2,500 British fought in the Spanish civil war on the side of the republicans. hybrid vehicles consisting of two front wheels and tracks in the rear). And as far back as Henry V’s Normandy campaign in 1415, the king was prepared to hang his own men if they stole anything from the local population. However, there were never such casualties as on that day near Niš. I have listened to two memoirs on audible of members that served in the Waffen-SS. The 1942 US ‘Infantry Field Manual: Rifle Company, Rifle Regiment’ gave one of the most demanding squad leader job specifications. As for defensive measures, initially, American defence squad posture advised troops to go to ground, spacing themselves five yards apart, and then digging in and camouflaging themselves when time permitted. Americans had the right gear in Germany, and so the British soldier was put into the American system. And the ‘esprit de corps’ within battalions was also often strong, as a Lieutenant Alistair Borthwick of 5 Seaforth Highlanders, quoted by Bull and Rottman, put it: “The individuality of battalions is not, as might be imagined, a sentimental fiction: in war they can consume twice their weight in recruits and remain unmistakably themselves.”. This, in fact, is the basic philosophy of both British and Continental soldiers. WW2 lasted from 1939 to 1945 and involved over 80 countries and regions. against the German capital, and on April 21, they entered Berlin. When a contact flared up, the Americans had trained their soldiers to fire at an entire enemy area, and to then split up and give covering fire to each other to facilitate advancing onto it. corporals, lance corporals.) Around 150,000 of the US troops who came to Britain were black. Thus, the 1 Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and 2 Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, the first two battalions recruited and maintained by that regiment, could end up in different higher formations and in different places. The American soldier and Marine, however, are imbued from early in their training with the ethos: In the Absence of Orders: Attack! let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see The P-38 looked very similar to the German FW-189 reconnaissance aircraft, and these American aircraft often fell under the fire of the Soviet AA guns. These contrast with the British military, within which the role of section leader wasn’t given the same level of importance. Despite this, different battalions managed to maintain a sense of connection and comradery with their parent regiment and other battalions within it. Note that when the British attacked they, unlike the Americans, weren’t aiming to cover the whole area in fire but to make the enemy keep their heads down enough that the assault could occur. (***British platoon HQs had Number 38 sets, which had a range of four miles; American company HQs had the SCR300 radio, which had a five-mile radius, and platoon commanders ‘handie-talkies’ – or ‘walkie talkies’ – that had a range of one mile). Though in practice, short bursts rather than continuous fire were the norm. All rights reserved. They could not buy more than their coupons would allow. The British soldiers – though conscripts who were ill-prepared for warfare – considered their American counterparts to be unrefined, crass, and loud. ‘Team Able’ consisted of the two scouts who’d locate the enemy; ‘Team Baker’ the BAR man with three rifles in support (meant to give supporting fire for the assaulting element); and ‘Team Charlie’ contained the section leader and five riflemen who would all then make the assault on the enemy position. On 2 May 1945, the Berlin garrison finally It also gave advice on face and hand painting so as to help soldiers with camouflage, and promoted the idea of blending into the background. By the end of the war, the Soviets Not only that, but, if Stephen Bull and Gordon L Rottman, authors of ‘Infantry Tactics of the Second World War’, are to be believed, these stereotypical realities actually filtered down into how they prepared their soldiers to fight. The comparative truth of the ‘plodding, cautious Brits’, ‘trigger happy Americans’, and, for that matter, ‘efficient, skilful Germans’ wasn’t down to nationality. One of Murray’s key points is that maximising force, from multiple places and weapon systems, can overload and, as noted, disorient the enemy. Their comrades would move, or rather, fire and move (alternating firing their guns with advancing in spurts) up to the target, keeping up as much fire from their Garands as they could along the way. Neither of them thinks Auschwitz death camp, claiming it was liberated by Ukrainians. respondents in France and 13 percent in Germany credited the Other men in the section were initially segregated into being either bombers (i.e. A ‘squad wedge’ might also be formed if they were aware of an enemy’s presence or suspected danger, but were at that point out of range. When