Thursday, May 10, 2012

WWII Tank comparisons

Greetings everyone!

It's been a while since "Kate" or I have posted anything, and I feel that you may wish to have the pleasure of reading another post. :D

I've been doing quite a bit of reading, lately, and could certainly pontificate about Montgomery or Rommel quite a bit.

In fact, it now seems to me that Rommel wasn't as great a general as he is typically chalked up to be by historians. They herald him as "The greatest general Germany has ever seen." Well, that would only be partly true, because he wasn't really a great all around general. Oh, don't get me wrong, he appreciated the might of great, concentrated Panzer rushes, but he had very little concept of logistics, allied cohesion, staff work etc. In fact, if it weren't for British ineptitude, Auchinleck, Ritchie, Wavell etc. all had the opportunity to destroy the Africa Korps far before Montgomery after the Second Battle of El Alamein from the 23rd October to the 4th of November, 1942. When matched by a man who understood proper cohesion of armour and infantry, Rommel was sent reeling - and was never again granted the initiative that he so desired (and that Auchinleck and the others granted him).

 But anyway, I've selected instead to write about the comparisons of Western armour in WWII. We shall see how badly the Allies were outgunned throughout the latter years of the war by Germany. I will do it in segments, considering the number of tanks used.

Early War:

In 1939 and 1940, the British boasted the following tanks:

Matilda I, armed only with a machine gun and having a top speed of 12.9 km, saw action in France in 1940. The Matilda II, its successor, was armed only with a 2 pounder cannon and a Besa machine gun. However, its armour was up to 78 mm thick, which meant it could withstand fire from most early German tanks and even antitank guns. The Matilda II could also reach a top speed of 24 km/h.

The Light Tank Mk VI "Vickers" was the most plentiful for the British right into North Africa. "Seven Royal Armoured Corps divisional cavalry regiments, the principal armoured formations of the BEF, were each equipped with twenty-eight Mk VIs.The 1st Armoured Division, elements of which landed in France in April, was equipped with 257 tanks, of which a large number were Mk VIB and Mk VICs. The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, which formed part of the division's 3rd Armoured Brigade, possessed by this time twenty-one Mark VI light tanks" (Wikipedia). The Vickers tank boasted only a heavy Vickers machine gun and a Besa machine gun, though its armour was up to 15 mm thick.

French tanks were typically excellent, but they were widely dispersed, poorly utilized and poorly operated. French tank doctrine suggested that they operate only in support of infantry.

Renault FT-17, was a World War I vintage tank with a 37 mm cannon or a machine gun. Its variants boasted up to 22 mm of armour. It had a top speed of about 8 km/h.

Renault R-35 had a 37 mm L/21 cannon and a 7.5 mm machine gun. It was heavily armoured with 45.7 mm of frontal armour, and it had a top speed of about 20 km/h.

The AMR 35 (Automitrailleuse de Reconnaissance Renault Modèle 35) was a light tank, developed by Renault as a support vehicle for mechanized infantry.

The Hotchkiss 35 and its variants (H-38 and H-39) was a nice tank with a 38 mm, longer cannon that was more capable of puncturing German armour. It had 45 mm armour and a top speed of 36.5 km/h on roads.

The Somua S-35 was undoubtedly France's best tank, and one of the best in the world at the time. It had such heavy armour and good armament to be comparable to even the Pz Kpfw IV, but it had only a one man turret, which was a grave defect and handicapped it effectively. Its armour was up to 55.8 mm wide! It's cannon was a 47 mm SA35 (more than 3lb shell).

And then the Char B-1, which armour was so thick (60 mm frontal armour), that it could never be penetrated by German anti-tank guns (which were only about 37 mm). The Germans could only reliably pierce it with the 8.8 cm anti-aircraft gun. 400 were available to the Army in 1940, but they were not concentrated. The Char B-1 had two cannons and two machine guns (one coaxial and one mounted). The turret cannon was a 47 mm cannon; the second cannon, mounted in the hull, was 75 mm large.

Char variants D1, D2 (Medium tanks) and 2C (another heavy tank) saw action, as well.

Poland had only three reliable tanks: the TK3 tankette, the Renault 35 and the 7TP. 135 7TPs were available in the Polish forces in 1939; while they could easily match German tanks, there simply were not enough of them. There were actually "two variants: a twin turret version and a single turret version. The twin turret version was armed with two 7.92 mm Ckm wz. 30 machine guns The two turrets were not fully traversable, and were therefore not very effective. The single turret version was armed with a modified Bofors 37 mm anti-tank gun 36 (named 37 mm Bofors wz. 37) with a Zeiss telescopic sight and a single Ckm wz. 30 machine gun.



Pz. Kpfw. I: The "Panzer I" was armed only with dual machine guns and had only 5 mm of armour. Compared against most of the Allied tanks of even 1939, this one was vastly inferior. It reached a maximum speed of 37 km/h.

Pz Kpfw II: This light tank "...was the workhorse of the German tank corps during the early years of World War II. Being equipped only with a 20 mm automatic cannon, Germany relied on quantity during their early campaigns. With more than 1000 Pz Kpfw IIs employed in both the Poland, France and North Africa, the Pz Kpfw II was fundamental in the early victories" (Tanks in WWII). Its armour may have gotten up to 30 mm on select tanks. It had a top speed of 40 km/h on roads.

Neubaufahrzeug: Only three were used in Norway. This thing was a heavy tank with dual turrets. The turret cannon was a 75 mm KwK L/24, and the other a 37 mm KwK L/45. It also boasted two machine guns and up to 20 mm of armour. It could reach a speed of 25 km/h.

Pz. Kpfw. 35(t) Skoda was built by Czech factories. If the Czechs had have fought the Germans in 1938, this tank could have crushed German armour. It saw action as late in the war as 1942. It mounted a 37 mm cannon and had up to 25 mm in armour (as well as two machine guns). It was an incredibly reliable tank.

Pz. Kpfw. 38 (t) Praga TNHP-S LT 38: Also a Czech tank, designed by CKD, the Panzer 38(t) was superior to Germany's own tanks of the time. It packed a 38 mm cannon, two machine guns and 25 mm of armour (later up to 50.8 mm).

The Pz Kpfw III started with a 37 mm Kw K (L/45), but eventually upgraded to as much as a 75 mm (though most common throughout 1941 and 1942 was the 50 mm cannon). It's armour ranged from 5–70 mm throughout the war. Its max speed on the road was 40 km/h.

Italian Tanks:

~~ to complete later.