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"Names / ID numbers on the side of British tanks NW Europe" Topic


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World War Two on the Land

474 hits since 9 Jun 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2019 3:39 a.m. PST

Was there any rhyme or reason to the names (sometimes / always) written on the sides of British tanks?

I have been looking at things like this
link

which shows various 11th Armoured Division vehicles (the formation I'm interested in). It's instructive for a number of reasons, eg a wrecked Pak 40 (?) positioned where it could have fired down the road but not into the adjoining fields. Also the placement of serial numbers seems to be semi-random, i.e. at 0:37 and 0:46 it's written on the left side applique plate but at 1:11 it's along the top of the hull and oriented with it, on a slope; at 1:38 it's further back and aligned with the sponson.

I am having trouble though finding out how often tanks were given names, what the naming convention was and where the names were placed.

And of course, does anyone do suitable decals in 20mm?

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2019 4:25 a.m. PST

While listed as 1/100th the I-94 pack BR-117 works fairly well with 20mm

link

Windy Miller09 Jun 2019 5:00 a.m. PST

Hi 4th,

British tank naming conventions are arcane to say the least. The initial letter usually, though by no means always corresponds to the Squadron letter. i.e A Sqn tank names usually begin the letter A and so on. Names varied considerably from regiment to regiment though there was normally a common theme within one unit. These could be battle honours, place names (often local to the regiment's home region, though the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry used Russian towns for some reason), or aggressive sounding names like Alacrity or Defiant. The 8th Hussars in 7th Armoured Division used the names of race horses, fox hounds and famous hunts. It was often entirely at the whim of the commanding officer!

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2019 11:36 a.m. PST

@ Windy

Thanks. There are 2 reasons for asking really – one is to try to find decals (although if the names were added in the field they may not have been that spruce). The other is because I have adapted the anti-tank combat routines of a couple of rulesets into an Excel spreadsheet and keeping track of damage requires each vehicle to be identified. Obviously one could just paint a name underneath but I figure why not use what's actually on the tank…

Windy Miller09 Jun 2019 12:36 p.m. PST

No probs mate. But why don't you just use callsigns? A British armoured squadron in 1944 usually consisted of four troops each of four tanks so you could number the troop leader's tanks 10, 20, 30 and 40 and give the rest sequential numbers corresponding to their troop. So 1st Troop would be 10, 11, 12 and 13, 2nd Troop 20, 21, 22, 23 etc. It would save a deal of heartache researching individual tank names!

Eclaireur09 Jun 2019 3:24 p.m. PST

Hi 4th C,
so – typical Brtish army – the naming conventions varied from one regiment to another. That said, in the Royal Tank Regiment, the biggest in the armoured corps by a long way during WW2, the convention was well understood, particularly in the 8 pre-war regular battalions of the regiment. The names all began with an A in 1 RTR, with a B in 2 RTR and so on. If you pick the RTR regiment serving in 11th Armoured Division, 3 RTR, they all began with a C. This harked back to WW1 when the battalions were not numbered but identified by letter – A Battalion and so on.

In some cavalry regiments they did indeed go for names beginning with A, B, and C, according to squadron but you would have to look at it on a case by case basis. In many cavalry regiments there was no such convention, the tanks being named after famous battles honours, towns in the regiment's recruiting area and so on.

With regard the numbers on the sides, several digits with a T prefix, these were the vehicle's registration number. There's some variation in location, probably due to the flow of replacement vehicles in the units but the top of the appliqué armoured plate on the starboard side is typical, match that roughly on the other side.

As for specific squadron markings: A = a triangle, B = a square, C = a circle. The colour depends on the regiment's seniority within the brigade. Red most senior, yellow middle, blue least senior. The number within the symbol is the troop. So at 3.15 on the footage you see a tank with a triangle on the turret with a 1 within it. That's easy – 1 troop in A Squadron. But when we get to B and C squadron the conventions vary again by regiment. So a 6 in a square is obviously 6 troop, B squadron, but in some regiments the troops were re-numbered in each squadron. So A, B, and C squadrons would each have a 1, 2, 3, and 4 troops. Generally though, troops were numbered 1-12.

