Armoured Division War Establishment - May 1945

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Gassing_Badgers, Sep 13, 2011.

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  1. Hi folks - can anyone help with this?

    In May 1945 the Armoured Division's Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment disappeared from the establishment, replaced by a 4th Armoured Regiment (which in effect they had been anyway).

    Did the extra Regiment remain under Divisional control (as was the Armd Recce Regt), or was it assigned to the Armd Bde with the other 3 Regts?

    Also, does ayone know if it was intended that this regiment retain some of the duties of the Armd Recce Regt - i.e. screening, exploitation, coup de main operations etc?

    Many thanks!
  2. I think the answer is in your question. The Armoured Recce Regiment in the 1944 British Armoured Division was generally used as an exctra armoured Regiment. The 1945 establishment shows the fourth Regiment as an armoured regiment. Here is a link to a page on these orbats. The change in orbat is to swap 30 light tanks for 15 medium tanks
  3. Thanks for that - that certainly answers my question that the 4th Armoured Regiment remained a Div asset.

    I think most Armd Recce Regts in 21st Army Group changed their ORBATs to the May 1945 establishment regardless, and the latter was simply a formalisation of the fact.

    The re-org doesn't seem to address the need to battlegroup armour and infantry without the use of the 4th regiment (be it Armd Recce or Armd), so the question reamins as to whether this Regt was actually employed separately to the Bdes?
  4. Good god.

    Why are you interested in this dull orbat matter? What is the point you are trying to make or research?
    There were no "Battlegroups" in the British Army until the nuclear age. The concept had beeen a discredited experiment in the
    8th Army under Auchinlhek.

    If you want to explore the ide. you need to read a lot more history. Start with the histories of the armoured divisions and of trhe regiments woithin them. I'd be interested to see the evidence for the 4th Regiment being used differently
    You also need to read about the development of British Army Doctrine. Richard Holmes covered this ground in 1996 in his contribution to a conference on the development of doctrine.
  5. Funnily enough, it was reading some of Ian Daglish's work that got me to this point. During Bluecoat, apparently Roberts of 11th armoured preferred to pair his 4 armoured regiments (incl the Armd Recce Regt) with 4 infantry battalions (1 in the Armd Bde, 3 in the Inf Bde) to make 4 independant 'battlegroups' (although not in the modern sense of the term).

    So my question was really as to why the Armd Recce Regt remained a Div asset, separate from the Bdes, when experience showed that it was probably better employed as part of a combined arms force in the main body?

    So sorry if you think that's dull...
  6. I think you are looking at cause and effect. You are right. It isnlt that dull because it exposes some bits of the innards of how the British Army worked in WW2.

    Just because the establishment tables and orbats of the Seventh version of the Armoured Division had an un-brigaded Armoured Recce Regiment does not mean that it had to be used in that way. In practice the Armoured Recce Regiment came to be used as just another Armoured Regiment. Recce tended to be provided by attached Armoured Car Regiments nominally Corps Troops. (The Nafziger version has some typos) Indeed the 11th and Guards Armoured Divisions paired armour with infantry units , and the Guards came up with the infamous Company Squadron group commanded by syndicate discussion. The eighth and ultimate version of the Wartime Armoured Division Establishment has the fourth armoured regiment, reflecting the experience of campaigning in NW Europe.

    If you want to find out how the seventh version of the Armnoured Division was supposed to work there might be some RAC publication. However, the fact that there were eight different establishments for Armoured Divisions during the six war years says something about the consistency and confidence in British Armoured Doctrine. By comparison the Germans had three versions of a Panzer Division, with the changes driven by strategic factors. Richard Holmes presented a paper on the development of British doctrine in the mid 1990s. The picture emerged of contradictory approaches advocated by the Director of Army Training and the RAC as well as opinions by field commanders. E.g. Montgomery's Publications "Commanding a Division and Commanding a Corps"

    I don't know why it remained outside the Armoured Brigade. Maybe there was some MS reason all about the number of CRs to be written. Maybe whoever drew up the orbat did not want to give the Armoured Brigade commander organic command over five of the eight combat units. Maybe a balanced version would have the fourth armoured Regiment in the Divisional Infantry Brigade, but there might have been reservations about putting an armoured Rwegiment under the command of an infantyrman or a wish to ensure that the Diovision was not fought as two unbalanced brigades.
  7. Thanks.

    I do wonder whether the failure of the separate Armd Recce Regt as a concept was more due to its unsuitability to the task, or whether they found it simply left the Bdes with one less Armd Regt that could have been more gainfully employed fighting alongside the infantry?

    Daglish tends to suggest the former in this paper - - but I can't help but feel that this paints an overly pessimistic view of the capabilities of an Armd Recce unit based on the Normandy terrain, and that the latter reason must have been significant given our inability to organise an Armoured Division over so many iterations to be fit for purpose.

    It does seem there were some advantages to having a separate Armd Regt trained to operate semi-independantly at div level for exploitation or coup de main type operations - think 'C' Sqn Canandian Armd Recce at St Lambert-Sur-Dives, or 2nd Northants Yeo (+ KSLI) at Bull Bridge. I don't know if those units were chosen specifically for those missions, or whether they were just at the right place at the right time.

    The American experience of WW2 was generally to find that their cavalry reconnaissance units were too light for the majority of tasks given them (namely security, and offensive/defensive ops), so it's interestingly to see how two countires operating in the same theatre ended WW2 with very different corporate mindsets on what reconnaissance units should look like.
  8. I don’t agree with everything Ian has written and sadly we are no longer in a position to ask him for clarification.

