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"British Armoured Units in Normandy" Topic

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AuvergneWargamer22 Nov 2018 2:44 a.m. PST

I need some help with the organisation of the British Army for D-day and Operation Goodwood please. Specifically which units used which tanks? I understand that 7th Armoured Division used Cromwells, The Guards Armoured Division used Shermans except that their Reconnaissance Regiment used Cromwells. No doubt there are many more complexities and the organisations changed quickly e.g. with the arrival of Challenger tanks but is there a good source to refer to?Hopefully one with diagrams. Cheers, Paul

Starfury Rider22 Nov 2018 4:15 a.m. PST

British Armoured Div (1944 for 21 Army Group)

Div HQ – 7 cruiser tanks (Cromwell) and 2 AA tanks

Armd Recce Regt – 61 cruiser tanks, 11 light tanks, 6 AA tanks. Cruiser tanks all Cromwells during Normandy campaign, Challengers arrived during August 1944. 2 Welsh Gds replaced their Stuart light tanks with Cromwell tanks around the time they received Challengers. Armd Recce Regt of 11th Armd Div used Daimler scout cars rather than Stuarts.

HQ, Armd Bde – 10 cruiser tanks (Sherman in Gds and 11th Armd Divs, Cromwell in 7th Armd Div) and 2 AA tanks
Three Armd Regts (each) – 61 cruiser tanks, 11 light tanks and 6 AA tanks. 5 Gds Armd Bde and 29 Armd Bde were Sherman equipped, 22 Armd Bde had Cromwells. Armd Regts had 12 Sherman Vc tanks with 17-pr guns. In Cromwell Regts (including Armd Recce) 2 Sqn HQ tanks were CS types.

Indep Armd Bdes – 4th, 8th, 27th and 33rd all as for an Armd Bde equipped with Sherman tanks.

Tank Bde – Bde HQ 4 cruiser tanks (Sherman) and 2 AA tanks
Three Regts, each – 58 infantry tanks (Churchill), 11 light tanks and 6 AA tanks. General approach was for 1 tank per Troop of 3 to have a 6-pr gun, the balance 75-mm guns; this did vary. Each Sqn HQ included 2 CS tanks.


LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Nov 2018 5:43 a.m. PST

BRITISH TANKS IN NORMANDY Fortin Historie & Collections is a good 'all in one' source.

AuvergneWargamer22 Nov 2018 5:46 a.m. PST

Gary – Thanks for your input. Very helpful! Cheers, Paul

AuvergneWargamer22 Nov 2018 5:50 a.m. PST

Hi Leon, Good to know! I may buy a copy! Cheers, Paul

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

Good source here:

Thresher0122 Nov 2018 8:56 a.m. PST

Excellent info.

Thanks for sharing.

For the Armd. Regiments, how many tanks (Churchill, Cromwell, and Sherman) to a "company" (I forget the British term for that) – 11, 12, 14, other, and how are they broken down into platoons (troops?)?

Starfury Rider22 Nov 2018 9:10 a.m. PST

From my old notes;

The Armoured Regiment, circa 1944 to 1945

Regimental Headquarters (5 Officers, 16 men);
4 Cruiser tanks
Headquarter Squadron (8 Officers, 192 men), consisting of;
Squadron HQ (2 Officers, 4 men)
Anti-aircraft Troop (1 Officer, 23 men);
6 Anti-aircraft tanks
Reconnaissance Troop (1 Officer, 43 men);
11 Light tanks
Intercommunication Troop (1 Officer, 17 men);
9 Scout cars
Administrative Troop (3 Officers, 105 men)

Three Squadrons (8 Officers, 149 men), each consisting of;
Squadron HQ 'fighting portion' (3 Officers, 22 men);
4 Cruiser tanks (including 2 close support variants dependent upon cruiser tank type)
1 Armoured recovery vehicle
Squadron HQ 'administrative portion' (57 men)
Five Troops, each (1 Officer and 14 men);
3 Cruiser tanks

