PIAT

The story is about a Canadian WWII veteran visiting Italy for the anniversary of his first arrival there in WWII, but one of the pictures associated with the story is of him with a PIAT.
Canadian WW II vets to visit Italy to commemorate the Italian Campaign


Private Edmond Arsenault of The West Nova Scotia Regiment aiming a PIAT anti-tank weapon from a slit trench near Ortona, Italy, Jan. 10, 1944. (Library and Archives Canada/Department of National Defence fonds/a153181)

Edmond Arsenault, now 97 but then of the West Nova Scotia Regiment, will be travelling as part of an official Canadian delegation commemorating the 75th anniversary of the campaign.

Arsenault currently lives in Etobicoke (part of Toronto) with his wife.

There is more about him at the story link, but the above photo and caption is the only PIAT related bit in the story. I thought this might be of interest as it brings the PIAT to the attention of the public at large.
 
Normally I struggle to find image material for books. This thread is making my life so much easier! At least for the PIAT section.

Thanks!
 
The following is of interest, particularly for its mention of the Bombard and the Smith Gun. Note that the documents include National Archives of Canada references.
British Demo
I have severe reservations about that document (I've seen it before). That demo seems to have some very suspicious numbers in it. Suspicious as in "Blatantly wrong". I've got several sources saying that Bombard will kick a hole in 65mm plate, one you can stick your head through. Here its failing at 30mm. My only guess is that it's firing a Anti-personnel round, not the Anti-tank. I suspect its because both the AT and AP rounds were listed as HE, so the organisers figure its the same effect.

Equally I have concerns about the 25 seconds for the bombard into action figure. It seems meaningless. I suspect the gun was set up and the crew were standing around some distance away, with the weapon unloaded. That seems to be the only way to achieve the figure given.
 
I have severe reservations about that document (I've seen it before). That demo seems to have some very suspicious numbers in it. Suspicious as in "Blatantly wrong". I've got several sources saying that Bombard will kick a hole in 65mm plate, one you can stick your head through. Here its failing at 30mm. My only guess is that it's firing a Anti-personnel round, not the Anti-tank. I suspect its because both the AT and AP rounds were listed as HE, so the organisers figure its the same effect.

Equally I have concerns about the 25 seconds for the bombard into action figure. It seems meaningless. I suspect the gun was set up and the crew were standing around some distance away, with the weapon unloaded. That seems to be the only way to achieve the figure given.
It was a live fire demonstration, not a test. It was being used to show off to an ally what they've got. It was not intended to produce a table of measured specifications under controlled conditions. This is a point that he emphasised with respect to the Sten, that it was a firing demonstration, not a test, but that applies equally to the other weapons as well.

Note especially that "demonstration 5" with the Bombard had to be cancelled due to the lack of usable ammunition. It sounds like they had problems with getting enough good quality ammunition for the demonstration, so I wouldn't take the results of "demonstration 2" (firing against armour plate) as meaning anything without knowing more about it. We know there were problems with the ammunition they had there, but we don't know what those problems were, at least not from this document. It may have gone "bang" but it may not have gone "bang" properly. Or it may have been the wrong type of ammunition, but it was all they had available for the demonstration. Or they may have been live fire demonstration/experimentation rounds not intended to do anything other than make a flash and bang (one of the experts here may be able to tell you if they used such things then). We don't know anything other than that there was a lack of properly working ammunition of the correct sort.

What is more interesting is that such demonstrations for allies were taking place, and the impressions gained by this observer as to how usable the equipment was against AFVs and infantry. What he noted about the Bombard and Smith Gun was that compared to the 2 pdr and 6 pdr they were not very good at actually hitting moving targets such as AFVs and that he saw them as being more useful against unarmoured infantry. That's just one opinion, but it's an opinion he was passing on to H.Q. Canadian Corps and N.D.H.Q. and so may have coloured anything further they in turn may have said about them later.

