Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Variety is the spice of life pt 2

 In part one of this topic there was a brief summary of lend-lease AFV's on the Eastern front in WW2. It was one of those topics that I thought was going to be fairly quick, but has snowballed somewhat to the point that I will need several posts to do it justice. So lets get started. I'll comment at the start that some of this informatuion may not be correct but I'm just going from what I have found in my reading.

This post I'm going to try to cover the use of British tanks on the Eastern front.

Matilda II: The first examples were in service in time for the battle of Moscow. Zaloga sugegststhat tanks tended to be of one type in the different battalions (usually consisting of 20 tanks), but there could be a mix of different types in the regiment (if that makes sense). However the Tank Archives site suggests a slightly different story and I'll just list the reported mixes in a battalion

 21 Valentine, 10 T-60; 15 Matilda, 6 Valentine, 10 T-60; 5 KV-1, 18 Valentine; 3 Matilda, 9 Valentine, 10 T-60, 10 T-34; 12 Matilda, 9 Valentine, 10 T-60; 

It appears that mostly the tanks were grouped in companies according to type.

Soviet tank strength was almost completely wiped out around Moscow by the start of 1942. British tanks formed a small but important proportion of the newly reformed tank and mechanised corps in 1942. In 2 examples, the 10th Tank corps had 2 battalions of Matildas and the 11th Tank corps had 4 battalions. Only 1 corps was entirely equiped with British tanks, the 5th mechanised corps with a mix of Valentines and Matildas (but with no notes on the actual composition). This unit fought in the Stalingrad offensive, was largely destroyed in the German counter-offensive, then rebuilt mostly with Valentines by the autumn of 1943. The final major combat use was with the 201st tank brigade on the southern front at Kursk with 18 Matildas and 31 Valentines. However oddly enough there are 40 Matildas listed as in service in a return from 20th May 1945 but this is probably only for training.

The Russian disliked the Matilda as it was not good in snow (a maximum of 12 ") and only had a 2 pdr gun. The Soviets somehow managed to fit a 76mm gun into the turret but no other conversions were performed.

Valentine: The longest serving lend-lease tank from the battle of Moscow to Manchuria in August 1945. The 6 pdr versions started to be used in combat in the autumn of 1943. They were frequently mixed with 2 pdr Valentines as the Mk IX did not have a co-ax machine gun and there were no supplies of 6 pdr HE shells until mid 1944. The information says that the Valentine was relegated to subsidary duties in late 1943/early 1944. However this isn't technically correct as many continued to serve in tank regiments (20 tanks) attached to cavalry divisions (brigade sized units) from this time period. The 151st Independent tank regiment attached to the 9th guards cavalry division in late March 1945 (I was surprised but the towns discussed in the account are all in Slovakia and the Czech republic) is listed as having 6 Valentine IX, 4 Valentine III (2pdr) and also 10 M3 light tanks. The 267th tank regiment attached to the 59th cavalry division in Manchuria in August 1945 is listed as being equiped with both Valentine III and IX.

Churchill: Only 250 were delivered mostly Churchill III and IV (225) as the Soviets really didn't like the 2 pdr. Unlike the other tanks The Churchills were used in separate heavy tank breakthrough regiments. First combat usage was in the winter of 1942/43 and some lasted in service untill 1944. By this time some/most were used in mixed units with KV1-s. As an example 26th heavy breakthrough regiment in Finland in the summer of 1944 had 6 Churchills with the balance of the unit KV-1s.

So a fair bit of information to digest there, but some interesting options for mixed units.

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