Jump to content


Photo

British Equipment And Generals Suck, Part Deux.


  • Please log in to reply
730 replies to this topic

#1 Murph

Murph

    Hierophant Lord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,136 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 0851 AM

Watching the History Chanel, or perhaps the Military channel, I was struck once again at how "behind the curve" the Brits were in both tanks and generalship compared to almost everyone. Most interestingly was the, what I observe as poor generalship. British generals seem afflicted with the Slows, for some reason. Was the a consequence of no manpower, or a symptom of a deeper problem?

We can all agree that it took the British till 1947 to get a good tank produced in the Centurion.
  • 0

#2 R011

R011

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 6,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 0915 AM

I would say that British tanks were better than American until 1941 and as good or better from 1943 on.  Even in the 1941-43 period, the Soviets seemed to prefer the Valentine over the Lee and Stuart (though they weren't much impressed by the Matilda and Churchill).  The Cromwell and Churchill were at least as good as the 75 mm armed Sherman, if not better.  Australia, for instance, chose the Churchill over the Sherman.  The Comet was superior to the 76 mm armed Sherman and the Centurion Mk1, which came out only a few months after the M26, was as good or better than the American tank.

 

OTOH, I'm not as impressed by the Centurion as some people are.    It wasn't much better armed and armoured than the M47 and M48, until the L7 came out, and was mechanically less reliable until the engine and transmission were replaced by M60 components.  If I were buying tanks i the early fifties, all else being equal, I'd buy American.  Chieftain was pretty good, though it could have used with an automotive reworking.


  • 0

#3 John(txic)

John(txic)

    Crew

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 127 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1101 AM

The Ghosts of the Somme were always there....


  • 0

#4 Yama

Yama

    Finntroll

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 7,014 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1211 PM

I think that British tank design for long carried excessive WW1 baggage. In Great War, tanks were basically mobile machine-gun pillboxes which slowly & irresistibly chewed enemy line to pieces and let infantry through. Germans, Soviets and later US more readily embraced fast tank concept which was later to become Main Battle Tank.

As for generalship, I'm not sure Brits were behind anyone, except Germans, and everyone was behind Germans in that respect until very late in the war.

 

ps. Lions led by donkeys. :P


Edited by Yama, 23 November 2013 - 1212 PM.

  • 0

#5 Colin

Colin

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 16,993 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1229 PM

The US was not much better at the entry of WWII, look at the Medium M2 tank. The US at that time had a better and more innovative automotive base. At the the entry of WWII the Brits had a winner of a tank in the Matilda, but lacked a better gun for it. Dunkirk threw off their production schedule and slowed any new development. If not for that, the 6 pdr would have been issued sooner. The Valentine was a decent tank when it came out. The big drawback of these two was a lack of development potentiel.  


  • 0

#6 Marek Tucan

Marek Tucan

    Powerpoint Ranger, Chairborne

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,973 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1310 PM

The "slows" are often exaggerated. US generals also got cases of slows or "Idontcare".

 

Tank problems were not that much case of British army being behind, but of the industry being behind. Also US seem to have struck the lucky spot with the "M3-like" suspension, that was easily scalable and upgradeable... Along with having better mass production facilities. OTOH Brits were ahead in guns - though the biggest US sin in this aspect is probably the same as everyone else's, testing guns against own armor specs instead of enemy ;)  And being too cautious about guns, as experience showed they could take hotter loads safely.

 

Britain also suffered from what everyone did: "our fleets of heavy bombers carrying 50 kg bombs will wipe the enemy cities from the face of earth and it'll be over by Christmas" ;)


  • 0

#7 Colin

Colin

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 16,993 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1325 PM

I wonder how a North African campaign would have went with Brits armed with 6 pdr equipped Cromwell and not suffering the losses of Dunkirk. Which supposes the events in North Africa would have happened if the Germans failed to capture France and drive out the UK. Everything I have read seemed to hinge around Dunkirk and the need to get anything out to the troops much less newer and better equipment. As mentioned British industry didn't seem to scale as well as North America. I also wonder if Dunkirk became an excuse not to change the status qua after awhile. 