It's also apparently a referenced document in National Archives, and may have produced further correspondence which may be more enlightening. It also gives you a date at R.A. Shoeburyness on which a demonstration took place, which may give you a starting point for digging up any correspondence at their end. It is quite possible that the demonstration was not put on solely for the edification of Lt. Colonel Smith, but rather there may have been a number of officers from various branches who could offer their own opinions.

If I were to use this in a book (I'm not a history author, but let's go with this thought anyway), I would refer to this document in terms of a demonstration was put on for allied military officers. If you can find a corresponding document from Shoeburyness you might find a list of attendees, which might tell you if the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, or anyone else was there as well, or of this was just put on for the Canadians. I would then say that firing demonstrations were put on, but those for the Bombard were limited due to problems with the ammunition. I would then go on to give his impressions on what he thought the practical problems would be with respect to actually using it in combat against AFVs or infantry. If you have other opinions from other sources, then the varying opinions can be contrasted with one another to show the range of opinion on a piece of kit that never actually saw significant combat.

There's two sides to weapon performance after all. There's the purely technical side of velocity, range, penetration, etc., and then there's the operational side of whether the thing is practical to use in combat. It sounds like his misgivings were with the latter, at least with respect to use against AFVs. That doesn't mean that the problems were insurmountable, but it does suggest that there may have been limitations with the weapon in the form that it had then. He felt it might be useful against unarmoured infantry, but doesn't address the question of how it would compare in that role to simply using a mortar.

Those points taken together though may go some way to explaining why the Bombard didn't go beyond its role as a Home Guard weapon once the invasion crisis was past. As an anti-tank gun it appeared to have problems with hitting moving targets. If it were to be used as an anti-personnel weapon, it has to be judged in comparison to other comparable anti-personnel weapons, where it may not have offered any compelling advantages. This is of course my own speculation, but it's food for thought.
 
(...) Equally I have concerns about the 25 seconds for the bombard into action figure. It seems meaningless. I suspect the gun was set up and the crew were standing around some distance away, with the weapon unloaded. That seems to be the only way to achieve the figure given.
To address this point specifically, he said it was the time from when the detachment commander gave the order "Action", so it indeed sounds like the weapons were in position and the crews standing by.
 
Note especially that "demonstration 5" with the Bombard had to be cancelled due to the lack of usable ammunition. It sounds like they had problems with getting enough good quality ammunition for the demonstration, so I wouldn't take the results of "demonstration 2" (firing against armour plate) as meaning anything without knowing more about it. We know there were problems with the ammunition they had there, but we don't know what those problems were, at least not from this document. It may have gone "bang" but it may not have gone "bang" properly. Or it may have been the wrong type of ammunition, but it was all they had available for the demonstration. Or they may have been live fire demonstration/experimentation rounds not intended to do anything other than make a flash and bang (one of the experts here may be able to tell you if they used such things then). We don't know anything other than that there was a lack of properly working ammunition of the correct sort.
Well the Bombard was in a funny place at that time, the Drawings weren't sealed until July, then shortly afterwards had to be unsealed. Ammo was likely just the demo batch for Boosey & Hawkes batch ordered at the start of the year, or the remains of it!

What is more interesting is that such demonstrations for allies were taking place, and the impressions gained by this observer as to how usable the equipment was against AFVs and infantry. What he noted about the Bombard and Smith Gun was that compared to the 2 pdr and 6 pdr they were not very good at actually hitting moving targets such as AFVs and that he saw them as being more useful against unarmoured infantry. That's just one opinion, but it's an opinion he was passing on to H.Q. Canadian Corps and N.D.H.Q. and so may have coloured anything further they in turn may have said about them later.
But the Canadians went mad for the Bombard, McNaughton had a real hard on for the project, and Blacker counted him as an ally. Then they proposed the Canadian pattern, and the silliness starts in earnest. You are correct it wouldn't compare to an Atk-gun, but that's not the right weapon to compare it too. What they're doing is looking at a Carl Gustav RCL and saying its inferior to a L7 105mm, of course there was no support weapon in that class before hand so they can be forgiven for not quite getting its place. Against soft targets the effect was similar to a 3" mortar.

