British Army 'sanity options 2.0', 1935-43

The problem with all these threads is that it's simply a matter of how much hindsight we are allowed to use, so we hide in the easy small stuff we think is not cheating.....

Using technical knowledge on them doesn't feel like cheating as it's only telling them what the best SMG to build is even if it's actually based on studies of battlefield experience they had no access to and industrial & technical knowledge and development they had far less access to and thus is really cheating and using hindsight almost as much as simply getting out a campaign map and or getting HMT to open the funding taps years earlier for the army for a continental European commitment that would have been politically unthinkable.

Like if you really want to increase the power of British Army in 1935 and have hindsight you don't work in GB you cheat by playing in India and moving the Gurkhas out of India army to the empire (use war in China as the reason to move them to Malaya?), once out they are funded by London (in a secret black budget) and India nationalist don't care about them any more as they really only mostly cared about taxes. You can now massively expand them and at the same time replace them with more Indian regiments in Indian army to fill the gap...... as you are not increasing taxes, you might even be able to increase the size of the infantry if you don't buy much expensive heavy weapons and fund them out of central GB/UK funds as local men's jobs will be much more popular than mostly imported weapons. The result will be maybe at least 200,000 extra troops ready by 1940 even if they are only armed with SMGs and cast off WW1 weapons and little in heavy weapons.
It isn't really a matter of cheating or not, just working within the parameters as set. My interpretation is, when said parameters are set, push as far as possible up to them. Cheating can only really occur in a test or competition, not a thought experiment on the minutiae of military history.

SMGs are the most pointless weapons to fiddle around with in WW2 in any event. The British Army was not short on infantry weapons prewar and, from a 1935 start with a reasonable and not 'cheaty' approach, can simply build more rifles.

The whole Gurkha example is really getting caught up in the trees again. There isn't a point in taking them away and leaping through increasing hoops to deploy them to Malaya, which is a dead end theatre in the back of beyond in 1935 (which is prior to the real perceived Japanese kick off in China from the British perspective, mind you) and then having a half-armed and half-arsed force suitable for not much in 1940. It makes no sense.

Now, there is an argument for doing something with the Gurkhas, but it is way, way down the list of priorities. First things first, which don't require 'cheating', are starting the ball rolling on artillery, tanks, vehicles, anti-aircraft guns, increased production of small arms and ammo, uniforms and boots, and moving towards getting the systems in place for a larger army within Britain.
 

Mark1878

Donor
I disagree, Christie was the known cool thing they had, and they used it as they were short of time, the tanks using it are basically just 2 development lines UK (ie all the Nuffield Cruiser tanks) and Soviet (BT-T34) and then it died out? By contrast, Horstmann suspension and similar has been used up until relatively modern IFVs after its use in tanks ended. I just think it's a better system as it saves internal space and is easier to repair and was available at the time it's just a matter or working on it and not on Christie developments.


My point thought is that I want a GB MK4 Pz like tank that will be useful for the early war until the pressure is off, and they can bring in a war developed tank, This 25-30t heavy Valentine with a 6pdr with 3 turret crew would be a monster if ready in numbers in 1940 until a couple of years when development diverged from OTL on German side....

It could replace both infantry (Matilda II, Valentine) and cruiser tanks (Cruiser Mk III, A13, Covenanter), apart from light cheap Mk6s tanks that I would use for recon and training.
See this timeline https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/sir-john-valentine-carden-survives.496447/ for more ideas along that line
 
It isn't really a matter of cheating or not, just working within the parameters as set. My interpretation is, when said parameters are set, push as far as possible up to them. Cheating can only really occur in a test or competition, not a thought experiment on the minutiae of military history.
I'm just suggesting thought experiments have to have clear limits on what you can and can't change, or you can just change ever more powerful but less realistic leavers to get results that were not really realistically available to the DT people involved. Like can, I start mining uranium in Northern Australia or Canada in 1935 or is that cheating as a GB strat...... We need to put limits on what is and not acceptable that's probably why people most stick with talking about small easy things like a better rifle as it's easier than talking about what is cheating on the logistics or industrial side.
SMGs are the most pointless weapons to fiddle around with in WW2 in any event. The British Army was not short on infantry weapons prewar and, from a 1935 start with a reasonable and not 'cheaty' approach, can simply build more rifles.
I'm not sure if I agree SMGs are probably by far the cheapest self-loading weapon you can make and thus if you are wanting to rapidly expand from the small force in 35 and maybe also give weapons to allies developing and producing a good SMG would help hugely.
Making a million Stens or better Sterling submachine gun by 1940 and giving say 30% of them to allies would have massively increased the infantry firepower of the allies.

