WWII Armoured brigade numbering/markings

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by alloydog, May 13, 2011.

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  1. Were the numbers given to armoured brigades unique to the brigade or was it dependant on which division it was in?

    From several books I have, the following examples:

    7th Armoured Division
    1st RTR : 40
    5th RTR : 86
    4th CLY : 67
    Royal Horse Artillery Regiments: 77* 55 44

    8th Armoured Division
    40th RTR : 51**
    46th RTR : 52**
    50th RTR : 53**
    41st RTR : 61***
    45th RTR : 62***
    47th RTR : 63***

    Guards Armoured Division
    2nd Armoured Battalion Grenadier Guards : 51**
    1st Armoured Battalion Coldstream Guards : 52**
    2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards : 53**
    Infantry Brigade rifle battalions: 61 62 63***
    Anti-tank Regiment Royal Artillery : 77*

    I know about the colours schemes for the markings, but an left wondering about the actual numbering system.

  2. Thanks - I have been googling quite a lot, but no for that specific subject.

    I have been trying to find the markings used in North Africa upto late 1941 - that is pre-8th Army. I have a list of regiments and what-not around at the time, but when I search for images, I can't find any decent ones to see the markings.

    That was when I saw that the numbering used for the 8th Armoured Division in the UK, 1941 and the Guards Armoured Division at Normandy, 1944 were the same.
    From the PDF you linked to, I assume then that the numbering used to denote the regiment's seniority in the brigade, regardless of the actual regiment - The senior one uses 51, the next senior 52 and the junior 53.

    I was going to guess which numbering to use (for wargaming models), but in the examples I have, the 7th Armoured Brigade seem to use a different number set.
  3. Why are you looking for that information? Are you a modeller or a wargamer?

    Are you sure that the 8th Army forces in North Africa used the same numbering system or applied it systematically? I have just flicked through two picture books on the desert war. George Forty book on the North Africa Campaign and Thomas Jentz's book. British armoured vehicles don't seem o have the same sort of tactical markings that you see on those in the UK. Indeed the first vehicles in the Forty Book are clearly 1st Army and not 8th Army. There is a photo which shows one Crusader tank out of three in a column with the markings 86 on its left track guard. The tanks sport the red white red flash which may help with allied/ enemy recognition, but dont seem to have a tactical sign. Some of the photos were taken by the Germans of captured vehicles, so I don't think the markings were systematically censored..

    The vehicle numbering system made huge sense for traffic control in the UK and North West Europe. It helped to sort out one convoy from another. It also looks military , encourages unit pride etc and keeps soldiers busy when they don;t have anything to do.
    I don't think there was the same pressure to put tactical markings on vehicles is North Africa. Everything used by the fighting troops had to be delivered along a long supply chain. Pots 0of paint were low priority. In battle tanks were knocked out quickly. So the tank which a crew took into battle might have smart paint, personalised touches such as extra storage bins and personal comforts. After they had bailed out with the clothes they stood in the next tank would be a temporary home.
  4. Thanks. Yes, it's for wargaming. And no, I'm not sure - that's what I am trying to find out. I can even leave them without markings, but they'd look "cooler" with. But I'm sure at some point someone would go all **** and point out that I had the wrong markings on an A13 which wasn't used at that time anyway - I once painted up some 1/72 scale British infantry figures from the 90's to be in desert combat dress for more up to date scenarios. Someone managed to point out the webbing was wrong, the SA80 was the wrong version and that the gimpie wasn't in use any more...

    But the main reason I asked was person interest - I just wanted to know why the lot in north Africa didn't seem to follow the usual system. Whether they had their own system, or just didn't bother. I know a lot of things were improvised and organisation changed either through lack of equipment and/or quickly changing circumstances.
  5. Painting taxctiucal signs to identfy the vehicle as belongiong to a particular unit isnlt necessarially "usual". There wer no systematic markings for British Military vehicles in the Great War nor for the BEF of 1940. Post WW2 tactical and formation signs were dropped for much of the Cold war for secuity purposes. When tactical signs were reintroduuced in the 1980s the call sign identifyed the vehicle within the unit, but not the unit or formation.