fired upon, sections were to creep, crawl or advance in short rushes – using fire and movement (i.e. (Just as the American sections often later ended up with two BARs). Soldiers were recruited to a particular battalion, and remained within it as it was moved around within higher formations as required. (**The unit in Saving Private Ryan is actually smaller than the usual US Army section, and may have been referred to as a squad. It would be naïve to conclude that the British did not have attitudes that might be perceived as racist today. River Elbe, cutting the German army in two. World War II, conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during 1939–45. In other words, when looking at how the tactics of British and American (and German) soldiers compared in World War 2, it’s worth remembering that there were good reasons for the stereotypical differences. (See the illustration of a section assault below for an example of an NCO directing Bren gunfire). This attack assumes that a 2-inch mortar has been made available by platoon HQ and this three-man team (not seen on the picture) fires smoke shells from further back. In the standard battalion of the British Army, which was usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel, there were about 800-men (unit composition altered slightly over the course of the war). BARs were capable of firing more than 10 rounds a second, but there were two problems with this: they only carried 20 rounds in their magazines and would have to be constantly reloaded if this were done; also, they didn’t have a quick-change barrel. They also served as scouts and hunters of enemy snipers – which is precisely what Private Jackson does in this scene. Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Of course the Germans and British didn't think much of the Americans at first. In 1943, they consisted of an HQ (headquarters), four rifle companies and an HQ company. This involved forming three four-man diamonds, themselves forming into a triangle formation – an arrangement that obviously would have allowed for turning and facing an enemy if attacked from either flank as they advanced. commander of the US 12th Army Group, General Omar Bradley, ), "It could take only five bullets at a time and the bolt came back so far that anyone aiming it had to move their face away and re-aim each time he fired.”. This, like the Colt 1911, carried its bullets in a magazine in the handle and could also be reloaded in one go, as opposed to one bullet at time for a revolver, unless a speedloader was used. Hate” and “Kill. WW2 lasted from 1939 to 1945 and involved over 80 countries and Facts about British Soldiers in WW2 3: the British Army during the pre war. German machine guns had rates of fire ranging from 900 to 1,200 rounds per minute, though frequently had to fire at lower rates to stop their barrels overheating. The Germans packed a serious punch with their MG34 and 42s, which fired their 7.92mm rounds at the rapid rate of 900 and 1,200 a minute (or 15 and 20 bullets a second.). Allied forces liberated nine countries, while six more surrendered to the Soviet army. Source(s): worked with them. 5 0. The support element was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) team, which had the man carrying the BAR, his ammo carrier and an assistant. The British had their Vickers machine guns, which, like the Lee-Enfield, were a carryover from the First World War, as well as the lighter and more modern Bren gun. Like any raw soldiers the Americans had to learn the hard way through experience. Much of this analysis deals with these units, largely because battalions (which tend to have been 500 to 1,000 men strong throughout history) were a major building block of any army. This would have caused the rifle to have to be re-aimed each time it was fired. These were magnetic, though some readers may recall an improvised version – the ‘sticky bomb’ – made up of socks, axel grease (to make it stick) and dynamite used in Saving Private Ryan. Finally, the complexities of small arms used by soldiers in World War 2 have only been touched on here. million Soviet citizens died during the war. The common American perception is that the Brits are a tough, well disciplined lot. When British sections attacked an enemy position, they too made use of their Bren gun teams as the main covering element, and the picture below depicts a standard template for how this was done. Having said that, it seems that the British in particular learned their lessons well, something no doubt influenced by their being involved in the war well before the Americans. "Ideally, he would control fire, although it cannot always have been practicable to ‘shift the fire of all or part of the squad from one target to another’ as the manuals hoped.”