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Rising Sun*
05-15-2014, 05:16 AM
On 10 August 1940, as the Battle of Britain was beginning and a German invasion was expected in the face of hopelessly under-equipped home forces, Churchill bravely sent several armoured regiments, sorely needed in Britain, to North Africa to meet the Italian threat.

Meanwhile, armoured production had been ramped up to meet the expected invasion, to replace the nearly 700 British tanks lost in France, but less than half had been replaced.

Around this time Beaverbrook, the newspaper magnate appointed as Minister for Aircraft Production and an early British version of the later Speer on the other side, commandeered scarce armour plate resources to build a pointless fleet of very lightly armoured and severely underpowered vehicles to defend his aircraft factories in the event of an invasion, although by the time his factories were threatened by the invader there would have been little or no point to defending them as there would have been no or insufficient pilots left to make any worthwhile tactical use of whatever very limited production he could manage.

Churchill comes out of this as brave and wise in allocating scarce resources to North Africa. Beaverbrook doesn't. Perhaps it demonstrates the risk in allowing forceful people to create their own little empires, but that is probably the often inevitable other side of the coin of putting forceful people into positions where forceful people are needed, as indeed Beaverbrook was probably needed to ginger up wartime production.

http://www.military-history.org/articles/back-to-the-drawing-board-beaverette-armoured-car.htm

http://www.standardmotorclub.org.uk/page786.html

leccy
05-15-2014, 12:52 PM
Horrible vehicle with terrible handling characteristics - built when there was a desperation abounding all over the UK, little empires formed concerned with their own fiefdom and nothing else.

From what I understood though it did not use armour plate but 11mm mild steel or boiler plate backed by 3" of oak (although that may have been just the Mk I).

RAF modified for airfield AA defence using a Defiant turret

7056

Although you could show an image like this and get people thinking it was used operationally

7057

A Beaverette Mk II From the 1943 film "The Silver Fleet"

There is an understandable reason why they were made in 1940 and used, despite how bad they were and the resources they used, why they were still in service in Southern Ireland into the 1960's is a little harder to understand

Cut down Mk IV's

7058

Rising Sun*
05-16-2014, 09:52 AM
... there was a desperation abounding all over the UK, little empires formed concerned with their own fiefdom and nothing else.

That's the nature of life and committees / directorates / commanders etc.

The more power they're given, the more likely they are to exercise it in their own favour.

Against that, even allowing for the likes of Beaverbrook and his Beaverettes, in the end it probably turned out that those of proper disposition to the main cause generally exercised their power in that direction within their own field of operation, be it Beaverbrook or Speer, or the various other elements on both sides which pursued their own aims as bombers, fighters, tanks, infantry etc.

Inevitably there were the contests between, for example, bomber and fighter commands for resources and their opinions on which could make the greater contribution to victory.

Either by luck or demonstration of the superiority of democratic nations in the face of dictatorships, the balance worked out better in Britain in the crucial early years of WWII when it had scant resources in the air and on land, than it did for the Germans who had vastly greater resources in both areas, which were hugely improved after Britain lost most of its materiel in France.

I'm inclined to go for a 50/50 split between luck and democracy, but whichever it worked out well for what became the Allies after America came in, after France had dropped out after nearly extinguishing British forces and abandoning them when it decided to surrender.

What is forgotten in the magnificent spectacle and impact of Saving Private Ryan and other popular exercises in how America won the war in Europe is that Britain and its Commonwealth stood alone against the numerically much greater forces of Germany and Italy in all theatres in the critical early years when France surrendered to preserve itself, while refusing to allow its considerable fleet outside France to join its former ally Britain. Meanwhile, Britain was heavily reinforced by America giving it significant naval forces to improve its ability to resist the impending German invasion in the summer of 1940. But the fact remains that Britain alone did all the fighting against Germany and Italy in the first couple of years of the war, ably not assisted by the USSR doing its own disgraceful deals with Germany to carve up eastern Europe.

It seems that, however unwise in the bigger picture, little empires such as Beaverbrook's ultimately didn't materially hamper the war effort as Britain fought alone.

Although on narrower view they were still a waste of resources.

leccy
05-16-2014, 11:19 AM
Meanwhile, Britain was heavily reinforced by America giving it significant naval forces to improve its ability to resist the impending German invasion in the summer of 1940.

The 50 old destroyers were good for propaganda purposes when they were leased to Britain in the "Destroyers for Bases" deal, the precursor to the US lend lease program as it was pretty much the end of the UK's monetary reserves having to buy all goods at market value prior to Lend Lease. They were however in poor condition and none were combat ready with most requiring more than three months of dockyard work to make them ready.

