British Army 'sanity options 2.0', 1935-43

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
US fighter bombers were certainly the terror of allied PoWs trekking westwards. My stepdaughter’s grandfather was a CAM pilot taken prisoner in a ditching in the Channel and he was far more frightened by USAAF ground attacks than by the idea of being shot off a catapault in mid Atlantic in winter out of range of land. They shot up anyone moving in a line or group. He saw lines of civilian refugees and PoWs attacked on several occasions. Just as my mother witnessed the Luftwaffe doing in her trek south in France in 1940.
 
Old saying, 'When The Luftwaffe attacks the Allies duck for cover , When the RAF attacks the Axis duck for cover, When the USAF attacks everyone ducks for cover'!
 
Part One
Extracts from the First Report of the Defence Requirements Committee of 5th March 1934.
25. The most important deficiency, however, for the emergency in question, so far as the Army is concerned, lies in the expeditionary force. Our present resources do not permit us to aim at anything better than to place in the field single divisions in each of the first two months of a war, a third at the end of the fourth month and the remaining two divisions at the end of the sixth month. This is the big deficiency in the Army which it is necessary to make good, if this country is to be in a position to co-operate with others in securing the independence of the Low Countries. For centuries this has been regarded as vital to our safety, and it is certainly not less true to-day in view of developments in modern armaments. We have fought at regular intervals on the Continent in order to prevent any
Power, strong or potentially strong at sea, from obtaining bases on the Dutch and Belgian coasts. To-day the Low Countries are even more important to us in their relation to the air defence of this country. Their integrity is vital to us in order that we may obtain that depth in our defence of London which is so badly needed, and of which our geographical position will otherwise deprive us. If the Low Countries were in the hands of a hostile Power, not only would the frequency and intensity of air attack on London be increased, but the whole of the industrial areas of the Midlands and North of England would be brought within the area of penetration of hostile air attacks.
26. We therefore recommend that we should be capable of putting into the field within one month, and there maintaining in all its essentials, a Regular Expeditionary Force of one Cavalry Division, four Infantry Divisions, two Air Defence Brigades, and one Tank Brigade, together with a full complement of G.H.Q. Corps, and L. of C. Troops. We regard this as an essential first step; the support of this force by contingents from the Territorial Army is a matter which will require consideration when the urgent needs of the Regular Army have been met. We believe that a force organised as above, and supported by appropriate Air Forces, would, as a deterrent to an aggressor, exercise an influence for peace out of all proportion to its size.
36. After the urgent needs of the Expeditionary Force have been met, it will be necessary, if the German menace becomes aggravated, to take further measures for the modernisation of the Territorial Army. This, of course, is over and above certain first steps that are essential to-day if the force is to survive, and which are provided for in the Five-Year Deficiency Programme. As explained in greater detail in Part I II, paragraph 95, the Territorial Army is the only force on which we can rely for expanding the Expeditionary Force, and if it is to provide a reasonably efficient nucleus for this purpose we cannot afford to keep it starved of all the elements of a modern army. We do not attempt, however, an estimate of the cost of these eventual measures. Provision of aircraft to deal with an attack on the parts of the United Kingdom other than London and the South, ports in the Mediterranean and elsewhere West of Aden, as well as aircraft to assist in anti-submarine, convoy work, and for coast defence at Home, will also eventually have to be made.
Paragraph 6(b) of the Report's summary.
(b) The Army will be enabled to place and maintain in the field in five years a well-equipped and modern expeditionary force of four divisions, one tank brigade and one cavalry division, which can be mobilised in a month, in place of the existing five divisions and one cavalry division, that require many months to take the field. A small start will also have been made to cope with the great deficiencies that now exist in the Territorial Army. In addition, the War Office will be able to fulfil its responsibilities for the defence of the naval bases and fuelling stations in the Far East and to make a beginning elsewhere in the renovation of our coast defences. Finally, after reconsideration of the general lay-out of air defence to meet the assumption of air attack by Germany, the provision of the Army's share in our scheme of anti-aircraft defences will be put in hand at once.
 
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Part Two
Extract from the Third Report of the Defence Requirements Committee of 12th February 1936


Army Programme and Requirements.