Total Strength of;
692 all ranks (37 Officers and 655 men)
61 Cruiser tanks (including 6 close support variants dependent upon cruiser tank type)
6 Anti-aircraft tanks
11 Light tanks
9 Scout cars

The Army Tank Battalion circa late 1943 to 1945

Battalion Headquarters (5 Officers, 25 men);
4 Infantry tanks
2 Observation post tanks, deleted early 1944
Headquarter Squadron (9 Officers, 204 men), consisting of;
Squadron HQ (3 Officers, 6 men)
Anti-aircraft Troop (1 Officer, 23 men);
6 Anti-aircraft tanks
Reconnaissance Troop (1 Officer, 43 men);
11 Light tanks
Intercommunication Troop (2 Officers, 16 men);
9 Scout cars
Administrative Troop (2 Officers, 116 men)

Three Squadrons (8 Officers, 147 men), each consisting of;
Squadron HQ 'fighting portion' (3 Officers, 18 men);
3 Infantry tanks (including 2 close support variants)
1 Scout car
1 Armoured recovery vehicle
Squadron HQ 'administrative portion' (59 men)
Five Troops, each (1 Officer, 14 men);
3 Infantry tanks

Total Strength of;
708 all ranks (38 Officers and 670 men)
58 Infantry tanks (including 6 close support variants)
11 Light tanks
6 Anti-aircraft tanks
12 Scout cars
2 Observation post tanks, deleted early 1944

When the 17-pr Sherman was introduced the original aim was one per Troop of three, but there were not enough available for that level by June 1944, so it was 12 per Armd Regt rather than 15. That saw Sqns rejigged to a SHQ of 3 tanks and four Tps each of four, with one being a 17-pr variant.

The allocations varied after Normandy, getting to 30 per Armd Regt by the end of 1944 (which assumed a return to five Tps each of three tanks, two being 17-prs) and reduced to 24 per Armd Regt by early 1945 (reverting to four Tps of four it appears, two being 17-pr types). AFV returns for the very end of 1944 going into 1945 show there was a lot of variation in actual numbers held.

Armd Recce were to be on five Tps of three, with one being a Challenger as these became available.


Martin Rapier22 Nov 2018 9:12 a.m. PST

Generally five troops of three (or four troops of four in some Sherman units) plus two HQ tanks and possibly an ARV, so around 18 tanks per squadron.

Thresher0122 Nov 2018 9:47 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info, and clarification.

Griefbringer22 Nov 2018 10:12 a.m. PST

(I forget the British term for that)

British tactical organisational terminology is quite straightforward, though depends on the arm in question:

- Cavalry (including tanks): section, troop, squadron, regiment, brigade
- Infantry: section, platoon, company, battalion, brigade (*)
- Artillery: section, troop, battery, regiment, brigade

In a somewhat related fashion, junior enlisted man would be called a trooper in a cavalry (because he served in a troop), a gunner in artillery (because he served a gun) and a private(**) in infantry (possibly because he served in a private foxhole?).

(*) Exceptions include the Rifle Brigade (which is an infantry regiment) and the Brigade of the Guards (which is a term for the five foot guards regiments).

(**) Exceptions include guardsmen, fusiliers and riflemen, who belong to foot guards, fusilier and rifle regiments, respectively. Rifleman is called so because he is typically armed with a rifle, while fusilier is armed with a rifle (fusile in French), but an ordinary private is issued just with a rifle. As an exception, one fusilier/rifleman/private per section is usually armed with a Bren gun instead of rifle as a personal weapon.

Thresher0122 Nov 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

Seems like it, but what trips me up are the size discrepancies between your troops and squadrons, and US Cavalry troops and squadrons.

In WWII, a US Mech. Cavalry Squadron appears to be a battalion (not a company level organization), and a "troop" is a full "company", e.g. 17 x Light Tanks in the Recon "Troop".

In a British "troop", I think that is a "platoon", right, e.g. roughly 3 5 vehicles, and not 17?