Often forgotten is that in 1942 the RN had to supply the US with MS/AS trawlers and and small craft (and maritime patrol aircraft) due to the chronic lack of them in the US to combat the sudden increase in U Boat attacks off the coast and outside the harbours.

JR*
05-19-2014, 10:18 AM
The Beaverette was, in cold, objective terms, a load of rubbish (not even safely bullet-proof) and represented a misapplication of scarce resources. And, as regards personal empires, no better man than Lord Beaverbrook to develop one. In a broader picture, there was a great deal of desperation around in Britain in late-1940-'41, much of it based on the supply of weapons. The BEF had, (substantially) been rescued from capture at Dunkirk and (to a much lesser extent) at other evacuation ports, but they had left most of the British Army's heavy equipment and motor vehicles behind on the beaches, along with a great quantity of light equipment and small arms. By late-1940, there was an extreme urgency to replace this equipment, both for home defence and to respond to the insistent demand of the army in North Africa for resupply and refit. Initially, most of the output of the conventional arms industry had to go to North Africa - which left a considerable hole in home defence equipment. The Beaverette was just one of the unconventional (and usually useless) responses to this situation; it was certainly not alone.

Churchill's courage and prescience in concentrating available resources on Middle East Command, and in other areas of resource deployment, was certainly notable. However, he also sponsored a number of wacky weapons - supposedly as temporary replacements for conventional weapons lost at Dunkirk - that also easily fall into the category of "useless/misapplication of resources". The main ones that come to mind were the various simply-constructed grenade launchers supposed to make up for the extreme shortage of antitank weapons, including the Blacker Bombard (spigot mortar), the Northover Projector (black powder gun) and the Smith Gun (grenade launcher). The effective range (50-100 metres or less) and (in the case of the Blacker Bombard and the Smith Gun) relative immobility of these weapons meant that using them in actual combat was likely to amount to suicide for their crews, a situation exacerbated by the unreliability of much of the ammunition supplied for these weapons. The only upside obviously apparent from the emergency "antitank" weapons programme was the development of the Blacker Bombard's "cousin", the PIAT infantry antitank spigot mortar. This was a very crude weapon, and a pig to use, but (perhaps surprisingly) it proved quite effective in the hands of well-trained troops, and remained in service to the end of the war. As to the others - most never got beyond "guarding the Home Guard home" ...

More generally, I suppose one could say that the "unconventional" antitank weapons, along with the Beaverette, the once-off armoured cars produced by local Home Guard groups, and other unconventional weapons of greater and lesser effectiveness, did serve some purpose in bolstering morale - although, looking at most of them, I am not sure that I would have had my morale boosted much. In terms of effectiveness, and leaving the PIAT aside, the most effective of the unconventional weapons was probably the fearsome "fire fougasse", that could drench a road in liquid fire at the turn of a switch. And the flame fougasse, in the end of the day, consisted of no more than old oil drums buried in or adjacent to road verges, filled with primitive variants of napalm and connected to a wire-controlled detonation charge - ultra-low tech, and not portable, but still, very effective. Best regards, JR.

leccy
05-19-2014, 02:21 PM
Churchill's courage and prescience in concentrating available resources on Middle East Command, and in other areas of resource deployment, was certainly notable. However, he also sponsored a number of wacky weapons - supposedly as temporary replacements for conventional weapons lost at Dunkirk - that also easily fall into the category of "useless/misapplication of resources". The main ones that come to mind were the various simply-constructed grenade launchers supposed to make up for the extreme shortage of antitank weapons, including the Blacker Bombard (spigot mortar), the Northover Projector (black powder gun) and the Smith Gun (grenade launcher). The effective range (50-100 metres or less) and (in the case of the Blacker Bombard and the Smith Gun) relative immobility of these weapons meant that using them in actual combat was likely to amount to suicide for their crews, a situation exacerbated by the unreliability of much of the ammunition supplied for these weapons. The only upside obviously apparent from the emergency "antitank" weapons programme was the development of the Blacker Bombard's "cousin", the PIAT infantry antitank spigot mortar. This was a very crude weapon, and a pig to use, but (perhaps surprisingly) it proved quite effective in the hands of well-trained troops, and remained in service to the end of the war. As to the others - most never got beyond "guarding the Home Guard home" ...

There are many misnomers about the Blacker Bombard not least of which - it was never used in combat

Some official sources I found for some odd weapons - copy paste from a previous post I made on another site.


The National Archive holds records of experiments in mounting a ‘Blacker Bombard’ on a Sherman tank, which took place in 1944, under the auspices of Allied Forces South East Asia.

Beyond that, operational use of the Blacker Bombard/Spigot Mortar on operations in the Far East awaits further research.