(14) The Army Programmes and requirements include :—
Field Force: First Contingent (Regular Army).
4 Divisions.​
1 Mobile Division (6 mechanised Cavalry Regiments and a Tank Brigade with supporting arms and services).​
3 new Army Tank Battalions (making, with the existing Battalion, one for each division).​
Speeding up mobilisation arrangements to enable the Mobile Division and Air Defence Brigades to be disembarked on the Continent in a week, and the remainder of the first contingent a week later.​
(Paragraphs 65 to 67.)​

Second, Third and Fourth Contingents (Territorial Army).
Second Contingent of 4 Divisions at 4 months after the outbreak of war.​
Third Contingent of 4 Divisions at 6 months after the outbreak of war.​
Fourth Contingent of 4 Divisions at 8 months after the outbreak of war.​
(Paragraph 68.)​
Modernisation of the Territorial Army at a cost of £26,000,000, the previous suggested allotment of £250,000 a year being retained for improvement of training and efficiency. (Paragraph 69.)​
Ammunition reserves for the earlier contingents. (Paragraph 70.)​
Coast Defence Modernisation at home and abroad. (Paragraph 71.)​
Air Defence of Great Britain to be within sight of completion in five years. (Paragraphs 72 and 73.)​
An increase of 4 infantry battalions as an instalment of a possible eventual increase of 12 (or 14) battalions. (Paragraph 74.)​
Re-equipment of the Field Artillery by converting the 18-pdr. gun to take a 25-lb. shell (with increase of range to 12,000 yards), which will replace both the 18-pounder field gun (range 9,000 yards) and 4.5-inch howitzer (range 6,500 yards).​
Ammunition for the above. (Paragraphs 75 to 77.)​
Improvement in Housing conditions. (Paragraph 78.)​
 
Part Three

The British Army had 19 infantry divisions (5 Regular & 14 Territorial) in the UK at the POD.

The First D.R.C. Report recommended that the Regular Army be enabled to place and maintain in the field in five years (i.e. by 1939) a well-equipped and modern expeditionary force of four divisions, one tank brigade and one cavalry division, which could be mobilised in a month, in place of the existing five divisions and one cavalry division, that required many months to take the field. It also recommended that a small start be made to cope with the great deficiencies that then existed in the Territorial Army.

The Third D.RC. Report recommended that 12 of the 14 Territorial divisions be equipped on a scale to enable them to take part in military operations against a major Power. As outlined in Post 145 these divisions and 4 of the regular infantry divisions would be sent to the Continent in 4 contingents of 4 divisions. The second, third and fourth contingents would be in the field 4, 6 and 8 months respectively after the outbreak of war.

The fifth Regular division which existed in peace would be used to stiffen the Territorial Division in the second Contingent, and wa available at all times for despatch, in whole or in part, for lesser emergencies, without detriment to the first Contingent of the Field Force.

However, instead of equipping the 12 Territorial divisions on a scale to enable them to take part in military operations against a major Power the Rearmament Programme of 1936 only equipped them on a training scale. This equipment would be used to mobilise 4 of the 12 divisions in wartime.

Or put another way, the Government approved the creation of an Expeditionary Force of 9 infantry divisions (5 Regular and 4 Territorial) instead of the 17 (5 Regular and 12 Territorial) that the Report recommended.

Furthermore, the number of Territorial infantry divisions was reduced from 14 to 12 by transferring 2 of them to what would become Anti-Aircraft Command and converting them into anti-aircraft divisions.

The plan for an Expeditionary Force of 9 infantry divisions remained in force until 29.03.39 when the Cabinet decided to increase British military strength by doubling the Territorial force (from 12 to 24 infantry divisions) and on 27.04.39 to introduce conscription. A programme of expansion was adopted which would eventually provide Great Britain with an army of 32 divisions.

