The Forge of Weyland

I've been thinking on and off for a long time about the disaster that was British armoured forces before WW2, and Allan Cameron's new timeline has finally decided me on doing something.

For those who've read the 'Carden Lives' story, I'm not trying to replicate this or in any way steal the idea (OK, I may file the serial numbers off a few things :D )

But my PoD is quite different, and will lead to a different result (well, probably - Allan's timeline is still going forward, and I don't plan my stories out from start to finish, I prefer to develop the PoD and see what gets affected along the way.
 
The Forge of Weyland
1st September 1934, Office of General Montgomery-Massingbird, GIGS.



General Massingbird looked up at the knock on his door. It opened to reveal his aide, who was carrying a message of some sort.

"What's the problem?"

The aide looked down at his paper, then placed it on the general's table.

"We have a problem with the autumn exercise with the Experimental Armoured Force, Sir. It seems that General Burnett-Stuart has had an accident."

Massingbird took the paper, giving it a quick read.

"Hmph. Should have looked where he was going before letting a car run into him."

"Yes sir. Fortunately it's not serious, but he'll be in hospital for a while while his leg mends. He was going to Umpire the exercise, but that looks like being impossible now."

Massingbird looked at the paper again. It wasn't any more helpful on a second look.

"Could we postpone the exercise Sir?"

Massingbird tapped the paper thoughtfully. "No, everything is set up and we don't know how long Burnett-Stuart will be away for. I'll need to find a replacement for him."



10th October 1934



"Well, gentlemen, we have the result of the exercise in, and now its time to decide what they've shown us. General Kennedy, let's have your thoughts first."

"Thank you Sir. As you know, we failed to stop the Experimental Armoured Force completely, although we did manage to slow them down and inconvenience them. When it comes down to it, the mobility and protection of the tanks makes it very difficult for an infantry formation to stop with our current weapons. While we tried to put down obstacles, these weren't sufficient to channel the tanks into areas where we could deal with them - we simply don't have a mobile enough antitank weapon."

"General Lindsay?"

"I agree with those conclusions, Sir. My staff and I feel that while the infantry and its support were well handled, and indeed some of their actions caused us problems, in the end our mobility and protection allowed us to outflank them where necessary, and once we were behind them we obviously had the advantage."

"So should we assume our infantry can't handle an armoured attack? And if so, where does that lead us?"

General Kennedy stirred.

"I don't think its quite as simple as that Sir. First, the exercise was of necessity limited in scope - the EAF never really had to break though us, they managed to outflank us. This would be more difficult in an attack on a broad defensive line, as some sort of breakthrough would need to be attained before they can get into our rear areas. My staff and I have discussed this at some length, and we've reached some interesting conclusions.

First, while we admit the latest exercise shows that once a mobile formation gets past the defence line it is very dangerous indeed, we feel that the next exercise should see what happens when they have to get past the defence first. In war, a convenient weak spot might not occur, and we need to see what happens when it doesn't. Secondly, while some of our improvised defences such as mines and roadblocks were partially successful, we need some way of stopping tanks other than field guns - they are just too slow and clumsy against the mobile units."

He looked over at Lindsay. "Yes, I know evasion of defence and exploitation is what you do, and this exercise shows it works, but I feel it's only part of the solution. We need to prove how you get into that happy position when you can't just drive around it."

Lindsay looked thoughtful. "It's actually not an invalid point. Granted our philosophy is build around NOT meeting the enemy strength, but bypassing it and rendering it useless. But it wouldn't be a bad idea to see what happens if we have to break though a defensive crust first. The enemy won't always defer to our wishes."

Kennedy nodded. "I also would like to see how we can improve the infantry defence. While we can't match your mobility, it's never going to be affordable to have the Army consist of tank formations, so the infantry needs to develop tactics to do something about them. After all, our potential opponents can use tanks too, and I'm sure they will be looking at ways to negate ours."

"So, gentlemen, you're getting ideas about another exercise?"