Although seeing a Northover projector being demonstrated in Singapore is scarier.

Title: 19 Battalion and Armoured Regiment
Author: Sinclair, D. W.
Publication details:Historical Publications Branch, 1954,Wellington
Part of: The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945


On 1 July 4 Brigade was established in Deir el Munassib. The new month opened with pitiless temperatures and in the wadi where the 19th took up its new position the heat was terrific. Shade was difficult to contrive for there was no material from which shelter could be constructed. The sun beat down into the shallow slit trenches, where in the pause before further action the men tried to catch up on their sleep. Out in front of the position, patrols riding in hot, oil-drenched Bren carriers watched a tank battle develop around Deir el Shein where, unknown to them at the time, 18 Indian Brigade Group was making a gallant stand against the Axis’ first attack on the Alamein Line.

The night proved cooler and was mercifully quiet. The battalion, pleased with the news that it would remain in its present inconspicuous position for another twenty-four hours at least, settled down to sleep. During the darkness a British armoured brigade rattling its way forward through the area added a further sense of security to those badly needed hours of rest. The morning dawned without disturbance, and the first enemy action seen during 2 July (1942) was a flight of bombers which unloaded their cargoes before reaching the battalion area. During the afternoon rumours of an impending enemy armoured attack created a certain amount of tension, PAGE 269and some heavy detonations seemed to signal an approaching battle. On investigation these proved to be nothing more than a nearby unit practising with spigot mortars. The day passed without further incident and the night was again quiet.

Blacker Bombards were issued at least to Indian and NZ troops in the Middle East and used in combat

http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-19Ba-c14.html


There is, though, a ringing endorsement of the combat performance of the 29mm Spigot Mortar, dating from May 1943, when the following entry was published by the War Office in Home Guard Information Circular No. 27:

4. The Spigot Mortar
The following extracted from a letter received from a theatre of operations is published for information.

“… Spigot mortars were used extensively to thicken up A.Tk. defences in our area of … RIDGE – i.e., a defensive and static role during Oct., ’42… 212 They were used with good effect in fwd coy’s FDL’s [forward company’s forward defensive locations] on …RIDGE where the enemy had observation at some 500 yards range. His fire, both mortar and SAA [smallarms], was accurate and heavy and our mortar fire did not have much effect. A spigot mortar was
put in position during the night and succeeded in subduing the enemy’s fire using AP bombs…

“… Even if we had more inf. A.Tk. guns we would still use spigots in defence as they were so very inconspicuous, have a tremendous hitting power and are very simple to teach and learn…”39


The entry was sponsored by War Office department HG1(T), i.e. Home Guard training, and raises the question of where this action, in which the 29mm Spigot Mortar proved so effective, took place, and who the satisfied user was. The date of October 1942 suggests the place was Ruweisat Ridge, and the troops involved were from the 8th Army.

A somewhat bemused exchange on an internet forum thread reveals that records in the Australian War Memorial archives show the 9th Australian Division was equipped with 29mm Spigot Mortars at El Alamein. The New Zealand official war history, which is replete with references to weaponry discussed in this thesis – Sticky Bombs, Hawkins mines, and the spigot mortar – and amply demonstrates the degree to which British Dominion forces of 1942 were users of weapons that we now associate solely with the Home Guard, indicates that the 29mm Spigot Mortar reached New Zealand troops in North Africa in June 1942:

The ground at Minqar Qaim was extremely hard and, although the urgency of the task kept many of the troops digging till well after midnight on 26-27 June, some slit trenches were still very shallow and sangars had, in some cases, been built up from the excavated rocks. The digging-in of the spigot mortars, the new but rather big and clumsy infantry anti-tank weapons which were supposed to be most effective if a hit was scored at 100 yards range, proved virtually impossible in the time available. The news that the enemy had ‘broken through’ at Charing Cross stimulated the diggers to make fresh efforts.41

JR*
05-20-2014, 04:30 AM
Interesting patches, leccy. I was aware of the fact that the Blacker Bombard had received limited deployment in North Africa. It may even have been used in combat to a limited extent - although this would only have been for a short period. Reports "from the front" to the Home Guard are open to some suspicion, I think. After all, the Home Guard received substantial numbers of these things, and it may have been thought that their confidence in the weapon needed some reinforcement.