    In retrospect the tactical markings might be a way to police Mongomery's tidy battlefield, seperatign units and formations and making it easy to see a vehicle out of place. Until July 1942 the trend in the 8th Army was not to keep units apart, but to learn to operate in all arms Jock Columns and Battlefgroups. Tac signs might have been seen as an irrelevance.
  6. Cheers. I can handle that! :D
  7. I have just checked the big book of tanks in 1940 and I was wrong. These DO have a unit tactical code like in 1944 so "4" was 7 RTR and "9" was 3 RTR. The absence of similar marks on the picture from the desert campaign leads me to think that if they did have a system it wasbn't implemented in any systematic way.
  8. In drawings I seen, the tanks have markings, but in photos, they are not so obvious or not even present. I think the vehicles probably had the markings applied on delivery, but as they wore off, they weren't refreshed - In one case I read that cement was used in place of white paint. So, with the high turn over of tanks, maybe repainting wasn't a high priority.
  9. I donlt think the markings will necessarially have been applied on delivery. Factory delivery cannot include formation and tactical signs, which have to be applied on issue to the unit. On arival in theatre vehicles would be serviced to correct any factory faults and repair any damage from the sea jpourney. E.g. The tanks brought by the "Tiger" Convoy in mid 1941 prior to Operation Battleaxe. I am not sure if this organisation would necessarially know which formation and unit might receive the vehicles.

    The definitive decision about which uniot tac sign should be applied would be within the brigade or division. The rece4iving unit would apply their tactical signs, names and formation signs - or not depending on the time available and the tactical situation. Maybe these signs were applied in the lulls between some of the big offensives, say before Operation Crusader, the Gazala battles or el Alamein, or maybe not. The phoitos of British tanks of this era sometimes show a nickname and a white red white recognition flash, but rarely any tactical unit numbers.
  10. Sorry, wasn't very clear - when I meant "on delivery", I meant when they got to who ever was to use them.

    I found this: British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle The guy lists the orders of battle for key periods (there are no references, so there's no way to check accuracy other than more web searching) But, given the list of regiments around, say in June 1940, I can do more detailed searches.

    just found this: British Afv on AFRICA AXIS-ALLIED
  11. Orders of battle are a snap shot. Sometimes the level of detail invests them with an authority which might or might not be deserved. I am not asn expert and donlt have the time to look at this systematically. Hopwever I did check some of the gunners. He has 2HAA (HQ and one Battery?) in Cairo. Martin Farndale's "RA Years of Defeat" is the detailed RA Official histoiry. This has 2HAA arriving in Suez on 1 September in command of 16, 20 and 27 HAA Batteries and 1st LAA Battery under command and mmoving to Mersa Martrah later that month with RHQ arriving 19th and 1 LAA 16 and 20 HAA Batteries dep-loyed by 1st October while 27 HAA were en route for Malta.

    The compiler is less likely to have made an error with tank units because they attract more interest thasn flak gunners. If you want to check orders of battle, you ought to look at the official histories.

    Try the Nafziger collection

    This might be what you are looking for:-



    These give sources.
  12. That's brilliant - Thanks! It also solved another little puzzle I had... In my folder of bumpf about the 1808-09 Suomen Sota (Russo-Swedish war/ Finnish war), I have some old print-outs (We're talking dot-matrix onto continuous feed paper!) of the orders of battle for the Russian and Finnish/Swedish forces. I just could remember where I got them - They're from Nafziger.
  13. The numbers in question are generally known as 'Arm of Service Serials', with the coloured squares being known as 'Arm of Service Signs'. They are a MASSIVE subject, not least because they changed periodically as a counter-intelligence measure.

    The list of serials in the Fire & Fury link is only really valid for NW Europe circa 1944-45. The same system was also ordered for formations in Italy and the Far East, but they were slow to adopt the system and consequently it's not unusual to see older serials used in those theatres.

    I don't know the details of markings for the period you're looking at, as my knowledge starts a little later, but try Googling for 'Dom's Decals' and drop Dom a line - he has a ton of information on such things and is usually willing to help.

    I know what 7th Armoured Brigade had in that period, as they were still marked in their old markings when they arrived in Burma in March 1942. A new scheme was ordered at the end of 1941, but they didn't adopt it - they possibly hadn't received the order:

    HQ 7th Armoured Brigade - green square with '60'
    7th Queen's Own Hussars - green square with '61' & red squadron tacsigns
    2nd RTR - green square with '62' and yellow tacsigns

    There wasn't a third armoured regiment present in Burma, but they would have had '63', with light blue tacsigns.

    The accompanying RA/RHA units were:
    414th Field Battery (Essex Yeomanry), RHA - red-over-blue square with '76'
    ? Battery, 95th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA - red-over-blue square with '77'
  14. I forgot to add that the book you want is "British Military Markings 1939-1945" by Peter Hodges and Michael D Taylor, Cannon Publications, 1994. It has everything you need.

    Another excellent resource is the 'Armoured Acorn' website, which is packed with colour plates of AFVs, including quite a few from the period and theatre you're interested in.