British Anti-Tank Weapons

Shell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

Light Tank Mk.VII, Tetrarch Mk.I.

Light Tank Mk.VII, Tetrarch Mk.I sporting the 1944 two-colour disruptive pattern. Only 171 of these vehicles were produced from 1940–1942, of which 20 were supplied to the Soviet Red Army. Tetrarch light tanks saw action with the British 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment in Normandy, and during the Rhine crossings. One squadron participated in the invasion of Madagascar in 1942. The Hamilcar glider was specifically designed to carry a Tetrarch light tank into action. The vehicle is from the collection of Patrick Storto, who completed the MMS 1:76 scale metal kit as a C.S. (close support) version, adding a spare fuel drum and a Bren LMG mounted on the turret side.

The table lists armour penetration values for British infantry anti-tank weapons as well as British guns at 0 to 100 meters range and 0 degrees inclination of armour. Dates indicate the year when a particular shell type entered production, not necessarily the year of availability to combat units. New shell types would take several months to reach the troops at the front, some favoured units receiving the new shells more quickly than others. Andrew Mark Reid is the author of Panzergranate, a set of miniature wargame rules using carefully researched gunnery data to simulate armour penetration results.

Anti-Tank Rifles and Machine Guns Projectile Penetration
7.62 mm Lee Enfield 0.303 Inch Rifle “K” Bullet 13 mm
7.62 mm Vickers 0.303 Inch L.M.G., H.M.G. “K” Bullet 13 mm
12.7 mm Vickers 0.50 Inch H.M.G. A.P. 25 mm
12.7 mm Vickers 0.50 Inch H.M.G. A.P./I. (Incendiary) 22 mm
13 mm Boyes 0.55 Inch Anti-Tank Rifle A.P. 21 mm
15 mm Besa H.M.G. A.P. 29 mm
Anti-Tank Devices, Rocket Projectors Projectile Penetration
Grenade No 68 H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 89 mm
The № 68 was based on a Swiss idea to use the well documented Munroe effect for armour penetration. The № 68 had a shaped charge with 5.5 ounces of explosive.
Grenade, Hand, Anti-Tank No 74 Chemical (Thermide) 42 mm
The Sticky Bomb was rejected by the Army in the U.K. as being too dangerous for use by troops so it was issued to the Home Guard instead. Anyone who has seen the film Dad’s Army may recall that the main hazard was the Bomb’s ability to stick to the user’s trousers, which then gave the user 7 seconds in which to remove his trousers, and remove himself to a safe distance.
P.I.A.T. H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 85 mm
The British P.I.A.T. (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) was different from Bazooka and Panzerschreck rocket projectors, Panzerfaust and RPG, in that it developed no backblast. The weapon had a spring operated firing mechanism which actually hurled the bomb instead of using a propellant to fire it. The P.I.A.T. could be fired safely from a building or similar enclosure, and it would not betray its firing position as easily as the Panzerfaust. If the P.I.A.T. misfired, the spring could be difficult to re-cock manually.
Tank and Anti-Tank Guns Projectile Penetration
20 mm L.65 Breda AA/AT-Gun A.P. 36 mm
British L.R.D.G. and S.A.S. raiders used captured Italian Breda cannons to arm vehicles.
20 mm L.72.4 Polsten (Centurion Mk.I) A.P./T. 40 mm
20 mm L.85 Hispano (Hurricane Ftr.) A.P. 47 mm
20 mm L.110 Oerlikon 1 Pdr. A.P. & A.P./T. 62 mm
The Oerlikon 1 Pdr. anti-tank gun was mounted on leaf sprung tracks in British service in order to be towed behind Carden Loyd T.9 tracked carriers and Mk.I Universal carriers. The weapon was withdrawn from active duty in 1938 when the 2 Pdr. became available. It was again issued to some Home Guard units during 1940 in preperation for the German invasion that never came. It also served as a anti-tank gunnery range trainer throughout the war. The weapon had no shield fitted.
25 mm L.77 Hotchkiss Anti-tank Gun A.P. 54 mm
A French anti-tank gun used by the BEF in France and Norway. Many were left behind at Dunkirk. The weapon offered less armour penetration than the 20 mm Oerlikon, and it was taken out of service when ammunition supplies ran out.
2.8 cm schwere Panzerbüchse 41 A.P.S.V./A.P.S.B. 94 mm
British L.R.D.G. and S.A.S. raiders are known to have used captured German Panzerbüchse anti-tank guns to arm some of their vehicles.
40 mm L.52. 2 Pdr. A.P./T. 84 mm
40 mm L.52. 2 Pdr. with Little John A.P.S.V. (1943) 103 mm