What actually happened after the outbreak of war was:
  • I & II Corps with 4 Regular infantry divisions (1st to 4th) were sent to France in September & October 1939 and the fifth Regular infantry division (conveniently called 5th Division) was sent in January 1940.
  • 5 Territorial Divisions (42nd, 44th, 48th, 50th & 51st) were sent to France between February and April 1940.
  • III Corps became operation in April 1940.
  • 3 incomplete Territorial divisions (12th, 23rd & 46th) were also sent out in April for labour duties and to complete their training, but they weren't fully trained or fully equipped for fighting when the Germans attacked.
  • Therefore, by the beginning of May 1940 the BEF had been increased from 4 Regular divisions in two corps to 10 divisions (half Regular & half Territorial) in three corps and G.H.Q. reserve plus the 3 labour divisions. However, the 51st Division was detached from the BEF on 06.05.40 to man a section of the Maginot Line.
 
Part Four

Parts One to Three were what happened to the Army's Field Force 1934-39 IOTL.

The "mother of sanity options" in this thread is to modernise the Regular and Territorial Armies as recommended by the Third D.R.C. Report IOTL between 1934 and 1939 ITTL which would be sent to France in four contingents. The First Contingent (Regular Army) consisting of the mobile division and 4 infantry divisions would be sent to France in September & October as IOTL. The Second, Third & Fourth Contingents would take the field in January 1940, March 1940 and May 1940 respectively. The fifth Regular infantry division would be sent to France in January 1940 as IOTL. Except that the mobile division would have been split into 2 armoured divisions and an army tank brigade (of 4 battalions one per infantry division in the First Contingent) well before 1939. There would also be an number of Territorial army tank brigades which between them had 13 army tank battalions, that is one for 5th Division and each of the 12 Territorial infantry divisions.

Then the French Army would have been bolstered by a BEF of 2 armoured & 17 infantry divisions and 17 army tank battalions instead of the OTL force of 10 infantry divisions and one army tank brigade.

In common with what I've written in the complimentary thread about the RAF the First Contingent of Air Component of the BEF consisted of 4 Hurricane fighter squadrons, 6 Hurricane ground attack squadrons (one per division), 2 Twin Battle PR squadrons (one per corps HQ), 2 Twin Battle light bomber squadrons, a communications squadron and a number of Auster flights for AOP & light liaison. The Second to Fourth Contingents were accompanied by another 13 Hurricane ground attack squadrons (one for each of the 12 Territorial divisions and 5th Division) and more Auster flights. That's a total of 21 Hurricane, 4 Twin Battle & one communications squadron and more than a few Auster flights. The OTL Air Component had 4 Hurricane fighter, 5 Lysander army co-operation, 2 Blenheim light bomber, 2 Blenheim army co-operation and one communications squadrons.

In common with OTL ACBEF was part of British Air Forces France (BAFF) which had a Spitfire PR squadron attached to it in IOTL & ITTL. Also part of BAFF was the First Echelon of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) with 2 Hurricane fighter squadrons and 10 Twin Battle light bomber squadrons. I haven't decided whether the Second Echelon (which ITTL would have had 10 Twin Battle squadrons) would have been sent to France too. IOTL AASF had 2 Hurricane fighter, 8 Battle light bomber and 2 Blenheim light bomber squadrons.
 
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Excellent material, as ever. The above represents what can be termed the baseline, or the minimum force level to be aimed for.

I would say that the British Army in WW2 did not get the best bang for buck in terms of deployable field divisions; this is wrapped up in the manpower issue, which lead to multiple formations being disbanded in the late war and divisions being generally disbanded left, right and centre through the whole war.

My general inclination in these type of threads is not to be too closely bound by exactly what was done historically, but to explore the bounds of what could realistically be done beyond that. Taking steps during the 1930s to allow for a better expansion base and a more effective mobilisation force are definitely good things in my view.

In addition to the above mentioned forces in Nomisyrruc’s post, there were:

A.) the Mobile Division from Sep 38 in Egypt, 7th Infantry Division in Palestine from October 38, 8th Infantry Division (-) in the north of Palestine shortly afterward and ~ 3-4 additional battalions around the Canal et al; (Note 1)
B.) 37 infantry battalions, 3 cavalry regiments, 11 artillery regiments and 9 artillery batteries in the Army of India;
C.) 3 battalions (1 in the Machine Gun role) in the Sudan
D.) 1 battalion in Jamaica and Bermuda
E.) 3 battalions plus arty et al in Gibraltar
F.) 4 battalions plus arty et al in Malta
G.) 2 battalions (1 MG) in Hong Kong
H.) 3 battalions in Shanghai and Tientsin
I.) 4 battalions (1 MG) in Malaya and Singers, plus arty, engineers and misc units out the wazoo
J.) 2 companies in Cyprus

From this, we can observe that there are some deployments which are Absolute Musts in the face of danger, namely Gibraltar and Malta and some which are Absolute Can Move, such as the Windies and China. There are also the 3-4 divisions worth of regular manpower in India.

