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JohnT

British 25 Pounder in the Anti-tank Role

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Just reading James Holland’s book on the North African Theatre in WW2 and he mentions that British anti tank guns were either pretty useless or not available. He notes the 2 pounder was by that time outclassed and would not penetrate German tank armour. The 6 pounder would but was simply not available in anything like the required numbers. 
 

Then he writes that the 25 pounder field gun was used in the role but was unsuitable as slow traverse and really not good in the role. 
 

Now I had read back in the 50’s and 60’s that it had a great punch and was very useful there. I am sure one thing I read was how one shot went through one tank and destroyed a second one. Possibly off the Airfix instructions maybe?  Was that just post war rose tinted specs or is Holland wrong?  
 

He also mentions the gun shield afforded little protection for the gun crew but looking at others  guns and comparing I’d think that’s a common criticism maybe and not special to the 25 pounder. Also I thought it was held in high regard and used for many years post war. 
 

I had heard his comment about the lack of British imagination in not using the fairly plentifully available heavier anti aircraft guns in the same was as the Germans used their 88’s dual role. 
 

Not my modelling area as the subject doesn’t have wings but would like to hear what tanky types reckon

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Not professing any degree of expertise in this area but having read a fair bit about the North African theatre of operations, my Dad served as an army doctor for a couple of years up to about the time of  Alamein, my impression is that while the 25 pdr was not designed as an AT gun, against the earlier Mk II & Mk IV German tanks, it could do the job at a pinch. Normally it was a gun used to support infantry advances, lay down protective barrages etc & I'm not sure whether or not it had an AP round in its inventory, but I'm sure I've read of 25 pdrs shooting at & destroying Axis Armour over open sites.

According to the Wikipedia article on the 25 pdr, it could fire a 20 LB AP projectile over a maximum charge to give high velocity, so yes, it would definitely have had a secondary role as an AT gun.

Steve.

Edited by stevehnz

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6 hours ago, JohnT said:

I am sure one thing I read was how one shot went through one tank and destroyed a second one.

 

I've heard a similar story but the gun in question was a 6-pdr so perhaps something was lost in translation? 

 

Cheers,

 

Stew

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3 hours ago, Stew Dapple said:

 

I've heard a similar story but the gun in question was a 6-pdr so perhaps something was lost in translation? 

 

Cheers,

 

Stew

Com’on Stew. It was half a century ago and I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning :pipe::D

 

I could have gotten confused quite easily but will recall all with gin clear clarity after nursy gives me my medication

 

You could be right about the 6 pounder but wonder if it’s an early version of the urban myth

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7 hours ago, Stew Dapple said:

 

I've heard a similar story but the gun in question was a 6-pdr so perhaps something was lost in translation? 

Same here: read it yesterday in an internet account of the action at SNIPE during 2nd Alamein.  Still not sure I believe it, even of a 6 pdr.

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I reckon if they managed to hit a tank with a 25 pdr shell it would not be a good day for the tank crew.

 

It may not have been so easy to hit the target but I can imagine that if crews had direct line of sight at enemy vehicles they might have had a pop, especially if they felt threatened, maybe a shot or two before the tractor and limber were made ready.  By the laws of probability some must have found their target - a direct hit on any tank would have been bad news and a near miss would have been nasty for a light tank.

 

No knowledge, just me thinking about it.

 

Cheers,

 

Nigel

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For anti-tank use, the 25-pounder was  supplied with a limited amount of 20 pounds (9.1 kg) solid armour-piercing (AP) shot, later replaced with a more potent version with a ballistic cap (APBC). The AP shot was fired with maximum charge, charge No. 3, super, or super with Super increment depending on the ordnance mark, as muzzle velocity was critical in direct fire for penetration and a flat trajectory.

A shaped charge anti-tank shell was under development in Canada, but the introduction of the three-inch (76.2 mm) calibre QF 17-pounder, an anti-tank gun, in 1944 ended its development.

 

Selwyn

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The 25Pdr was used in a direct fire role, the muzzle break was added to allow fore greater accuracy when deployed in the direct role. The gun shield wouldn't have given much protection as its only millimetres thick.

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The 3.7" AA was tried in the AT role in the desert.  3 guns IIRC.  But for various reasons it just didn't work.  I believe it was a combination of no suitable sights, slow traverse, clumsy carriage/mounting and hefty shell weight.  Possibly no suitable shell fuses too: AA ammunition doesn't generally have contact fuses (small chance of actually hitting anything!) and don't need AP.  3.7's were used as artillery in some places, including the Rhine crossing barrage.

 

Because Germany deployed heavy AA well forward in their formations (unlike the Allies, who generally kept HAA in the rear) they had the foresight to provide AP ammunition for the 8.8.  The 3.7" was not designed to be tactically mobile, unlike the 8.8.  BTW, German gun calibres 2cm and above were designated in cm, not mm.

 

The 94mm 3.7" did lead to the 32pdr AT: few built, never fielded, fitted to Tortoise.  That fired a 32lb / 14.5 kg shell vs the 8.8's 9kg / 19lb 13oz, and at a decent velocity.  Which one suspects would have been very effective.

 

The vented device fitted to the muzzle of some guns is a brake, not a break.  It brakes the recoil by directing some of the energy sideways, preferably slightly rearwards thus pulling the barrel forward.

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4 hours ago, Das Abteilung said:

It brakes the recoil by directing some of the energy sideways, preferably slightly rearwards thus pulling the barrel forward.

To the detriment of the gun crew's hearing. :( Its little wonder a generation of ex soldiers suffered from hearing loss.

Steve.

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As a spotty young Territorial in the 70s we still had 25 pounders. Charge Super and AP shot were not issued partly because if we saw a tank it might have just about scratched the paint of a T55 or T62. Also from what I was told firing charge Super wore out the recoil system. 

 

We did practice direct fire in case we needed to shoot at an APC or similar wheeled vehicles. Laying the 25 or was easy if you needed to make a bigger horizontal change than allowed by the mounting you just yanked the carriage tail up and turned it on the base plate till the gunlayer yelled ON then dropped it. The 25 pr had single man laying unlike most artillery pieces deliberately for direct fire.

Edited by AltcarBoB

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When the first 17 pdrs came on the scene under project Pheasant they were fitted to 25 pdr gun carriages as there were delays with the bespoke ones, was this a case of better in the field on an unsuitable carriage than not in the field at all.

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1 hour ago, AntPhillips said:

When the first 17 pdrs came on the scene under project Pheasant they were fitted to 25 pdr gun carriages as there were delays with the bespoke ones, was this a case of better in the field on an unsuitable carriage than not in the field at all.

Yes. The 25 pr carriage was right on the limit with the 17 pr I remember reading that a heavier duty recoil  system was fitted but this was still marginal and wouldn't have been tolerated normally. They were possibly limited to the number of rounds that could be fired but AT guns don't fire very often anyway.

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