The whole Gurkha example is really getting caught up in the trees again. There isn't a point in taking them away and leaping through increasing hoops to deploy them to Malaya, which is a dead end theatre in the back of beyond in 1935 (which is prior to the real perceived Japanese kick off in China from the British perspective, mind you) and then having a half-armed and half-arsed force suitable for not much in 1940. It makes no sense.

Now, there is an argument for doing something with the Gurkhas, but it is way, way down the list of priorities. First things first, which don't require 'cheating', are starting the ball rolling on artillery, tanks, vehicles, anti-aircraft guns, increased production of small arms and ammo, uniforms and boots, and moving towards getting the systems in place for a larger army within Britain.
The Gurkhas was simply an example of how GB could massively increase it peace time standing force pre conscription and thus its main issue of numbers if It's willing to spend money and think outside the existing orthodoxy. I'm not suggesting they would stay in Malaya but that simply having 200,000 more peace time troops would mean a much larger standing force that would then enable a much larger a faster wartime expansion.

If GB was willing to raise large imperial forces pre-war that they did in the middle/end of WW2 especially by the use of enlisted promoted to WOs to reduce the need for British officers they could have them ready in larger numbers and that would likely massively change the force numbers balance in the early war.
 
A bit tongue-in-cheek here: work with the Italians pre-war to license build the Beretta M38..... (I'm slinking towards the egresse right now).

Diplomatically impossible in the post Italo-Abyssian War environment, but Benny might be persuaded that British cash was good.
The MAB was a superb weapon - an outlier compared to most Italian weapons of the time

Those 'Dropped' in North Africa were well liked by the British
 
I'm just suggesting thought experiments have to have clear limits on what you can and can't change, or you can just change ever more powerful but less realistic leavers to get results that were not really realistically available to the DT people involved. Like can, I start mining uranium in Northern Australia or Canada in 1935 or is that cheating as a GB strat...... We need to put limits on what is and not acceptable that's probably why people most stick with talking about small easy things like a better rifle as it's easier than talking about what is cheating on the logistics or industrial side.

I'm not sure if I agree SMGs are probably by far the cheapest self-loading weapon you can make and thus if you are wanting to rapidly expand from the small force in 35 and maybe also give weapons to allies developing and producing a good SMG would help hugely.
Making a million Stens or better Sterling submachine gun by 1940 and giving say 30% of them to allies would have massively increased the infantry firepower of the allies.


The Gurkhas was simply an example of how GB could massively increase it peace time standing force pre conscription and thus its main issue of numbers if It's willing to spend money and think outside the existing orthodoxy. I'm not suggesting they would stay in Malaya but that simply having 200,000 more peace time troops would mean a much larger standing force that would then enable a much larger a faster wartime expansion.

If GB was willing to raise large imperial forces pre-war that they did in the middle/end of WW2 especially by the use of enlisted promoted to WOs to reduce the need for British officers they could have them ready in larger numbers and that would likely massively change the force numbers balance in the early war.
1.) Yes, they do. We are in agreement of that. My position is to start on the largest scale and then drill down, rather than begin on Example G of Part IV.

2.) They may be cheap, if you go for the cheap wartime mass production types, which don't make sense for peacetime. The first order of priority is not to mass spam SMGs, so that the resultant forces aren't suitable for anything outside of a narrow range of tactical uses, but to utilise the general stores of rifles and then expand general rifle production. We aren't talking huge costs here, nor huge numbers. 75,000 rifles a year over 1935-1938 across Britain and the Empire gets 300,000, which even at 8 quid a pop is only 2.4 million. There aren't going to be a million Stens produced in peacetime, as there isn't a need for more than one per section, if that.

As said before, infantry firepower is almost entirely immaterial to the overall war, campaigns or even individual battles; where it might be a factor can be accounted for by more machine guns, be they Brens or some sort of red headed stepchild of the Vickers K as a GPMG. Primarily, though, supplying the Army with more 3" mortars and a good 4.5" heavy mortar would be a much simpler and much cheaper way of increasing infantry firepower.

Cheap and dirty isn't always good, despite this forum's liking for cheap and dirty solutions, so it would seem. There might be a role for it in a production battle, as happened in the @ war, but with better prewar preparation, the paradigm could shift.

