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We had also had a nasty shock, although we did not realise it for a week or two, because we were still too full of confident enthusiasm to be easily deterred; but it was not long before we realised that our tanks were outmatched by both the enemy tanks and anti-tank guns, and that in a straight fight at anything over point-blank range, we were backing a loser every time. The armour of the Shermans rarely resisted any armour-piercing shot, except at extreme range, and when it was pierced usually burst into flames almost spontaneously, adding burns to the other ways in which members of the crew might become casualties.

H.E. - High Explosive. A tank also carries a number of A.P. (Armour-Piercing) solid shot for use against other tanks,

The 75mm gun, though an accurate weapon, and excellent for H.E., had no powers of penetration to deal with Tigers or head-on Panthers. The 17-Pounder was indeed a match for the German guns in penetrative power, and we treasured the fire that "A" Squadron had like the most priceless stones, but even here the tank was at a disadvantage, as its armour was so inferior to that of its opponent.

All honour then to those tank crews who were bound sooner or later to make this discovery, but who kept on undeterred, and by great courage and good tactics still contrived to find ways round to the weak points of the enemy's defences, to knock him out, and to push further forward into his territory.

Details of German Tanks:
(i) Tiger and King Tiger. Very thick armour. 88mm gun. Cutclassed a Sherman.
(ii) Panther. Thick frontal armour. Outclassed a Sherman, though vulner- able flanks and rear.
(iii) Mark IV, 75mm gun, Slightly superior to a Sherman, which had a reasonable chance.
(iv) Mark III. 50mm gun. Inferior to Sherman. Obsolete and rarely Encountered.
(v) SP guns - 88 or 75mm guns which outranged a Sherman, but vulnerable when once located because of lack of traversé and thin armour for back, sides and roof.

Perhaps this is a suitable moment to explain briefly, for those who have not experienced it, what happens in a tank, and how it functions in action.

The Sherman has a crew of five: the Commander, who stands in the turret all the time, gives orders to the crew over the "inter-comm' wireless set, gives or receives orders over the Squadron wireless set, reads the map, looks for targets through his glasses and when he finds one, speaks in tones of urgent entreaty to: the Gunner, who sits all day on a small seat, peering through a small periscope about 6 ins by 2 ins. He moves the gun on to the target by means of two handwheels, fires it with a foot-pedal, and waits for it to be reloaded by: the Loader-Operator who spends the time - when he is not ramming shells into the breech or struggling with a jammed machine gun - in operating and answering on the wireless set.

These three are all in the turret. Down below is: the Driver, who also looks after the engine and the tank in general; he is assisted by the fifth member of the crew; the Co-Driver, who sits beside him- except on the 17 pounder tank, where the ammunition takes up so much space that there is only room for a crew of four - and is usually appointed cook as he has least to do.

This is the crew. They live, eat, sleep and fight together. Their tank is their home, and each tank is more or less self-contained; food, water, petrol-cooker, bedding, kit and bivouac tent are all stowed away on it.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 4/7 Dragoon Guards: extract from "The First and the Last," 1944 May, June

Page: Page 8