As discussed up thread, there are a decent number of battalions at home that can be re-roled from MGs or grouped together to add to an Expeditionary Force.

Taking the 5 infantry and 1 mobile division discussed above, expanding that to a minimum of 8 Infantry and 2 armoured divisions + 2 divisions from Palestine and Egypt + the 12 TA divisions in waves, gives a very decent baseline of 24 divisions at M + 270 (the two other TA divisions to go to Egypt and Palestine during the lead up to mobilisation or after M-Day).

On top of this, there are the 12 second line TA divisions at home at various stages of preparation; further armoured formations forming; and further ‘Army Reserve’ units formed by the earliest possible Military Training Act.



Note 1: Readers of Churchill’s History of the Second World War will recall his repeated references to his memos asking as to the status of these battalions throughout 1940.
 
Excellent material, as ever. The above represents what can be termed the baseline, or the minimum force level to be aimed for.
Thank you. In case you haven't guessed, I've taken what I know about the Army's wish lists IOTL and implemented then at the beginning of the OTL Rearmament Era.
From this, we can observe that there are some deployments which are Absolute Musts in the face of danger, namely Gibraltar and Malta and some which are Absolute Can Move, such as the Windies and China. There are also the 3-4 divisions worth of regular manpower in India.
FWIW (and as I expect you already know) the 55 Division Plan included a number of Indian divisions some of which were formed from British troops stationed in India as well as soldiers of the Indian Army.
Taking the 5 infantry and 1 mobile division discussed above, expanding that to a minimum of 8 Infantry and 2 armoured divisions + 2 divisions from Palestine and Egypt + the 12 TA divisions in waves, gives a very decent baseline of 24 divisions at M + 270 (the two other TA divisions to go to Egypt and Palestine during the lead up to mobilisation or after M-Day).
There is an upper limit on the number of soldiers that can be recruited in peacetime and the Army will face competition from the Sane RAF & Sane RN for the men that were available.

I reckon that unless conscription is introduced in 1936 (instead of 1939) the upper limit will be 2 Regular armoured, 5 Regular infantry, one Territorial armoured and 12 Territorial infantry divisions in the Home Army for a total 20 divisions. (The Territorial armoured division takes the place of the OTL Territorial Cavalry division which became the 10th Armoured Division during the war.) The 2 other TA divisions became AA divisions in what became Anti-Aircraft Command IOTL and the same would happen ITTL.

The 7th & 8th Divisions in Palestine were formed for internal security duties for the duration of the Arab Revolt and IIRC were made permanent formations in 1938. The idea was that they would protect the Empire from internal threats and the existing Regular divisions were to protect it from external threats and fight a war in Continental Europe. Thus they had (IIRC) 2 infantry brigades instead of the usual 3 & no artillery and therefore weren't capable of fighting what would now be called a peer opponent.

7th Infantry Division (which only had one cavalry regiment, 3 infantry battalions and a RE field company on 03.09.39) became 6th Infantry Division on 03.11.39 but it was disbanded on 17.06.40 by being re-designated the Headquarters Western Desert Force.

8th Infantry Division (which only had 2 infantry brigades and a RE field company on 03.09.39) disbanded on 28.02.40.
On top of this, there are the 12 second line TA divisions at home at various stages of preparation; further armoured formations forming; and further ‘Army Reserve’ units formed by the earliest possible Military Training Act.
FWIW the 12 second-line divisions would have become available earlier ITTL than IOTL due to the earlier modernisation of the 12 first-line divisions. I thought about bringing the introduction of conscription and doubling of the TA's field force to as early as 1936 (in reply to Germany introducing conscription) because I wanted them to be in France in May 1940 too and I thought that couldn't be done with the OTL start of 1939 even with the extra production capacity created by the earlier modernisation of the Regular army & first-line TA divisions.
 
