Despite what many say the British anti-tank guns of World War Two were always a match for their targets. This happened simply because the British tended to look forwards. Just as the two pounder was coming into service design work started on the six pounder. Equally as the six pounder was just entering production design work started on its replacement. The replacement was to be the famous 17 pounder which was required to penetrate 120mm-150mm of armour. This 3 inch gun hurled its shot at over 800 m/s. This performance was achieved with the shell technology of the time such as normal armour piercing rounds. Later developments such as ballistic caps and even APDS (armour piercing discarding sabot) meant the gun stayed a devastating AT gun throughout the war.
Then the War Office received worrying news. Ultra intercepts had determined that a new German heavy tank was being deployed to the African front, this was of course the famous Tiger. While the 6 pounder could deal with the Tiger, it required skill, nerves and a spot of luck. So the War Office issued an urgent requirement for the 17 pounder to be deployed. The solution was to mount the 17 pounder gun on a 25 pounder chassis. Although the 25 pounder carriage was used to firing a much lower velocity round the study construction stood up to the punishment inflicted on it by the forces of the 17 pounder. When fired it was described as " [...] something of a lively weapon.”
One curiosity is the 25 pounders turntable. Some sources say it wasn't used, while others indicate it was. As most of the pictures show the turntable in place it is likely that it was used.
To prevent German intelligence getting wind of the surprise in store for their shiny new tank the 17/25 pounder, as it was officially known, was codenamed "Pheasant". In October 1942 59 guns were shipped to Tunisia, with a total order of 150 pieces completed by December that year.
This array of fire-power included everything from 2 pdr's all the way up to and including 3.7" AA guns. It also included the Pheasants.
Due to still being secret weapons the Pheasants were sited to the rear, with orders not to fire unless the front line was breached.
On the morning of the 6th of March thick fog covered the battlefield. When it lifted the area to the front was covered by the German army as it advanced. In accordance with their orders the defenders held their fire. The Germans spotted the false minefields as they advanced. Even with tempting targets such as exposed tank commanders the troops held their fire. The German tanks followed the line of the false minefield and as planned they exposed their flank. The anti-tank gunners let fly instantly knocking out the first 4 tanks. Another tank had its tracks blown off by a salvo of mortar bombs. The rest of the day long battle was the Germans trying to advance into the face of overwhelming fire-power.
nzetc.victoria.ac.nz, www.desertrats.org.uk and en.wikipedia.org
In addition to the above I have a number of WOWS Closed Beta access keys to give away. To enter just send an Email to this address:
Competition closes this Friday at 1800 GMT. After that I'll randomly select the winners and send a reply to their email, so make sure the Email you send your entry from is one you can receive with as well!