US Mech. Cavalry Squadron:


Light Tank "Troop":


Cav. Recon Troop:


TunnelRat23 Nov 2018 1:02 a.m. PST

Thresher – you are right for the British a Cavalry or armoured Troop is equivalant to a Platoon and a Squadron the same as a Company. The next level up is a Regiment (not a battalion) just to confuse things even more!!!

Starfury Rider23 Nov 2018 1:06 a.m. PST

Pretty much it, though a Troop could refer to subunits for other arms than Armd, so a vehicle limit can't be universally applied. Other users of Troop included Armd Car and Recce Regts, RE and R Sigs (when serving with an Armd Div), and most particularly RA, where it 'generally' referred to a subunit of four guns.

In brief you either go (from bottom up) Section, Platoon, Company and Battalion, or Troop, Squadron (with Battery the equivalent for RA), Regiment. A Troop could subdivide into Sections, but it depends on the unit type involved. And there will be exceptions if I take the time to ponder (oh, such as Commando, which was a Battalion equivalent, subdivided in Troops, which were Company equivalents).


AuvergneWargamer23 Nov 2018 3:23 a.m. PST

Many thanks chaps for all the very useful answers.

Griefbringer23 Nov 2018 4:03 a.m. PST

In a British "troop", I think that is a "platoon", right, e.g. roughly 3 5 vehicles, and not 17?

A defining characteristic of (armoured) troop is that is being commanded by a sub-altern (though there might be some organisational exception with a captain in charge), and it is authorised a number of vehicles considered suitable by the war office.

In early war, tanks were usually organised into troops of 3 vehicles, but later in the war this was in some cases increased into 4 vehicles, and the late war regimental light tank troop was authorised 11 tanks!

In a reconnaissance regiment, a basic troop in late war could be authorised 3 armoured cars, 2 light reconnaissance cars, 7 universal carriers and 2 motorcycles.

A defining characteristic of a squadron is that it consists of a number of troops and a HQ element, and that the officer commanding is typically a major (assisted by a captain).

Andy ONeill23 Nov 2018 5:46 a.m. PST

Private does seem an odd sort of a word. It comes indirectly from the latin "privatus".

Which in this context means anyone not the leader – those guys ordered about by a leader.
It came into use in medieval times as "private soldier" which referred to those non-leaders in the retinue of a noble.

This article here looks pretty good:

Thresher0123 Nov 2018 3:52 p.m. PST

I guess you can see why I am more than a bit confused, especially in my advanced age, and being away from/less familiar with British TO&Es than I should be.

Thank you all for the additional info, and clarifications. It is greatly appreciated.

Timbo W24 Nov 2018 2:51 a.m. PST

Good discussion, a quick question on the AA tanks, which ones were used in Sherman and Cromwell formations?

AuvergneWargamer24 Nov 2018 3:33 a.m. PST

Looks like they all had Crusader AA but probably not for long as the Luftwaffe generally wasn't around and the AA Crusader crews were needed as replacements for the battle tanks!

Starfury Rider24 Nov 2018 4:10 a.m. PST

Yes, Crusader AA tanks with twin 20-mm guns. Generally said to have been deleted in practice post Normandy, though I can't recall anyone quoting a specific order to that effect if I'm honest. They remained on the War Establishment for a British Armd Regt when it was reissued in May 1945, while for Canadian Armd Regts they were removed from their updated Nov44 Armd Regt WE.


mkenny24 Nov 2018 2:18 p.m. PST

Most Crusader AA tanks were returned to depots before August 1944 but a few Regiments did keep them, The South Alberta's being one.



Griefbringer25 Nov 2018 3:06 a.m. PST

I realised that I was a bit inaccurate with this statement:

- Cavalry (including tanks): section, troop, squadron, regiment, brigade

While this applies to the cavalry units, both horse and mechanised (whether with tanks or armoured cars), it does not apply to the units of the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) which used section/troop/squadron/battalion terminology.

