Tuesday, March 02, 2010

D-Day by Anthony Beevor (3)

Beevor reports that "Both Canadians and Americans were bemused by the British Army's apparent inability to complete a task without a tea break."

"When in doubt... brew up"
was indeed the motto of my uncle's unit. Brewing up was also how they referred to what happened to the occupants of tanks which took a direct hit.

The Cromwell tank that my uncle commanded was incapable of taking out a German Tiger tank even at point-blank range, and wasn't able to compensate for this with some handy acceleration in reverse gear.

"After four years of preparation for the invasion, why are our machines inferior?," griped one of the officers of the 22nd Armoured commanded by Brigadier 'Loony' Hinde.

American equipment had its failings too, as the men storming Omaha were to note when their rifles, radios and scaling ropes were rendered useless by seawater. Their tank ammunition was also inferior and gave off more smoke, a disadvantage in the fighting amongst the high hedges of Normandy.

German small arms, especially the MG 42, were demonstrably superior to anything the Allies had.

Recently a former Guards officer told me how he'd been impressed by the words of a former Afghan princeling, who has written that the British have been the very worst nation in the world for making adequate preparations for anything but also, as a consequence, the very best to have around in a crisis.

The combination of characteristic British ingenuity combined with insufficient forethought is perhaps best illustrated by Major General Percy Hobart's floating tanks, deployed with mixed results on the choppy seas of June 6, 1944.

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