. It was critical that the gap between covering fire and assault (the bit right before the Brens stopped firing and moved from position 2 to 3) be small to non-existent, so as not to allow the enemy to re-emerge and fire on the attackers before they closed in for the kill. The vast The rationale for flanking attacks is that it seems to trigger a collapse in enemy resistance that is disproportionate to the force brought to bear, and that wouldn’t necessarily occur if the attack was frontal. Artillery, both the type towed by trucks and self-propelled (i.e. So why do British people have such a confused - even negative - view of Americans, asks writer Will Self. In 2001 Neitzel discovered a new source for researching the Third Reich and its military machine: secretly recorded conversations of German prisoners of war (POWs) in British and American captivity. These centres were closed in 1942, though later re-emerged, such as during SAS training. camp,” Schetyna They would have been impossible to fit into a magazine that one could get their hand around if they weren’t – an important point, since most automatic handgun ammunition clips are in the handles. In ‘Normandy ‘44’, James Holland debunks what he says is a persistent myth: that German soldiers in World War 2 had far better weaponry than their opponents. the ‘Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry’), and then separated and sent out to postings as required. and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way million people. The former would work their way through houses, firing and hurling grenades as they did so to flush the enemy into the killing zone that is the main street; the latter would cover them as they did so (i.e. Furthermore, these group leaders could also be rotated within these sub-teams – in other words, men took turns being in charge. These were better used to spray the target area with bullets right as they approached or assaulted it, and one can see the logic of equipping the section leader with the unit submachine gun in this way. majority of Hitler's military hardware was also concentrated in Compared to the five-round German K98k (short for Karabiner 98 kurz), its 10-round magazine was relatively plentiful. Many Britons fought during the American Civil War for both the United States and Confederate States. HEAT ammunition was fired not only from rocket launchers like bazookas but also from rifles (as special grenades), artillery and anti-tank guns and existed in a grenade and anti-tank mine form. For their part, they had 10-man sections led by NCOs carrying MP 38 or 40 submachine guns, three-man MG 34 or 42 machine-gun teams and several riflemen. Unfortunately for the Americans, they have failed to take out one of the tanks, which uses its gun to blow up the bell tower, killing Jackson, the unit sniper, and the M1919 machine gunner. “I’m telling you, he’s right there.” The Paratrooper exclaims in exasperation. Examples of these support elements included signals, pioneers (used for certain engineering and labour tasks), administrators, mortars and anti-tank weapons. Only 8 percent of This only had a magazine capacity of eight rounds, and, unlike the Lee-Enfield, could not be topped up (that is, filled with single bullets) halfway through a magazine. Brens, like the German MG 34s and 42s, were light machine guns that could be carried fairly easily into battle. Heavy machine guns from reserve battalions were often moved forward to support attacking battalions - often, this involved firing at a specific target, sometimes over the heads of infantry who were moving forward to attack it. Sir Winston Churchill, for instance, pushed for the formation of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) to carry out guerrilla attacks in German-occupied countries, and of the commandos, that were soon engaging in coastal raiding. It was designed by the War Office throughout the 1930s, with the design finalised in 1937, hence its P37 or 37 Pattern name. for Sputnik News. As for the calibre (size) of the bullets each rifle fired, the governments of all three nations had to balance the need for something big enough to have good stopping power with a bullet small enough not to cause excessive recoil. After the Americans gave them to the Russians, and then one fell into German hands, they developed their own version – the ‘Panzerschreck’ (which translated as ‘armour terror’). The Brit tells his ally he’d like to oblige but can’t – because he is under orders not to cause any unnecessary destruction of property. In it, an American paratrooper tries to persuade a British tank commander to fire his gun through a building at a German tank lurking on the other side. In reality though, platoons of all nationalities were often reduced in strength by casualties when in the field. 