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Best Soldiers Tank of WW2 - W Europe & N Africa 39-41

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
    (...)
    Only by those who do not read about tank warfare. Really. (...)
    I agree. That's why i didn't fall for it. Under different circumstances the Somua could have been a monster in 1940...
    One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
      As a tactical vehicle on the battlefield, in the early war period it would be the Matilda. The staid pace, with heavy armor and a useful gun against armored opponents, the Matilda was definitely the best. From the infantryman's viewpoint, it was the vehicle that was right there beside him giving him the support he needed.

      In a set piece battle it beat everything on the battlefield. That's where it shined: Tactically.

      The two French vehicles have issues. The Souma was designed as a battlefield cavalry tank. It was for scouting and screening on the battlefield. The three man crew was set up to perform that function. You have a driver, radio operator (without weapon), and a turret operator / commander. Offensive firepower is limited by the one man turret. It's really a scout vehicle designed to survive enemy antitank fire.

      The Char B1 is the embodiment in a tank of the Maginot line. It's a petite ouvrage. That is, it's a small Maginot line-like mobile bunker. It has a 75mm fortress gun in the front hull for HE support of advancing infantry. The gun is aimed and fired by the tank's driver.
      The turret is more like a cupola on a Maginot line bunker in use. That is, it provides all-round defense of the tank as it sits and plops 75mm HE fire on the enemy.

      Both were conceived for a war that was never going to happen.

      As an operational / strategic weapon, that is, a General's tank, the Matilda was the wrong vehicle. But, it was certainly everything a soldier or enlisted tanker wanted in their vehicle.
      I basically agree with this POV .

      One thing that should be pointed out, is that 'heavies', such as the Matilda, Char B1 bis, KV-1 or even Tigers could invoke real problems for their enemy. Their unreliability or cost is not always a bad thing as long as you can get such a tank on the right battlefield. One KV-1 was considered equal to any German 14 tank strong Kompanie as an example, and with A12 Matildas vs the Italians, as long as they had one working, proved very impressive on the battlefield. One Char B1 bis can be a terror to numerous enemy tanks, including the best their opponent can offer.

      Sometimes 'heavies' are worth their weight in gold. We just need to be careful that propaganda, such as Wittman's or Barkmann's illusionary actions, does not negate the impact the reality that a heavy can bring to the battlefield.
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      • #18
        The Char B1 was a serious annoyance to it's enemies in 1940. Just like running into a bunker line, the Germans had to deal with what was a mobile fort, not a maneuvering battle tank. Once they could bring up something that was a real bunker buster, the French were doomed tactically.
        Early Russian use of the KV 1 and 2 was similar. These vehicles were real roadblocks in the position where they sat. But, that's where they'd eventually be taken out as well.

        The Matilda worked great versus the Italians who had nothing to counter it. Later, the Germans with a measure of what they were up against tore Matilda's apart at Halfaya Pass (Hellfire Pass as the British tankers called it). Tigers or KV's were no different.
        The Russians recognized that and dropped most KV production in favor of T34's until a better heavy (the IS series) could be properly developed.

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        • #19
          Seeing as this one is the choice of Soldiers tank. I went with the waltzing A12. Better armour to protect her crew, which to me means better survive-ability, both for the machine which can be replaced, and the crew whose experience cannot.
          BoRG
          "... and that was the last time they called me Freakboy Moses"

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          • #20
            If I were a soldier, why would I want to be in a Pz IV rather than a Somua S35, Char B1 bis or ther Matilda A12 ?
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            • #21
              Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
              If I were a soldier, why would I want to be in a Pz IV rather than a Somua S35, Char B1 bis or ther Matilda A12 ?
              To my thinking, the reason for the choice of the Matilda is its there. That is, it is in the mix with the troops and visible on the battlefield as part of that mix.

              The Souma S35 is a reconnaissance vehicle. It is off doing whatever on its own and not participating directly in the fight. It isn't part of the main battle, or intended to be. The Char B1, likewise is a mobile bunker. It is an embodiment of a hunker down and wait for the enemy to attack mentality. On the offensive, it isn't up front with the troops going in, but rather to their rear acting as mobile artillery... At least that was how it was intended to fight. The H35 and H39 were the direct support tanks equivalent to the Matilda.

