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Potentially game changing WWII technologies - if they had matured more quickly

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
So not enough ammo and you become a defenceless target when it’s exhausted. Too much ammo and you reduce your survivability in the event of a hit.

What’s the “right” amount? How is the same problem dealt with today?
The numbers of rounds carried in WWII tanks reflected two things - the smaller caliber of the main gun and also the many different types of rounds available for different applications. Tanks carried HE, armour-piercing, smoke/WP, canister... you get the idea. A tank had many more general uses, in many respects, than a tank has in more recent years. Remember that doctrine wasn't necessarily about tank taking on tanks, but providing support, and that was reflected in the mix.

In more recent years, the numbers of rounds have fallen as calibres have increased and rounds had become more specialised; broadly, you might see AP (sabot), a general-purpose HE/HESH, smoke and training. More recently still, because of experience in sandy places, a broader spectrum of rounds has been developed to meet a wider range of needs, such as punching holes in compound walls and killing whomever is inside.

But, for comparison, a 75mm-equipped Sherman would carry 90-104 rounds, according to a quick Google. That dropped to 71 on a 76mm-equipped M4. For comparison a modern M1 with a 120mm gun carries 40 rounds.

The actual numbers of rounds carried in WWII was driven by a number of things. Among them was the desire to always have 'enough', and that was influenced by the reliability or otherwise of the logistics chain. Speak to Africa Korps tankers on that one.

As noted, a lot of casualties were down to poor crew practice - 'poor' being a mix of the exigencies and realities (worries about the supply chain) and discipline (packing the home comforts or not being scrupulously clean). In terms of the latter, note that in recent conflicts cleaning out vehicles came back to the fore. Modellers might like to show lots of spent brass on the floors of APCs but in an IED-rich environment all of that, plus gravel etc., becomes a liability.

Wet stowage and stowage below the turret ring were developments that the Allies brought in. That persists in the CR2 to the day and was the sticking-point in terms of upgrading the main armament. Other 120mm-equipped MBTs which use a one-piece round have them partitioned off in the bustle. If the ammunition is hit and cooks off, the crew are still protected within the turret/hull. Getting rounds into the bustle became a favoured way of getting a kill amongst insurgents - a tank out of the battle is a tank out of the battle.

Once the realities of what was going on were identified, casualty rates dropped significantly. For reading, the following is borrowed from Wikipedia. Note the figures for wet-stowage M4s:

Research for tank casualties in Normandy from 6 June to 10 July 1944 conducted by the British No. 2 Operational Research concluded that, from a sample of 40 Sherman tanks, 33 tanks burned (82 percent) and 7 tanks remained unburned following an average of 1.89 penetrations. In comparison, from a sample of 5 Panzer IV's, 4 tanks burned (80 percent) and 1 tank remained unburned, following an average of 1.5 penetrations. The Panther tank burned 14 times (63 percent) from a sample of 22 tanks and following 3.24 penetrations, while the Tiger burned 4 times (80 percent) out of a sample of 5 tanks following 3.25 penetrations. John Buckley, using a case study of the British 8th and 29th Armoured Brigades, found that of their 166 Shermans knocked out in combat during the Normandy campaign, 94 (56.6 percent) burned out. Buckley also notes that an American survey carried out concluded that 65% of tanks burned out after being penetrated. United States Army research proved that the major reason for this was the stowage of main gun ammunition in the vulnerable sponsons above the tracks. A U.S. Army study in 1945 concluded that only 10–15 percent of wet stowage Shermans burned when penetrated, compared to 60–80 percent of the older dry-stowage Shermans.
 

HE117

LE
Funnily enough a week or two back, Tank Museum put up a pic on their Instagram feed of an assembly rig for Centurion. Because manufacture required lots of welding at just the right angle, rather than have the welder moving all over the hull, the rig rotated and the welder got every seam to be welded presented right in front of him (her in this photo) at just the right height and angle.

They built a similar jig at 23 Base workshop at Wetter for working on Chieftain and Challenger.. It looked like a huge cotton reel with a slot in it for the hull..

I think it was originally built for making the recovery variant which had a crane mounted on the top deck. The deck kept warping so they had to fit a pillar underneath it to brace it to the floor, however they needed to machine the lower deck to provide a mounting point. They did this by rotating the hull 90degrees and machining from the side... (as you do..!)
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
They built a similar jig at 23 Base workshop at Wetter for working on Chieftain and Challenger.. It looked like a huge cotton reel with a slot in it for the hull..

I think it was originally built for making the recovery variant which had a crane mounted on the top deck. The deck kept warping so they had to fit a pillar underneath it to brace it to the floor, however they needed to machine the lower deck to provide a mounting point. They did this by rotating the hull 90degrees and machining from the side... (as you do..!)
Was it an all-Wetter system?


