The British had at the beginning of the Second World War in Europe the Churchill tank, heavily armored but very slow and unable to fight against most German tanks.
Very quickly after the start of production of the Churchill tank in 1940, the British decided to develop a new tank, this time more mobile. Thus was born the Cromwell tank and its production began in 1942.
Its 75 mm gun could not face the firepower of German tanks, however its mobility and its speed were significantly bigger. But this increase of mobility automatically decreased the size of the shielding, which made the Cromwell tank more vulnerable, despite its speed.
As with the American tank hunter M10 Destroyer, the Cromwell Mk IV tank model had always to have the initiative in order to win the battle. Once the combat engaged, the Cromwell no longer rely on its mobility. Therefore, it is often engaged to support the actions of the infantry.
The Cromwell tank was present on the Mediterranean and north-west Europe battlefields, especially during the battle of Normandy and Operation Market-Garden in Holland.
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When it was introduced, the Tiger was the most powerful tank in the world. The 88mm gun was extremely powerful and the heavy armor made it almost impervious to attack. Even though its fearsomeness was to grow to almost mythical proportions, its combat debut was less than impressive.
The first 4 Tigers to see combat were sent to the Leningrad area in August of 1942. Unfortunately they were deployed single file over swampy terrain and in their first day of combat all four were knocked out, although their armor was not penetrated. Three were later recovered. In spite of this bad start, Tiger tactics were soon developed and other units were quickly trained and equipped with the Tiger. By the end of 1942, Tiger formations had been deployed to Russia, Africa, and Italy. Training centers were established in both Germany and France and eventually Tigers would be in service with ten Heer heavy tank battalions, one training battalion, three SS heavy tank battalions, and the Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division . A few additional formations received limited numbers of Tigers.
The Tigers built an impressive record in Russia during 1943 and ’44. They destroyed tremendous amounts of enemy equipment and often just the sight of a Tiger would induce the Russian tankers to withdraw. They had similiar success in North Africa and Italy, creating a powerful psychological effect on Allied troops. On Feb. 1, 1943 the British captured a Tiger intact and subsequently performed exhaustive tests on it. To their dismay, they found the Tiger was indeed an excellent gun platform and extremely well protected from all but their biggest anti-tank guns.
The Ausf. G was still equipped with the feeble 37 mm (1.46 in) KwK 38. Apart from the mantlet armor increase, there were almost no notable differences between this type and former Fs. 600 were built in all. Like the Ausf. E, F and the later H and J, they were all upgraded with a new 50 mm (1.97 in) KwK 38 L42 gun, prior to operation Barbarossa. This came after a long struggle with the Waffenamt, and added the requisite firepower to such a medium tank. For the first time, the Ausf. H (308 built) incorporated much-needed additional bolted armor on the frontal glacis, and the rear plates. These 30 mm (1.18 in) plates led to a total of 60 mm (2.36 in) of frontal protection. However, the sides were still 30 mm (1.18 in) thick, with the top measuring 10 mm (0.39 in) and the bottom only 5 mm (0.2 in), clearly the weakest part of these tanks. The top speed and range decreased because of the additional weight. The Ausf. I was never put in production. The next version, the Ausf.J, was a major upgrade produced in 1941 (482 units), with a lengthened hull and increased armor hull, 50 mm (1.97 in) for the frontal glacis. However, it was the late Ausf.J1 that was first equipped with the new KwK 39 L60, much more effective against Russian tanks. This late version was produced until mid-1942 in 1067 units, giving a total production for the Ausf.J of 1549, by far the most numerous variant of the Panzer III.
The Ausf.K was a command version of the J, but different from the former Befehlspanzer versions, as their armament was real. No more dummy guns were used. Production record is unknown. The Ausf.L of early 1942 was the designation of Ausf.J tanks re-equipped with the 50 mm (1.97 in) gun and receiving a further increase in armor protection, additional 20 mm (0.78 in) plates being fitted to the Ausf.J hull. With a total of 70 mm (2.76 in), the new version was able to cope with many antitank guns of the time, including the low velocity guns of both the early T-34 and Shermans. In all, 653 were converted until the last quarter of 1942. They served on all fronts, and were generally considered with respect by enemy crews.
During the fall of 1942, new projects came to completely renew the German armoured forces. These were a new generation tanks, the first of them being the Tiger, followed closely by the Panther, much closer to the modern idea of a perfect “main battle tank”. Considering this, the 1936 Panzer III was seen as obsolete, at least in its antitank role. However, Daimler Benz still found a way how to improve its old battle-hardened tank, They mounted a deep-wading exhaust, for river crossing capabilities on the Ausf. M (250 built until early 1943), and since the beginning, fitted with Schürzen (armoured skirts). In mid-1943 came the last version, the Ausf. N, with a short-barrel 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 37 L/24 gun capable of firing, for the first time, HEAT projectiles. This tank was the perfect dual-purpose, versatile model, which inspired retrofitting of in earlier versions. Since new specialized tank-hunters and heavy battle tanks were available, the Panzer III was increasingly confined to an infantry support role.
