In the several North African campaigns the British have captured a large
amount of enemy materiel, particularly Italian. Although some of the
Italian weapons have not proved satisfactory enough to be used by the British, the
following weapons have been utilized, some with interchangeable British
ammunition and parts, and others with the Italian ammunition.
Breda Light Machine Gun. The Breda light machine gun is similar to the
British Bren gun. It is mechanically superior to the Bren gun under dusty
conditions. It requires only one man to service it as compared to several for the
Bren gun. It has a slightly higher rate of fire than the British weapon. Its
disadvantages are that it has no carrying handle, cannot be fired on fixed lines,
and has no tripod mounting.
Breda 20-mm. Heavy Machine Gun. This is an excellent dual-purpose AA and AT gun, firing
several types of high explosive armor-piercing, incendiary, and tracer
ammunition. It is particularly good for antiaircraft use, although as a weapon
it is rather cumbersome. A great many of these guns have been utilized by the
British, and a large number of them have been mounted on British armored cars.
81-mm. Mortar. This mortar fires an 8 1/2-lb. projectile 5,000 yards. The
secondary charge is considered superior to that of the British 3" mortar, and the
weapon as a whole is also considered superior and a valuable addition to an
infantry unit, although the bipod is more complicated and the projectiles are
inferior in fragmentation to the British.
The 75/27 Gun (75-mm., 27 calibers in length). This gun fires
a 14-lb. shell 9,000 yards, and has a rate of fire of 4 rounds per minute. It is
considered a mechanically satisfactory weapon and has been used
extensively, although it has the disadvantages of light hitting
power and poor fragmentation. (For greater detail see next article.)
100/17 Howitzer (100-mm., 17 calibers in length). This is an accurate
and satisfactory howitzer, which fires a 30-lb. shell 9,000 yards
at approximately 3 rounds per minute. However, it has a long unwieldy trail
that has to be dug in for high elevation.
149/13 Howitzer (149-mm., 13 calibers in length). This howitzer fires
a heavy, 80-lb. shell accurately up to a range of 10,000 yds. The
rate of fire is 2 to 3 rounds per minute.
105/27 Gun (105-mm., 27 calibers in length). This weapon is considered
to be the most valuable battalion artillery piece, although very few of them have
been captured. It fires a 35-lb. shell a maximum range of 13,600 yards, at the
rate of 6 rounds per minute.
The use of all these field artillery weapons has been limited by a lack
of spare parts; the recoil systems, both spring and hydropneumatic, have
suffered particularly. The carriages of the 100-mm. and 149-mm. howitzers
are old models, and the best performance from these weapons can be expected
only when they are mounted on modern carriages. None of these weapons is
considered suitable for mobile operations in the desert, but within the
limitations noted they should prove satisfactory under static conditions.
75/46 (75-mm., 46 calibers in length) Ansaldo Mobile AA Gun. While
this is primarily an antiaircraft gun, successful experiments in engaging
ground targets have been carried out. The weapon is mechanically sound, and
practically no maintenance has been required. The muzzle velocity is probably
2,500 feet per second, although it may be higher. The gun has a high rate of
fire, and with a trained crew it is estimated that 20 rounds per minute can be
fired. The silhouette is satisfactory and it is believed that it would be difficult
to hit from a tank at 600 to 1,000 yards. The Italians camouflage the gun with
light gray and dirty white colors, and from a range of 500 yards it is practically
invisible, even on level ground. A speed of 25 miles per hour over good terrain
and 10 miles per hour over rough terrain should be obtainable.
37/54 (37-mm., 54 calibers in length) Light Double-Barrel AA Gun. This is
a tray-loaded twin antiaircraft gun serviced by a detachment of seven
men. The rate of fire is 250 rounds per minute -- 125 rounds per barrel per
minute. It is considered to be a very effective light antiaircraft gun, although
stoppages are frequent unless all the equipment is kept scrupulously clean and
free of sand.
102/35 (102-mm., 35 calibers in length) AA and Coast-Defense Gun. This
antiaircraft weapon has a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,476 feet
per second, a maximum horizontal range of 14,500 yards, and a maximum vertical
range of 31,000 feet. The breech mechanism is semiautomatic.
76/40 (76-mm., 40 calibers in length) Dual-Purpose AA-AT Gun. This
is a fixed weapon and is expected to be satisfactory for antiaircraft work, but
sufficient tests have not been made to give any details.
20-mm. Solothurn AT Rifle. It is a good serviceable weapon and capable
of sustained fire over a long period. For a description of this weapon see this
publication, issue No. 5, page 18.