9 years ago. 09-09-2019. (Their material advantage in the Second World War, of course, enabled them to expend vast quantities of ammunition – more than other nations). Yanks and Limeys: WW2 soldiers reveal relationship AT HOME, on the battlefield and in the corridors of power the Second World War alliance between Britain … Meanwhile, Captain Miller, Private Ryan portrayed by actor Matt Damon and Private Reiben take on troops on the ground using their Thompson submachine gun, M1 Garand and BAR, respectively. In other words, ‘blitzkrieging’ and punching deep into their lines, if you will. Their normal assignments were the support of their own or neighbouring companies (which normally involved firing at a given objective to make enemy defenders keep their heads down), repelling enemy counterattacks, or protecting flanks from attack. Americans at home sacrificed while soldiers fought overseas. This shouldn’t mask the similarities though. WWII victory together, The US hoped to stay out, not taking part in WW2. American platoons were 41-men strong at their basic size, with their three 12-man rifle sections and a command element containing a lieutenant, platoon sergeant, guide sergeant (to help with keeping soldiers in formation from behind when moving together) and two messengers. “sacrilegious and cynical.”, “Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, which included “The prevailing opinion in Germany before our entry into war, was, that American was a money hunting nation, too engrossed in the hunt of the dollar to produce a strong military force. Bull and Rottman explain that the British, early on in the war, developed two types of training centres: battle schools and hate training. Other wise it would not be history, but mere western propaganda. The battalion HQ contained an anti-tank platoon, pioneers, and a communication element (a platoon) with radio, signals a wire section and a message centre. American men aged between 21 and 45 were conscripted in 1941 – before the attack of Pearl Harbour – requiring service of a year. Read RT Privacy policy to find out more. concentration camp at Auschwitz, in southwestern Poland, which Some of the American weapons can be seen on display in the clip below of American war film ‘Saving Private Ryan’. In the British Army, battalions were formed into brigades, brigades into divisions, divisions into corps and finally corps into armies. Allied soldiers in real life weren’t always that lucky, of course. Pyrotechniques were also utilised to simulate battle conditions, and new infantry had to learn to stay calm as tanks drove over trenches they were hiding in. The increased rate of fire was the reason. "In the excitement, you fire at him … a man at 100 or 150 yards is an awful big target … Some Germans were trying to surrender but in the excitement, we fired at them before they had any chance…. In Flanders, the high water table and constant shelling on that part of the line made trenches difficult to construct and maintain, and shell holes plentiful. Naturally, though, a direct kill shot through the German sniper’s scope looks more effective on film, which is probably why this inaccuracy was allowed into the scene. The Germans, meanwhile, immediately recognised the weapon’s potential. These varying formations would be used depending upon the circumstances. Sunken roads and railway cuttings could also be useful, but had a tendency to become ‘shell traps’, so were best used with excavations dug into the bank nearest the enemy. There were also social factors that accounted for and influenced some of the differences in training and organisation. Having said that, the Forces Network contacted the National Army Museum and they said that, as far as units raised in Britain were concerned, it isn’t clear what proportion of soldiers were racial minorities. 67 British soldiers in the Union Army received the Medal of Honor. This last point may seem counter-intuitive, but, as pointed out earlier, there were good reasons for training infantry to get close to tanks. lieutenants and captains) were the ones who had much of the responsibility. President Harry S. Truman weapons at Hitler's disposal. As well as extra equipment and weapons, such as wire cutters and a sniper rifle for the section scout (each section had one in the British Army, with additional sniper-observer teams allocated as needed from company HQ), there were extra magazines for the Bren gun carried by men throughout the section. The clip below does not feature a bazooka, though Private Jackson’s sniping from a bell tower is augmented by an M1919 light machine gunner. They fired HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) rockets at tanks, and 29 were allocated to each infantry battalion. For instance, as far as the Russians go the Germans thought that they were barbaric and backward opponents who were as cruel if not more so than the nazis pretended not to be. My opinion is they are highly competent soldiers accomplishing the impossible despite having poor equipment and poor leadership. for urban warfare.). Yet, on this occasion, they overextended and soon found themselves encircled in what came to be called ‘the Falaise pocket’. They also emphasized the usefulness of the steel helmet for headbutting and – when held in one’s hand - for parrying an attack. The MP 38s and 40s had their 9mm 32-rounds loaded in downward-facing magazines, making them comparatively harder to fire from a prone (i.e. At the start of 1939, the British Army was a small volunteer professional army. Lastly, there were the seven riflemen, two of whom were scouts and might also be snipers, armed with M1 Garands. The action in this final battle of the film is unusual in that two different units – the Rangers led by Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller, and men of the 101 Airborne Division they have come to find – have teamed up to take on a German mechanised unit. READ breaking into two sub-groups, with the firing element covering the one that moves and then switching places). But the skilful use of stripper clips, which were small metal bars holding five bullets, allowed for reloading mid-way through a ‘mad minute’ firing session. April 9, 2015, was conducted by the British ICM Research agency Bazookas first saw action in 1942, the year before the debut of the PIAT. The section leader would be in front, accompanied by one of the section’s scouts, and the second-in-command would keep an eye on the rear while his ‘wingman’ covered his flank. Submachine guns tended to be broadly compatible with a given country’s pistol rounds – which makes sense, since the definition of a submachine gun is one that is short ranged and fires pistol bullets. Standard movement – until the enemy was encountered – was to advance in single file, with the section leader and BAR man in front. The Sten’s side-mounted magazine also gave them an advantage over their German counterparts. And yet, any American soldier doing his bit to blanket an enemy target or target area with rounds, especially if firing from the hip while charging at it, would have been greatly aided by his rifle’s best feature. The bundle also includes a P37 Belt, which was worn around the The guns were, however, separated by 50 yards when carried into action so that both would not be destroyed by the same enemy artillery blast. Only 8 percent of respondents in France and 13 percent in Germany credited the Soviet Army for the victory. At its peak during the war, the Army grew to over 8 million men and women in uniform, joined by an additional 3.4 million in the Navy. That is if one considers the comparison between the relative importance of British and US (as well as German) section leaders. Apart from blobs, five yards was about the standard distance between each soldier when arrayed in other formations. For those without that option, both British and American manuals taught unarmed combat and knife fighting (something that became particularly important for special forces raids.). When one considers the soldier’s standard-issue weapon - his rifle - it’s easy to see how and why British, American and German tactics varied in the way they did. anything of their pledged word.”. Up to 70 million people are believed to have lost their In terms of how this might have played out, one must refer back to the various weapons used by American soldiers. Initially, the corporals were armed with Thompsons, though this was later switched to Stens. 309 and Italy's 49. Bull and Rottman view this as smarter than the American policy of plugging unfamiliar ‘green’ troops from further back into holes left in units by casualties. Clearly this must be balanced against keeping things simple for one’s own troops, so they in turn fight effectively. For some reason, perhaps because of our frontal-facing vision, people in combat situations seem to be disoriented and overwhelmed when surprised from the side or rear. Bull and Rottman say of the American squad (or section) leader: “The junior NCO who led the squad or section was of central importance. Differences in weapon capabilities helped inform unit tactics, and the smallest battlefield unit was essentially the section. This is denoted by the first red arrow. The Marines, fighting against far fewer tanks in the Pacific, would end up with fewer than they started with, whereas the Army got more as the war went on. Subscribe to RT newsletter to get stories the mainstream media won’t tell you, The Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. If SLA Marshall and ‘Men Against Fire’ are to be believed, it’s likely junior NCOs would have also reminded their men to fire their weapons in the first place. The Bren gun and mortar to its left are firing at the infantry, and, in the case of the Bren, possibly at the tanks vision slits to blind it. One hardly hears of them. It was also the Rifle rounds were long and pointed, increasing their range and accuracy. others,” Lavrov emphasized, calling Schetyna’s words a Below are instances when the 'good' Allied soldiers went bad. Kill.”, and, sometimes, animal blood during bayonet drills meant to simulate battle conditions. Their arrival was heralded as a ‘friendly invasion’, but also highlighted a number of