This new armoured car see as a successor to the eight-wheeled (8×8) Panzerspähwagen Sd Kfz 231. Among other priorities, a better protection and heavier armament were included. But this model also derived from an original specification from 1940 which asked for a tropicalized armoured car, and Tatra was charged of the design, while Büssing developed the body, and Daimler-Benz and Schichau were ordered to study a new turret. Three engines were tested, the third being tropicalized in the spring of 1942. However in june 1942, priorities changed and the final production machines had a more conventional air-cooled engine capable to survive great spans of temperature (extreme heat and cold), better suited to the Russian front.
The production vehicle was heavier and bulkier than the Sd Kfz 231, with mudguards that went along the complete side and four storage compartments were located inside. Because of the lack of resources to built the specified new turret, housing a 50 mm gun, the first serie was equipped with the Sd Kfz 222 Hängelafette 38 barbette instead. The engine was a Tatra air-cooled V12 diesel, with a Net HP of 220 @2,250 rpm, and a Power-to-weight ratio of 21 HP/ton. The Transmission was by Claw, with 6 forward and 6 reverse gears. Fuel capacity was 240 liters which for a consumption of 40 liters/100 km. Radios were a FuG Spr Ger “A”2 set, and FuG122 aerial. On the Puma, the main gun was a 50 mm KwK 39/1 L/60. The turret ha a manual traverse due to its small size, and a -10° to +20° depression/elevation. Smoke dischargers were often mounted on top. On trials, the Puma was found capable of fording 3 feet 11 in (1.2 m) deep, crossing a trench 4 ft 5 in (1.35 m) wide and climb a vertical obstacle of 1 feet 7.75 inches or 0.5 m.
The Sturmartillerie Abteilung, or StuG battalion, comprised a headquarter and three Sturmbatteries, each with six vehicles (three platoons of two StuGs). Revised in 1942, this is raised to seven vehicles, the extra StuG being given to the battalion commander. The Sturmartillerie Abteilungs were independent and only under the High Command authority, but, in some cases, a provisional organic inclusion in Divisions was allowed for special tasks. However, these units were rarely put under the command of an artillery commander. Efficient communication had to be ensured to allow a rapid redeployment of the Abteilung in support of various units inside the Division.
The manual states that the firing positions must be chosen with care, and well camouflaged to hide them from ground, but also air observation. A warning is issued not split any platoons into smaller units in order to keep some amount of firepower, and only reserve this practice for exceptional short-duration support missions. Security missions, urban combat or night missions were also disapproved. It was recommended to gradually withdraw these platoons for refuelling and re-supply operations at the rear and, in any case, the vehicles had to be thoroughly serviced after 4/5 days of mission. Due to their lack of vision, close infantry cooperation was required to prevent any encounter with obstacles and mines. The rôle of infantry is especially crucial when dealing with possible side and rear enemy infantry attacks. The manual also strongly recommended surprise at any level of the engagement to ensure maximal lethality. Careful pre-positioning, camouflage, sufficient frontal arc of vision and firing without warning were all considered essential. Planning a safe retreat path, without obstacles to safely withdraw for refuelling and rearm is also noted. Smoke ammunition was to be used in this case and to blind the enemy flanking attacks. But, in the 1942 revision, the total allocated for smoke rounds was reduced to 10% of the total.
As breakthrough operations went, the Sturmartillerie Abteilungs only intervened after the breakthrough was done, but right after the first wave of battle tanks, and way before the arrival of tracked artillery and infantry. They were to secure the flanks, like the Panzer IV, of any anti-tank positions, and to prepare the terrain for infantry to follow, destroying fortified positions, especially concrete bunkers. Close cooperation with flame-thrower carrying assault engineers ensured maximal efficiency. It was recalled that only in the case of very close and very strong infantry support should these tanks be used in urban or forested areas.
The M4 Sherman (named after the famous American Civil War general William T. Sherman) is one of the few really iconic fighting equipment of the Allies during Word War Two, and one of the most famous tanks in history. But this historic status was gained not thanks to its intrinsic qualities, but more to the sheer numbers in which they were provided, only surpassed by the Soviet Union’s T-34, with a staggering 50,000+ total delivered. It remains by far the most widely used tank on the Allied side during the war, it was derived into countless derivatives, and had a very long postwar career which lasted well into the Cold War. It has been largely compared to the T-34, and had the occasion to confront some during the Korean War. However, the Sherman was not as successful as it seemed. Derived in a haste from the previous and controversial M3 Lee/Grant, it was the first to bear a fully-traversing turret with a 75 mm (2.95 in) gun. It was designed from the very beginning for mass-production. Cheap and relatively simple to build, easy to maintain, reliable, roomy, sturdy, fast, well-armored and well-armed, it was the good-all-around armored vehicle the Allies had sought for until 1942, when it first arrived on the North African front. It literally soldiered in every corner of the globe, under many colors, from 1942 to the end of the war. These theaters included (in WWII alone) most of North Africa, Russia, most of Europe, the Eastern Indies, China, the Philippines, many Pacific islands and China.
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