Was the Comet tank the best Medium tank of WW2?

#81
@meerkatz, the standard 75mm on the Pz IV was delivering that accuracy in 1942. One crewman who survived Tilly stated that the 75mm was of such high velocity that you could, up to 1000m, simply put the pipper on the target and fire, knowing that the shell would strike where the pipper was pointed. They were often able to get off the critical first shot, as a result.

However, the 17lbr in the Firefly was rather a hit and miss gun. If out hit, it killed, but it wasn't terribly accurate.
The 77? Run of the mill gunners could do the business with it. It was an accurate gun easy to get own target.
 
#82
I know it's wiki. They claim that 1,186 Comets were produced from 1944.

Would they have ceased production in 1945?
 
#83
However, the 17lbr in the Firefly was rather a hit and miss gun. If out hit, it killed, but it wasn't terribly accurate.
The 77? Run of the mill gunners could do the business with it. It was an accurate gun easy to get own target.
I thought the APCBC round was accurate enough but the Sabot round was hard to get on targets at range particularly in follow up shots due to the amount of dust it kicked up when firing.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#84
Well..... it was faster, more reliable, with a better gun and better armour than any of its competitors so I reckon that puts it right up there. It was late to the game though, and in only limited numbers. For the most important medium tank by dint of numbers built, or making a decisive impact on the conflict it's a toss up between the T34 or the Sherman, but the Comet gets my vote as the best. It's a good-looking tank too.
For perspective. 11 Armd Div 's 3RTR and two squadrons of 15/19H got Comets to cross the Rhine, end of March 45. Six weeks later it was all over, just as B Sqn 15/19H got their Comets.

Edit having read Wikipedia.

The British 11th Armoured Division was the first formation to receive the new tanks, with deliveries commenced in December 1944.

A picture shows Comet tanks of the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, 11th Armoured Division, crossing the Weser at Petershagen, Germany, 7 April 1945. I'd forgotten about them. So 8 squadrons of Comets were equipped by March 1945, about 260 tanks. Since 15/19H were notionally the divisional Recce regiment, it explains why it was they who didn't get a full set, when Cromwells remained suitable for recce.
 
Last edited:
#85
I know it's wiki. They claim that 1,186 Comets were produced from 1944.

Would they have ceased production in 1945?
Doubt it. As stated previously, the Shermans were lend-lease so had to be replaced by something! By war's end there were enough Comets to fully equip 11th Armoured Division and most of 7th Armoured Division (around 300 tanks). Units continued to be re-equipped so I imagine production continued for a couple of years. They remained in service for 14 years and weren't fully replaced by Centurions until 1958.
 
#86
I think another significant feature in combat was visibility. The comet and later shermans had good visibility from the commanders cupola and the guners position. The panther had a decent cupola for the commander but nothing for the gunner save his very narrow field of view sight, the loader had a fixed vision block set at 45 degrees to the gun. Vision in the t34 was just a single panoramic sight each for the commander and gunner.
Even though the commander often worked with his head up out of the turret (not possible on t34 because of the hatch) having the gunner searching for targets and when found being able to get on target quickly made a big difference. Normally the winning crew of an engagement was the one that spotted the enemy and fired first.
 
#87
That's the one. It's the only pic I've seen supposedly of a Comet in Korea. However 7 RTR were equipped with Churchills, though they did have Comets in Hong Kong. I think this picture was probably taken in the New Territories. Note there's no bow MG fitted so it's probably not in an operational area.
The source is the IWM but they aren't infallible.. most of the KW tank pics are Centurions, there's a few Churchill pics floating around and some Cromwell's, including the one that was captured by the Norks and retaken.
 
#88
I thought the APCBC round was accurate enough but the Sabot round was hard to get on targets at range particularly in follow up shots due to the amount of dust it kicked up when firing.
The Canadians did some remedial work with the 17pdr sabot and, IIRC, developed a sabot with 3 "petals" that improved accuracy greatly. Whether that was in time to see action in the war, /i know not.
 
#89
Did the Germans not supply Tigers to the Italian front?
Whoops.. Yes.

The Canadians did some remedial work with the 17pdr sabot and, IIRC, developed a sabot with 3 "petals" that improved accuracy greatly. Whether that was in time to see action in the war, /i know not.
There were three versions of the APDS for the 17lbr. The first one was the inaccurate one. Although there was some question about gunners not being used to it, and not correcting enough for the higher velocity. THe Working theory I have at the moment is the Mk.II appeared in August 1944, and it shifted the centre of gravity forward if memory serves this solved some of the inaccuracy. The Mk.III showed up in mid 1945 and it used the Canadian pot sabot and this finally cured the accuracy issues.

Or at least that's what the documents appear to say.


17Lbr APDS porn:

However the owner of those describes the middle one as a Mk.III, which is at odds to the documents.

There's an absolutely stunning amount of theories on the internet on why the APDS was inaccurate, and nearly all of them are bollocks.

