WW II, a British focus




Interrogation of General Guderian
The German General staff had for some time no settled policy with regard to tank development, and it fell on General Guderian before the beginning of this last war to formulate the policy. He intended to concentrate on two types of tanks namely:

  1. one carrying a gun of calibre about 7.5 cm for use against tanks;
  2. one carrying a lighter gun (3.7 cm. to 50 cm). for use against soft targets.

Germany entered the war with these tanks, though German Industry had produced few tanks with the larger calibre gun. The tanks available were, however, adequate for requirements at the time.

Tank production was increased at the beginning of the Russian war but with the advent of the Russian T34, the German tanks were outmatched in every way. German specialists were rushed to the front and shown the T34, and then rapid development of the Tiger and Panther started. Production of these tanks began in 14 months. During 1942, however, the T34 dominated the Russian battlefields.

Guderian complained that development work had largely ceased in 1941 because Hitler was convinced that the war was effectively over. Cuts were also made in the production programme. It was not until he was appointed Inspector General that development work started up again.

The conception of the Maus was due to Porsche, and Guderian deemed it a method of gaining favour with Hitler. He thought the tank would finally have weighed 200 tons, and called it "an impossible monster". He emphasised the difficulties of transporting a tank of this sizes, and said that he protested against its production.

As a result of experience gained during the war, Guderian considered that the following types of tanks were necessary:

  1. a tank of the Royal Tiger class, heavily armoured and weighing about 70 tons;
  2. a rather lighter tank of the Panther class;
  3. a flak tank based on the panther carrying 2 or 4 guns of 30 or 37 mm. calibre.
  4. He would distribute these tanks in the following way:

    Panther + Flak Panther to the light regiments;

    Royal Tiger + Flak Panther to the heavy regiments.

    The Flak Panther would be not only a protection against aerial attack but could also be used against infantry and soft targets.

    In addition to the above main requirements:

  5. a light tank was necessary for reconnaissance and communication,
  6. a tank destroyer should be issued to the infantry divisions in sufficient numbers.

Guderian had been concerned in the development of a low silhouette tank destroyer with 7.5 cm gun and a bent barrel machine gun, for use by the infantry divisions.

[Comment: It is interesting to compare these views of General Guderian with those given by Stiele von Heydekampf (C.I.O.S. Report, File No. XXVII-47), who suggested that there was a marked divergence of requirements between tank and other ground forces. Tank forces wanted a 360 deg traverse turret, as against the limited-traverse turret of an SP gun.]

Sighting Equipment and Methods of Fire Control

With the advent of the Tiger and Panther, sighting equipment for the gunner and observation equipment for the commander were improved.

The all-round vision cupola was considered essential for the commander, both to detect targets and to see his own units. The commander was provided with binoculars which were used hand-held outside the cupola. Range was estimated visually and communicated to the gunner over the 'inter-com'. In the case of indistinct targets, the commander got the gunner on from a conspicuous point near the target. This method was considered satisfactory, the basis of success being adequate training and continual close contact between the crew. It was admitted that towards the end of the war when training became inadequate the method became less successful, but Guderian knew of no developments to overcome this difficulty. Corrections for fall of shot were given in distance for range and in terms of deflection marks in commander's binoculars and gunner's sight for line (line first, range second).

The gunnerís sight had improved in the T.Z.F. series up to T.Z.F. 12 (a) which provided dual magnification. A swing from straight-through telescopes to periscopic telescopes was, however, necessitated by the increasing thickness of the frontal armour, and a periscopic sight had been developed and was going into production at the end of the war.

Guderian had no technical knowledge as to desirable optical constants for the gunner's sight. Advice on these points was given by Wa Pruf 6 and 8. Officers were continually being withdrawn from the front for questioning on such points, and for inclusion on his staff. Contact was made between high ranking officers and the troops after each action and directors of production and development were also sent to the front to appreciate Army problem.

The introduction of larger guns had made observation of fall of shot a real problem, and a flank tank had often to be used for observation. He did not consider a long periscope (e.g. T.S.R.1) a satisfactory solution.

German development of integrated fire control systems was towards a built-in (cross-turret) rangefinder in conjunction with a stabilised sight-line. Guderian felt it essential that the rangefinder should be linked to the sight to give an automatic feed in of range, but did not know if this had been done in the initial stages. As far as he knew, no lead computing mechanism was to be incorporated in the system, or any other corrections for factors which might affect the accuracy of tank gunnery.