cultural differences between the two nations, including an unfriendly American one: the institutional racism of the United States. In some cases, the tanks might assist the infantry (including, and often, acting as mobile artillery against other tanks), and in others the infantry would hold ground captured by the tanks, or protect them from enemy infantry. There also seems to have been a mickey-taking aspect to all of this too, because it seems that training promoting ‘beastly head butting’ and the like was amusing to British Tommies at the time. In mid-April 1945, the Soviet Army started the final offensive In 1976 my American mother took me to … Daniel. They would have been followed by the other 10 men in the section over a distance of about 60 paces. (A similar tactic was used against French knights by English archers at Agincourt in 1415). They were also taught to make good use of cover. had destroyed over 70 percent of the enemy’s forces. Our impressive reproduction is made from a thick khaki wool, with a pair of pleated pockets and concealed buttons on the tunic. Weapons teams, as noted earlier, were known as squads (as opposed to sections). belly-down) position. in liberating Europe. Firstly, it echoes former episodes of British history. "Walls and rocks were also possible cover but had the potential disadvantage of splintering or being obvious aiming points. The measurement of a bullet refers to the diameter of its base, not its length. Even if they fired in shorter bursts, they’d require a lot of reloading. It appears that British units, unlike American ones tended to be better at night fighting and did a great deal more of it. For the Americans (and Germans), battalions were organised into both brigades and/or regiments, and from there into  divisions and the other higher formations. The new additions were mostly young Americans who would normally have been pursuing jobs, schooling, and family life, but instead were answering the nation’s call to arms. Bull and Rottman point out that while the Americans did, in fact, start out using the M1903 bolt-action Springfield rifle for sniping, many of their sharpshooters preferred to upgrade to a Garand with a telescopic sight if they could. The Bar was capable of both single, or semi-automatic, firing like the M1 Garand, as well as automatic fire, emptying the magazine after the trigger was held down, or spraying a few rounds – a burst – when the trigger was pulled once). What they do not seem to have considered is that the bazookas had the potential for defence against tanks, and not just in an attack role. In the end, beyond that shown in the clip, air support shows up to help drive off the Germans. The national stereotypes, though clearly derived from evidence, must also be taken with a certain amount of salt. As Bull and Rottman explain, the 1944 manual ‘Scouting, Patrolling and Sniping’ advised soldiers to look for cover and concealment, and that it was best to observe through or around cover that conceals, rather than over it. "The shell hole could be regarded as an instant weapons pit, but overcrowding was to be avoided, and when possible the shell holes were to be linked to provide communication.”. American and Canadian observers were amazed by the British soldier's expectation of regular tea and smoke breaks. Absolutely. The latter, which were quickly lampooned by the squaddies, were meant to get them worked up with stories of German atrocities, chants of “Hate. Twenty-eight-year-old Philip Leckrone, from Salem, Illinois, flew more than two dozen sorties over the English Channel as a “tail-end Charlie”—the rear plane in a formation—in 616 Squadron. The StG was the inspiration for the post-war AK-47. What were the main differences between British and American war tactics in WWII? was seen as a symbolic landmark. One mechanical problem faced by all nations manufacturing and then fielding machine guns was that their barrels tended to overheat, requiring a change over to a new one. With the British closing in from the north, and the Americans from the south, the race was on to escape through the rapidly-closing ‘Falaise gap’. At the time, they were contemplating using the relatively short-ranged bazookas against German tanks in the vast expanse of the North African desert. A skirmish line of the same 60 paces in width would be formed to maximise the amount of fire that could be poured on the enemy (i.e. Their hasty withdrawal from Malaya, for instance, seems to have betrayed a racial hierarchy, or at the very least, a bias in favour of evacuating their ‘own’ British colonial subjects first. They were used as a defense mechanism in the British Empire. Grenades would also have been flung at the enemy when close enough, right before the assault party rushed in. Indeed, virtually every army in the world. This had been a technique utilised extensively by the Germans during the First World War. 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