Some of the good ones I've found:
Early APDS had issues with muzzle break (17pdr on Firefly was one of them) affecting its accuracy.
The amount of propellant used in the shell- as excess propellant burning up outside the barrel behind the separating sabot can effect it's accuracy. If the 17pdr had been lengthened, more propellant would have burned inside the barrel, causing a higher muzzle velocity and penetration. The Comet used cut-down 17pdr cases with the same projectiles, so it didn't have this issue with it's barrel.
Barrel harmonics- when firing a tank gun, a lot of vibration is caused which can impact a shells' accuracy. In some cases, a shorter and fatter gun like the Comet's 77mm has better accuracy than the 17pdr because it has a much shorter barrel.
It's not helped by certain well know popular historian having a sad on over the 17lbr, and one video he put out that gets trotted out so much. Its done to the 17lbr APDS what Death Traps did to the Sherman.
 
#90
It's not helped by certain well know popular historian having a sad on over the 17lbr, and one video he put out that gets trotted out so much. Its done to the 17lbr APDS what Death Traps did to the Sherman.
Some of the comments on this thread are very interesting, particularly in terms of accuracies. A tank gun is supported to a far greater degree than a rifle. There’s no breathing or fatigued arm shake. WWII engagements were typically from a stationary position. Given that, it’s not too hard to see why a turret ring shot was considered bread and butter.

Your comment here is interesting, though; one man’s disdain colouring so much. Reality? If the 17pdr had been so bloody awful the Germans wouldn’t have gone after every Firefly as a matter of priority. They feared it.

The comment earlier is most apt: if it hit, it killed. In the end, that really is all that was needed.

One could point out, after all, that gunners were after turret rings because it was their only guarantee of a kill. Ask them if, given the ability of an assured kill, whether they’d have bothered otherwise. I suspect not.
 
#91
Your comment here is interesting, though; one man’s disdain colouring so much. Reality?
Yes. The same historian I mentioned above has said that "books have a long half-life", and he's bang on there. Even on this thread we're still suffering from previous decades of books saying that British tanks were crap. This seems to be traced back to a few officers who wrote books after the war and had to explain away why we had issues. For example, IIRC, Hobart was the one that coined the bit about the general staff not wanting to mechanise and how we wanted to keep our cavalry and horses. Looking at primary documents there's not a shred of evidence to support this, equally looking at the composition of forces its not back up. Yet it quite nicely explains why the Germans beat our glorious army in France in 1940, not because we made bad decisions, but because of things we couldn't have fixed. It then became a standard line for the public psyche to avoid some unpleasant self-truths, and has now entered the historical record as fact.

One could point out, after all, that gunners were after turret rings because it was their only guarantee of a kill. Ask them if, given the ability of an assured kill, whether they’d have bothered otherwise. I suspect not.
Turret ring is a centre mass shot, which most people are trained to shoot at, not so? Then we have the quirks of human memory, he aims at what he thinks is the turret ring, and the target is destroyed. It doesn't mean he actually hit the turret ring. Memory has a trick of re-enforcing what we already believe. Here we're working off a single eye witness account, and those are bloody horrible for accuracy. Ask any of the cops around here. Its even worse for historians, as often the account s written years after hte effect when outside stimulus has had a chance to alter the memory. Good examples are Band of Brothers (where they get attacked by many Tigers in the Carentan peninsula just after D-day... umm what?), or slightly less famously Armoured Guardsman by Robert Boscawen, a decent book, don;t get me wrong, but the errors are there. Thinking about it now, it's a good example of what's wrong with eye witness accounts.
 
#92
Turret ring is a centre mass shot, which most people are trained to shoot at, not so? Then we have the quirks of human memory, he aims at what he thinks is the turret ring, and the target is destroyed. It doesn't mean he actually hit the turret ring.
Bloody good point, however the quote was quite emphatic about going after the turret ring - and if you don't hit the turret ring/shot trap, you're then hitting the glacis or the turret front and taking on the tank's best protection.

I'm not saying you're wrong, just making the counterpoint.

I know that the manual for the Boys rifle (perhaps in an acknowledgement of its relative antiquity from very early on in the war) suggested aimed shots at the turret ring, "causing it to jam", etc.. Whether it also suggested a good helping of Anglo-Saxon expletives, I have no idea. I suspect that those came naturally...
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
#93
I thought the APCBC round was accurate enough but the Sabot round was hard to get on targets at range particularly in follow up shots due to the amount of dust it kicked up when firing.
Early APDS suffered accuracy problems due to sabot separation - it took a while to develop a sabot that would fall away reliably without affecting the penetrator's flight.

Accounts I've read by an Archer gunner reckoned that with full-bore ammo it shot accurately, with battlesight range to over a thousand yards (making ranging easy) and that (firing from ambush) first round hits were expected and usually lethal.
 
#94
Bloody good point, however the quote was quite emphatic about going after the turret ring - and if you don't hit the turret ring/shot trap, you're then hitting the glacis or the turret front and taking on the tank's best protection.

I'm not saying you're wrong, just making the counterpoint.

