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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

Infantry and M10 Training for Anti-Tankers

Infantry and M10 Training for Anti-Tankers

The training of the 7th Anti-Tank included two novelties. Because of diminishing need for anti-tank 6-pounders and the likelihood of further infantillery tasks in the future, 33 Battery had the valuable services of Captain Turbott2 and four NCOs of 24 Battalion and for a fortnight trained under them. ‘Infantry in defence’ was the theme and it included deployment, patrolling, the use of the Piat mortar, the 2-inch mortar and the bazooka (an anti-tank rocket projector), as well as signalling (two men per platoon trained with No. 18 and No. 38 wireless sets) and instruction in enemy methods.

The second novelty was training in 31 Battery to operate M10 ‘tank destroyers’. Nine of these 3-inch American naval guns mounted on Sherman chassis were made available on 26 June. They were makeshift weapons which looked like tanks with large turrets. The turrets, however, were hand-traversed and therefore slow to turn and they were open at the top. Their plating was relatively thin and only the gun mantle in the front could resist AP shot. The gun fired a 15¼-pound AP shot at just over 2600 feet per second muzzle velocity—about the same as that of the 2-pounder, but well below that of the 17-pounder—or a 12¾-pound HE shell at a higher muzzle velocity, page 609 but a lower remaining velocity after a few hundred yards. The claims made for the penetrative powers of the standard AP shot in relation to Tiger tanks—the only relation that mattered—were exaggerated; but small supplies of a superior ammunition with AP cap and superimposed ballistic cap and an HE charge were obtained a little later. The telescopic sight, with triple magnification, was excellent. The secondary armament was a .5-inch Browning heavy machine gun, mounted at the back of the turret and fired by the layer. There was no provision for indirect fire—no way to lay the gun for line. But the 31 Battery officers decided to mark the inside of the base of the turrets with a 360-degree scale, with a vernier scale for subdivisions. As with the 4.2-inch mortars, expert foresight on the part of those who issued these weapons was lacking.

The M10s, therefore, were cruder and more clumsy than tanks and much more vulnerable. But they required of their crews all the skills demanded of tank crews: driving, maintenance, wireless communications, and gunnery. Tactically their crews needed even greater skill to compensate for the greater vulnerability of the M10 as compared with the Sherman tank, which was the standard equipment of the armoured regiments. But all the specialised training the M10 crews could get was what the armoured brigade could provide in brief courses—and it had no special knowledge of M10s. It had taken a year to convert 4 Brigade into an armoured brigade. Three weeks after the men of 31 Battery first set eyes on an M10 they were in action with their ‘tank destroyers’. A and D Troops of 31 Battery were thus converted to M10 troops. Concurrently 32, 33 and 34 Batteries zeroed their 6-pounders and 17-pounders and 39 Battery had a two-day practice shoot with its mortars.3 The 7th Anti-Tank also provided 25 lorries with drivers and spare drivers for long-distance transport duties.

2 Maj G. G. Turbott, MC, m.i.d.; Christchurch; born Auckland, 4 Oct 1919; schoolteacher; wounded 20 Apr 1943.

3 Experience had shown that it was hard at times for the mortar battery commander to control even three troops in action and a new position was therefore created, that of Reconnaissance Captain, and Lieutenant Stevenson was appointed to it. Henceforth, unless it was necessary to co-ordinate the fire of all four troops, the battery would operate as two two-troop sub-batteries, with the battery commander in charge of one of them and the reconnaissance captain in charge of the other.