I'll get me mac...
 
If that was the range incident, it was shown that the crew weren't exactly following the rules. If it's the blue-on-blue then hatches being open were a contributory factor.
The range incident, agreed and verified, not following the rules, as per the tank crews in WW2 as discussed.
 

HE117

LE
As noted, a lot of casualties were down to poor crew practice - 'poor' being a mix of the exigencies and realities (worries about the supply chain) and discipline (packing the home comforts or not being scrupulously clean). In terms of the latter, note that in recent conflicts cleaning out vehicles came back to the fore. Modellers might like to show lots of spent brass on the floors of APCs but in an IED-rich environment all of that, plus gravel etc., becomes a liability.

Yep... 110% correct! .. from personal experience of examining the aftermath of IED strikes!

DO NOT EVER have anything loose on the floor of a vehicle in a mined or IED risk area..

A loose case on the floor of a vehicle can end up in the top part of your lung.. you really do not want to survive in these cases...! Keep the decks clear!
 
Panzers tended to have ammunition for the main gun in the hull and machine gun ammo for the co-ax in the turret.I don't think they ever had wet stowage.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
With a similar solution; 'wet' stowage. Not infallible, incredibly, as a CR2 RTR crew sadly (re)discovered a couple of years ago.
As I recall (I may very well be wrong) that CR2 was compromised by an IED comprising five times 155mm HE rounds which penetrated the less-heavily-armoured underbelly. You might as well try to make it nukeproof. You have to stop somewhere.

I stand to be corrected.
 
As I recall (I may very well be wrong) that CR2 was compromised by an IED comprising five times 155mm HE rounds which penetrated the less-heavily-armoured underbelly. You might as well try to make it nukeproof. You have to stop somewhere.

I stand to be corrected.
Different incident I'm thinking of mate. I'm referring to the crew on the ranges trying to show off getting a high rate of fire by stacking bag charges (and rounds?) on the turret floor.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Panzers tended to have ammunition for the main gun in the hull and machine gun ammo for the co-ax in the turret.I don't think they ever had wet stowage.
German tanks didn't. As @PhotEx notes, however, the big, continuing problem in terms of their designs' survivability was putting rounds in the sponsons. A side penetration of the crew area above the track had a bloody good chance of passing through the (correctly) stored rounds, with all that implies in terms of life insurance premiums.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Different incident I'm thinking of mate. I'm referring to the crew on the ranges trying to show off getting a high rate of fire by stacking bag charges (and rounds?) on the turret floor.
Borrowed from Wikipedia:

On 14 June 2017, a Challenger 2 from The Royal Tank Regiment suffered an ammunition explosion during live firing exercises at the Castlemartin Range in Pembrokeshire. The tank was firing 120 mm practice shells with a standard propellant charge. The explosion critically injured the four-man crew, with two later dying of their wounds in hospital. The incident resulted in all British Army tank firing exercises being suspended for 48 hours while the cause of the explosion was investigated. The extent of the damage to the tank, if any, is unknown. It was later determined that a bolt vent axial (BVA) seal assembly had been removed during an earlier exercise and had yet to be replaced at the time of the incident, thus allowing explosive gases to enter the turret space; the lack of a written process for removal and replacement of the seal assembly meant that the crew at the time of the incident was unaware of its absence, and it was also noted that inadequate consideration had been given during the production of the L30 gun as to whether it could be fired without the seal assembly. A second explosion that occurred during the incident was attributed to the detonation of bag charges that had been stowed outside of the internal ammunition bins (rather than inside the bins as per correct procedure).
As I recall (I may very well be wrong) that CR2 was compromised by an IED comprising five times 155mm HE rounds which penetrated the less-heavily-armoured underbelly. You might as well try to make it nukeproof. You have to stop somewhere.

I stand to be corrected.
Also from Wikipedia:

6 April 2007: in Basra, Iraq, a shaped charge from an IED penetrated the underside of a tank resulting in the driver losing three of his toes and causing minor injuries to another soldier.

There was also an RPG-29 penetration which led to upgrades to the front hull.
 
With a similar solution; 'wet' stowage. Not infallible, incredibly, as a CR2 RTR crew sadly (re)discovered a couple of years ago.

Having just read the Service Inquiry report, it appears that the charge bins worked well, three CP DS-T were removed from the ready rounds bin after the turret fire and after inspection were declared serviceable.
 
Having just read the Service Inquiry report, it appears that the charge bins worked well, three CP DS-T were removed from the ready rounds bin after the turret fire and after inspection were declared serviceable.
Yep, my (poorly made) point was it was the drills that weren't infallible. You can make all sorts of design and safety improvements, make rules to keep people safe. But the word there that almost always ends up the problem is the people.
 