Furthermore, a single armoured brigade could contain both armoured regiments and tank battalions. During the Normandy campaign the armoured brigades could also include a motor battalion (which was infantry unit) – all of the brigades in armoured divisions had one, as well as some of the independent brigades. Thus, an armoured brigade might consist of two armoured regiments (mechanised cavalry), one tank battalion and one motor battalion.

Motor battalions typically came from the Rifle Brigade (which was not a brigade but an infantry regiment) or from the King's Royal Rifle Corps (which was also an infantry regiment and not a corps).

Reconnaissance corps units initially employed infantry terminology, but then changed into cavalry terminology around 1942. The cavalry terminology was kept in use when the Reconnaissance corps units were merged into the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).

A defining characteristic of an armoured regiment, recce regiment or tank battalion is that it consists of several squadrons and the unit commanding officer (*) is typically a lieutenant colonel.

It it worth noticing that in addition to the RAC and infantry units, armoured divisions also had a significant Royal Artillery (RA) component, consisting of a light anti-aircraft regiment, anti-tank regiment, field artillery regiment (towed) and Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) regiment (self-propelled guns, typically Sextons).

(*) Commanding officer is not to be confused with officer commanding (who is in charge of a squadron, company or battery).

Griefbringer25 Nov 2018 5:32 a.m. PST

Another interesting aspect are the battalions formed by the foot guard regiments (Coldstream, Grenadier, Scots, Welsh, Irish). Being infantry regiments, they formed infantry battalions, including motor(*) and motorized(**) battalions.

However, as the war progressed, some of these infantry battalions were issued with tanks, and were then known as armoured battalions. These were then grouped together into two Guards armoured brigades, one of which was later renamed as a Guards tank brigade.

(*) Motor battalion had organic transport assets, initially a 15 cwt(***) truck per rifle section (later a halftrack), though every rifle company also had a platoon riding in carriers.

(**) Motorized battalions were ordinary infantry battalions transported by non-organic RASC(****) lorry units.

(***) cwt = hundredweight = 114 pounds.

(****) RASC = Royal Army Service Corps. Notice that the Royal honorific here refers just to the corps itself, not to the British army (which was not royal, unlike the navy and air force).

slugbalancer26 Nov 2018 4:52 a.m. PST

hundredweight = 112 pounds

Blutarski26 Nov 2018 5:15 a.m. PST

Meaningless and unrelated blather alert -

"hundredweight = 112 pounds" based upon the rationale that twenty "hundredweight" of 112 pounds = one "long ton" of 2,240 pounds. Yet, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, the term "hundredweight" might be defined as 100, 108, 112, or 120 pounds ….. apparently depending upon historical period, locale, or type of trade.

Very confusing.


Griefbringer26 Nov 2018 9:24 a.m. PST

My bad about the hundredweight, thanks for correcting!

Conveniently enought, the British used both cwt and ton to classify the cargo-carrying capability of their transport vehicles. For example, there were 15 and 30 cwt trucks, and 3 ton lorries.

Then again, when it came to authorising equipment to motor battalions in the late war, halftracks were simply considered as being trucks.

Starfury Rider26 Nov 2018 9:38 a.m. PST

This made me smile when I read it, from "Tactical employment of a Motor Battalion (provisional", undated but circa 1941-42 I think.

"Each 15-cwt covered truck carries a Motor Section complete with its weapons, tools, extra ammunition, grenades, anti-tank mines, wire, packs, greatcoats, blankets and petrol cooker, so that each Section is a self-contained unit".

"The weight of the truck fully equipped is about 2-tons, 3-cwt, and with a load of 8 men complete with their weapons , etc, 3-tons, 2-cwt. This gives a total of 19-cwt, which is 4-cwt over the official loading".

The loading table shows a Boys anti-tank rifle, Bren gun (in chest), Bren AA mags and tripod, SAA, mines, petrol cooker, 3 picks and 3 shovels, 8 packs (plus second greatcoat and blankets in bundles), and a roll of wire hung over the radiator. I'd love to know the adaptions required to suit halftracks when they received them.