Kennedy smiled as he took some papers out of the folder in front of him. "Yes Sir. First, I think the next exercise should force the EAF to not bypass the entire defence. We should assume there are more formations on our flanks. This doesn't mean they can't try and evade us as much as possible, but there shouldn't be open flanks making it easy. Second, my men need better ways of slowing and stopping them. The mines and blocks showed some promise, We'd like to work on those. In addition, though, we need a way of stopping the tanks." He took a photograph and placed it on the table. "This is the Belgian 47mm anti-tank gun. We took a look at one a few years ago. Now it's not perfect - it's quite heavy, and something a bit lighter would be better - but it can kill any of the tanks we currently have, and its a lot more mobile and hideable than a field gun. If we had something like this, we could make life a lot more difficult for the attackers"

"These things aren't cheap, you know. And we've have to get a license and so on."

"I realise that, Sir. What my staff are suggesting is we ask the suppliers here if they can build us something similar, ideally a bit lighter. If possible it should defeat the tank from the front at a not suicidally-short range, and if its small and easier to conceal, its a danger to tanks from the flank. Having such a defence would also make a big improvement to the men's morale - it's hard facing tanks when you know you can't stop them, and having a defence - even if it's not perfect - would avoid things like the 'tank panic' we saw in the Great War."

Lindsay had been looking at the picture with a slightly unhappy look. "Sir, while it's true we need to practice ways of dealing with these weapons, our tanks aren't really designed to ignore them. Machine guns and splinters, yes, but not a powerful gun. On the other hand..." he tapped the picture "we do need to start thinking about them, and an exercise will help show how useful they are and if so what changes we need to our tank designs to counter them. Might I suggest that the next exercises are broken into two parts. First, we have a similar aim to this year, but this time facing anti-tank guns, or at least assume we are. Second, we use the lessons learn to adapt our tactics to them and see what changes."

There was a general nodding of heads. "Very well, these seem very sensible aims. I suggest the two of you get on with working out what to do and how to do it, and what changes you need to make. We won't have any real guns for the infantry, but we can give them mockups. Let's see what happens next year."
 
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Yes looks very interesting. And this leads to the infantry having vehicle mounted anti-tank guns by France 1940 ................. please,
 
The infantry will definitely have some changes, as will, well a lot of elements.
The PoD is of course the 1934 exercise not being borked by the man in charge, but I hope the conclusions I've had the infantry and the tankies reach are logical. Given that, they will be looking at things differently. Of course, short of a tank assault on the treasury they wont be able to get what they really want, we are still in the period of very lean rations for the Army, but having a better idea of what they need won't hurt.

Basically there won't be more money available, but it will be spent differently, Army policy of the time was, to put it politely, all over the place and with a complete lack of consistency. It's not that hard to make things a little better!
Obviously things changing will leas to other butterflies happening as well, but you'll have to wait and see what those are.
 
Well the 'Waler' is a horse breed in Australia and was used by the Australian army light horse in WW 1, so not much of a stretch for the Cavalry to give this nickname to their light tanks!
 
Results of the 1934 EAF exercise
December 1934, Vickers.


"So, do you have any solutions for us?"

"Well, actually, we have a number of possible solutions, perhaps I should lay them down and then we can discuss them?"

The Army men exchanged a few glances, then agreed.

"Now, we are currently producing the 3pdr tank gun. While this is approximately the same calibre as the Belgian gun you wanted to compare against, it has a much lower muzzle velocity, and so less penetration against armour. It would require a redesign, and based on the penetration figures you gave us, it might be more than needed against tanks, at least in the near future.

Second we have a 2pdr gun, being developed by the Woolwich arsenal. This is being developed for use as an antitank weapon, and while it has less penetration than the 47mm, our initial calculations show it should go through 30mm of plate at around 1,000 yards. It won't stop a Char B at this range, but anything else currently in service it can handle. It's going to be lighter and more mobile than the 3pdr which is obviously important to the infantry who need to carry it around.

Third is a anti-tank rifle being developed privately by Captain Boys. This isn't as capable as a proper gun, or course, but as it's basically a large rifle, it's going to be a lot more portable and a lot cheaper. He's expecting 20mm penetration at over 500 yards. Probably a bit underpowered against a medium tank, but it will do the job against an armoured car or light tank."

The Army team spent some minutes going over the paperwork on the various guns before exchanging some looks. Happy from the infantry representative, more worried from the RTC man.

