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"Lessons from Armored Operations" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. report on British armored operations in North Africa during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 16, Jan. 14, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The following report contains several lessons learned as a result of British armored operations in the Middle East.

a. Smoke Shells

Smoke shells have been very effective. In a tank versus tank action, they are used to blind enemy antitank and other supporting weapons, either as a screen, or as a general cloud over the enemy's position. It is an accepted fact in North Africa that conditions of very poor visibility, such as obtained when smoke is used, always hamper the defending guns more than the attacking tanks.

b. 57-mm Antitank Gun

The tactical employment of the 57-mm (British six-pounder) antitank gun differs little from that of the 40-mm (British two-pounder) antitank gun. The 57-mm guns must always be fired from an emplaced position except in hit-and-run operations, and even then if time permits. Digging in, camouflage, and the withholding of fire until a hit is certain, are all of vital importance; if the gun has been discovered, fire should be opened at once.

c. Motorized Battalion

The motorized infantry battalion is an integral part of the armored regiment during all operations. It normally accompanies the combat troops, and very rarely marches with the supply echelon. This battalion is equipped with sixteen 57-mm antitank guns, 12 heavy machine guns, and 4 heavy mortars. It is organized very flexibly and is highly mobile. Individual companies of this battalion are nearly always decentralized and attached to armored battalions forming a part of the regimental group. Various roles which have been allotted to the infantry of this motorized battalion are as follows.

(1) Flank Guard

An armored regiment during operations at Sidi Rezegh, concerned with the security of its left flank, sent out its motorized battalion as a security patrol. The battalion successfully accomplished this mission.

(2) Night Operations

Whenever possible, armored regiments are protected by patrols formed from the motorized battalion. These patrols operate about 3 miles from the bivouac area as a guard against surprise attacks. Sometimes they form combat patrols, but it should be noted that they cannot be used both day and night for any length of time with efficiency.

(3) Antiairborne Attack

The motorized battalion can be used as a highly mobile force in readiness to guard against possible parachute or airborne attack directed at vital installations within the division area.


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