I know that the manual for the Boys rifle (perhaps in an acknowledgement of its relative antiquity from very early on in the war) suggested aimed shots at the turret ring, "causing it to jam", etc.. Whether it also suggested a good helping of Anglo-Saxon expletives, I have no idea. I suspect that those came naturally...
And unless his shot is agaisnt a very rare Tiger or the like then it'll do just fine. A Panzer IV or Stug only had 80mm of Armour, which a RO 75mm or 6Pdr will deal with. We've all made the mistake of glancing at a pictre and seeing a Panzer IV and thinking "Tiger" and that's with us sitting comfortably safe at home on a PC.
 
#95
Early APDS suffered accuracy problems due to sabot separation - it took a while to develop a sabot that would fall away reliably without affecting the penetrator's flight.

Accounts I've read by an Archer gunner reckoned that with full-bore ammo it shot accurately, with battlesight range to over a thousand yards (making ranging easy) and that (firing from ambush) first round hits were expected and usually lethal.
I'd read the report from the US Army on their testing of the 17lb gun and if I remember right it was they who said about the smoke/dust obscuring a follow up shot and giving the position away.
 
#96
As mentioned above, the elite mechanized corps - exploitation, for the use of - often got M4s, because they had a lot more runners working after a couple of hundred miles compared to T-34 formations. A T-34 might be more survivable creating the breakthrough against German AT guns, but once you wee through and breaking free for Prague or wherever, then no competition.
I think this discussion took place already on another thread. The Soviets had mechanised infantry and tank regiments. Mechanised infantry were mainly infantry with some tanks, tank regiments were mainly tanks with some infantry. After their early war experience, the Soviets didn't think it made any sense to have infantry without some tanks of their own, or armoured units without some infantry of their own. There may be some exceptions in the case of operations in mountains or similar difficult terrain, or in rear areas but in general that was their standard.

The examples that anyone was able to give of guards units with Shermans were all infantry. The tank guards units had T-34s. I suspect the split was based on logistical considerations to minimise mixing foreign and domestically made tanks which would need different spares, fuel, ammunition, etc. The bulk of their tanks were domestically made, so those preferentially went to "tank" units, while the T-34s preferentially went to "tank" units. I don't have a contemporary reference showing this was the policy, but it seems plausible.

In similar vein, the Soviets insisted we kept the Valentine in production until 1944. Yes, it was slow. Yes, it was poorly armed by mid-late war standards. However, it was small, well-armoured, and much more reliable than anything built in the Urals, with very good (if slow) mobility over poor terrain. So they kept it as a recce tank. There is even a photo which strongly suggests that it was Valentine that was first to reach the Reichstag in '45. Not that the Sovs were ever going to publicise that!
Their major complaint about the Valentine was the lack of high explosive shell for it. I think they used it as a light tank, in which case they would consider it to be a light tank with heavy armour.
 
#97
Based on nothing beyond my own thoughts...

Churchill was an infantry tank. Speed across rough ground was single miles an hour. A (kinda, because it was a bastardised version in the Comet) 17pdr in something that was more nippy, weighed less but had a reasonable armour solution makes more sense in terms of utility.
The Churchill was a heavy tank. The speed was comparable to a KV-1, so not actually slow for its class.
 
#98
(...) The examples that anyone was able to give of guards units with Shermans were all infantry. The tank guards units had T-34s. (...)
Having said that, I've done some looking around and found a reference in which a Soviet tank guards regiment had both T-34s and Shermans, although it doesn't say in what proportion. Tank Archives: Tank Reliability

Rather interestingly, they found T-34s and M4A2s to be of equal reliability.
  • T-34: 2000-2500 km, 250-300 hours
  • IS/ISU-122: 1200-1800 km, 230-280 hours
  • M4A2: 2000-2500 km, 250-300 hours
  • SU-76: 1200-1800 km, 180-200 hours
This is the average of how long their tanks lasted, based on the life of all components. This is may be the life before the tank requires a major rebuild at a repair centre. The lower ISU-122 and SU-76 numbers probably reflect that class of vehicle tending to be overloaded.
 
#99
Having said that, I've done some looking around and found a reference in which a Soviet tank guards regiment had both T-34s and Shermans, although it doesn't say in what proportion. Tank Archives: Tank Reliability

Rather interestingly, they found T-34s and M4A2s to be of equal reliability.
  • T-34: 2000-2500 km, 250-300 hours
  • IS/ISU-122: 1200-1800 km, 230-280 hours
  • M4A2: 2000-2500 km, 250-300 hours
  • SU-76: 1200-1800 km, 180-200 hours
This is the average of how long their tanks lasted, based on the life of all components. This is may be the life before the tank requires a major rebuild at a repair centre. The lower ISU-122 and SU-76 numbers probably reflect that class of vehicle tending to be overloaded.

The soviets probably had a near-zero servicing and maintenance regime for vehicles in the field, so i imagine that all vehicles of whatever original build quality would tend to the same limited lifespan.

If this is the case then presumably UK/US stats for the M4A2 should show a better service life.
 

Latest Threads

Top