More Hardware from the Novels

by Phil Johnson | October 31st, 2011

As promised, here are some more photos of surviving pieces of hardware from the early part of World War II, many of which are featured in both Seelowe Nord and Thunder in May. These photographs were all taken at the Imperial War Museum in London, but I have a few more taken elsewhere that will feature in subsequent posts. Firstly then, we see a photograph of two of the mainstays of German anti-aircraft units throughout the war. The smaller of the two is a 20mm Anti-aircraft Gun, and the larger and perhaps most recognisable is the dreaded 88mm. Both of these weapons were deployed by Rommel in the vicinity of Wailly, near Arras, on 21st May 1940, when he fought a desperate battle to stop the Allied counter-stroke. The 88mm showed itself to be an outstanding tank killer on that particular day, even being able to stop the heavily armoured Matilda Mk IIs. The gun was so impressive as a tank killer that it was later used as the main armament for the Tiger series of heavy tanks. Even as a dual purpose vehicle-towed gun, the 88mm remained in service, highly effective, and much dreaded right up until the end of the war. The 20mm FLAK was also highly effective at low level and took a devastating toll of Allied aircraft when they attempted their low level bombing runs against the Meuse bridgeheads in May 1940.

Moving onto some British hardware then, we can see below an Infantry Tank Mk II (Matilda II as it became known). The Matilda was even more heavily armoured than its little sister, the Mark I and sported an Ordnance QF 2 Pounder, which at the time was one of the better anti-tank guns on the battlefield for its size. The Mk II caused a ripple of panic through Rommel’s division during the battles around Arras as just about everything the Germans fired at it bounced off or exploded and caused no apparent damage. It took the biggest German guns such as the 88mm and their 105mm howitzers to deal with the Matilda II although there is a certain amount of anecdotal evidence which shows that even the 88mm sometimes needed to score two or more hits to make sure they had achieved a full ‘K-Kill’. In the Matilda’s favour, its 2 Pounder was highly effective against virtually every German tank on the field, although the Panzer IVs were more resilient against direct hits than the lighter Panzer Is, IIs and IIIs. The main drawbacks to this punchy little tank were all on the automotive side. It had a fairly short range (about 100 miles) even before it started manoeuvring off road, was very slow (15 mph) and was pretty heavy at 26.5 tons. Later on in the war, whilst operating in North Africa, despite remaining a stalwart of the British force there, it would suffer from numerous mechanical problems. The tank shown is painted in desert camouflage.

Shown next to the photo of the Matilda II is the Ordnance QF 25 Pounder Field Gun. This British gun was relatively new at the beginning of the war but quickly proved its worth. Versatile, robust and highly effective both in the bombardment and direct fire roles, the gun remained in service right through the war and beyond, seeing operational service with some armies right into the 1970s. It’s turntable can be seen clearly in this overhead shot and once again, this particular example is painted in desert colours. Below you can see the 25 Pounder in profile and you will note that it does not have a muzzle-break, identifying it as an early war version of the weapon.

In the next post we will take a look at some more British hardware, including their own arsenal of anti-aircraft weaponry.

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Seelöwe Nord is the online home of Andy Johnson, a war fiction novelist. Seelöwe Nord is a war novel that tells the alternative history of Operation Sealion, the proposed German invasion of Britain in 1940. Followed by Thunder in May, and the recently released Crucible of Fate, the trilogy of War Fiction remains a popular read within the genre.

Andy has also started to publish small Leadership and Management Booklets drawing from his extensive experience across many sectors and industries, both military and civilian, the first of which is entitled Captains of the Gate and is now available for download on eReaders directly from Amazon.