3.) 200,000 more peacetime troops? There weren't that many Gurkhas to start off with; they were rather occupied at this point in a shooting war on the NW Frontier; they can't be deployed anywhere in the world like, say, British troops could be; and any shift in operational control to the British Army vs the Indian Army wouldn't be the panacea you characterise it as.

Britain can increase the Regular Army prior to conscription through recruitment and some partway measures towards training. Whilst someone can't be 'half pregnant', you can have some interesting halfway measures towards the likes of the Military Training Act.

4.) They can't, as they cost money. They also can't, as mid-late wartime measures aren't really possible in, say, 1935 or 1936 without the same flow of events or pressures to motivate them.

What they could do is increase the strength of certain colonial regiments, such as the King's African Rifles, re-establish the West India Regiment/s as a means of harnessing Caribbean manpower, and gradually increase certain other forces, such as in Malta. The largest aim of this will be to allow for the ~12-14 regular battalions to be replaced with TA ones during Transition to War*, freeing them up to be part of new formations as discussed upthread.

* = But Simon, some clued in coves may chime in, there wasn't a 'Transition to War' plan pre WW2! You are utilising the terminology of the late Cold War era. Well, you estimable interlocutors, you're right!

One thing I'd push for is a bit of a revision of the War Book and mobilisation planning, so that in a crisis, the mechanisms for pre-mobilisation/the build up to M-Day (stealing some Yank parlance now) get triggered and the process of returning regular forces from some Imperial deployments begins, This would be one of many measures involved with being able to field a decent sized force sooner than 1941 from an early 1939 standpoint (when the @ groundwork and planning was finalised).
 
Crusader could take 3 in turret with 2pdr, only 2 with 6pdr. You need a Sherman sized tank with a 57mm/75mm gun and 3 crew.

The choice is 500 20t tanks or 300 30t plus
Turret ring diameter isn't a function of weight. The Hungarians had an 18 ton tank with a 66" turret ring diameter. The Brits just need to get over their obsession with microscopic turret rings.
 
1.) Yes, they do. We are in agreement of that. My position is to start on the largest scale and then drill down, rather than begin on Example G of Part IV.

2.) They may be cheap, if you go for the cheap wartime mass production types, which don't make sense for peacetime. The first order of priority is not to mass spam SMGs, so that the resultant forces aren't suitable for anything outside of a narrow range of tactical uses, but to utilise the general stores of rifles and then expand general rifle production. We aren't talking huge costs here, nor huge numbers. 75,000 rifles a year over 1935-1938 across Britain and the Empire gets 300,000, which even at 8 quid a pop is only 2.4 million. There aren't going to be a million Stens produced in peacetime, as there isn't a need for more than one per section, if that.

As said before, infantry firepower is almost entirely immaterial to the overall war, campaigns or even individual battles; where it might be a factor can be accounted for by more machine guns, be they Brens or some sort of red headed stepchild of the Vickers K as a GPMG. Primarily, though, supplying the Army with more 3" mortars and a good 4.5" heavy mortar would be a much simpler and much cheaper way of increasing infantry firepower.

Cheap and dirty isn't always good, despite this forum's liking for cheap and dirty solutions, so it would seem. There might be a role for it in a production battle, as happened in the @ war, but with better prewar preparation, the paradigm could shift.

3.) 200,000 more peacetime troops? There weren't that many Gurkhas to start off with; they were rather occupied at this point in a shooting war on the NW Frontier; they can't be deployed anywhere in the world like, say, British troops could be; and any shift in operational control to the British Army vs the Indian Army wouldn't be the panacea you characterise it as.

Britain can increase the Regular Army prior to conscription through recruitment and some partway measures towards training. Whilst someone can't be 'half pregnant', you can have some interesting halfway measures towards the likes of the Military Training Act.

4.) They can't, as they cost money. They also can't, as mid-late wartime measures aren't really possible in, say, 1935 or 1936 without the same flow of events or pressures to motivate them.

What they could do is increase the strength of certain colonial regiments, such as the King's African Rifles, re-establish the West India Regiment/s as a means of harnessing Caribbean manpower, and gradually increase certain other forces, such as in Malta. The largest aim of this will be to allow for the ~12-14 regular battalions to be replaced with TA ones during Transition to War*, freeing them up to be part of new formations as discussed upthread.

* = But Simon, some clued in coves may chime in, there wasn't a 'Transition to War' plan pre WW2! You are utilising the terminology of the late Cold War era. Well, you estimable interlocutors, you're right!