They also had a demo for the Russians, and made a horlicks of it (which triggered Blacker, which is quite an easy thing to do). The Russians then filed it under stupid and useless, and promptly missed out on one of the biggest threats to their tanks in the cold war.

It's also apparently a referenced document in National Archives, and may have produced further correspondence which may be more enlightening. It also gives you a date at R.A. Shoeburyness on which a demonstration took place, which may give you a starting point for digging up any correspondence at their end. It is quite possible that the demonstration was not put on solely for the edification of Lt. Colonel Smith, but rather there may have been a number of officers from various branches who could offer their own opinions.

If I were to use this in a book (I'm not a history author, but let's go with this thought anyway), I would refer to this document in terms of a demonstration was put on for allied military officers. If you can find a corresponding document from Shoeburyness you might find a list of attendees, which might tell you if the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, or anyone else was there as well, or of this was just put on for the Canadians. I would then say that firing demonstrations were put on, but those for the Bombard were limited due to problems with the ammunition. I would then go on to give his impressions on what he thought the practical problems would be with respect to actually using it in combat against AFVs or infantry. If you have other opinions from other sources, then the varying opinions can be contrasted with one another to show the range of opinion on a piece of kit that never actually saw significant combat.
:safe:

I have a long stream of communication with Shoeburyness, and their official archivist, who was an old volunteer chap. He provided some very interesting anduseful data on the L4 183mm gun for me. Then all of a sudden he stopped corresponding. Apparently the poor bloke had dropped dead.
Eventually someone else replied, and she said she'd have a look for me, as I had a list of dates trials and the like to follow up. Nothing ever came of it, but it appears that they are diverting most of their energies towards getting some form of visitor centre open and ready to allow historians to get in and have a proper poke about. Of course with it being a active base with all sorts of exciting and intresting goings on they are taking it slowly.

There's two sides to weapon performance after all. There's the purely technical side of velocity, range, penetration, etc., and then there's the operational side of whether the thing is practical to use in combat. It sounds like his misgivings were with the latter, at least with respect to use against AFVs. That doesn't mean that the problems were insurmountable, but it does suggest that there may have been limitations with the weapon in the form that it had then. He felt it might be useful against unarmoured infantry, but doesn't address the question of how it would compare in that role to simply using a mortar.

Those points taken together though may go some way to explaining why the Bombard didn't go beyond its role as a Home Guard weapon once the invasion crisis was past. As an anti-tank gun it appeared to have problems with hitting moving targets. If it were to be used as an anti-personnel weapon, it has to be judged in comparison to other comparable anti-personnel weapons, where it may not have offered any compelling advantages. This is of course my own speculation, but it's food for thought.
You might be quite surprised how far the Bombard got, and all its exciting adventures. It might not have had much fun malleting panzers, but it did play several critical roles in the war effort. Not least of all bringing the Ordnance Board mess to a head nice and early in war so that could get sorted out for later, which prevented those problems occurring at a really inconvenient time later in the war.

Might I suggest a book on the subject?
Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace: British Spigot Weapons of the Second World War

(Its not out yet, hell I haven't finished writing it yet! :p Just opened up the file to carry on writing it though, so Back to work!)
 
Well the Bombard was in a funny place at that time, the Drawings weren't sealed until July, then shortly afterwards had to be unsealed. Ammo was likely just the demo batch for Boosey & Hawkes batch ordered at the start of the year, or the remains of it!
To go back to the question of the effects of the Bombard bomb on armour plate (or the lack thereof), what is notable is that he made no mention of it in his conclusions. If something isn't in the summary introduction or the conclusions, the author generally doesn't consider it to be very significant. Lt. Colonel Smith was an experienced officer and likely knew what to expect from a warhead of that size and type, so I suspect that if he was told that this wasn't the proper anti-armour ammunition he wouldn't have gotten concerned over that aspect.

I have a great deal of experience in evaluating industrial machinery and don't need to see it running at full capacity in order to tell if it looks promising or if it has some inherent fundamental problems. I suspect the same is true with Lt Colonel Smith and anti-tank weapons.