  • 0

#8 Murph

Murph

    Hierophant Lord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,136 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1642 PM

No, Stuart, you shall not....  Actually, I intended this as a more free wheeling discussion more so of the British War from 1939-1945.  Looking at the generalship, one finds a lot of duds, for lack of better word.  Monty was certainly no firebreather, actually he probably was just as bad, as MacArthur.  IIRC the only really good British General was Slim, with Cunningham his RN equal in terms of ability.  But really is it poor leadership, or a realistic appreciation that the UK could not suffer the horrific casualties of yesteryear?  Or was it that British generals were afflicted with a case of the slows, and poor decision making when it came to missing opportunities. 

 

I am NOT wanting this to degenerate into "our piss poor generals, were no worse than YOUE piss poor generals".  Instead why did certain generals rise to the top, and why is the hagiography on them so lauditory when there were other generals/admirals/Air Commodores, etc that were better, and more able at the new mobile warfare?

 

Also why did it take the British Army so [email protected] long to get a good tank?  Rude Mechanicals has a good look at this, glad it was suggested, but who needed to be shot?

 

 

Must.. resist. Must resist...

 

aaaghggh!!!!

:P


  • 0

#9 Murph

Murph

    Hierophant Lord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,136 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1644 PM

One question I have always had, why was Canada not used to its economic potential as the workshop of the Empire, same goes with India.  Canada certainly could have developed along the US model, and cranked out masses of tanks, planes, etc. 

 

I wonder how a North African campaign would have went with Brits armed with 6 pdr equipped Cromwell and not suffering the losses of Dunkirk. Which supposes the events in North Africa would have happened if the Germans failed to capture France and drive out the UK. Everything I have read seemed to hinge around Dunkirk and the need to get anything out to the troops much less newer and better equipment. As mentioned British industry didn't seem to scale as well as North America. I also wonder if Dunkirk became an excuse not to change the status qua after awhile. 


  • 0

#10 R011

R011

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 6,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1910 PM

 

One question I have always had, why was Canada not used to its economic potential as the workshop of the Empire, same goes with India.  Canada certainly could have developed along the US model, and cranked out masses of tanks, planes, etc.

 

Actually we did - or made a very good effort.  Keep in mind that Canada was less industrially developed proportionately than the US or UK.  In spite of that we built a large number of escorts, most of the Commonwealth's trucks, and a great deal of other equipment.

 

http://en.wikipedia....y_of_production

 

With 23% of the UK's population, Canada made:

20% of the number of tanks and SP guns made by the UK;
35% of the number of artillery pieces made by the UK;
85% of the number of machine-guns made by the UK;
170% of the number of trucks made by the UK;
58% of the tonnage of merchant shipping made by the UK;
52% of number of escorts made by the UK; and
12% of the number of aircraft made by the UK.

 

Not that all was as good as we would have liked..  One serious issue was that Canada's electronics industry was particularly undeveloped.  This meant that Canadian factories were dependent on foreign designs and by the time those designs were in production, they had been superseded by newer ones in the US and Britain.  This had serious implications for the Navy.  Canada also had no significant aircraft industry before the war so total aircraft production ended up being about 12% of the UK's.

 

On the other hand, Canada was one of the Allies major agricultural producers.

 

As for India, British policy had been to encourage it as a market for British goods, not a competitor.  Not surprisingly, India went from having a per capita GDP equal to Europe in the mid eighteenth century to being a the poster image of a Third World country in the mid twentieth.  To change that would have required a sea-change in British policy starting well before the Great War.


  • 0

#11 R011

R011

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 6,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1926 PM

 

Also why did it take the British Army so [email protected] long to get a good tank?  Rude Mechanicals has a good look at this, glad it was suggested, but who needed to be shot?