              The Pz IV isn't intended so much, in the early war period, as a soldier's tank but as a support vehicle lobbing in 7.5cm HE to support the Pz III and if infantry are present, the infantry. It isn't meant to be up front in the line of battle but as a support vehicle. That again couldn't endear it to the soldiers it's operating with.

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              • #22
                Yeah, Matilda, it has all the right stuff, except reliability.
                I can imagine what it must have been like for all the guys who had to walk a few dozen miles back to base, in the desert.

                They were all like that, more or less, except for the one I nearly went for; the 38t.
                Low firepower, mediocre armor, but good speed and the best reliability on the list.
                "Why is the Rum gone?"

                -Captain Jack

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                  The Souma S35 is a reconnaissance vehicle. It is off doing whatever on its own and not participating directly in the fight. It isn't part of the main battle, or intended to be. The Char B1, likewise is a mobile bunker. It is an embodiment of a hunker down and wait for the enemy to attack mentality. On the offensive, it isn't up front with the troops going in, but rather to their rear acting as mobile artillery... At least that was how it was intended to fight.
                  The French heavy infantry tanks like the B1 were intended to be in the thick of the fighting as I understand it. They were grouped together as chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble and, as Ogorkiewicz says, "their place was generally ahead of the infantry and the accompanying tanks, paving the way for them by destroying enemy guns and armour." The Division Cuirassée organized later "was to act as a kind of battering ram in breaking through strongly held lines..."

                  Doughty agrees that the chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble would precede the infantry and be in the thick of battle: "The leading wave of the tanks for a mass maneuver would move to the first objective and await the arrival of the infantry and the accompanying tanks. After the infantry reached the first objective, the tanks for a mass maneuver would push forward again and be followed by the infantry and the accompanying tanks."

                  Doughty continues on the use of the DCR: "The Provisional Notice on the Use of Units of the Armored Division...discussed the actual employment of the division as if it were simply a much larger grouping of mass-maneuver tanks."

                  Likewise, by 1939 the French cavalry had a pretty sophisticated methodology for using their DLMs, in which the S-35 would be found. They could be used for reconnaissance, of course, as you note, but Doughty relates that the 1939 regulations asserted, "...the light mechanized divisions...could conduct an offensive either against an enemy flank or in a frontal attack...After other elements made a preparation in an organized position, the mechanized division could conduct the final steps of the breakthrough, which would permit its rapid passage to the exploitation...As for the defense, the light mechanized division could reconstitute a front after an enemy breakthrough by occupation of a subsequent defensive position; it could also counterattack an enemy penetration...If necessary, it could also occupy a static defense in the same fashion as an infantry division, but such employment was 'exceptional' and required major reinforcements." Although earlier regulations for the DLMs did envision them essentially performing classic cavalry missions, by 1939 the DLM doctrine was pretty similar to that for a Panzer-division or later US armored division.

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                  • #24
                    French tank doctrine, like their combat doctrine in general, was a continuation of late WW 1. French tank doctrine in 1918 saw two types of tanks in use:

                    The FT 17 which was the maneuver unit going forward with the troops in direct support, and the larger support tank like the St. Chamond, or Schneider equipped with a 75mm gun. These two later vehicles were used to support the FT 17 in the advance. They weren't the "up front" tanks, or at least weren't supposed to be.
                    This was in part due to their poorer mobility on a torn up battlefield. The FT 17 could often negotiate terrain the later two tanks couldn't either by maneuver or by their smaller size.

                    The Fighting Tanks 1916 - 1933 by Jones, Rarey, and Hicks is a better reference to that.

                    The 1939 doctrine for French armor employment really hadn't changed. The vehicles were very similar. You had on the infantry side, the R35 / 39 with a 37mm low velocity gun adapted from the Canon d'infantrie de 37mm 1916 TRP. These were essentially to fulfill the same role as the FT 17 had in 1918. They went forward with the troops for close support.
                    If you look at them, they really are little more than better armored and somewhat more mobile FT 17.

                    The Char B (replacing the earlier C and D), filled the role of the Schneider or St. Chamond tank as fire support for the R 39's. Thus, the 75mm fortress gun in the hull.

                    The cavalry's development was a bit more convoluted. They started off with half tracks like the Schneider P16



                    These were replaced with light tanks like the AMR 33 VM. This was a tankette with a machinegun.