Universal Tank Specification Issued 1934
  • Engine: an adapted RAF aero engine. I want it to be the RR Meteor, which could have been started earlier IOTL. Failing that the Napier Lion.
  • Horstmann suspension.
  • An ergonomically designed three-man turret mounting a DP gun.
    • I.e. a gun that can fire a HE shell of reasonable size and an AP shell that can knock out the enemy tanks expected to be in service in 1939.
    • My choice is an adaptation of the existing 18pdr (84mm) field gun or the 25pdr (87.6mm) gun/howitzer whose development began at about the same time.
    • However, what are the alternatives in 1934?
    • The later 17 & 20pdr tank guns had calibres of 76.2 & 84mm respectively. Could equivalents to them be developed from 1934?
  • It would help if was designed for ease of maintenance and was easy to produce.
  • Variants would include an SP artillery carriage that could mount the 25pdr gun/howitzer or 40mm Bofors guns and a Medium Dragon artillery tractor.
  • Anyone thinking that I'm trying to develop a British equivalent to the Panzer IV that can fight tanks as well as support infantry is correct.
Designs would be requested from ROF Woolwich & Vickers-Armstrong. A handful of prototypes of each design would be ordered & tested to be followed by a pre-production batch large enough to equip an squadron for service trials before ordering the winning vehicle in bulk.
 
Stop Gap Tank 1934

I want the designers of The 1934 Universal Tank to take their time so that it can be tested properly and made reliable before mass production begins. However, I also want to mechanise the cavalry sooner.

IOTL a few score Light Tanks Mk IV & V were built 1935-36 before the Light Tank Mk VI was built in bulk from 1936. AIUI the Mk IV & V were built in small number because that's all the Army Estimates could accommodate and although a lot more money was available from 1936 the Mk VI had to be built because it was the only design that was ready to be built.

ITTL more money is available from 1934. Can anything better than the Light Tanks Mk IV to VI be built? AFAIK all we have is the Medium Mk III, A7E3 and the Vickers 6-ton tank. Are they correct? Are there some that shouldn't be in the list and others that should?

AFAIK the Medium Mk III was a good tank for its day, but it was also very expensive and although more money is available for tanks I want to hit the quality/quantity sweet spot so my choice is to build Vickers 6-tonners 1934-35 instead of Light Tanks Mk IV & V and in larger quantities and then more 6-ton tanks instead of the Mk VI until the Universal Tank can be put into production.
 
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build Vickers 6-tonners 1934-35 instead of Light Tanks Mk IV & V and in larger quantities and then more 6-ton tanks instead of the Mk VI until the Universal Tank can be put into production.

On the OTL 6-tonner, anyone know if the SU paid any royalties for the licence?
 
  • My choice is an adaptation of the existing 18pdr (84mm) field gun or the 25pdr (87.6mm) gun/howitzer whose development began at about the same time.
  • However, what are the alternatives in 1934?
Ammo for the 12 pdr 12cwt AA gun was on par with the French 75. As an AA gun, it is useless come 1930s. As a tank gun, it is useful during the whole ww2.

The later 17 & 20pdr tank guns had calibres of 76.2 & 84mm respectively. Could equivalents to them be developed from 1934?

Of course.
Dust off the ww1 88mm gun that should be somewhere in the RN pattern room. Tweak the barrel inner diameter so it can fire HE from the 25 pdr. Should produce the gun in ballpark with the 88mmL56 German guns of ww2 fame, as the Tiger's gun.
Less bulky alternative: make a tank gun out of the Vickers Model 31 AA gun.

Anyone thinking that I'm trying to develop a British equivalent to the Panzer IV that can fight tanks as well as support infantry is correct.
Why not? The Pz-IV was an excellent tank.
 
Ammo for the 12 pdr 12cwt AA gun was on par with the French 75. As an AA gun, it is useless come 1930s. As a tank gun, it is useful during the whole ww2.
Do you know how many were left in 1934? It may be cost-effective to recycle the redundant AA guns as tank guns.