 

As I said earlier, there's really only two years when British tanks were not competitive with German and American designs.


  • 0

#12 swerve

swerve

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 14,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 1954 PM

R011:

 

A quibble: recent scholarship suggests that India fell behind Europe before the 18th century, though it was better off then than in the mid 19th century. Income per head probably declined from about 1600 until the early 19th century, & didn't get back to the 1600 level until ca 1900. It only definitely exceeded the 1600 level in the 1960s.

 

The earliest date for which anyone has produced an estimate of GDP per head for India which can be said to be based on data is ca 1600, using Mughal data, in particular the compilation of Empire-wide data on prices, wages, crops, tax yields etc produced in 1595 by Abul Fazl, Vizier to Emperor Akbar. This shows an empire comparable in wealth per head to much of Europe, but well behind the leading countries. It was probably on a par with western Europe before the Black Death, which reduced both population & total production, but left the survivors much better off - something which does not seem to have happened in India. The rich may have been richer than the rich in Europe, but the poor were more numerous & even poorer. There were regional differences, but apart from late 18th century estimates for British Bengal (poorer than average - there was a catastrophic famine, which didn't affect most of India), no quantification of them.

 

From 1600, it was downhill for at least 200 years.


  • 0

#13 Ken Estes

Ken Estes

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 14,784 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2002 PM

In the main, it comes down to when a country rearmed after WWI with modern weapons, complemented by new doctrine and training for troops and leaders. Secondarily, there is also the question of which services held priority. Until WWII/1942, it was about a 10 year cycle, with the new weapons peaking in their effectiveness around year 5-7, obsolescent by year 10. WWII accelerated the latter a bit.

 

Those that rearmed too early, e.g. Italy and the USSR c.1930, reached peak effectiveness for the given technologies around 1938-39, obsolescent by 1941. The Russians could launch a second generation around 1938, based upon shortcomings of the Spanish Civil War in armor and a/c, reaching peak effectiveness by 1943-45. The Western Allies begin to rearm in 1938, US not until 1940 although 'preparedness' for the latter dated from 1939. France is a victim of her geography and is knocked out before new planes and tanks can be placed in the hands of trained troops and leaders. UK and USA reach effectiveness levels starting in mid-1943, especially in aircraft and ships, where their priorities lay. The Germans and Japanese rearm in 1934/36 and peak out in 1942. They saw new technologies and requirements but were unable to implement them in time. They had to have won by 1943, mid-1943 at that, for the remaining western Allies and the USSR were already reaching technological effectiveness with the advantages of total war economies/production and with no significant interference by strategic bombardment or commerce raiding.

 

Only the USSR had a second shot in the event called WWII, largely because of its five year plans since 1928 and the impetus of early combat experiences in the mid-1930s subsequently modifying the machines earmarked for the new generation of 1940. The Germans and Japanese had a narrow window of advantage, if one can call it an advantage to face greater populations and larger economies from the outset.

 

All this junk would be obsolescent or obsolete by end/1945 with the exception of machines placed into production 1944-45. Winning was everything, to no surprise.


  • 0

#14 Murph

Murph

    Hierophant Lord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,136 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2019 PM

Interesting post Ken.  Comments on Generalship for the Brits?


  • 0

#15 Colin

Colin

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 16,993 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2102 PM

Canada was arming up in 1936-38, including purchasing 2 C-class RN destroyers and building up it's Minesweepers, i suspect the threat was war was high on their minds, but only so much funding could be had. At the same time British experts were detailing the plans to defend both the west and East coast of Canada.

From my brief reading on the subject, it would seem the British Army got the short end of the industry stick and much was allocated to the RAF and RN. Note even when they did get into full swing of 6 pdr production, they could not make the longer barrelled version due to shortages of lathes.