                    The cavalry arm pushed for heavier vehicles, first the H35 then the S35. These fulfilled the role of battlefield reconnaissance and the earlier, lighter, vehicles like the 33 VM were relegated to direct infantry support and reconnaissance roles like general scouting and screening rather than battlefield use for that purpose.

                    The DLM's were formed for the role of screening the army's advance, particularly into Belgium. The DLC's (really reinforced regiments in size) were formed for specific use in the Ardennes where they were actually employed.

                    The DCR's were formed rather hastily after September 1939 and German panzer division success in Poland. They were a belated attempt to put an armored division together with existing equipment.

                    So, while the official intent was a Char de Battille with the B1, what emerged was really a tank that fit the Methodical battle doctrine of the French army. If you look at the origins of the heavier French tanks like the D1 and 2, and the B1, they come from the ideas and doctrine of General J E Estienne who headed the Section Technique des Chars de Combat through the end of the 20's. It was his direction that evolved the breakthrough tank that became the B1.

                    As for the DLM, it was hardly the equivalent of a panzer division. It was exceptionally weak in supporting arms. The demi-brigade supporting the armor had just three companies of infantry in total. These had three supporting heavy weapons companies, and there were five weak motorcycle infantry companies in addition.
                    All of this was heavy weapons heavy and rifleman short. It was not a unit designed or intended to take and hold ground, any more than the DCR was. The DLC's were a bit better off in this respect having two regiments (battalion sized units) of cavalry that could act as dragoons / dismounted infantry. The Brigade de Dragoons Porte was like the one in the DLM, only with two instead of three small battalions. This unit had just two companies of infantry and lots of heavy weapons.
                    For all intents, it was a much smaller version of a DLM with two battalions of cavalry added to it for use in the rougher terrain of the Ardennes.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      The Fighting Tanks 1916 - 1933 by Jones, Rarey, and Hicks is a better reference to that....The Char B (replacing the earlier C and D), filled the role of the Schneider or St. Chamond tank as fire support for the R 39's. Thus, the 75mm fortress gun in the hull.
                      I'm fortunate to have a 1933 edition of the Jones, Rarey, and Icks book on my shelf. In fact, on p.278, under the heading "Leading Tanks," they say: "In their [the French] contemplated employment of slow very heavy tanks, to which they give the technical name 'breaking-through tanks', they plan to use them against defenses that are especially strong and organized, and in advance of the lighter accompanying tanks. They contemplate, even in the case of these tanks, that the speed of advance will be retarded sufficiently to keep them only a short distance ahead of the attacking foot troops."

                      Summing with Doughty on the genesis of the chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble, "As for the actual employment of the D-model tanks, they would normally be employed ahead of the infantry and their accompanying tanks in order to destroy the stronger defenses of the enemy. After they overran an enemy position, the following infantry and their tanks would then move forward to destroy the enemy resistance completely...The chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble, therefore, were little more than a leading wave of tanks that prepared the way for the infantry, which was the decisive arm, or that enabled an infantry unit to move. Such doctrine relegated the medium tank to a role very similar to that previously assigned to the heavy tank."

                      The DLM's were formed for the role of screening the army's advance, particularly into Belgium.
                      As I said, the DLMs were initially intended to do cavalry-type missions. The 1939 cavalry regulations, however, expanded their role. I didn't equate the formation to a Panzer-division; I said doctrinally they were similar--the intended missions in the 1939 French cavalry regulations were similar to missions a Panzer-division or US armored division could expect.

                      To conclude: Though I voted for the Matilda, let's be fair to the French. The B1 was expected to close with the enemy, and the S-35 was for more than reconnaissance by the time period covered in this poll.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post


                        The cavalry's development was a bit more convoluted. They started off with half tracks like the Schneider P16



                        These were replaced with light tanks like the AMR 33 VM. This was a tankette with a machinegun.


                        .
                        That is a fine looking Halftrack, especially for the 1930s.

                        The real flaw in the AMR was the lack of room for a really good radio. A small, robust all-terrain vehicle is about as good as it gets for Scout vehicles, but you have to be able to communicate.
                        "Why is the Rum gone?"

                        -Captain Jack

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                        • #27
                          Only Allied votes?

                          Pzkw IV, since the German soldier's POV is obviously included in the poll, and overall, the Pzkw IV was a better tank in the field...IMHO. It's chassis went on to serve as a valuable and reliable platform for many different weapon systems in addition to the later versions of the Pzkw IV.