Different incident I'm thinking of mate. I'm referring to the crew on the ranges trying to show off getting a high rate of fire by stacking bag charges (and rounds?) on the turret floor.

Again from the SI report it was concluded that whilst the practice of not stowing charges in the bins came about from a perceived desire for speed in the incident at CMR it was not speed that was desired but the use of a practice that had become a “normalisation of deviance” in storing the charges on the turret floor.
 
The same practise that caused British ships to explode at Jutland; leaving all the hatches in the supply pathway open and stacking charge bags in the turrets and corridors,to achieve a faster firing rate. The result was a flash fire that ran from the turret to the magazine and the ship blew apart.
 
Explosive Sherman’s.

after the reports of the high incidence if fires in the first outing of Sherman’s in North Africa, both the Americans and British conducted a technical survey.

two issues were quickly identified.

one technical, one crew related.

the first Sherman’s had a ready round stowage on the walls of the turret basket, basically, the turret was encased in a ring of standing up shells. Not good, but as they were the ready rounds, they quickly were used up. The other was no easy route out if the front up through the turret.
a quick field fix was to delete the turret ready rack, and cut a big hole in the front of the turret basket. Followed later by armoured stowage bins for rounds in the sponsons- rounds didn't actually ‘blow up’, a penetration split cases and the spilt powder flared up, aided and abetted by all the tinder in the tank, see below, and appliqué plates.

but The worst issue was far too much crap being stowed in the tank. Up to 50% extra rounds, blankets galore, (deserts are freezing at night), tins of everything oily and inflammable, rags everywhere, one spark and it was tinder heaven. Both issued stern orders to crews to cease and desist.

so concerned were the US ordnance board at the reports of Sherman’s burning up, they put two loaded and bombed up as per the TOE Sherman’s on a range and started shooting them. after a number of rounds, both sat there dead, one smouldered a bit, but didn’t flame up.

one thing to note of reports of so many Sherman’s burned up is the German practice when shooting at tanks. They generally fired at a tank until it blew up or burned - a burned tank couldn't be repaired. Even when the thing was obviously M killed and the crew had vacated it, they would usually shoot it again.

was the Sherman a good tank? When introduced, it was excellent, and still more than good enough in 1945.. if you weren’t killed by what came in, you had a good expectation of getting out. It may have been harder to get inside a wunderwaffe Panzer, but if you did, Valhalla was often the crews next call as their ammunition stowage right to the end was as bad as the very first Sherman’s,
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Explosive Sherman’s.

after the reports of the high incidence if fires in the first outing of Sherman’s in North Africa, both the Americans and British conducted a technical survey.

two issues were quickly identified.

one technical, one crew related.

the first Sherman’s had a ready round stowage on the walls of the turret basket, basically, the turret was encased in a ring of standing up shells. Not good, but as they were the ready rounds, they quickly were used up. The other was no easy route out if the front up through the turret.
a quick field fix was to delete the turret ready rack, and cut a big hole in the front of the turret basket. Followed later by armoured stowage bins for rounds in the sponsons- rounds didn't actually ‘blow up’, a penetration split cases and the spilt powder flared up, aided and abetted by all the tinder in the tank, see below, and appliqué plates.

but The worst issue was far too much crap being stowed in the tank. Up to 50% extra rounds, blankets galore, (deserts are freezing at night), tins of everything oily and inflammable, rags everywhere, one spark and it was tinder heaven. Both issued stern orders to crews to cease and desist.

so concerned were the US ordnance board at the reports of Sherman’s burning up, they put two loaded and bombed up as per the TOE Sherman’s on a range and started shooting them. after a number of rounds, both sat there dead, one smouldered a bit, but didn’t flame up.

one thing to note of reports of so many Sherman’s burned up is the German practice when shooting at tanks. They generally fired at a tank until it blew up or burned - a burned tank couldn't be repaired. Even when the thing was obviously M killed and the crew had vacated it, they would usually shoot it again.

was the Sherman a good tank? When introduced, it was excellent, and still more than good enough in 1945.. if you weren’t killed by what came in, you had a good expectation of getting out. It may have been harder to get inside a wunderwaffe Panzer, but if you did, Valhalla was often the crews next call as their ammunition stowage right to the end was as bad as the very first Sherman’s,
@California_Tanker has covered this comprehensively on YouTube and elsewhere.
 
I read recently that the same applies to concrete embrasures over the beaches. Not easy to penetrate, but any hit caused spalling and damage/deaths, especially given how poor their concrete, like their steel, was
According to what I've read in a number of places, HESH was originally invented as an anti-concrete round.
 

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