy.

 

jch

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Part of the problem was that the British and French National strategies in the 30s was that the 'next' war would repeat the static trench warfare of WW1, hence the Maginot Line and the development of very heavy multi-turreted tanks 'breakthrough' and slow moving 'infantry' tanks.

 

There was also a severe lack of funds in the UK, hence the attempts to develop cheaper tanks, which were so light as to be useless.

 

The Germans went for the 'Blitzkreig' tactic, which integrated armour, infantry and close air support, though British theorists J.F.C. Fuller and Captain B. H. Liddell Hart have often been associated with the development of blitzkrieg, though this is a matter of controversy.

 

jch

 

agree with all the above however...

..... around late '43 ish..(by which time we very clearly knew we weren't building the kind of tank we sorely needed).. we must have been spending an incredible amount of money on building about 20 different varieties of tank ...none of which were really any good...

..so...the reason we didn't 'get on with it' and develop a decent tank can't have come down to money at that point of the war surely??... could we not have eased off on some of the production of the ineffective 'cruiser' type tanks and used the same money/factories/resources etc on buidling something worth having????

.......and.........

if we didn't have enough money/resources to do so .....

..then surely the US certainly did?....so..

.. even though they'd decided on mass production of the Sherman ...surely they had enough cash in the kitty to still be getting on with a new design?.........

its proper mystifying still to my mind......:undecided:

Edited by RattlesnakeBob
glich!

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By 1943 I would have thought that any factory would be working flat out,re numbers for Dieppe,D-Day etc.

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By 1943 I would have thought that any factory would be working flat out,re numbers for Dieppe,D-Day etc.

 

they may have been for D-Day...not Dieppe though....that was the year before :).

..then again ...knowing how hopelessly the Churchills had performed there....and not entirely their fault to be fair, due to the shingle beachs........you would have thought there would have been added determination to build something better?........

 

and yeah I know how difficult it must have been to find factory/manufacturing space in the massive production drive that was on at that time but.......you would have thought for something that could actually have contributed to winning the war by a fair margin quicker....and would have saved the lives of countless thousands of tank crew men..

.they could have found a way?....:undecided:

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Its always extremely easy in hindsight to wonder why what seems so obvious now, was not adopted then. The reality is that even in late 1944 we (The allies) could not be certain that we would defeat Germany. The germans were developing the V1 and V2 rockets, and there was a strong consensus that they were much further forward with their atomic programme than they actually were. Certainly the U.S. was pouring massive sums of money and effort into that race. Its a massive operation to develope, set up or adapt existing factories, train workers, and then possibly find defects in your new machinery once fielded in combat, the nature of things during conflict is to rush matters. The thinking with the Sherman was one of attrition, 10 Shermans to one german tank, I agree with previous statements about the apparent disregard for the lives of the crews, but if anyone thinks that the government of the day is much concerned about the lives of what in the real scheme of things is a small number, then you a deluding yourself, we poor mortals are just pawns. The U.K. was pretty well bankrupt in men and money, we really do owe a great debt to the U.S. for our freedom.

They were the only country to emerge from the second world war with more money than when it entered it, subsiquently they were the only nation with the capacity to defend the west against the new threat from the east, I was part of the British army in Germany during the mid 1950s, it was not difficult to see how ill prepared that we were. If the cold war had suddenly gotten hot, we would probably be asking now, why were we so ill prepared? Expenditure with a democracy always seems to be something of a financial balancing act when it comes to providing the best for its poor troops.

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I once read that the German 2 qty. nuclear reactor were in fact being considered for a "Dirty bomb" on the V2 (that being what British Intelligence were frightened of). There were in fact expert considerations that the speed of impact could have triggered a nuclear explosion - but I suppose it needed the practical test..

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One problem the U.S. had was that the armoured corp was being denied tanks with larger main guns and heavier armour because at the time, doctrine was anti-tank combat was the job of the artillery branch. The armoured corp was to exploit breakthroughs and support the infantry. This did not change till later in the war when it became very apparent that tank on tank combat was very common and necessary.

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Tank Numbers produced

Tiger 1 ~1350

Tiger 2 ~ 450

Pather ~6,000

PzIV ~9,000

T34 ~57,000

Sherman ~30,000

 

Ultimately, numbers mattered, as did doctrine, crew training & logistics.

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I seem to recall reading that the Americans took the decision to concentrate on quantity.

 

They knew the shermans were not up to the job of one on one battles but could be used to swamp the enemy.

 

Brutal for the crews and a cold calculated decision by the policy makers.

 

One of the history channel progs talking about the events following D-Day had an interview with a German artillery officer tasked with holding a certain position. When asked why he failed to hold a position that had all the tactical advantages he replied simply "We ran out of shells before the Americans ran out of tanks."

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One of the bigest problems to overcome is the officer mentality, of the time and even now Tanks are a waste of time to many as thay cant hold ground. After 21 years experance in Australian Armoured Corp, the number of times that higher command of infantry origan have left Armoured out of the battle, or given it a secondary task it is incrediball. Not so long ago we in Australia were not going to replace our MBTs. So during WW2 it would of been a long hard road for the Corp to sell the higher athoritys the idea of biger and better tanks.

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BTW, interesting to know that the Soviets were working on new tanks during world war 2 as well, since they were not happy with the T-34..

 

This is the prototype of the T-44-122 alongside a captured Panther, during trials in 1944:

T-44-122_and_Panther.JPG

 

965 T-44A tanks got built during world war 2 (25 during 1944 and 950 in 1945), The T-44A being similar to the one above but with the ZiS-S-5, the same 85mm cannon the T-34/85 got.

 

The first T-54 prototype also was designed in later '44, with the first prototype built in february of '45... So like all countries the Soviets steamed ahead as well :)

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BTW, interesting to know that the Soviets were working on new tanks during world war 2 as well, since they were not happy with the T-34..

 

This is the prototype of the T-44-122 alongside a captured Panther, during trials in 1944:

T-44-122_and_Panther.JPG

 

965 T-44A tanks got built during world war 2 (25 during 1944 and 950 in 1945), The T-44A being similar to the one above but with the ZiS-S-5, the same 85mm cannon the T-34/85 got.

 

The first T-54 prototype also was designed in later '44, with the first prototype built in february of '45... So like all countries the Soviets steamed ahead as well :)

you say the production model T44 mounted the same long barrell 85mm as the later T34s had?....well that one in the prototype looks way bigger to me I dunno if thats a trick of the camera or......... is that one helluva mother of a gun in the Soviet tank or what!?!?!?......jeez!..

.looking at the thickness of the barrell back at the mantlet it looks like its twice the size of the Panthers.........nice looking tank though.....the turret is a bit M26 Pershing/Patton-ish to my eye????

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That was a prototype with the 122mm that the SU-122 had basicly. :)

 

This was what the normal T-44 looked like:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/28/T-44.jpg/800px-T-44.jpg

 

And this was what the first production T-54's looked like:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2c/Tank_T-54_in_Verkhnyaya_Pyshma.jpg/800px-Tank_T-54_in_Verkhnyaya_Pyshma.jpg

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