Griefbringer26 Nov 2018 10:05 a.m. PST

The loading table shows a Boys anti-tank rifle, Bren gun (in chest), Bren AA mags and tripod, SAA, mines, petrol cooker, 3 picks and 3 shovels, 8 packs (plus second greatcoat and blankets in bundles), and a roll of wire hung over the radiator.

I am wondering how many gamers have managed to model all this into their models… of course in the field this might be complemented by biscuit tins, teapots, jerry cans and anything else that the section had managed to acquire.

[On another note, I have to again admit my limited knowledge of British abbreviations – what does SAA stand for?]

Starfury Rider26 Nov 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

Sorry, yes, SAA is small arms ammunition, me being lazy.


Windy Miller26 Nov 2018 10:21 a.m. PST

Griefbringer – SAA is Small Arms Ammunition.

Griefbringer27 Nov 2018 2:28 a.m. PST

Thanks, though I realize now that I should have known it – it is actually on one list of British abbreviations that I have at home. On a related note, the abbreviation SAS stood for the Small Arms School in Hythe, which provided training in use of infantry weapons; by late war this included providing education in the use of 4.2" mortar and 6 pounder anti-tank gun.

At least I can take comfort in knowing what REME LAD, QAIMNS, RAOC MBLU or SQMS with SMC stand for.

Windy Miller27 Nov 2018 5:31 a.m. PST

How about SCM with SMC?

Griefbringer27 Nov 2018 7:07 a.m. PST

Isn't SCM a household cavalry warrant officer rank similar to CSM in infantry?

As warrant officers, they could be awarded with MC for acts of exceptional gallantry (possibly performed with a SMC) – or they might be otherwise issued with MC for personal transportation on the field.

Windy Miller27 Nov 2018 7:39 a.m. PST

Very good! You're all over this! And yes, SCM is Squadron Corporal Major. The Household Cavalry are a strange bunch.

Griefbringer27 Nov 2018 8:22 a.m. PST

Now we just need Gary to go through his archives to determine whether SCM or SQMS was actually authorised a machine carbine in the TOE…

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

Speaking of the QAIMNS, whoever thought up FANY (= First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, an all-female corps) was obviously a bitter, twisted man.

Starfury Rider27 Nov 2018 1:19 p.m. PST

"Now we just need Gary to go through his archives to determine whether SCM or SQMS was actually authorised a machine carbine in the TOE…"

Depends when we're talking about, 1939 to 1942 it's shown as pistols for both the SSM and SQMS, thereafter it appears all ranks down to and including Sjt moved to Sten guns; when part of a tank crew it would still be a pistol for all crew members excepting the driver with a Sten.

Trouble is the individual weapons allocation went off the WE and onto the AFG1098 from 1943, and finding those is like tripping over gold bars in the street, my current success rate for AFG1098 tables being 1 (one).


Griefbringer28 Nov 2018 10:30 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info, though I must admit that I have no idea what AFG1098 stands for…

Sometimes I am really wondering if the War Office had a special department dedicated to coming up with interesting abbreviations.

Starfury Rider28 Nov 2018 10:57 a.m. PST

Army Form G.1098. It lists every item of equipment the unit was entitled to. The one I've seen covers everything from personal equipment, through to weapons and ammunition scales and communication kit. It's the equivalent of the E in the US T/O&E, but decidedly longer and immeasurably harder to find (as in hardtofindium hard). The German equivalent was the KAN and the Red Army had their own, which I can't even spell. It's what hard core addicts like me move onto when we've exhausted all reserves of interesting organisational data.

Wasn't there a movie scene with Cary Grant (I was a Male War Bride?) trying to decipher what all the acronyms meant on various office doors in an Allied HQ?


No longer interested30 Nov 2018 9:52 a.m. PST

Thank you very much for this thread. A lot of useful info here.

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