 

Beyond what they did in real life, I would recommend that they purchase enough PBY's or Stranners to equip 2 coastal patrol squadrons. Sign onto the US tank/Combat testing (with some funding as well, which would likely make them welcome. this would likely mean that they could skirt any neutrality issues as well later on) and do a quick study and focus grants onto increasing industrial capacity, such as the aforementioned lathes.      


  • 0

#16 Murph

Murph

    Hierophant Lord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 19,136 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2147 PM

I totally agree, there should have been a long barreled 6 pdr cannon and it should have been on Canadian produced Matilda II's, and later tanks.  Also the US should have assisted Canada in the building of more war industries.  With the British Empire as it was, they should have industrialized the Empire as best they could and used it to produce product.  Alas, they did not, could not.

 

 

Canada was arming up in 1936-38, including purchasing 2 C-class RN destroyers and building up it's Minesweepers, i suspect the threat was war was high on their minds, but only so much funding could be had. At the same time British experts were detailing the plans to defend both the west and East coast of Canada.

From my brief reading on the subject, it would seem the British Army got the short end of the industry stick and much was allocated to the RAF and RN. Note even when they did get into full swing of 6 pdr production, they could not make the longer barrelled version due to shortages of lathes.

 

Beyond what they did in real life, I would recommend that they purchase enough PBY's or Stranners to equip 2 coastal patrol squadrons. Sign onto the US tank/Combat testing (with some funding as well, which would likely make them welcome. this would likely mean that they could skirt any neutrality issues as well later on) and do a quick study and focus grants onto increasing industrial capacity, such as the aforementioned lathes.      


  • 0

#17 DougRichards

DougRichards

    Doug Richards

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 10,257 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2207 PM

 

I totally agree, there should have been a long barreled 6 pdr cannon and it should have been on Canadian produced Matilda II's, and later tanks.  Also the US should have assisted Canada in the building of more war industries.  With the British Empire as it was, they should have industrialized the Empire as best they could and used it to produce product.  Alas, they did not, could not.

 

 

 

You could not have gotten a 6pdr into a Matilda II, the turret ring was far too small.  Perhaps instead the Valentine could have been moved forward a year or two.


  • 0

#18 R011

R011

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 6,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2211 PM

 

I totally agree, there should have been a long barreled 6 pdr cannon and it should have been on Canadian produced Matilda II's, and later tanks. 

 

Such small thinking.  Canada should have tooled up in the thirties to make fifty thousand Leopard 2A6. and an equal number of CV90-40's to go with them.


  • 0

#19 DougRichards

DougRichards

    Doug Richards

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 10,257 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2217 PM

The British had one of the best tanks in the world from 1930 to 1940, except the British military didn't use it.

 

The Vickers 6 Ton was better than its competition, and was the basis for the Polish 7TP and the Soviet T-26.

 

It could be considered that the failure of the British to adopt the Vickers 6 Ton, and then to develop it, lead to the virtually useless British lights of the early war years.  It could have been adapted for either the 2pdr or the 3in CS howitzer, and would have been useful in France and some of teh early desert campaigns.


  • 0

#20 R011

R011

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 6,779 posts

Posted 23 November 2013 - 2224 PM

Canada was arming up in 1936-38, including purchasing 2 C-class RN destroyers and building up it's Minesweepers

 

If there's that much foresight available to the Commonwealth, then some firm diplomatic action backed by a willingness to go to war in 1933-38 would have been better than anything else.

 

As for Canada, one might have been able to make a case even without foresight for increased naval expenditure - probably as a job creation program.  I would suggest adding a dozen ASW sloops optimized for quick building by Canadian shipyards (a proto-River Class frigate), improving infrastructure for building and especially maintaining a fleet, and shadow factories for escort electronics and armament.  Given how tight money was even after King decided to upgrade the Navy in case of war, that's not very likely.  Selling the politicians and the public on any significant increase in army and air force spending, though, would probably have been impossible.


  • 0