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"8th Army using German equipment" Topic

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942 hits since 11 Mar 2018
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Eleve de Vauban Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2018 8:55 a.m. PST

I've been looking through photographs online of the North African campaigns. There are many photos of DAK units using captured British vehicles and artillery and some "borrowed" Italian stuff. There are very few photos of 8th Army using captured German or Italian equipment, Italian tanks at Tobruk, a Sdkfz9 to remove damaged tanks and little else. Did the 8th Army have a policy not to use captured stuff? Or is there another reason?

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

They certainly used German gas cans ("jerrycans") in preference to their own ("flimsies"). Other than that I don't know, unless you count 8th Army's adoption of "Lili Marlene."

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2018 9:41 a.m. PST

For what it's worth, Battlefront makes 15mm decal sheets with kangaroo markings for when the Australians liberated a bunch of Italian M-11 tanks.
Of course, they all soon broke down due to being maintenance intensive and few spare parts.
And that may be the key. FIAT is often jokingly translated as "Fix It Again Tony".
Allied spare parts were much more interchangeable than Italian. Italian manufacturing had looser tolerances than Allied. Parts did not have to be filed to fit.
(This from a lecture I once attended on manufacturing tolerances. How exciting.)

Moral of the story is that if you are going to use captured tanks, you have to capture spare parts too.

RudyNelson12 Mar 2018 10:21 a.m. PST

Tangent here, there are a number of photos of the Allies using German equipment in various VFW books and official histories.

I actually gave a list of these photos and the books in a filler article for Time Portal Magazine. Most are American.

The one that I remember the most was a photo of a JU 87 which had been shot down over Salerno, I think. It was unusual as it had Italian markings crossed out and replaced with British one.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2018 11:14 a.m. PST

Aussies, as noted, used captured M-11 tanks. Captured Renault 35's showed up as training tanks but were not, as I understand it, used in combat. Germans in Europe often used captured tanks for driver training, too. Can't speak for North Africa. (Now, in 1944, Third US Army made extensive use of captured German artillery pieces and ammunition--but just try fielding a battery of American 88's on your wargame table.)

I think Winston has the right of it. But apart from interchageability, the better supplied an army is, the less it needs or wants to use something with a limited supply of spare parts, and which neither the operator nor the mechanics are familiar with. Something like jerrycans, boots or canteens can be used without adding to the stress on your own logistics system the way captured weapons and vehicles will.

Side note: the Germans DID keep inventory on captured spares, and Rommel was able to put some captured British tanks back into operation by using parts captured in France in 1940. Somewhere around 42-43, they had a factory in Kiev reconditioning T-34's, and I get very mixed reports about how cooperative French factories were in repairing and modifying captured vehicles for the Germans. Of course, as Robert Crisp wrote in Brazen Chariots, "we didn't worry about the Cruiser tanks we left in Greece: no sane nation would use them." (By the way, does anyone know about this? I would not normally think of Nazi German as synonymous with "sane nation.")

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

Seems like the Germans kept track of everything. In some ways they outdid the French for their love of bureaucracy

Vigilant12 Mar 2018 12:29 p.m. PST

"Jerrycans" were so admired that they were copied by the allies. One of the 1st UK factories to make them is still in business (a rarity in itself) in West Yorkshire. Still making things out of metal.

andysyk12 Mar 2018 1:12 p.m. PST

Yes whole units were equipped with M11. Roy Farran in his memoirs mentions that first they had to pry the remains of their previous owners out of the turret rings. Just the thing to instil confidence in your second hand AFV. Also large numbers of 47mm AT Guns were used IIRC the Australians even deployed to the Far East with them.

Sundance12 Mar 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

The Germans shipped some captured French tanks to the east for use in anti-partisan duties.

William Ulsterman12 Mar 2018 4:40 p.m. PST

Captured equipment was often used by the British, but it appears to have mainly been guns.

The Maori Battalion of the NZ division was infamous for using captured small arms (many were brought back from Crete) and by the end of Crusader were also rumored to have had 50mm paks and an 88mm and its tractor. They were told to hand in all of their captured stuff in Syria in early 1942 but their CO refused to do so and was sacked. The NZ division lost one of it most effective battalion commanders.

The South African Transvaal Scottish used a captured 88mm and 6 x 47/32 Italian anti tank guns at Acroma in 1942 during Gazala – they repulsed 21st Panzer as it tried to cut the road into Tobruk. The 6th South African Armoured Car regiment used a heap of captured 25mm to 47mm guns on their Marmon Harringtons.

The Australian 9th Division used a whole slew of captured Italian guns in Tobruk and at El Alamein was still using some 47mm and some Pak 38s as well as heaps of Italian Bredas.

The other Italian gun that everyone seems to have liked was the 20mm AA Breda, which was used by everyone in the 8th Army who could get their hands on them – LRDG, Light AA units in Tobruk, 7th Armoured division tank regiments all used a heap of them.

Wargamer Blue12 Mar 2018 7:07 p.m. PST

Salvaged MG34's were often mounted for AA use by all commonwealth infantry in the desert.

Martin Rapier12 Mar 2018 11:05 p.m. PST

Captured tanks are hard to keep going, you need to capture a lot of them.

As noted above, both sides used captured artillery, soft skins and some small arms. The Allies really liked captured autocannon.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2018 12:33 a.m. PST

Perhaps something to take into consideration was that supplies for the Germans was poor compared to that of the British. That was down to the activities of Malta and the Navy. Therefore to a certain extent captured equipment was more valuable to the Axis forces.

d effinger14 Mar 2018 9:29 a.m. PST

The German soldiers LOVED the British shorts far more than their own issue. The British ones were longer and looser fitting.

Blutarski14 Mar 2018 12:17 p.m. PST

IIRC, 8th Army was rather partial to the Italian Autoblinda armored car.

The Italian Breda 20mm auto-cannon as also very popular. Captured examples of the Breda could be found mounted on British armored cars. Bredas were also mounted as a supplement to the AAA armament of RN warships operating in the Mediterranean during the early war period.

LOL – just spotted some earlier posts that already covered the Bredas. ;-)


Ferozopore15 Mar 2018 9:48 a.m. PST

Leclerc's Free French captured and re-used some Italian 47/32 anti tank guns.

Mark 115 Mar 2018 11:44 a.m. PST

as Robert Crisp wrote in Brazen Chariots, "we didn't worry about the Cruiser tanks we left in Greece: no sane nation would use them."

And yet:

Found on website

Probably from 100th PzBat, attached to 16th PzDiv, in Russia, in 1941.

Of note, no A13s were captured by units already in Russia. So this tank (and others like it) must have been captured elsewhere (France and Greece are most likely), and managed by high enough authority to be transported to Russia many months / several quarters later.

I would say there are two broad categories of when captured stuff was used:

1) Own forces are under supplied / under equipped (vs. what they think they should have).

2) Enemy kit is considered superior to own kit.

Either is likely to drive the front line forces to try to keep and use what they lay hands upon. In larger/longer conflicts (such as WW2) some armies rationalize the collection, adjustment, and re-issue of captured kit. The Germans and the Soviets were very active on rationalizing/centralizing, the British less so (more often done just at the initiative of frontline units and 1st level depots), and the US almost not at all (individual division level and below, not even depot-level).

(aka: Mk 1)

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