German 88mm v British 3.7"

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by lancslad, Jan 10, 2007.

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  1. Under threat of violence from Mrs. lancs I was clearing out some old military texts last night and came across a fairly old reference to the British 3.7" AA gun being almost identical to the German Flak 88.

    That being the case does anybody know why the British Army in WW2 did not replicate with the 3.7" the German tactics that involved the application of the 88mm as a tank-killer?

  2. Related discussion over at Tanknet.
  3. I haven't looked at the other thread but when addressing a role the munition fired is more important than the calibre of the weapon. If an AP round was not readily available for the 3.7" then the normal AA munition would be practically useless against heavy armour other than to make a big noise and scare the crew in the vehicle.
  4. Vague memories that some enlightened high up specifically banned AA guns being used in an anti armour role. His reasoning was - Hmmm.
  5. The answer is very simple and is in 2 parts.

    1. The Brits simply did not have enough of these guns to both protect the UK and to send them abroad and use in the anti-tank role.

    2. The German 88 was of welded contruction while the British gun was riveted. When firing at low angle the shock would soon break the rivets while the German welding could take much more punishment.
  6. There were quite a lot of underused 3.7" in the Middle East that could have been transferred to ground use - obviously making a dramatic difference to the course of the desert war - if such a conversion had been authorised. The "rivets" explanation is well-known, but its hard to believe that the mounts couldn't have been adapted, or suitable ammunition developed, if sufficient priority set. I think it was more a typically War Office case that, no matter how desperate things were going, equipment was only to be used for the role it was initially procured. I imagine that there were a long line of Gunner senior officers ready to block any misuse of the HAA guns....
  7. There were 2 regts of 3.7" guns in Egypt in 1941-2 which could have been used in the ground role bar a few small issues.

    1. 'Joint planning' A trendy 21st C phrase but was still used in the 1940s. Alexandria and more importantly its port needed defending. In order to do this with the limited resources they had use of the Guns and 5 Sqns of fighters. The RAF said that if the guns were removed there would be a capability gap which would need to be filled by something, which they didn't have. So Joint, effects based thinking stopped them being removed to the Army.

    2. And really quite crucially, they didn't have the right sights on them to allow them to hit ground targets effectively. A bit of a stopper that one.
  8. Not really: looking at the many other equipment rabbits that got pulled out of hats (eg Upkeep: conception to Dambuster raid in just 72 days), its easy to imagine a bold commander taking a 3.7" to one of the base workshops in the Canal Zone and saying "make this work against ground targets". Wouldn't have taken long for one of the multitude of existing optical weapon sights to be re-calibrated, and a workable direct-fire mounting to be knocked up. It would also have been quite within the capabilities of a local depot to improvise an AP shell, until such time as an official one was developed back in UK.
  9. Bureaucratic inertia and simple bloody minded dog in the manger cap-badge rivalry. It said AA gun on the makers plate so by God that was what it was going to be used for. How the flexible, innovative Army of 1918 degenerated into the fossilised senility of 1939 has always baffled me.

    It's also worth noting that the 88 had to be modded to be used in the ground role and suitable ammo procured - but the Germans did this prior to WW2 as they could see the advantages. The "rivets" argument articulated above is an excuse after the fact to cover up the appalling stupidity of many gun related decisions in the UK prior to and during WW2. The 17 pdr ATk gun and its belated arrival in tanks is another good example. Frankly, the fact that even at this remove some are keen to claim black is white so that no blame can be seen to attach to individuals who shared their cap badge speaks volumes. (Edited to add: This remark is not aimed at any poster here, rather at the party line that gets trotted out)

    Finally, I'd offer as a contrast the oft quoted example of the German Army officer who arrived in a village to stem an attack to find a Luftwaffe battery of 88s about to bug out. He held a pistol to the Luftwaffe OC's head, they stayed and saved the day. Congratulations and medals all round. Had a British Army Officer done the same he'd have been court-martialled and cashiered.
  10. The (rather good) 3.7 in was used fairly extensively later in the war in the ground role. True, the threat from the air had pretty much disappeared by then, but my grandfather's unit (115 HAA Regt (TA) RA - 361, 365 and 367 Btys) regularly enagaged ground targets in NW Europe. From what I can recall from the War Diary, targets usually consisted of infantry and soft skinned vehicles using air burst. No mention of armour. I have seen a fair chunk of footage showing this type of gun being used in a similar fashion in the Far East.

    Hans Von Luck was the German officer in the pistol incident by the way and if that scarey sod pitched up threatening to kill me I might well have relented.....

    Pip pip


    Attached Files:

  11. Just out of curiosity what was the calibre of the 17 pounder mentyion above?
  12. I wrote something about this a few years ago for the RA Journal.

    3.7" Guns were the latest AA weapon in 1939. They replaced the 3" (76.2mm) 20 Pdr AA guns in use from 1917. They were in short supply at the start of the war and the German air threat only diminishes in Britain after mid 1941. However there were plenty of 3.7" guns in the Middle East by mid 1942 when Rommel threatens Egypt.

    Furthermore there was no reason whatsoever to ignore the excellent 3" guns which were given to the Russians and the Merchant Navy after being replaced in the AA defences in 1940-41. AlanBrooke was well aware of their effectiveness as anti tank weapons as he comments about them as forming part of the defence in the event of the Germans landing super heavy tanks. He visits tests of these in the ground role at Larkhill in July 1941. One of these was captured at El Alamein, having been captured by the Germans in Russia and mounted on an SP chassis. (Source RA Journal )

    If a foot note to the HMSO publication on British armour development "The Great Tank Scandal" is to be believed, there were plans to mount these guns on tank chassis in 1941 but the plan was abandoned after the RA and RAC couldn;t agree who would own them.

    The Brits were late to use the 3.7" gun in the AA Role. Killing tanks at long range was definitely a problem from July 1941 to earl;y 1943 when the first 17 Pdr appeared. It was a particular problem in North Africa. When Auchinlek was experimenting with battlegroups they did put some HAA in some battle groups. There were some dead heros on a3.7" gun which held up the German capture of Tobruk for a few hours.

    There is no technical reason why the 3.7" wouldn't work. The carriage might be damaged after 50 rounds, but 50 rounds in an anti tank role might be enough. The 28lb HE shell would hurt even if unfused. The MV is 792 ms It has an AP round - AP shot Mk 5 28lb 1&1/4 oz with tracer for anti tank use. Penetration 117mm/ 1000yds / 30deg
  13. Von Luck told the Luftwaffe officer to forget about waiting for a legal opinion and said ''Entweder sind Sie ein toter Mann, oder Sie können sich eine Medaille erwerben.''

    ("Either you're a dead man or you can win a medal")

    The Flak battery went on to blunt the attack of 11 Armd Div.
  14. 3 Inches as I recall. Is it true that the thing was the best AT gun of the war after the 88 or am I being spun a biased history again?
  15. 3" / 76.2mm is the quoted caliber
    The Americans used a 76mm/ 3" as a AT gun, also on their shermans, but not as good.

    I have read in several places, that the 17-pdr had greater penetrating power than the 88-mm (APDS ammo'?)