"The 2-pdr does look like it will do the job the exercises suggested, and as you said it's already in development. The Boys - well, taking out the lights and armoured cars is helpful to blind the reconnaissance and give the infantry some warning. If they are both going ahead, we can allow the troops to use mock-ups against the tanks." He turned and smiled. "That's going to make your chaps life more difficult, Frederick."

Colonel Frederic Pile grimaced. "I'm afraid it will, but then overcoming this is a big part of next years exercise. We know other nations are developing similar weapons, after all. Although I'm afraid it's already looking like we need better-protected tanks. Which means getting more money to build them." That comment got a new series of unhappy nods, and even a few sympathetic ones from the Vickers team. "I'm afraid the 6-tonners just aren't going to be up to it. Even the anti-tank rifle is highly dangerous to it, and while we may use them as reconnaissance vehicles, it's looking more and more like they can't play an active part in any opposed attack."

"Well, gentlemen, when you decide what you need Vickers as always will be happy to design you a suitable tank. We have been having thoughts on some, so just let us know and we'll make you want you want."

Pile nodded. "While we have some ideas, we won't really be able to decide until after the exercises. We need to see what sort of losses are taken, and what thickness of armour would have been useful. Also, while the weapons are good for the infantry, what about us? As I understand it, the 2pdr will be an anti-tank gun that's better than our current 3pdr, but won't have any HE capability. We've found the 3pdr quite a useful gun, but if we are looking to increase our tanks protection, it's likely so will our potential enemies, so we are going to need something better."

This time it was the Vickers representatives who exchanged glances.

"Well, Colonel, a new gun would be an ideal solution, but of course developing one will cost money. However... what we could do is take the 2pdr when it's done, and build the same gun in a 3pdr version. We'll likely have to make a few changes, but it will be much cheaper and faster than developing a new gun from scratch. It will be longer than the 3pdr you have already, of course, but not too much so. And it can fire the existing 3pdr shells as a bonus."

"Well then gentlemen, let's sit down and thrash out some details, so we know what we're getting into."

************

December 1934, Experimental Armoured Force


"So, Frederick, how did it all go?"

Colonel Pile took a moment to collect his thoughts before replying to Lindsay.

"A bit of a curate's egg, sir. I have to agree with General Kennedy in principle, the infantry need better weapons if they are to have a reasonable chance against armour, and it's clear other countries are working on acquiring this capability to use against us. Now while I still think our aim to find a weak point and exploit it at speed is completely correct, it's also true that the enemy might not leave one sitting there for us to use. My thinking is that we may need to look at a two-phase battle - the first to open up a weakness, the second to break though it and exploit it. That gives us some equipment problems though. I know we've all had worries about just how useful the light tanks are, the meeting only confirmed that. They really will have no place at the forefront of an attack against determined opposition. There may be an exploitation role for them, but we only need a limited number. What we really will be needing are heavier tanks, with at least 30mm or frontal armour, based on what Vickers told us about the 2pdr design. Anything less well protected will suffer terribly against the new light anti-tank guns.

However none of our current tanks are so protected except the Independent, and we know the treasury considers that way too expensive. So we are going to need some new tank designs. Vickers indicated that are thinking about some possibilities, but we really need to analyse the exercise results carefully then tell them precisely what we need."

"Hmm. However our current aim is to use the faster light tanks to seize crossings and other choke points for the slower heavier tanks. It worked well for us in the previous exercises, will that still work against better-armed troops?"

"I'm not really sure yet, Sir. I think that should be one of the things we use the exercise to test. Of course, ideally a fast but better protected tank will do the job, but a fast heavy tank isn't going to be cheap. Since it's probably the treasury will balk at anything that costs more than a light tank, we need to get our needs very well defined and supported."

General Linday looked around his staff again. "Very well, so the next thing is to see what we need to improve apart from the tanks. Assuming the opposition will have better weapons and tactics this time."

