Monday, September 16, 2013

Paper Bags and Cardboard Boxes

The title of this post probably requires some explanation.

The British tanks were part of a somewhat unique design journey in the 30s.  The Brits had a light cavalry role in mind for their tanks so armor was sacrificed for speed and maneuverability.  Unfortunately, like so many peacetime military projects, thorough development wasn't conducted and many serious problems weren't worked out in time for the war, such as bad transmissions and a track system that allowed the vehicle to get around as well as a horse.  The tanks were also designed to fire on the move with an unusual floating arrangement for the 2pdr gun  which is reflected in the Tally-Ho! special rule.

For 1939 they weren't great but they were not that bad.  I find them extremely dangerous to Italians in EW, perhaps not to the French.  Of course, they were laughable next to the T34, but then again everyone's tanks were except maybe the French, so nothing unusual there.  I think the best opinion on them is from Robert Crisp [Brazen Chariots author]:

     "...we had been equipped with ancient A10s and A13s, and even some A9s dragged out of various war museums and exhibitions.  They were ponderous square things, like mobile prefab houses and just about as flimsy.  By far their worst failing was their complete inability to move more than a mile or two in any sort of heavy going without breaking a track, or shedding one on a sharp turn.
     Of the 60 odd tanks 3R.T.R had taken to Greece at the beginning of the year, not a half a dozen were casualties of direct enemy action.  All the others had been abandoned with broken tracks or other mechanical breakdowns.  They littered the passes and defiles of Macedonia and Thessaly, stripped of their machine guns, but otherwise intact.  They were of no help to the enemy; no other army would have contemplated using them.  I like to think of them, even now, furnishing some sort of chilly, overcrowded dwelling place for a family of homeless Greek peasants.
     Whoever was responsible for the design of British tanks in between the wars ought to have a considerable weight on his conscience."  p.5-6.

Amusingly well put!  In Flames of War the A9 has FA1 and only the later models upgrade to bullet-proof FA2, but the A10 becomes Slow in consequence and it isn't until the A13 that a Fast FA2 tank is in British possession.  Unfortunately, their special rules make even the A9 a bit pricey and the A10s and A13s get into German cost levels, while the Crusader is nearly as expensive as the MkIII [a much better tank in FoW IMHO].  

The officially designated light tank was the MkVI B & C.  It was basically a Bren Carrier with a closed top and turret.  In Flames of War, however, it is nearly as good as the main battle tanks, but cheaper and with guns almost as useful as they've high RoF and FP5+ which makes them handy against infantry and guns.

In any event, they are a lot of fun to play and use - damn the history and the rules!  Their weak armor resulted in them getting the nickname "Paper Bags & Cardboard Boxes" at the FLGS [this may be Gary A's funniest comment of all time].  The paper bags of course are the light tanks, while the cardboard boxes are the 'heavier' cruiser tank series.  If nothing else, the cruisers have a heavier light gun to bolster their "heavier" claim.

Pictured below in all their glory are my Cardboard Boxes.  9 A13s in the back, A10s front left and A9s front right.  They are all Old Glory Command Decision miniatures from when BF had theirs OOP about 8 years ago.  They are nice models, the only irritant being that the A9s and 10s have fixed hatch covers for the turret. so no open hatches with commander without some custom work.  One A9 has the first attempt at Caunter:  
Closeup of the A9s:
And of the A10s, two converted to Close Support [CS] tanks.  Since the rest have "No HE" I consider them essential in every force with their 3" howitzers and FP3+, plus the template they can drop, or else the company has nothing but MGs to fight infantry and guns:
and the A13s:

As for the MkVI light tanks, these were bought from Peter Pig when BF had them out of print, and they are lovely little all-metal models.  They had nearly no flash and were cast from strong clean metal.  I got them cleaned and primed and now they're awaiting their Caunter scheme.  However, they also have fixed hatch covers and I haven't the energy to cut some off at the moment.  The B is in the front with the larger gun.  There were very few Bs in the desert, they were used as 2iC tanks in infantry tank companies I believe, the vast majority were Cs:

and more MkVI C.  The pic's a little dark, but it shows the excellent crisp details:
There you have it - Early War British Armor in all its glory.  All the tanks played an important part in the victory over the Italians in Operation Compass.  By Operation Crusader, the MkVI were nearly gone and relegated to scout roles.  The remaining A's were all destroyed with the 8th Hussars at Sidi Rezegh, where the Panzers pretty much went right through them at one desperate point in that lengthy battle.  I doubt their loss was regretted by the few crewmen who survived...

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