    However, I do agree that the Armoured Recce Regiments doesnlt look like a well thought through concept. The only difference in equipment between an Armoured and Armoured Recce Regiments is that the Armoured Recce Regiment has 30 instead of 11 light tanks and 40 instead of 55 Mediums. One could build one of these by cross attaching a medium Recce Squadron to an Armoured Regiment. Was there ever an RAC pamphlet produced on commanding an armoured Recce Regiment?

    Maybe this might have been useful in the Western Desert but not in Italy or Normandy where any advance would need infantry somewhere close up front.

    Ian emphasises the German recce as “armoured” I think it was the amount of infantry in the German recce rather than heavy armoured cars which enabled German recce to fight for information and hold the line as combat troops. The Aufklaerungs Battalions had two infantry companies and a heavy weapons company rather than the British “support troop per squadron” A German Armoured Recce Battalion could form the basis of a fighting battle group in a way that the British Recce couldn’t

    I dontlt hink the Armoured Recce had the organic resources to act as an advance guard or coup de main force without attacting additional infantry. It was an armoured regiment with too few mediuam tanks and too many useless light ones.
  9. I think you've got it there.

    Perhaps a better ORBAT for those kinds of missions (coup de main, advanced guard etc) would have been to have attached a support troop to each Cromwell Sqn (as in the Recce Sqn of an Infantry Division's Recce Regt), plus an additional motor rifle company?

    I was going to suggest the addition of armoured/scout car troops, but on reflection, it might be better leave that capability where it lay in the Divisional Armoured Car Regiment.

    Personally, I feel there is far too little debate in today's army on these sorts of matters - we are all too willing to quote doctrine (and its axioms) verbatim without any analysis of the historical precedent which led us there.
  10. Not sure, but this article seems to suggest that the Armd Recce Regt recieved extra training in map reading and communications compared to the default setting for an Armd Regt:

    Reconnaissance - World War 2 Talk
  11. The Natal Mounted Rifles were the armoured recce regt of 6th SA Armoured Div in Italy 1944-45 and in fact they did something similar to this. One squadron was converted (or reverted) to infantry in Aug 1944 and troops attached to the other two sqns. Eventually the whole NMR became an infantry unit again in Feb 1945 when 13 SA Motorised Bde was formed. From then on the Pretoria Regt (an armoured regt) was used as the divisional advance guard at times and formed an "assault & recce" sqn but I don't know what the war establishment for this was- presumably it included an infantry-type element.

    Circumstances were a bit different in Italy and the div had no armoured car regt attached.
  12. Thanks - and very interesting!
  13. One possible reason for the the apparent demise of the fourth armoured recce regiment may have been the advent of air recce? Having a far greater range and scope of the battlefield, possibly encouraged those on high to revert them to the normal armoured role? However this does not take into account the pertinent facts of weather, airframe availability or simply, was it day or night? There simply was no air recce at night. The ground recce units of the day were a 24 hr operation and would use anything that they had to achieve their goals, from medium tanks (if they could get them), light tanks, armoured cars, motorbikes mounted with machine guns and even dismounted troops in trucks. There were also what was referred to as Army co-operations sqns, which consisted of RAF Lysander spotter planes, 2pdr A/T Guns and again Bren carriers and dismounted troops. If nothing else, it shows that the armoured units of the day were flexible in their approach to the role, and could be adapted to suit either recce or Assault, as well as their other role of security...Which may be have been another reason for it's demise??
  14. Increased use of air recce and other sources (SIGINT, special forces etc) may have played a part. Also I think there was a need for "normal" infantry or armour who could conduct recce tasks when necessary and fight "normal" battles. As for the type of recce units by the end of the war you basically had three in the field army:
    1. Armoured recce regt (in an armoured div)- ostensibly using mixed troops of cruiser/medium and light tanks in its three sqns but in reality at least in North-West Europe from shortly before/after D-Day (I forget which) typically organised and equipped very similarly to a normal armoured regt. This reflected in the formal change taking place near the end of the war.
    2. Recce regt (in an infantry div)- equipped with armoured cars, light recce cars and carriers as well as assault troops in its three recce sqns plus 6-pdr AT guns and 3-in mortars in its HQ sqn. Also capable of operating dismounted.
    3. Armoured car regt (corps troops but as said above often attached to an armoured div)- used mixed troops of (mainly Daimler) armoured cars and scout cars in its four sabre sqns plus some heavy armoured cars or 75mm half-tracks.

    There were RAF army co-operation sqns with Lysanders in 1940 but AFAIK they did not include any ground troops. Later army co-op sqns became tactical recce sqns and were equipped with Kittyhawks and then Mustangs. There were also later on in the war RA/RAF air observation post sqns flying light aircraft, mainly Austers and Pipers. Their main role as the name suggests was spotting for artillery.
  15. It is interesting and has a lot of detail on the establishment and organisation. Howeve, its not what could be described as a rigourous analysis. For example
    It doesn't make it clear that this would not stretch to a squadron of tanks and a couple of copmpanies of infantry to operate as an advance guar as might be formed from their German opposite number.

    It mentions the Challenger , but not the fact that they were not avbailable for a significasnt slice of the Normandy campaign as they had not been designed to wade! (I also have a suspicion that one reason for having Armoured Recce Regiments was to find a riole for the Cromwel, which was otherwsiae inferior to the Sherman in every importnat respect. l