One thing I'd push for is a bit of a revision of the War Book and mobilisation planning, so that in a crisis, the mechanisms for pre-mobilisation/the build up to M-Day (stealing some Yank parlance now) get triggered and the process of returning regular forces from some Imperial deployments begins, This would be one of many measures involved with being able to field a decent sized force sooner than 1941 from an early 1939 standpoint (when the @ groundwork and planning was finalised).
There was a pre-war agreement with the British Indian army for Indian units to replace British army units around the world to allow those British units to return to the UK and form a BEF.

This included replacing forces in Egypt, Iraq and Malaya

However there existed no plan even as late as 1939 to expand the 200,000 strong British Indian Army or even further modernise it and when the British asked if India could send 2 additional divisions to Africa the Indian army was taken by surprise and while it did provide those formations it was not an easy thing to do.

So perhaps as we get an earlier expansion of British forces we see a similar expansion of Indian Army forces which was in 1939 21 cavalry regiments and 107 infantry battalions - with a 3rd of those forces used for internal policing and 12 Battalions used as a covering force along the North West Frontier.

These were organised as 4 Infantry Divisions and 5 Cavalry Brigades with the remaining units used in the NW Frontier and internal security

So I would suggest initially each Battalion providing a company sized force for foreign service from 1938 which should provide enough troops for 3 odd Divisions (9 Brigades of Infantry) and 2 Cavalry Brigades intended to be upgraded with armoured cars and trucks etc.

Probably stood up in the Middle East - and trained alongside the Mobile force Egypt (later to become the 7th Armoured Division) - hopefully benefitting from the training and leadership of Gen Hobart (who also created and trained the 11th and 79th Armoured divisions).

While his ideas on armoured warfare was in its infancy (as was everyone else's) he did train his commands to a very high standard and all 3 Divisions were among the best armoured formations in the British army.

If the Dominion forces are also asked to expand their own militaries earlier we could see the Canadian army, South African Army, 2nd AIF and the Kiwis much further along and able to provide even more troops earlier.
 
The MAB-38 is actually a very good example of the point @Simon Darkshade and I are working towards. It's perhaps the best SMG of the war (I like the Danuvia, myself), it was available in plenty of time, issued widely, came with scads of ammo... And was the primary SMG of a country that came within spitting distance of never winning a battle. The Mussolini regime shares the dubious honour with Finland of being the only countries to lose WW2 twice. Rearranging the squad firepower really doesn't matter.
 
So I would suggest initially each Battalion providing a company sized force for foreign service from
I like the general suggestion but I think this part would cause problems. Many units in the Indian army were ethnic, linguistic, or faith specific. Splitting off too small of units and combining them elsewhere could cause issues of unit cohesion, morale, and logistics. It might be better to take whole battalions to be combined in composite brigades instead.
 
The MAB-38 is actually a very good example of the point @Simon Darkshade and I are working towards. It's perhaps the best SMG of the war (I like the Danuvia, myself), it was available in plenty of time, issued widely, came with scads of ammo... And was the primary SMG of a country that came within spitting distance of never winning a battle. The Mussolini regime shares the dubious honour with Finland of being the only countries to lose WW2 twice. Rearranging the squad firepower really doesn't matter.
I'd place the MAB-38 along with the Samui 31 (which was thought to be the best of the guns the pre war British looked at but was horrendously expensive to make and so rejected), Danuvia 39 (a design very nearly placed into production by BSA in 1938 who claimed they could make it for £5 a gun!), the ZK 358, and the mid war Owens which is obviously too late for this POD.

What I would add is that SMGs in the lead up to WW2 where not seen as SMGs in the way we look at them or how they would be used but as short range more mobile LMGs

Many of the Pre war designs had a bipod fitted - so I guess many military's would be thinking - its nice to have but lets buy more BREN guns or MG34s etc - it was not until experiences emerged from the Spanish civil war and other limited wars that the SMGs true utility began to emerge and not really until the Polish campaign that we start to see them issued and used in large numbers and this drove a sudden desire for the other major powers to have them as well.

The United States Marine Corps was the first US military unit to use Thompsons (M1921 Thompsons) 'loaned' to them in 1927 from the United States Postal Inspection service who had purchased them to guard high value cargo in the United States

These were found to be very useful in Nicaragua as a counter ambush weapon - after which the USN bought 500 M1928s with a requested lower rate of fire.

But still a fairly 'niche' role - certainly I can see why it was viewed as a 'Gangster' weapon or used by law enforcement by the Militaries of the day

It was not until 1938 that the US Army adopted the M1928 Thompson despite all the experience gained by the USMC and law enforcement during the 20s and 30s.
 