I've suggested recycling redundant QF 3-inch 20 cwt AA guns as tank guns before. Would they be suitable?
 
The point of using the Vickers E is not to replace the A9/A10 cruisers but to give the regiments that historically used the Vickers Mk VI light tanks a fighting chance if and when they encounter enemy armour. Yes they're not intended to do that, but it happens anyway and even against armoured cars, Panzer I's and II's Mg's are all but useless.
It's hard to find definitive information on the E and variants, but quite a few sources indicate that the E has heavier armour than the A9, and it's much faster than the A10. Doesn't that make an updated E quite a competitive early-war light tank and much better than the ones the Brits used?
42170165_10156737750205842_264863310225080320_n.jpg


Armor and speed on the left side. The Type E had merely comparable armor to the A9 and isn't any more mobile than an A10, having a poorer power-to-weight ratio, the engine/cooling was not all that great on Type E, the turret has 1 less man and isn't designed at all for the 2 pounder gun. "Updating it" would de-facto result in an A9/10 (which is exactly what Vickers did) or would result in an even worse vehicle. I would highly question using it as an alternative to the light tanks given that it is too slow to work alongside them and is actually worse than if you just made light tanks with 2 pounders, as Vickers did for Latvia. If the lights need a fighting chance against enemy armor, adding a new and obsolescent type will not help.
I am not against the idea of using the 6 ton directly or in an improved form in the early 30s and an extrapolated form in the middle/late 30s, but it matters with a POD around 1930, it is too late in 1935. The 6 ton made sense for some countries because it was light, cheap and relatively accessible to a poor industry, not because it was inherently good.

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.
Merkava 3 de facto uses Christie, and British wartime developments were suitable up to at least 40 tons (with 6 pairs of wheels). The disadvantages of Christie only exist for the internal form, the external form which existed as early as the late 20s had no such issues, in which case it is basically identical to Horstmann and other external spring suspensions save for the fact that a single suspension unit per wheel is easier to remove than a much heavier bogie. There should be no reason why the Christie wouldn't be able to handle the same weight as a Horstmann if reinforced, it remains just a coil spring.

Christie died out in the USSR because they just had the plainly more practical torsion bars. It died out in the UK, it died out because AEC, who designed Centurion's improved Horstman tunnel visioned on the recurrent idea of bogies for any heavy tank with external suspension while the only tanks designed with external Christie (A35-36) had been cancelled with no one left to develop the suspensions and nobody thought of using them elsewhere. In the US, it died out because the US tunnel visioned on the tank which won against the convertible designs and bought it as an entire package with the VVSS and never thought of adapting the Christie to modern needs (tracked use only).
Universal Tank Specification Issued 1934
  • Engine: an adapted RAF aero engine. I want it to be the RR Meteor, which could have been started earlier IOTL. Failing that the Napier Lion.
  • Horstmann suspension.
  • An ergonomically designed three-man turret mounting a DP gun.
    • I.e. a gun that can fire a HE shell of reasonable size and an AP shell that can knock out the enemy tanks expected to be in service in 1939.
    • My choice is an adaptation of the existing 18pdr (84mm) field gun or the 25pdr (87.6mm) gun/howitzer whose development began at about the same time.
    • However, what are the alternatives in 1934?
    • The later 17 & 20pdr tank guns had calibres of 76.2 & 84mm respectively. Could equivalents to them be developed from 1934?
  • It would help if was designed for ease of maintenance and was easy to produce.
  • Variants would include an SP artillery carriage that could mount the 25pdr gun/howitzer or 40mm Bofors guns and a Medium Dragon artillery tractor.
  • Anyone thinking that I'm trying to develop a British equivalent to the Panzer IV that can fight tanks as well as support infantry is correct.
Designs would be requested from ROF Woolwich & Vickers-Armstrong. A handful of prototypes of each design would be ordered & tested to be followed by a pre-production batch large enough to equip an squadron for service trials before ordering the winning vehicle in bulk.
Considering that the Merlin PV12 was a prototype until 1936, it would not be very available for that job. Conversely, there is still the question of whether the Lion will actually work decently with low octane fuel as the historical testing wasn't promising. I think the Kestrel remains the most viable option.