As regards individual vehicle call signs they did not usually paint them on in WW2 so the troop tanks would be referred to by the crews using phonetic alphabet employed at the time – ie Able, Baker, and Charlie tanks. I have a feeling that these letters were rarely painted on WW2 British tanks – I've not seen a triangle with 1B in the middle of it, for example. Like all these things though there's some exceptions, there seem be one or two examples of hand painted individual vehicle call signs in this footage. I think it generally wasn't done much in WW2 because of the speed with which vehicles were knocked out and the tendency of the troop commander or sergeant to simply commandeer the vehicle of one of the lesser commanders if needed. I don't believe the numbering system suggested by Windy was used in the war or indeed after it. In the Cold War British army, to give an example, the tanks in 6 Troop were designated 22, 22A, 22B, 22C. The first 2 denotes B squadron, the next one it's second troop. The troop commander gets 22, his troop sergeant 22A and so on.

Just say if you need any more!
EC

Hornswoggler10 Jun 2019 4:59 a.m. PST

There were some spreadsheets of Brit tank names by type floating around. Maybe they were linked from the old SOTCW website…? Can't quite remember and don't have time to look atm.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

So asking another noob question, this source says 11th AD had 44 Stuarts in June 1944:
link

This source meanwhile doesn't say any unit in 11th AD had any Stuarts at all:
link

and this one says the three regiments of the division had two Stuarts each for a total presumably of 6:
spearhead1944.com/brpg/br11.htm

Can anyone shed any light? I'd kinda like some Stuarts.

mkenny10 Jun 2019 1:21 p.m. PST

All AD Tank Regiments had a Recce Troop of c.10 Light Tanks. Thus though the Regiment might show as a Sherman equipped Unit it also had 10 Stuarts. There was considerable differences as to how the Recce Troop was equipped and organised once the bullets started flying.

Lion in the Stars10 Jun 2019 1:30 p.m. PST

But why don't you just use callsigns? A British armoured squadron in 1944 usually consisted of four troops each of four tanks so you could number the troop leader's tanks 10, 20, 30 and 40 and give the rest sequential numbers corresponding to their troop. So 1st Troop would be 10, 11, 12 and 13, 2nd Troop 20, 21, 22, 23 etc. It would save a deal of heartache researching individual tank names!

Agreed!

I'm making up names for my T95 Superheavy tank platoon. Animal Control, Big Game Hunter, Cat Killer, and Doom Turtle. evil grin

forrester10 Jun 2019 1:44 p.m. PST

Thanks for the link, seeing so many 11th Armoured Shermans made me happy.
Though those tanks have an annoying habit of churning up dust just when you're trying to see the markings. Very inconsiderate.

Eclaireur10 Jun 2019 2:33 p.m. PST

Well you *could* make them up … maybe using character names from 'Frozen' ;-) or you could use the actual names. So the 3 RTR tanks in 11 Armoured Div would have used names previously used by C Battalion in WW1, like these
link

Col Piron10 Jun 2019 3:48 p.m. PST

this one says the three regiments of the division had two Stuarts each for a total presumably of 6:
spearhead1944.com/brpg/br11.htm

In spearhead each model represents more than 1 tank , that's why the number is so low.

Col Piron10 Jun 2019 3:58 p.m. PST

As for specific squadron markings: A = a triangle, B = a square, C = a circle. The colour depends on the regiment's seniority within the brigade.

The RHQ had a diamond , that's what the Stuarts and Crusader AA tanks would have . If you do an Armoured Recce Reg , all their sqn markings are white , as they are an unbrigaded unit .

Martin Rapier11 Jun 2019 11:20 a.m. PST

As noted, Armoured and Tank Regiments had a recce troop with a dozen Stuarts. That is two stands in Spearhead and Command Decision.

Tank naming was largely at the discretion of the regimental commander. In some it was based on regimental tradition, in others (Like e.g. converted infantry battalions) there wasn't any regimental tradition so they made it up.

There was in theory some convention around the colour and shape of tactical symbols, but again, this varied between regiments and divisions. Some units did indeed paint their callsigns on the tanks (sometimes even inside the squadron tactical symbols), but many didn't. There are photos showing every possible variation.

There are also variations within units, there is a hilarious photo of a bunch of 7th AD Cromwells and not a single one has their tactical signs in the same place. Perhaps the RSM was off sick that day.

Fred Cartwright11 Jun 2019 11:47 a.m. PST

Perhaps the RSM was off sick that day.

If it had been Guards AD he would have made them repaint them all when he got back!

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