Anti-tank Guns

Anti-tank guns are direct fire weapons, and the principles of deployment of anti-tank guns laid out in Infantry Training 1937 held good during the War and for Home Defence: “The anti-tank guns will be sited to cover the probable avenue of tank approach and localities liable to tank attack. They should be disposed in depth, and concealment will be of importance, as the enemy will attempt to neutralize them by fire and smoke, if located. Full use should be made of the mobility of anti-tank guns, and alternative positions should be reconnoitered and prepared. It will sometimes be advisable for guns to be kept in mobile reserve under cover ready to move to prepared positions as soon as the direction of the tank attack is disclosed”.  

 

The anti-tank gun relies entirely on surprise and concealment. They should therefore be sited defiladed from the front, be well dug in and should engage tanks in enfilade in order to avoid striking the tank in front where the armour is thickest.  Guns were also to be sited in relation to obstacles, either with the object of destroying tanks while negotiating an obstacle or destroying those shepherded by obstacles onto a chosen killing area.   It was also desirable to hold a reserve of guns so that they could be deployed in localities to meet any tank attack which may develop. Once Anti-tank guns opened fire, their position was liable to be disclosed – it was therefore important that they withhold their fire until enemy tanks were close enough to ensure the certainty of immediate surprise effect and that alternative positions were prepared that guns could move too.  However after the loss of equipment suffered by the BEF in France 1940, it would not be until mid-1941 that these principles could be fully applied.

 

The first Anti-Tank Regiment arriving in Suffolk on July 2nd, 66th Anti-Tank Regt., was desperately short of guns and equipment – it only had two 2-pdr guns which were deployed on the coast at Covehithe .  The rest of the Regt was deployed as infantry, with the task of manning the line of River Blyth against an attack from the north and the close defence of Halesworth.

 

Right: 2 pdr Anti-tank Gun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By August 1940, a number of “fancy equipments” had been adapted for an anti-tank role – for example mobile and static 6 pdrs and mobile 4” guns, which at first were manned by 66th Anti-Tank Regt and Field Regt’s.  

 

The 6 pdrs were naval guns with a shortened muzzle so they could be mounted in tanks. The mobile guns were mounted on carriages consisting of the back axles of 30 cwt civilian Lorries suitably strengthened.  

 

The first four mobile 4” guns arrived in Suffolk in June 1940, manned by Naval personnel (P 5 Battery) from Portsmouth under the command of Lt. Wintle R.N and were initially quartered at Glevering Hall. The White Ensign was flown from a flag staff on the lawn, a portion of the front drive was railed off to act as the “quarter-deck” and should the CRA 55th Div ring up when Lt Wintle was off duty, he was informed that he was “ashore”!  The guns were mounted on specially strengthened Forden Lorries, with armoured cabins for the drivers and a LAA gun tacked on the back. They carried 25 rounds of ammunition. The guns could fire fore and aft and had a traverse of almost 25˚. The Naval detachment was soon called back to Portsmouth but left the guns, which were taken over by 120 Field Bty. The next batch of eight mobile 4” guns  arrived from the Woolwich Arsenal and  had been manufactured by the Army. These were mounted high on enormous Lorries and could only fire astern. These were nicknamed “Susies”.  The “Susies” were at first manned by 115 Field Bty, 32nd Field Regt, who had lost all their equipment at Dunkirk. The role of these mobile 4” guns was an anti-tank role on roads leading from the beaches. The four Naval guns under 120 Field Bty left Suffolk for London during August 1940.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      Above: Left - the Naval version of the mobile 4" Gun.  Right - The Army version, the "Susies"

 

11 Corps made some effort to standardize the roles of theses various “fancy equipments”. Field Regts were to be relieved of manning these guns.  Two pounder anti-tank guns were to be withdrawn from Beach Defence to rear areas for training purposes and to act as a mobile reserve from which they could move to provide depth to the forward defences. The new general layout was to deploy the static pieces in a Beach Defence role. The mobile pieces would operate in a mobile zone in the rear. The static 6-pdrs for Beach Defence were to be found by withdrawing them from the GHQ Line and would replace 2-pdr and 18-pdr guns. It was planned to cover the Eastern Command Line by emplacing 13 static 6-pdrs withdrawn from the GHQ Line, and manned by 32nd Field Regt, although only three were ever installed in Suffolk. As well emplacements were made to defend important inland communication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Left - Concrete emplacement, 6 pdr gun for beach defence, Corton. As well as the Stop Lines, it was also planned to guard other key points with static

anti-tank guns, the middle and right images show a unique one-off design pillbox for a 6 pdr anti-tank gun, Wilford Bridge, Melton. Whether this gun was ever

emplaced is not know.

 

During September, 66th Anti-tank  Regt also began to receive more 2-pdr guns complete with new 15-cwt gun towing trucks. With the relief of 55th Div by 42nd Div in October, 56th  Anti-tank Regt took over the role of 66th Ant-tank Regt. It sited its 2-pdr guns on ridges of high ground running inland from the coast, protecting the approaches inland from the coast. However the mobile reserve only consisted of two 2-pdr guns.

 

By 1941, 64 Anti-tank Regt had all its 2 pdrs in a mobile reserve under the command of the Infantry Brigades  of 15th Div, to be moved with the least possible delay to prepared positions from which to engage enemy tanks which either penetrated through the forward infantry localities or attacked from inland . The majority of the static 6-pds sited in the forward infantry localities had a primary anti-tank tank role, either to engage tanks on the beaches or in enfilade against tank routes leading back from the beaches. Although manned by Defence or Medium Regts, they came under the command of the relevant Battery Commander of the 64th Anti-tank Regt, the Battery Commanders in effect acting as Anti-tank Group Commanders in the sub-areas. The mobile 4” guns had a primary role of engaging barge concentrations within 2,000 yards of the coast and enfilading tanks on the beaches.

 

Some of the 75mm guns received from the United States were allocated to the Anti-tank Regts as well as the Field Regts, to act as mobile anti-tank guns. By 31st July 1941 64 Anti-tank Regt had 36 two-pounders and nine 75mm’s.

 

By the end of 1941 it was realized that most of the mobile anti-tank guns would be ineffective against the new German tanks. As a result, ‘Bargain Scheme’ was set up nationally in order for heavy anti-aircraft guns to move to the coast in an anti-tank role in the event of an invasion. In Suffolk, 54th Division was to receive guns from 103rd Heavy A.A Regiment.

 

 

2pounder2 H_002570 mobile4inch1 6 pdr emplacement, Corton 2010_0419nmr0067 2010_0419nmr0076 DSCF6125