Otherwise fine. Re the 17 and 20 pounders, I'm quite sure the actual technology to make them was about there at the time, the issue would be in tooling. This scale of gun already existed for AA and naval duties, just optimized for these respective roles.

Stop Gap Tank 1934

I want the designers of The 1934 Universal Tank to take their time so that it can properly tested and made reliable before mass production begins. However, I also want mechanise the cavalry sooner.

IOTL a few score Light Tanks Mk IV & V were built 1935-36 before the Light Tank Mk VI was built in bulk from 1936. AIUI the Mk IV & V were built in small number because that's all the Army Estimates could accommodate and although a lot more money was available from 1936 the Mk VI had to be built because it was the only design that was ready to be built.

ITTL more money is available from 1934. Can anything better than the Light Tanks Mk IV to VI be built? AFAIK all we have is the Medium Mk III, A7E3 and the Vickers 6-ton tank. Are they correct? Are there some that shouldn't be in the list and some that should?

AFAIK the Medium Mk III was a good tank for its day, but it was also very expensive and although more money is available for tanks I want to hit the quality/quantity sweet spot so my choice is to built Vickers 6-tonners 1934-35 instead of Light Tanks Mk IV & V and in larger quantities and also more instead of the Mk VI until the Universal Tank can be put into production.
The specifications for A11 and A9 existed in 34 AFAIK, Vickers was already working on a testbed with the suspension style that led to Tetrarch, and Hobart had already proposed a tank like A12 but the spec was only formally given 2 years later in 36. Otherwise yes, that's all you have existing as of 1934.

I will just note again that the Vickers 6 ton, beyond being already inferior to the lights (weaker engine, older mechanics, same armor and the armament can be given to the lights if needed), can not fill the same role at all. You are far better off telling Vickers to make a gun-armed version of the light tanks, either in the Latvian/open top 2 pounder fashions, or as a deep rework. The 6 ton will not offer anything new here, the only reason it MIGHT be useful is just to make maximum use of its existing tooling as a stopgap if the tooling can't be used for anything else, but considering future tank needs I'd rather just go straight to making capacity for a better vehicle.

That vehicle could be the A7 (E3 or another version), which was the replacement of the Vickers Mk III spec so that one can be ignored. It seems that people actually wanted this tank to go in production and that it would work, even if they may have desired changes to its design or specs. I will apply the French 1st section philosophy to it and say "Production should not be stopped in anticipation for future changes, the design of improved versions should be done in parallel to the production of even an imperfect vehicle as long as it satisfactorily passed trials". In this case the A7E3 was not in production, but considering that nothing better would be ready for at least another 2-4 years, it should really have been adopted as a stopgap with progressive refinements. This would have been a good start to get companies to learn to build big tanks in 35, and if industrialized well, you could get a core of a few battalions (100-300) before any better tank comes into service to start training people and withdraw the Vickers Medium Mk IIs.

Basically, see the A7 as a british Char D2. Already somewhat outdated in ideas (14mm armor basis and questionable suspension and powerplant), but better than literally nothing while waiting for the "Char G1" (new British tank) that is really wanted.
 
Going back to the Vickers 6 tonner, found this on the internet - https://www.tankarchives.ca/2014/01/arming-vickers-tanks.html - which seems to show that the Russians considered putting a 37mm gun in theirs at an early stage? Could this have been the M1930(1-K)? How does this compare in size and weight with the QF 2-pdr? The T-26 was fine with the M1932(19-K).
I recall that the Finnish army bought them without guns and fitted Bofors 37mm on delivery. The turrets on the 6E look rather small in general, so I can't imagine they'd be an ergonomic treat whatever gun was used.
 
My choice is an adaptation of the existing 18pdr (84mm) field gun or the 25pdr (87.6mm) gun/howitzer whose development began at about the same time.

The 18pdr has a velocity under 500m/s, and 25% more facial area than 3". Not the first choice for a tank gun.

25pdr is separate loading, with shell rammer and case separately. Since AP is fire at max charge or super, the charge is longer than the case.