I like the general suggestion but I think this part would cause problems. Many units in the Indian army were ethnic, linguistic, or faith specific. Splitting off too small of units and combining them elsewhere could cause issues of unit cohesion, morale, and logistics. It might be better to take whole battalions to be combined in composite brigades instead.
There remained enough of each to allow similar "ethnic, linguistic, or faith specific" troops to be formed into same units

But I am not wedded to the idea and as you say it might be easier to simply take existing formations and replace them in India with newer units.

In fact I prefer your approach and I will now shamelessly claim that's what I meant all along.
 
is easy and not a bad thing to get caught up on the wood of the minutiae of tank design or the merits of one rifle over another, but these should be but two of perhaps 10 different developments/programmes coordinated under an overall vision. If more money could be found, then option time really opens up

I take the sliding door approach. Small changes can have huge effects, without causing waves that nullify any chance.

As to finding money, changing the culture of Britain and the scars of WW2, it won't happen.
 
I just think it's a better system as it saves internal space and is easier to repair and was available at the time it's just a matter or working on it and not on Christie developments.

True, but as said, for lighter AFVs, Christie's long allows smoother ride and less wear. A prewar tank with 6 smaller paired road wheels will be interesting though.

My point thought is that I want a GB MK4 Pz like tank that will be useful for the early war until the pressure is off, and they can bring in a war developed tank, This 25-30t heavy Valentine with a 6pdr with 3 turret crew would be a monster if ready in numbers in 1940 until a couple of years when development diverged from OTL on German side

If you can support it logistically!

Produce it, transport it, and fuel it.

And an upgunned Pz3 & 4 with long 50mm and 75mm will appear earlier.
 
I mean, not necessarily. The Meteor was mostly developed by the somewhat under-utilized division of RR that specialized in vehicle engines. Having this division, or another automotive company adapt the design to ground service and set up a separate production line would not greatly interfere with aerial engine production or development.

Not the whole story... Leyland
Recycled parts from Merlins and only after the 2 main factories set up running.
 
Not the whole story... Leyland
Recycled parts from Merlins and only after the 2 main factories set up running.
On the early test models different companies used different amount of aero engine parts. And on the Mk. 1 they reused the block IIRC. But past that there is not actually a lot that is transferable. The Mk. 2 blocks onward were two piece rather than the Merlin’s one and had two coolant exhaust ferrules rather than the Merlin’s one. Some of the pistons were built for different compression ratios and all of them were cast rather than forged. The camshafts ran in a different direction than the Merlin which means cranks are usually ground in an opposite direction as well.

If you are doing the adaptation pre-war, I think the design would fairly quickly diverge and you would have a separate stream anyway.
 
I'd place the MAB-38 along with the Samui 31 (which was thought to be the best of the guns the pre war British looked at but was horrendously expensive to make and so rejected), Danuvia 39 (a design very nearly placed into production by BSA in 1938 who claimed they could make it for £5 a gun!), the ZK 358, and the mid war Owens which is obviously too late for this POD.

What I would add is that SMGs in the lead up to WW2 where not seen as SMGs in the way we look at them or how they would be used but as short range more mobile LMGs
The way to get a British SMG into production in the run up to WWII isn't via the Army but the Navy. While the Army would struggle to justify it over LMG's the Navy can as something for boarding parties to use instead of revolvers and cutlesses.
 
I know this is related to the army but really the lack of CAS doctrine in the RAF was a major flaw of early war British performance. That has to change - and frankly, it didn't get that much better over the course of the war, as it was US Fighter-Bombers that were the terror of NW Europe towards the end.

I think if there was a problem it was in close artillery support - the 25 pdrs in Africa were great but that took too long to become standard in use
 
I know this is related to the army but really the lack of CAS doctrine in the RAF was a major flaw of early war British performance. That has to change - and frankly, it didn't get that much better over the course of the war, as it was US Fighter-Bombers that were the terror of NW Europe towards the end.

I think if there was a problem it was in close artillery support - the 25 pdrs in Africa were great but that took too long to become standard in use

Calling Leigh-Mallory, calling Leigh-Mallory...........
 
The way to get a British SMG into production in the run up to WWII isn't via the Army but the Navy. While the Army would struggle to justify it over LMG's the Navy can as something for boarding parties to use instead of revolvers and cutlesses.
The USN was the first US combat formation to purchase SMGs after the experience of the USMC in South America in the 20s with M1921s loaned from....the US postal service

So yes perhaps some cross pollonisation with the USN and USMC has the RN and Royal Marines hankering after SMGs
 
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