"Well, sir, what we did notice was that the mounted infantry we used in support was very useful, we didn't have enough of them. We need more suitable vehicles, all of them need to be mobile this time. Also I think we might more infantry over all, if we can't just scare them off with our tanks. More engineers, for the mines and obstacles, and more artillery for suppression fire. We'll need all that to crack open the defence, once that's done we can take them from the flanks are rear easily enough. The second infantry battalion was very useful, if we make that a full part of the force, and dig up more tracked transport, I think we can handle the job. Having them as mobile as our usual support will go a long way towards giving us the numbers we look like needing. I'd like more Birch guns as well, they can keep up much better and if we have to sort out anti-tanks guns we'll need that speed. Sadly we have all there are, so I think that when we look at better tanks some more self-propelled guns are on the list as well."

"I think we can make the case for borrowing more Dragons and half-tracks for the exercise from other units, to bring us up to what we think we need. That won't make us popular of course, but we'll give them back afterwards."

"How are we going to handle the assumption that the light tanks are too vulnerable?"

"How about trying some armoured cars in that role? They won't be less vulnerable, but they are fast, so perhaps the extra speed and surprise will make up for. We may need to work out the sort of armament they should carry, depending on what they run into."

"Very well, I think we have enough now we can start planning in more detail. Let's get down to that, then we'll need to see what training we need to change in the new year."
 
i know this is a bit of a 'hobby horse' of mine but with the UK looking at the Bofors 47mm and saying it is too much gun, then maybe they are shown a round from the new Bofors 40mm AA gun. This fires a 2lb, 40mm round from a 311mm rimmed case at 900m/s from a 56 calibre barrel. This compares favourably to the Ordinance 2lb AT gun that has a 40mm x 304mm rimmed case at a maximum velocity for common AP of 792 m/s. If Bofors offer their 47mm scaled down to take the Bofors 40mm X 311 rimmed round then all the ammunition types become available and as a bonus it might persuade the British Army to look at and adopt the Bofors AA gun earlier than OTL.
 
There will be changes from the OTL guns, but not too soon. At the moment, with the exception of the Char B, the 2pdr will be seen as doing the job against basically any other tank. From the PBI point of view, they want the lightest gun that will do the job; the tankies are willing to use heavier guns, hence their interest in a 3pdr. But there are other gun suggestions on the way...
This is 1934, opposition is the Pz I. Of course, things will change, but the butterflies need a reason to fly.
 
Following this for sure , the whale story was my favorite story when i found it on the forum and only a few others are in the same league.

The british had alot of stuff they got wrong before ww2 but you have to remember that they got some things rather right aswell . I think the mindset of late 1918 seems like the correct doctorine for the army but abit more modernized to follow for the army overall to be honest since alot of it was forgotten and had to be relearned more or less . If u can somehow lessen the bomber commands influence ? And maybe try to bomb something before the war to see how the early war stuff did rather than the BOMBER WILL GET THROUGH AND ANNIHILATE EVERYTHING AND IT WILL WIN THE WAR !!!!

Never heard of 3 pounder before , what is it mm-s? Sounds like 45-48 ish ? U could try to skip to the 6 pounder abit earlier cause allan seems to be aiming his valiants in 1940 but probably after battle of france tough to keep it not asb-ish in his story wich as a idea i like very much.
 
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The 3pdr was in interwar use by the RAC; it was similar to other 47mm guns - relatively low m/v, useful HE round. It wasn't really intended to be a tank killer, at that time 15mm or armour was considered good!
What Vickers have in mind is a larger version of the new 2pdr, reusing its design as much as possible, that will have a very good AT performance for the time. The HE is an issue to be brought up later.
At the moment (its still 1934, remember) no one thinks a 6pdr is necessary, and they are correct. This may change later on...

The changes in doctrine are sorta OTL - these are the ones the Germans basically drew, but the screwup in the 1934 exercise, and the current decision to can the EAF, made the British end up drawing different ones. This time, while the tanks won, the defences did better, and as a result they've decided maybe they need to do more work on the concepts, hence the talk of 1935 exercises. After these, some conclusions will be drawn
 
we are still in the period of very lean rations for the Army, but having a better idea of what they need won't hurt.
Adna Chaffee did well with wooden guns and trucks with TANK painted on the side for guessing at what the Army needed.
Too bad he died, while McNair lived years past him.
 
Or you could try to a infantry tank with a bigger gun early maybe ? Im thinking 75/76 mm ones for decent HE rounds ? Basicly a alternative matilda ?
 
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