                          They were also available in growing numbers, could be rapidly and easily produced, and could easily be upgraded with better guns and armor, as historically they were.

                          Finally, for the moment, they were generally faster and more maneuverable on the battlefield, and speed is a soldiers' friend when under fire.


                          Last edited by Mountain Man; 09 Oct 16, 12:48.
                          Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                            If I were a soldier, why would I want to be in a Pz IV rather than a Somua S35, Char B1 bis or ther Matilda A12 ?
                            Because French tanks were poorly utilized and sacrificed piecemeal, and France fell in a matter of weeks?

                            The PZ IV was initially intended as an infantry support tank, and it performed very well in that role.
                            Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by DogDodger View Post
                              I'm fortunate to have a 1933 edition of the Jones, Rarey, and Icks book on my shelf. In fact, on p.278, under the heading "Leading Tanks," they say: "In their [the French] contemplated employment of slow very heavy tanks, to which they give the technical name 'breaking-through tanks', they plan to use them against defenses that are especially strong and organized, and in advance of the lighter accompanying tanks. They contemplate, even in the case of these tanks, that the speed of advance will be retarded sufficiently to keep them only a short distance ahead of the attacking foot troops."

                              Summing with Doughty on the genesis of the chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble, "As for the actual employment of the D-model tanks, they would normally be employed ahead of the infantry and their accompanying tanks in order to destroy the stronger defenses of the enemy. After they overran an enemy position, the following infantry and their tanks would then move forward to destroy the enemy resistance completely...The chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble, therefore, were little more than a leading wave of tanks that prepared the way for the infantry, which was the decisive arm, or that enabled an infantry unit to move. Such doctrine relegated the medium tank to a role very similar to that previously assigned to the heavy tank."

                              As I said, the DLMs were initially intended to do cavalry-type missions. The 1939 cavalry regulations, however, expanded their role. I didn't equate the formation to a Panzer-division; I said doctrinally they were similar--the intended missions in the 1939 French cavalry regulations were similar to missions a Panzer-division or US armored division could expect.

                              To conclude: Though I voted for the Matilda, let's be fair to the French. The B1 was expected to close with the enemy, and the S-35 was for more than reconnaissance by the time period covered in this poll.
                              The French tanks were in any case, the wrong vehicles for the war they were going to fight. They had been designed with another WW 1 in mind. That is, fixed lines of battle and attrition fighting.

                              Then Poland happened. Suddenly the French (and everybody else) sat up and took notice that their notions of how armor would be employed were outdated and obsolete. The French started to make doctrinal changes for the DLM and form armored divisions like the DCR.
                              The problem in both cases was these units were formed with available resources and those resources were not the ones they needed for a mobile armored formation.

                              The Battalion de Dragoons Porte was a ridiculously small formation with just one company of infantry, one of heavy weapons, and one of support tanks (repurposed AMR) and motorcycle troops. It is in no way capable of standing up to its panzergrenadier abteilung counterpart. Yet, that's the basic infantry component in a French armored formation.

                              For all intents the French, much like the British, tried to improvise an armored division that was a supposed counterpart for the ones the Germans had.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                                Only Allied votes?
                                Because they are the best choices.
                                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                                Pzkw IV, since the German soldier's POV is obviously included in the poll, and overall, the Pzkw IV was a better tank in the field...IMHO.
                                If we are talking about issues such as reliability and maintainability, the 38t is even better. It is also cheaper, more fuel efficient while being just as effective. Rommel thought the tank an excellent weapon system. As a commanders tank, the A10 is even better. It has all the benefits of the 38t, plus a proper 3 man turret, and better weapons than either the Pz IV or Pz III, plus more armour.
                                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                                It's chassis went on to serve as a valuable and reliable platform for many different weapon systems in addition to the later versions of the Pzkw IV.
                                Irrelevant. We are looking at best tanks for the time period, and relevant campaigns.

                                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                                They were also available in growing numbers, could be rapidly and easily produced, and could easily be upgraded with better guns and armor, as historically they were.
                                Actual numbers are also generally irrelevant, since larger economies can produce larger amount of tanks.
                                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                                Finally, for the moment, they were generally faster and more maneuverable on the battlefield, and speed is a soldiers' friend when under fire.
                                Maybe faster than a Char B1 bis or Matilda, but then these two were virtually immune to German gunfire.
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