We started off this conversation with you saying that you had reservations about that document. However, when viewed in proper context I don't think that such reservations are warranted, as this was not a test of the weapon's armour penetration capability and there were anticipated and stated problems with the ammunition at that time.

But the Canadians went mad for the Bombard, McNaughton had a real hard on for the project, and Blacker counted him as an ally. Then they proposed the Canadian pattern, and the silliness starts in earnest. You are correct it wouldn't compare to an Atk-gun, but that's not the right weapon to compare it too. What they're doing is looking at a Carl Gustav RCL and saying its inferior to a L7 105mm, of course there was no support weapon in that class before hand so they can be forgiven for not quite getting its place. Against soft targets the effect was similar to a 3" mortar. (...)
That is quite interesting, as I wasn't aware of this interest in Canada in the Bombard.

You might be quite surprised how far the Bombard got, and all its exciting adventures. It might not have had much fun malleting panzers, but it did play several critical roles in the war effort. Not least of all bringing the Ordnance Board mess to a head nice and early in war so that could get sorted out for later, which prevented those problems occurring at a really inconvenient time later in the war.

Might I suggest a book on the subject?
Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace: British Spigot Weapons of the Second World War

(Its not out yet, hell I haven't finished writing it yet! :p Just opened up the file to carry on writing it though, so Back to work!)
It sounds like it will be quite interesting when it comes out.

On a slightly different topic, I just made a search through Library and Archives Canada but unfortunately couldn't find any mention of the Bombard. Likely only a fraction of their records are on-line, so that doesn't mean much on its own. While I was at it, I had a look for PIAT, and lots of photos turned up. What they have on line is nearly all photos, rather than textual material.

The photos are a mixture of field use of the PIAT (including the infamous 15 PIAT mount on a universal carrier) and a series of pictures taken in a PIAT bomb factory. The latter show a number of steps in assembly, including welding (using pillar spot welders), polishing or de-burring, painting, assembly using arbour presses, packing, etc. Most of the factory workers are women. I assume the stampings are done elsewhere, and I didn't notice them filling them with charges. If you don't have suitable photos showing the manufacturing stages, then these might prove useful. I found this aspect interesting, as it shows that the PIAT bombs were designed to be mass produced from stampings using assembly line production techniques, something that is very important for a weapon that is intended to be ubiquitous.

Archives Search Results

As a note, each photo generally appears twice, once with English titles and once with French titles.
 
To go back to the question of the effects of the Bombard bomb on armour plate (or the lack thereof), what is notable is that he made no mention of it in his conclusions. If something isn't in the summary introduction or the conclusions, the author generally doesn't consider it to be very significant. Lt. Colonel Smith was an experienced officer and likely knew what to expect from a warhead of that size and type, so I suspect that if he was told that this wasn't the proper anti-armour ammunition he wouldn't have gotten concerned over that aspect.
Thing is, the Anti-tank warhead was the worlds first HESH round, so it was utterly new technology. So you wouldn't be able to compare with current equipments. Also you note that comments on the Bombard say it was the only one not to penetrate, so pen is being considered. Which Is why I think its a mix up between Anti-personnel round and an anti-tank round.

Experince in evaluation isn't much use, as the Ordnance Board had massive amounts of experience, and there was a major spat over the Bombard, which it took some very pointed letters from some very well placed people to sort out. It's also part of the reason why the Ministry of Defence was formed. To protect Jefferis and MIRc from the Ordnance Board.

The document seems to add nothing to the story of the Bombard, and I personally found nothing new when I saw it previously, indeed it seems to be one of the massive collection of poor information on the weapon.


On a slightly different topic, I just made a search through Library and Archives Canada but unfortunately couldn't find any mention of the Bombard. Likely only a fraction of their records are on-line, so that doesn't mean much on its own. While I was at it, I had a look for PIAT, and lots of photos turned up. What they have on line is nearly all photos, rather than textual material.
Yes, I have contacts with a Canadian historian, and he's doing something that needs to be done. Systematically going through all the Canadian microfilms and recording the results. Its why I saw that doc some time ago, as when he finds relevant info to one of our groups interests he sends it to the right person.
 

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