The Blacker Bombard had one advantage - it launched a range of powerful grenades, including antitank grenades. Otherwise - it was, as one of these extracts suggests, very big and clumsy by the standards of "infantry antitank" weapons, and very difficult to move even when not in combat. It required a crew of 3 to 4, and had to be fired either from a large, low, spider-like mount, or (as was often the case with the Home Guard) from fixed concrete mounts dug in to circular pits (people taking charge of their new houses in Britain still trip over one of these pits in their back gardens). As I said, and unlike its "cousin", the PIAT, it was very difficult to move, a problem made worse by what was, perhaps, its principal drawback - its very short range. Although longer ranges were claimed, the fact is that the Blacker Bombard had a range of, at most, some 100 metres; in practice,, probably rather less. As a result, the crew, facing tanks, would in all likelihood be close to overrun before they could launch their first effective shot. Unless the enemy attack was broken up almost immediately, their only options were to fight it out hand-to-hand with the tanks' supporting infantry or to retreat (sharpish) leaving the Bombard behind them. Frankly, in most situations, they would have been better off with a couple of PIATs. Best regards, JR.

leccy
05-20-2014, 04:53 AM
The PIAT was not in service - these were, there are reports of the Australians using them in Tobruk, the Indians and NZ using them at El Alamein.

Most reports I have read so far though they used the AP - Anti Personnel round - a 14lb round with a range up to 500m and pretty accurate. In effect giving the frontline soldier a direct fire HE weapon for use in defence. A friend has been up to Kew to look in the archives as we found hints that someone modified the mounting onto a universal carrier - awaiting his results as he dug up lots of info from the war office archives that contradicts the widely accepted views.

Home guard confidence in the Blacker Bombard was mixed - some units loved them others hated them (or more their officers did not think they suited mobile warfare, the weapons were for defence though not assault).

Even the Northover Projector was liked but some units despite how crude it was (still better than the Soviet comparable weapon).

JR*
05-20-2014, 07:11 AM
Again, very interesting, leccy. I can see how the Blacker Bombard might have had its uses as part of a mixed defensive system. Still somewhat dubious about the range claimed - although this may have varied, depending on the type of grenade used. I suppose it is true that this niche area requires further research.

Your friend has been up to Kew ? Ah, memories of a misspent youth. Misspent, admittedly, in the old Public Record Office in Chancery Lane; Kew was, I think, just getting off the ground then. How I wish I had stuck to that path, rather than ... well, something else. As retirement beckons, I may yet find my way back to the PRO. Best regards, JR.

Rising Sun*
05-20-2014, 07:38 AM
The Beaverette was, in cold, objective terms, a load of rubbish (not even safely bullet-proof)

It might have been adequate for rifle fire.

The tables at http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=56222 , which are the best I could find, suggest that 7/16" (or 11mm as leccy mentioned) steel is the best that the .303 could penetrate, so 3" of oak behind it (despite the .303 being rated to penetrate a frightening 38" of oak) would probably have been enough to stop a standard .303 load.

My very, very limited understanding is that the standard German Mauser in WWII had lesser penetration. If so, the Beaverette was bullet proof for the purpose for which it was designed in resisting German ground forces.

Whether it was worthwhile, or of much national use for aircraft factories in the dying days of an invasion, or a sound use of limited resources is a very different question.

leccy
05-20-2014, 04:07 PM
Again, very interesting, leccy. I can see how the Blacker Bombard might have had its uses as part of a mixed defensive system. Still somewhat dubious about the range claimed - although this may have varied, depending on the type of grenade used. I suppose it is true that this niche area requires further research.

Your friend has been up to Kew ? Ah, memories of a misspent youth. Misspent, admittedly, in the old Public Record Office in Chancery Lane; Kew was, I think, just getting off the ground then. How I wish I had stuck to that path, rather than ... well, something else. As retirement beckons, I may yet find my way back to the PRO. Best regards, JR.



November 1943, the apogee of the force in terms of training and equipment:

Home Guard Instruction No. 51, Part IV, The Organization of Home Guard Defence, GHQ Home
Forces, November 1943, p.15.

Northover Projector using: - Maximum.........Best
68 grenade...........................60 yards.......50 yards
76 SIP grenade.....................120 ,,...........70 ,,
36 grenade-
4 sec. fuze..........................150 ,,
7 sec. fuze..........................200 ,,

29-mm Spigot Mortar:-
20 lb. HE anti-tank................200 ,,...........100 yards
14 lb. HE anti-personnel.........750 ,,...........400 ,,

3-inch OSB Gun:-
8 lb. HE anti-personnel..........650 ,,............150 ,,
6 lb. HE anti-tank.................200 ,,............100 ,,

2-pr., armour piercing shot.....500 ,,............200 ,,

People also say it was a liability due to having to be loaded from the front

Pak 36 with Stielgranate 41,

7066

Or the pit required

Puppchen in firing position

7067

The designer of the Blacker Bombards original proposal was for the weapon to be mounted on a two wheel carriage which would have made it much more mobile.