The Little John squeeze bore attachment was designed to increase the velocity and armour penetration of the 2 Pdr gun. It was introduced when the 2 Pdr was already obsolete. Armoured cars and light tanks which could not be upgraded to a larger gun, received the Little John attachment to keep them in service a while longer. When the 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment landed in France in 1944 most of their gliderborne Tetrach tanks were equipped with Little Johns.
40 mm L.60 Bofors Flak (1933) A.P. & A.P./T. 100 mm
40 mm L.70 Bofors Flak A.P. & A.P./T. 117 mm
47 mm L.23. 3 Pdr. A.P.H.E. (1928) 27 mm
47 mm L.23. 3 Pdr. A.P./T. (1937) 40 mm
The 47 mm L.23. 3 Pdr. was the main armament of the Vickers 6 Tonner B. tank which served with the Bolivian army during the Chacos war in 1933, and, in limited numbers, with the Chinese army during the Japanese invasion. The Finnish Army deployed the 6 Tonner during the 1938 Winter War with Russia, but the entire unit seems to have been knocked out or destroyed in their first attack. Recovered vehicles were converted to self-propelled guns, mounting the British 127 mm howitzer in an improvised turret. These vehicles were used in the indirect fire support role, and as direct fire assault guns. Several of them survived the war, and are in Finnish museums now.
47 mm L.31. 3 Pdr. A.P.H.E. (1928) 36 mm
47 mm L.31. 3 Pdr. A.P./T. (1937) 54 mm
47 mm L.41. 3 Pdr. A.P.H.E. (1928) 48 mm
47 mm L.41. 3 Pdr. A.P./T. (1937) 72 mm
The 47 mm L.41. 3 Pdr. was a towed anti-tank gun which was replaced in frontline use by the 2 Pdr. gun. However, the 3 Pdr. remained in service in 1940 for home invasion defence, and there is footage showing the weapon on manœuvres. The carriages of the 2 Pdr. and 3 Pdr. anti-tank guns were similar in appearance.
57 mm L.23. 6 Pdr. A.P.H.E. (1916) 32 mm
57 mm L.45. 6 Pdr. (Tank Gun) A.P./T. (1941) 84 mm
57 mm L.45. 6 Pdr. (Tank Gun) A.P.C.B.C. (1943) 106 mm
The 6 Pdr. tank gun and the anti-tank gun listed below did not have H.E. shells issued for them. This meant that these guns could not be used for close defence against infantry or provide fire support during assaults. Why this was, nobody knows, but there are accounts of British anti-tank gun crews making their own case shells for close defence against infantry assault. This was done by removing the A.P. shell head, filling the cartridge with a suitable piece of cloth, filling the shell case with stones and gravel, and sealing it with another piece of cloth or encasing the shrapnel content in thick axle grease. This tactic was quickly improvised in the North African campaign, and there is some indication that tank crews employed it with the 6 Pdr. L.45 as well.
57 mm L.50. 6 Pdr. (Anti-Tank Gun) A.P./T. (1941) 94 mm
57 mm L.50. 6 Pdr. (Anti-Tank Gun) A.P.C.B.C. (1942) 118 mm
75 mm L.40. 10 Pdr. (Tank Gun) A.P./T. (1943) 115 mm
75 mm L.40. 10 Pdr. (Tank Gun) A.P.C.B.C. (1944) 124 mm
The 10 pdr. tank gun was an adaptation of the 6 pdr. anti-tank gun, designed to fire the ammunition of the US M3 75 mm gun. It was mounted in Churchill and A.27M Cromwell tanks.
75 mm L.56 Flak A.P./T. 140 mm
76.2 mm L.58. 17 Pdr. (A.T. & T.G.) A.P./T. (1943) 146 mm
76.2 mm L.58. 17 Pdr. (A.T. & T.G.) A.P.C.B.C. (1943) 179 mm
76.2 mm L.58. 17 Pdr. (A.T. & T.G.) A.P.D.S. (1945) 253 mm
77 mm L.50. 17 Pdr. (Comet Tank Gun) A.P./T. (1944) 125 mm
77 mm L.50. 17 Pdr. (Comet Tank Gun) A.P.C.B.C. (1944) 154 mm
77 mm L.50. 17 Pdr. (Comet Tank Gun) A.P.D.S. (1945) 218 mm
84 mm L.64. 20 Pdr. (Centurion Mk.II) A.P.C.B.C. (1946) 217 mm
84 mm L.64. 20 Pdr. (Centurion Mk.II) A.P.D.S. (1946) 307 mm
88 mm L.28.8. 25 Pdr. (A.T. & F.G.) A.P./T. (1939) 94 mm
94 mm L.18. 18 Pdr. (Field Gun) A.P.H.E. (1916) 42 mm
94 mm L.18. 18 Pdr. (Field Gun) A.P. (1931) 62 mm
The 18 Pdr was mounted in A.13.C.S. (Close Support) versions of the Christee cruiser tank. There were also a few Crusader tanks built to this specification for a similar purpose. The 18 Pdr. field gun was used in the direct anti-tank fire role during a battle in defence of Singapore. It is recorded that Japanese Type 95 light tanks were successfully defeated by these guns using armour piercing shells during an attempt to rush a defensive position. The 18 Pdr. was the only anti-tank weapon available at the time.
94 mm L.50. 3.7 Inch Flak A.P.H.E. (1933) 117 mm
94 mm L.50. 3.7 Inch Flak A.P./T. (1944) 194 mm

Many of the guns and tanks built in the 1920s and 1930s were employed in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), some even served in the front line defences of Tobruk, North Africa. Vickers 1928 medium tanks from General Hobart’s pre-war outpost army were dug in to provide static anti-tank defenses there. Their 47 mm L.40. 3 pdr. guns proved inadequate against German panzers, but they could still knock out the lightly armoured Italian tanks.

Andy Reid

British Miniatures of World War Two