In a perfect world, the "25" should have a 94mm howitzer. The Soviets came to the same solution.

"The outcome of initial investigations concluded that a gun of 3.7 inches (94mm) in calibre firing a shell of 20 to 25 lbs (9 to 11 kgs) and with a range of 15,000 (13,716 metres) yards or more would be required to replace both the gun and howitzer."
 
Considering that the Merlin PV12 was a prototype until 1936, it would not be very available for that job. Conversely, there is still the question of whether the Lion will actually work decently with low octane fuel as the historical testing wasn't promising. I think the Kestrel remains the most viable option.
FWIW (1) My intention was issue specification 1934, design tank 1934-36, prototypes appear 1935-36, trials batch 1936-37 and for it to go into production instead of A9 to A15 & Valentine and as the Merlin entered service with the RAF on the Fairey Battle in May 1937 I thought there'd be enough time to have the Meteor in mass production in 1938 or 1939. However, if it won't work, fair enough.

FWIW (2) The Air Ministry offered to sell its entire stock of Lion engines to the War Office for a nominal sum IOTL. That is according to Liddell Hart in the relevant volume of "The Tanks" and that was the inspiration for my suggestion. Maybe what you wrote about the historical testing was one of the reasons why the offer wasn't accepted.

FWIW (3) But if you think the Kestrel is the best option. that's fine by me.
The specifications for A11 and A9 existed in 34 AFAIK, Vickers was already working on a testbed with the suspension style that led to Tetrarch, and Hobart had already proposed a tank like A12 but the spec was only formally given 2 years later in 36. Otherwise yes, that's all you have existing as of 1934.
I want a tank that can be built in bulk from 1934. Therefore, none of your suggestions will do.
I will just note again that the Vickers 6 ton, beyond being already inferior to the lights (weaker engine, older mechanics, same armour and the armament can be given to the lights if needed), can not fill the same role at all. You are far better off telling Vickers to make a gun-armed version of the light tanks, either in the Latvian/open top 2 pounder fashions, or as a deep rework. The 6 ton will not offer anything new here, the only reason it MIGHT be useful is just to make maximum use of its existing tooling as a stopgap if the tooling can't be used for anything else, but considering future tank needs I'd rather just go straight to making capacity for a better vehicle.
I (incorrectly as it turns out) assumed that as it was a bigger tank it was therefore better and would have been a training vehicle while something battle worthy was designed. Plus (IIRC) people like The Chieftain couldn't understand why the British Army bought the A4 Light Tanks when the 6-tonner was available apart from the extra cost.
That vehicle could be the A7 (E3 or another version), which was the replacement of the Vickers Mk III spec so that one can be ignored. It seems that people actually wanted this tank to go in production and that it would work, even if they may have desired changes to its design or specs. I will apply the French 1st section philosophy to it and say "Production should not be stopped in anticipation for future changes, the design of improved versions should be done in parallel to the production of even an imperfect vehicle as long as it satisfactorily passed trials". In this case the A7E3 was not in production, but considering that nothing better would be ready for at least another 2-4 years, it should really have been adopted as a stopgap with progressive refinements. This would have been a good start to get companies to learn to build big tanks in 35, and if industrialized well, you could get a core of a few battalions (100-300) before any better tank comes into service to start training people and withdraw the Vickers Medium Mk IIs.

Basically, see the A7 as a British Char D2. Already somewhat outdated in ideas (14mm armoor basis and questionable suspension and powerplant), but better than literally nothing while waiting for the "Char G1" (new British tank) that is really wanted.
A7E3 is fine by me if you think the factories can deliver them as soon as I want. It's a long time since I read David Fletcher's "Mechanised Force" but IIRC (1) he liked it and (2) it appeared just as the Army's ideas about the type of tanks that it wanted were changing.

At 1934 the regular British Army had 20 regiments of horsed cavalry, 2 cavalry regiments with armoured cars, 5 RTC battalions and 8 RTC armoured car/light tank companies, while the TA had 16 regiments of horsed cavalry and 8 RTC armoured car companies. What I'm aiming towards is having the whole lot mechanised before the 1934 tank arrives.
 
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